Though the outcomes of these preseason games are meaningless in terms of wins and losses, value is most certainly derived from the various glimpses at the new season.
Players who shine in August can demonstrate the value of a productive offseason. They can also provide insight into team chemistry, system changes and how certain players fit into their constantly changing environment. Turnover and change come to the NFL annually, and only those who adapt quickly will survive.
After two full weeks of NFL action, several players have shown early signs of dominance in 2013, but others could be taking a major step backward.
The NFL is constantly evolving, and you only get better or get worse—there's no staying the same.
Here’s a look at whose stock is rising and whose is sinking after the second week of preseason play.
What a difference a year makes for Brandon Weeden.
Watching this guy throw the ball around with accuracy, zip and poise throughout these two preseason games, you’d think he was a 29-year old vet and not some guy in only his second year. But both of these things are true.
For this reason, it's crucial that Weeden matures quickly in order to take advantage of his limited window of opportunity.
As a rookie last year, Weeden couldn’t even establish himself as the Browns' present quarterback, let alone offer any hope for the future. Rather than showing the promise of a first-round pick, he struggled to acclimate to the speed and complexities of the NFL game and looked overwhelmed more often than not.
Now, under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Weeden appears to have taken his game to the next level this preseason, as he shows off a swagger and attitude Cleveland fans are eager to see more of in games that actually matter.
If his preseason success is any indication of what to expect come the regular season, the Browns’ young yet talented roster might just be the surprise team of the AFC.
At least Mr. Tim Tebow can make plays with his legs. After all, if not for his ability to run the ball, there’d be absolutely no justification for his presence in the NFL beyond marketing exploits.
As it stands, Tebow is literally fighting for his football career and is failing in nearly every aspect of this summer-long audition.
You might want to hold onto something before you read these passing stats—they could induce shock.
In two preseason games thus far, Tebow has somehow only completed 26 percent of his passes with one interception and no touchdowns. His passer rating is an abysmal 17.7!
If if wasn't quite clear that Tebow has an issue with his accuracy, footwork, decision-making and just about everything else needed to play quarterback in the NFL, then let this preseason debacle serve as a stark reminder.
It has actually become stressful to watch Tim Tebow at quarterback. But the sad truth is that he was never this bad at the sport when he was in college, nor was he so terrible just two years ago. Right now, he has a deep lack of self-confidence in his abilities, brought on by the majority of "NFL experts" openly doubting him to the point of unprecedented levels.
There’s no denying the pressure is getting to Tebow and has only magnified his weaknesses. However, time is running out for him to make a good impression before the final cuts. Albeit, in reality, it may already be too late for him in New England.
For as small as he may be, Tyrann Mathieu is playing a bigger game on a weekly basis.
Wherever there’s a ball or a guy carrying it, Mathieu isn’t too far away. His ability to anticipate and seek out big-play opportunities is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Against the Cowboys on Saturday, No. 32 finished his day with seven solo tackles, which is more than any player from either team. He also came extremely close to an interception that would have surely resulted in a defensive touchdown had he gotten there just a split second earlier.
It hasn’t taken long for the LSU product to start flashing his potential. Last week Mathieu had an impressive sack on the quarterback and looked stout in pass coverage.
He seems to be on a mission to prove all of his doubters wrong.
If there’s any validity to the idea A.J. Jenkins could fail to make the roster this summer, then the severity of his struggles are far more dire than once believed.
Jenkins had one catch in the first preseason game, which ended in a fumble and turnover. Not a good start for a guy on a mission to dispel all talk of a potential bust.
This week was his big opportunity for redemption. Unfortunately for him, he again failed to rise to the occasion.
The offensive game plan for San Francisco seemed to be geared toward giving Jenkins some opportunities, yet time and time again, he didn't separate from defenders. Even when the ball was thrown too far or into the defender's vicinity, Jenkins refused to switch to "defensive back mode” and knock the ball down to prevent the turnover.
Like Tim Tebow, Jenkins could be operating on dangerously low self-confidence, which only perpetuates the very things that are causing the lack of confidence in the first place.
Once he gets his mind right, he still has a lot of intriguing tools that should provide the 49ers offense with a speedy, home run hitter who has amazing abilities after the catch.
Now, if he can just get the ball in his hands long enough to make something happen.
The latest trend in the NFL is this shift toward dynamic, pass-catching tight ends who provide defenses with matchup nightmares on a weekly basis. One such player is a second-year pro out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Ladarius Green.
At 6’6” and 240 pounds, Green moves surprisingly well and has deceptive quickness. In his second week of preseason action, Green hauled in five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. That makes two good games in row for No. 89, who should see significant time on offense once the season starts—especially considering that Antonio Gates is 33 years old.
Green is primed to be become a formidable weapon in the AFC West, just as long as the Chargers offensive line can allow a little bit of time to get the ball downfield.
Just because you have all the physical tools in the world doesn’t mean you’re a lock to be a star in the NFL.
If Jonathan Baldwin serves no other purpose for the Chiefs throughout his career, at least he can act as a constant reminder of this lesson.
However, it would be ideal if new quarterback Alex Smith could somehow harness those tools into something much more productive.
In the game against the 49ers, it appeared as though Smith was trying to make Baldwin his new favorite target by looking his way every chance he got. However, trying is the operative word here. Baldwin never even came close to bringing in a catch. He seemed to struggle with timing and separation throughout the day. He has not had a catch in either of his preseason games.
How much longer will the Chiefs give the third-year pro before they finally move on to someone with more substance than promise?
Baldwin's stock is definitely in a downward spiral unless he can put it together quickly and finally become the player Kansas City was hoping for.
Before we start to panic here, it's important to keep in mind that this is just the preseason. Production, or lack thereof, at this stage in the season should be taken with a grain of salt. We understand what type of hard-nosed scrappy runner Ray Rice can be once the season starts.
With that said, there could be early indications that Rice may already be on the downward slope of his career. Though still only 26 years of age, he has been the primary workhorse in the Ravens offense for four straight years now. That kind of wear and tear on the body begins to take its toll, especially on a frame so small relative to NFL standards.
Baltimore's likely game plan is to adopt a shared backfield with fellow running back Bernard Pierce. This should take some of the load off of Rice’s shoulders and help lengthen his NFL career in the process.
There’s a reason why the New York Jets drafted Sheldon Richardson in the first round. The Missouri product is already one of the most natural playmakers from the interior in the NFL.
He may only be a rookie, but his impact on the Jets defense should be felt immediately, especially considering he has already begun to prove his talents in the preseason. In Saturday's game against Jacksonville, Richardson had four tackles, including two assisted, which equates to a highly active day for someone who only played about two quarters worth of football.
Richardson is extremely quick for an interior lineman, which helps him to slip around the less athletic guards and centers who typically match up with him.
There’s no reason to expect any less from this talented rookie moving forward. His stock is definitely on the rise.
Last season Fletcher Cox was showing the NFL exactly why he was drafted in the first round. Like Sheldon Richardson, Cox is one of the few interior linemen who can disruptive offenses deep in the backfield on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, when Chip Kelly took over as head coach, he decided it was in the best interest of the team to switch the defensive front from a Wide 9 4-3 to a 3-4.
The Eagles have been struggling mightily to adjust to the new rules in gap assignments and technique, which has completely thrown Fletcher off of his game. In the first two games, he looked terrible against the run and was pushed around all day.
Hopefully with time and repetition, he can make the adjustment and get back to his dominant ways and natural playmaking abilities.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that making the jump from a small school called Arkansas-Pine Bluff to the NFL is nearly impossible. It would be even harder to find early success against NFL-caliber talent. This is exactly what Terron Armstead has been able to do in his first two attempts at real NFL action.
You may remember him as the amazing offensive tackle from the NFL scouting combine who ran an unheard-of 4.71 40-yard dash, setting the draft community on fire and officially putting his name on nearly everybody’s radar.
On tape, Terron looks extremely raw and nowhere near ready to go up against professional talent. Yet somehow, he has thrived thus far in the preseason playing left tackle opposite NFL defenses. This is impressive to say the least.
Apparently Armstead is a quick study, as he has shown no signs of being overwhelmed by the transition from a small school to protecting Drew Brees’ blind side.
Ryan Riddle is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor to Footballguys.com. Before B/R, Ryan was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and spent time with the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Avengers.