Week 2 of the NFL's preseason had no shortage of influential performances and plays. The types of plays that can alter position battles and change perceptions.
While players made their cases to start or fall by the wayside, certain individual plays will go down as the most important the week had to offer.
Let's look at those plays. The ones that will have the most lasting impact moving toward the regular season.
Jake Locker's Interception Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0:00-0:20 of video)
The performance of Jake Locker in the Titans' second preseason game may prove to be a microcosm of what to expect now that he has become the starter (h/t Associated Press, via ESPN.com)
On this play, Locker did a good job avoiding the rush, using his feet to create space and giving his receivers time to get open. The problem comes from the fact that he attempted to throw the ball across his body to a receiver on the opposite side of the field.
This is the type of throw that is rarely—if ever—going to yield positive results.
Locker utilized his legs properly at other points in the game, but he must be smarter with the football in order to fend off Matt Hasselbeck as the season progresses.
Jason Pierre-Paul Dominates Wayne Hunter, Victor Cruz Shows He Can be a No. 1 Wideout and Jayron Hosley Impresses In the Secondary
The New York Giants' Week 2 preseason showdown with the Jets was important for not just one player, but several. In this highlight, three separate plays have important lessons to be learned:
1. (0:40-1:00): Jason Pierre-Paul's devastation of Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter shows that he is going to continue his sack-hungry ways from a year ago, but perhaps more importantly it shows that the Jets, regardless of who is under center, stand no chance of winning if they cannot protect their QB.
2. (0:00-0:35): Victor Cruz caught two passes over the middle of the field with no fear of oncoming defenders. His ability to make the catch in traffic and hang onto the ball after taking a multitude of vicious shots shows that he is far from a one-year wonder. Cruz is a versatile weapon that will be key to the Giants' passing game this season.
3. (1:05-1:20): Jayron Hosley may be only a rookie, but on this play he showcased veteran instincts. New York's secondary is young, and having guys step up and create turnovers will be tremendously beneficial to one of the league's best front-seven units.
Jay Cutler Finds His Rhythm with Brandon Marshall
With Jay Cutler coming off of an injury and Brandon Marshall new to the Bears offense, it may have been fair to wonder how long it would take the two to rekindle the flame from their time together in Denver.
After Week 2 of the preseason, that question already appears answered. The Cutler-Marshall connection was in full force on a couple of impressive plays.
On the first play, Cutler tosses up a deep ball and allows Marshall to separate from the defender and get in position to stretch the field.
The second play illustrates the timing between the two as Marshall makes a catch along the sideline and then gains some yards after the catch.
Andrew Luck Proves He Is Human with an Interception (0:00 to 0:15 of video)
Week 1 of the preseason showed the world the best of Andrew Luck. Week 2 brought that world back to reality.
Luck was not terrible by any means, in fact by most accounts he continued to impress.
However, on this particular play Luck makes an ill-advised throw that results in an interception to a cornerback that jumped an out route.
Luck is not going to make silly mistakes like this often, but he is not going to be superhuman every week either.
It is important to remember that the No. 1 pick will suffer some rookie growing pains like everyone else.
Blaine Gabbert Stands Tall in the Pocket (0:20 to 0:48 of video)
The 2011 version of Blaine Gabbert was awful. He made poor throws, displayed little velocity and looked scared just being snapped the ball.
The 2012 version is off to a much better start. This may be only the preseason, but the way Gabbert is standing in the pocket, dissecting the defense and finding open receivers is a jarring improvement.
On this play, Gabbert stands in the middle of a collapsing pocket and spots Justin Blackmon over the middle.
Last season, Gabbert would have either taken the sack or missed Blackmon by a mile.
This is the kind of improvement that is essential to Gabbert's development.
Audie Cole Makes His Presence Felt with Two INTs (1:20 to 1:35 of video)
Who is Audie Cole, you ask? Audie Cole is the man making a strong case to start for the Minnesota Vikings at linebacker.
This highlight shows only one of two INTs that Cole recorded on consecutive defensive series.
Interceptions may only be a small part of what a linebacker does, but Cole's instincts here are admirable.
He reads the QB, breaks on the ball perfectly and then has the hands to make the catch on both plays.
Cole currently sits at No. 3 on the Vikings' depth chart at middle linebacker. A couple more games like this and Minnesota will be hard pressed to keep him there.
Randy Moss Makes His San Francisco 49ers' Debut (0:00 to 0:37 of video)
Skepticism is running rampant about Randy Moss' attempted comeback with the San Francisco 49ers.
One preseason game is not going to change that, but Moss did showcase some important traits.
On multiple plays he made catches on short routes and looked smooth in and out of his breaks.
His trademark deep-route ability has not yet been showcased, but making the easy catches and being a reliable asset in the short-to-intermediate passing game will be essential to Moss blending into the 49ers offense.
Russell Wilson's Touchdown Pass to Cooper Helfet and Terrell Owens' Dropped Touchdown From Matt Flynn
1. (Not Shown): Russell Wilson looked great all night, completing 10-of-17 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
His eight-yard TD pass to Cooper Helfet was the capper to a great performance that will leave a lasting impression.
2. (0:30-0:47): At the other end of the spectrum, while Matt Flynn's 6-of-13, 31-yard, no-touchdown performance was not as bad as the stats may indicate, what everyone will remember was his failed TD pass to Terrell Owens.
It was a great throw, placed perfectly over Owens shoulder, but the pass was dropped and no TD went on the stat sheet.
Essentially, Wilson ended up looking great while Flynn looked average at best.
Antonio Brown Goes 57 Yards on a Screen Pass
With the Mike Wallace holdout looking more and more likely to extend into the regular season, it is of paramount importance that Antonio Brown live up to his new monster contract and spot on the depth chart.
On this play, Brown shows his ability to take a simple screen pass and turn it into a game-changing 57-yard scamper for a touchdown.
Brown has some of the quickest feet in the league and can shift gears and cut better than most of his peers.
He displays all of his talents here and is clearly one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL.
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