NFL Preseason Week 3: Highlighting This Week's Most Intriguing Storylines
Preseason Week 3 is the best week of the preseason for two reasons.
Firstly, it means we're more than halfway done with the four-game exhibition prelude to the games that, well, actually count.
Secondly, they call it the regular season "dress rehearsal," because oftentimes, starters play well into the third quarter.
Here are the major storylines of preseason football's most compelling week.
Patriots Offensive Line vs. Lions Defensive Line
Nick Fairley is really disruptive. Ndamukong Suh is really disruptive. Fortunately for the Detroit Lions, the two play next to each other on the team's defensive line.
In 2012, the two rated in the top five of Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) defensive tackle grades.
Both are healthy and have played well thus far in the preseason.
In the third exhibition game, they'll face the New England Patriots offensive line, a unit that's been good since George W. Bush's first term as United States President and has paved the way for 387 yards on 58 carries through two games.
For the non-mathematicians, that's 6.67241379 yards per carry.
(A calculator was used but not harmed.)
In this preseason game that should feature at least a half of play for the starters, it'll be intriguing to watch Detroit's defensive line battle with New England's offensive line, as both groupings are among the best in the league.
Daryl Smith Against Cam Newton's Offense
Daryl Smith is totally erasing the memory of Ray Lewis on the inside of the Baltimore Ravens defense.
OK, not really.
But the former Jacksonville Jaguars stud linebacker has been dubbed by head coach John Harbaugh as "the quarterback of the defense," per Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun, mainly due to his play-calling responsibilities.
Through two preseason games, he was ranked as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) top inside linebacker, and during the 2011 regular season, only Von Miller ranked ahead of Smith at the 4-3 outside linebacker spot, according to PFF.
Initially, second-round pick Arthur Brown was thought to be the player to instantly fill the void left by Ray Lewis' retirement.
But Smith's been the man so far.
Kevin Kolb Starting Second Straight Game
Kevin Kolb will start against the Washington Redskins...by default.
EJ Manuel suffered a somewhat mysterious knee injury against the Minnesota Vikings in the second week of the preseason, which has given the veteran the nod under center for Buffalo.
The rookie had done enough to win the starting job, but after undergoing a "minor" procedure on his knee, the Bills have decided to keep him out of final two exhibition outings.
Kolb went 13-for-21 for 111 yards with no touchdowns and an interception against the Vikings, but his stat line was deceiving.
Six of Kolb's completions and 49 passing yards came on his second-to-last drive of the evening. In his final possession, Kolb had two completions for 43 yards.
Essentially, he ended much better than he started.
With Manuel being inactive for the third preseason game, it'll be worth monitoring how Kolb performs in his chance to "win back" the Bills starting job against Washington.
Geno Smith's Start
Mark Sanchez has been, well, better than expected this preseason. But he hasn't done enough to end the New York Jets quarterback competition, as evidenced by the fact that Geno Smith will start against the New York Giants on Saturday.
The rookie injured his ankle in the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions but is healthy and ready to play.
He believes with "two turnover-free quarters," Smith would win the Jets job.
Now you'll be watching.
Brandon Weeden's First Start, As, Well, the Browns Starter
In the upset of the century, Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski named Brandon Weeden his starter, per Cleveland.com.
OK, no shock whatsoever.
The second-year professional, who'll turn 30 in October, has been tremendous in the preseason.
He's gone 18-for-25 for 229 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
In his first start of the season without having to worry about a quarterback competition, it'll be worth watching to see if Weeden can build on two strong exhibition performances against the Indianapolis Colts.
How Will the Dolphins Offense Play?
Mike Wallace made the most of his first targets of the preseason a week ago, as he caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown from second-year Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Fellow free-agent acquisition Brandon Gibson caught two passes for 32 yards against the Houston Texans.
Unfortunately, tight end Dustin Keller was lost for the year after suffering a serious knee injury.
In what will be their fourth preseason outing, how will Tannehill and his new batch of pass-catching targets play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Can Wallace improve upon his flashy showing against the Texans? Which tight end will step up in Keller's absence?
Michael Vick's First Start, As, Well, the Eagles Starter
After two strong efforts in the preseason, Michael Vick was named as the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback by head coach Chip Kelly.
The veteran southpaw has gone 13-for-15 with 199 yards, a touchdown and a pick, the latter coming on a meaningless Hail Mary.
Without Nick Foles breathing down his neck, it'll be fun to watch Vick operate Chip Kelly's offense, that, really, is ideally suited for him.
Adrian Peterson Making His Preseason Debut
The NFL MVP has yet to play in the 2013 preseason.
Sure, it's just the preseason, but it's Week 3 of the preseason, and frankly, AD always runs with a striking combination of power, speed and sheer nastiness.
Facing San Francisco's stingy run defense will be a nice test for Peterson and the Vikings offensive line.