The NFL preseason is not irrelevant.
Fans hate paying full price for much less than a full game of full-speed football. Coaches hate having to put their best players at risk for games that don't count. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during May owners' meetings the league's still trying to cut down to two preseason games from four.
Yet, for all but the top handful of players on every team's 90-man roster, the preseason means everything.
Of the 2,880 players in camp right now, only half will even dress for the opening game. Only about a quarter of them will start that game. Many fewer than that have ironclad grips on those starting jobs.
For most of the NFL, preseason is where all the minicamps, OTAs and training camp practices crystallize into a player's chance to make it. Preseason is a small handful of live-fire reps—a glimmer of a chance to lock up a starting job, make it into the rotation, crack into the two-deeps, make a case for the practice squad or just take a playbook home for one more night.
As rookies and veterans fight for playing time up, down and all across depth charts this weekend, here are the players with a little extra something to prove in all 16 Week 1 preseason games.