This NFL preseason feels different.
When it comes right down to the it, it really is different, on a variety of levels. Veterans in new homes and rookies on the hunt for playing time as they adapt to the league are a given, but new dynamics on and off the field make it a summer to monitor closely.
On the field, a new change to the rules sees kickers attempting extra points from the 20-yard line, which in simpler terms means it is now a 38-year field goal. Off the field, high-profile negotiations come equipped with a new wrinkle now that the first impacts of the 2011 labor tussle see players who have had fifth-year options exercised begin to bargain for more cash.
It is rather easy to forget that 65 contests are about to unfold. They do not count, but for those on the bubble, they mean everything. The full slate can be found below, with some storylines to watch after the jump.
2014 NFL Preseason Schedule
|Date||Matchup||TV Info (ET)|
|Sun., August 3||NY Giants vs. Buffalo||8 p.m., NBC|
|Thu., August 7||Indianapolis at NY Jets||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 7||San Francisco at Baltimore||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 7||New England at Washington||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 7||Cincinnati at Kansas City||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 7||Seattle at Denver||9 p.m.|
|Thu., August 7||Dallas at San Diego||10 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||Miami at Atlanta||7 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||Buffalo at Carolina||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||Tampa Bay at Jacksonville||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||Philadelphia at Chicago||8 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||Oakland at Minnesota||8 p.m.|
|Fri., August 8||New Orleans at St. Louis||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 9||Cleveland at Detroit||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 9||Pittsburgh at NY Giants||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 9||Green Bay at Tennessee||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 9||Houston at Arizona||8:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 14||Jacksonville at Chicago||8 p.m., ESPN|
|Fri., August 15||Philadelphia at New England||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 15||Tennessee at New Orleans||8 p.m.|
|Fri., August 15||Detroit at Oakland||10 p.m.|
|Fri., August 15||San Diego at Seattle||10 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Green Bay at St. Louis||4 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||NY Jets at Cincinnati||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Baltimore at Dallas||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||NY Giants at Indianapolis||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Buffalo at Pittsburgh||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Miami at Tampa Bay||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Atlanta at Houston||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Arizona at Minnesota||8:30 p.m.|
|Sun., August 17||Denver at San Francisco||4 p.m.|
|Sun., August 17||Kansas City at Carolina||8 p.m., Fox|
|Mon., August 18||Cleveland at Washington||8 p.m., ESPN|
|Thu., August 21||Pittsburgh at Philadelphia||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 22||Oakland at Green Bay||8 p.m., CBS|
|Fri., August 22||Jacksonville at Detroit||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 22||Carolina at New England||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 22||NY Giants at NY Jets||7:30 p.m.|
|Fri., August 22||Chicago at Seattle||10 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Tampa Bay at Buffalo||4:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Dallas at Miami||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Tennessee at Atlanta||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Washington at Baltimore||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||New Orleans at Indianapolis||8 p.m., CBS|
|Sat., August 23||St. Louis at Cleveland||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Minnesota at Kansas City||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 23||Houston at Denver||9 p.m.|
|Sun., August 24||San Diego at San Francisco||4 p.m., Fox|
|Sun., August 24||Cincinnati at Arizona||8 p.m., NBC|
|Thu., August 28||Atlanta at Jacksonville||6 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Detroit at Buffalo||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Indianapolis at Cincinnati||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Kansas City at Green Bay||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||St. Louis at Miami||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||NY Jets at Philadelphia||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||New England at NY Giants||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Carolina at Pittsburgh||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Washington at Tampa Bay||7:30 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Chicago at Cleveland||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Denver at Dallas||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||San Francisco at Houston||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Baltimore at New Orleans||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Minnesota at Tennessee||8 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Seattle at Oakland||10 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||Arizona at San Diego||10 p.m.|
Each preseason game can be streamed with NFL Preseason Live.
Storylines to Watch
The Return of RGIII
Remember all of the drama Robert Griffin III caused last preseason?
Fresh off knee surgery, RGIII's actions gave way to a media circus. Or his inaction, as Mike Shanahan and Co. were a tad hesitant to let the former Baylor star give it a college try in the preseason after being hit with blame that overuse caused his injury in the first place.
Who can forget Operation Patience, as captured by ESPN's Darren Rovell:
Or the subsequent fine, noted by ESPN.com's John Keim
One day after the NFL fined him $10,000 for wearing unauthorized apparel before a Monday night game against Pittsburgh, Griffin had his retort.
It came at the Redskins' annual Welcome Home Luncheon, shortly after an auction for charity ended. Griffin was speaking because he had just been named the alumni's 2012 Offensive Player of the Year.
He opened by saying, "Those auctioneers did a good job. I would've given them 10 grand, but the NFL took it away from me this week."
So here we are in 2014, Griffin is healthy and will finally play in the preseason once more, and best of all, he will do so under the watchful eye of offensive guru and first-year coach Jay Gruden.
For Griffin, it all equates to a redemption story that begins with a preseason duel against—how poetic—Tom Brady. He says the schedule gives him a unique opportunity, per Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington:
I’ve talked to Tom before. But when they get here, everyone will be focused on what they are focused on. It’s not buddy-up time. If I get a chance to sit down and talk to him, I’d love to, just to pick his brain. But he’s also still playing quarterback in the NFL. It’s a competitive position, a competitive sport. So I don’t expect him to give me any groundbreaking secrets.
This preseason, RGIII's health, overall sharpness and the slight hints of what is to come in a somewhat new offense under the pass-happy Gruden make him the most important player to watch as he enters his third year.
Old Names, New Homes
A staple of the preseason is the chance to see players who have finally found new homes take the field in their new jerseys.
Take Steve Smith, for example. After 13 years with the Carolina Panthers and acting as a key mentor for a young Cam Newton, the Utah product is now in Baltimore and hopes to both help guide Torrey Smith and make quarterback Joe Flacco more productive.
Well, and add a bit of attitude in the process. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak admits that Smith has been a bit of a challenge so far this preseason, as captured by Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
Boy, I watched him today, and I'll tell you it was his best day with me out here. It's just because each day he's getting more comfortable with what we're doing. He's just so competitive. He brings an edge to practice all the time. He challenges people as far as how you play, how you go about doing things.
He challenged coaches, too. Every good offense that I've been around has had a few of those guys saying, 'Get me the ball, coach.' And that's a good thing. That's what you want. He works to get the ball, so that's what's impressive to me.
Let's flip to the defensive side of things to illustrate the same thing, albeit way out west in Oakland. The Raiders actually seem on an upward trajectory thanks to smart moves from the front office as of late, which includes the additions of veterans Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley in the defensive trenches.
Sure, Tuck is 31 years old, but it will be quite a strange sight to see him in silver and black rather than the New York blue he donned for the prior nine years. To understand what a quality get Tuck is for the organization, one merely has to glance at his last few seasons, highlighted by the comeback story last year:
Woodley is a very similar story at 29 years of age, although he has missed 14 games in the past three years. Still, it will be quite interesting to see him without the yellow and black he wore for the past seven years.
The list goes on and on—Jairus Byrd, Darrelle Revis, Michael Johnson, DeMarcus Ware, Branden Albert and more have new homes. The three detailed above simply exemplify the strange feeling fans will get upon first viewing.
It is a typical preseason in this regard, but perhaps the most potent in quite some time.