NFL Preseason 2012: Biggest Storylines to Watch During Weekend Games of Week 1

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IAugust 10, 2012

NFL Preseason 2012: Biggest Storylines to Watch During Weekend Games of Week 1

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    The debuts of Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning were meticulously examined Thursday night, and that was just the start of what will be an abundance of carefully analyzed play to start the 2012 NFL preseason. 

    There are 10 more games on the slate this weekend, so that means there's plenty more to watch from Friday to Monday. 

    Contrary to what ESPN will tell you and show you, there's more going on than Tim Tebow and the New York Jets.

    Here's a comprehensive primer to get you ready for the remainder of the games on Week 1's preseason schedule. 

Tampa Bay at Miami: Play of Ryan Tannehill and Doug Martin

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    Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' prized possession at quarterback, is a signal-caller who represents the future in Miami. 

    He's playing in the same system he operated in college at Texas A&M, but he's in the midst of a quarterback competition with veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore. 

    He'll head into the preseason game against the Buccaneers as the team's No. 3 quarterback, according to the Miami Herald.

    This exhibition contest is when the Dolphins' quarterback competition truly begins, and it's the first time Tannehill can assert himself ready to, at the very least, move into the No. 2 spot. 

    For Tampa Bay, first-round running back Doug Martin will get the start ahead of incumbent LeGarrette Blount in Friday's game, according to Coach Schiano in an interview with Joe Rose on WQAM-AM 560 in Miami (h/t JoeBucsFan.com).

    The former Boise State star is perceived to be an incredible versatile running back, and many think he'll be the focal point of Greg Schiano's offense in 2012. However, Blount may have something to say about that. 

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals: Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Andy Dalton

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    Cortland, N.Y., has become a media zoo with the New York Jets in town for training camp. Chances are you've caught some of the seemingly uninterrupted coverage of every breath taken by Tim Tebow, team fights and everything else that's occurred over the last two weeks.

    Finally, one of the most undeservingly hyped teams in recent memory hits the field. 

    All eyes will be on Mark Sanchez, how well he plays and how it compares to the way Tebow performs. You better believe the media would love to stir up a bona fide quarterback controversy as soon as possible, so tonight is No. 6's chance to either silence his critics or add fuel to an already smoldering fire. 

    For the Bengals, keep a keen eye on Andy Dalton. 

    He pieced together an admirable rookie campaign that led to the team's berth in the playoffs, but more is expected of him in his second season with more offensive weapons around him. 

Cleveland vs. Detroit: Offensive Efficiency of Both Teams

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    There isn't a slew of storylines coming from this Lions and Browns matchup, but watching how both first-team offenses operate is worth watching. 

    Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 in 2012, and Cleveland has named 2012 rookie Brandon Weeden the starting quarterback. 

    It would have been intriguing to see the debut of No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson, but recent arthoscopic knee surgery has essentially ended his chances at playing in the preseason. 

    It'll be interesting to see if Stafford picks up where he left off last season and if Weeden is comfortable in the pocket delivering the ball to a relatively stronger, more intimidating Cleveland wide receiving corps. 

New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jags QB Competition and Giants Offense

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    Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are battling in a legitimate quarterback competition for the starting job with the Jaguars. 

    After a horrid rookie season, the 2011 first-round pick must play with more confidence, consistency, and most importantly, accuracy if he wants to start in Week 1. 

    Henne's an experienced veteran, but ask Dolphins fans, he's far from the staple of consistency himself. Justin Blackmon, who finally ended his 12-day "holdout," won't suit up for this one, according to the Florida Times-Union. 

    This will be the first chance for Gabbert or Henne to take the early lead in the duel. 

    For the defending Super Bowl Giants, a team that's inexplicably been overshadowed by the Jets this offseason, life without Hakeem Nicks begins. Rookie Rueben Randle gets his first game action in Nicks' spot and don't forget about Ramses Barden. 

    There's a chance Nicks is back for the season opener against the Cowboys, but the offense certainly will have a different look in 2012. 

    David Wilson was drafted to add more dynamic big-play ability to the team's rushing attack that statistically was the worst in football last year and gone is Brandon Jacobs

Arizona vs. Kansas City: Cardinals' QB Competition, Injured Players Return for KC

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    Kevin Kolb had a horrible outing against the New Orleans Saints, and his night ended with a rib contusion. 

    According to this tweet from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, everything is good regarding Kolb's heath:

    Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt says Kevin Kolb may be limited this afternoon, but is good going forward. A good sign.

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 7, 2012

    He should gets some first-team reps, but he'll likely share them with challenger John Skelton. 

    Another city, another quarterback competition.  

    On the Chiefs' side of the ball, keep an eye on Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles—key players for Kansas City who are all returning from severe injuries suffered in 2011. 

Minnesota vs. San Francisco: Chris Ponder's Development, New-Look 49ers Offense

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    If it wasn't for Blaine Gabbert's glaringly bad 2011, Christian Ponder would be receiving most of the criticism for less-than-stellar play in his rookie season. 

    He barely completed 54 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Though the game plan will be rather vanilla, watching him operate in the pocket against the best front seven in football is appealing. 

    The 49ers went 13-3 and were a few plays away from advancing to the Super Bowl last season and got there with a run-heavy offense and a dominant and stingy defense. 

    Alex Smith had a career year, but head coach Jim Harbaugh wants more from his passing game. Newcomers Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins provide Smith with more weapons than he's ever had in his career. 

    The pressure is undoubtedly on the former No. 1 overall pick to add a more prominent passing dimension to San Francisco's offense. 

    This game will give us the first look at the 49ers' new-look attack. 

Houston vs. Carolina: Texans' Balance and Sophomore Cam Newton

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    The Texans were one of the more balanced teams in football last season, but rode an elite rushing attack and a revitalized defense (thanks, Wade Phillips) to the first playoff appearance in franchise history. 

    Quarterback Matt Schaub has battled back from a freak Lisfranc injury and should make his premiere against the Panthers. 

    On defense, will Houston be able to rekindle the impressive play of last season and challenge the 49ers for the best defensive front seven in the game? 

    We'll get to see them in Year 2 of the Wade Phillips' era on Saturday night. 

    You already know what you'll be watching when the Panthers have the football—Cam Newton. As well, you should be. 

    His ridiculous 35-touchdown rookie year has set the bar mighty high for the former Heisman Trophy winner, and some prognosticators even have Carolina winning the always unpredictable NFC South in 2012. 

    Don't forget, Newton's 2011 preseason was a forgetful one, so don't put too much into how he performs, good or bad. 

Tennessee vs. Seattle: Titans' QB Competition, Chris Johnson and Terrell Owens

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    The Titans are one of the least talked about team's in football, but they're fresh off a 9-7 season and were underrated on both offense and defense in 2011. 

    Chris Johnson had a "down" year in the eyes of many, but still totaled over 1,400 yards from scrimmage. Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker are competing in a potential "changing of the guard" quarterback battle, and the offensive line allowed only 24 sacks last year. 

    Head coach Mike Munchak raved about his running back in a recent Nashville Tennessean article by Jim Wyatt saying the following: 

    The way he was hitting things, you don’t see hesitation. C.J. looked quick, he was hitting things decisively. When he decided to go outside he hit it hard and showed some speed around the edge. … I thought all the backs looked like they ran well.

    If CJ2K returns to 2009 or 2008 form, the Titans will challenge the Texans for the AFC South crown. 

    For Pete Carroll's Seahawks, well, they just signed Terrell Owens. You probably heard. 

    They're in the middle of a three-helmeted quarterback competition of their own. Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson kick off that battle in this one. 

    How will a 38-year-old Owens look after spending a year away from football?

St. Louis vs. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck's Debut, How Sam Bradford Plays in Year 3

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    While Robert Griffin III has been in what seems like every commercial, Andrew Luck has flown under the radar after being the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. 

    He begins his journey to fill Peyton Manning's shoes in Indianapolis as the Colts start their rebuilding process. 

    The St. Louis Rams were a game away from the postseason in 2010, but faltered for the majority of the 2011 season, and former Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford regressed immensely. 

    The majority of the media and fan attention with be placed on the play of the young quarterbacks. 

Dallas vs. Oakland: Tony Romo's Steadiness, Darren McFadden's Return from Injury

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    Tony Romo had the best statistical season of his career, but due to the Cowboys failing to make the postseason, it largely went unnoticed. 

    He's the key to Dallas' success. 

    If he plays consistent football and doesn't make idiotic mistakes, the Cowboys have the overall talent to win the NFC East and do major damage in the playoffs. 

    We get to see if he picks off where he left off last season in the Monday night showdown with the Raiders. 

    For Oakland, they'll be watching how springy Darren McFadden looks after suffering a nagging foot injury that cut short his 2011 season and curtailed the team's chances to run away with the AFC West. 

    If Run DMC is fully healthy and can stay healthy all year, the Raiders will likely be one of the more productive running teams in the AFC.