The 2014 NFL season is still in its infancy with preseason heading toward Week 2, but there is already an ample amount of work-water-cooler banter to enjoy after all of the 32 teams have made at least one appearance.
The debuts of Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney took the cake in Week 1, along with some household names in new locations and new-look units trying to mesh in a few short drives. As much excitement as there was in the opening 17 exhibitions of the NFL season, it was only a sneak preview of what the next four months have in store.
As is always the case with the preseason, fans are getting a closer look at players needing to prove themselves, which makes the action important to tune into despite it not mattering who wins.
Here's a look at the rest of the preseason schedule and what storylines you'll need to catch wind of before the weekend slate comes.
2014 NFL Preseason Schedule
|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||N.Y. Jets at Cincinnati||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||Baltimore at Dallas||7 p.m.|
|Sat., August 16||N.Y. 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||N.Y. Giants at N.Y. 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||N.Y. Jets at Philadelphia||7 p.m.|
|Thu., August 28||New England at N.Y. 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.|
Highlighted games will be televised nationally; all games available to be streamed on NFL Preseason Live.
Is Johnny Football on His Way to Starting?
If the mania was driving you crazy before, now you might want to give up on the following things: the Internet, cable televisions, friends of yours who follow the NFL. Because after Johnny Manziel's preseason debut, the noise and speculation is only increasing.
Manziel was up and down in his debut, but he showed glimpses of the signature playing style he shredded defenses with at Texas A&M and zipped balls out of the pocket impressively with strong accuracy. He had a few positive plays with his feet, most notably escaping for a 16-yard gain through the teeth of the defense.
Were you impressed with Johnny Manziel's debut?
He finished with 63 yards through the air on 7-of-11 passing, adding 27 more on the ground on six total carries. Naturally for an unconventional rookie quarterback in his first NFL game, a handful of head-scratching decisions—like going headfirst into three Lions defenders trying to pick up a first down in the preseason—were sprinkled in there as well.
As you'd expect, the reaction was polarizing, with some captivated by his exciting play and others unimpressed. Just as Kevin Durant predicted:
So if Johnny football kill tonight y'all gonna say "it's just preseason". If he doesn't y'all gonna say he don't belong. Smh— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) August 9, 2014
The storyline continues to shift in the wake of his performance, with NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal reporting that Manziel will start the Browns' second game against the Redskins—a decision reportedly made before the Browns-Lions game began. Of course, Mike Pettine failed to confirm it after the game, per Rosenthal.
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling added the following on Twitter:
Browns reportedly realize Manziel has "the momentum and the superior talent" in QB competition http://t.co/D2jzgsMYN4— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) August 10, 2014
Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer figured to be one of the hottest quarterback battles of 2014 regardless of what Browns coaches have said. Should the rookie get the nod for Week 2, it would only confirm that.
Pettine hasn't said that he's deviating from his plan to have a starter chosen by Week 3 of the preseason, as he told Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich weeks prior. That seems to give the indication that Johnny Football could leapfrog Hoyer and win the starting job for Week 1 with a big performance against Washington.
Those who say the preseason is meaningless must not be Manziel fans.
Stashed Rookie QBs Making Cases to Start
The Jacksonville Jaguars have drawn plenty of ire since drafting Blake Bortles No. 3 overall after adamantly stating that he won't start over Chad Henne in 2014. Although theirs was only a second-round pick, the Oakland Raiders also drafted and stashed a quarterback for the future in Derek Carr and brought in Matt Schaub to start this year.
It's just the preseason and it's just one week in, but more of what we saw in Week 1 could force those teams to alter their mindsets.
Bortles was sharp in his debut against Tampa Bay, completing 7-of-11 passes for 117 yards. He completed a strike to Mike Brown for 31 yards that set up a Jags field goal, and undoubtedly outshone Henne's 4-of-7 passing for 30 yards.
The distance between Carr and Schaub looked much greater. The Fresno State rookie hit 10-of-16 passes for 74 yards, and did have one pick—but Schaub was hapless in his Raiders debut with 3-of-7 passing for 21 yards.
Former scout John Middlekauff noted how much stronger Carr's arm looked:
Carr looks calm in the pocket, but his WR's are dropping balls. Difference between him & Schaub velocity wise is big— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) August 9, 2014
The Raiders are in a decent position entering 2014, but not if Schaub plays anything like he did in his preseason debut. Carr might not be completely ready, but if Schaub continues his struggles from last year and Carr grows more comfortable, look out.
On the other end, the Jags are seemingly more reluctant to wheel out their rookie. They apparently drafted him with the intention of making him a developmental project, surprisingly enough with the third overall selection.
Should both or either of these young quarterbacks continue to impress, though, it will be just a matter of time until they get the keys to the offense.
Can Colts' Richardson Turn It Around?
Few players have gone from hype to bust faster than Trent Richardson, who has transformed from a future star rusher to one not capable of maintaining the Colts' starting job.
It's hard to tell how much of it is justified; Richardson's on-tape struggles are hard to watch for any fan of his, but injuries and an untimely change of teams have played a bigger role than most admit.
Indianapolis fans are cautious about Richardson re-emerging as the starter this training camp after his uninspiring performances gave the job back to Donald Brown late last year. But with Edgerrin James in his corner, he might turn out alright.
James told ESPN's Mike Wells that he is coming around to mentor Richardson, which has to be music to Colts fans' ears:
"It was unfair to judge him because it is two different systems," said James, who retired with 12,246 rushing yards. "The terminology is totally different and he was just kind of thrown out there. You can't really get an assessment because there is so much going on for him personally and the things you have to go through in order to be good in this league. This is the NFL; you can't just sign somebody thinking they can come in and be a star no matter how good they have been. It takes time."
As bad as Richardson's 2.9 yards per carry looked, the fact is he's still 23 and very much emerging in the league. He made a big impact as a rookie, and an entire offseason to dissect the last year should allow Richardson to get back to making an impact.
He carried just five times for 13 yards in his preseason debut against the Jets, but did have an eight-yard scamper. After working with James, he should improve drastically.