Week 1 of the 2014 NFL preseason was but a glimpse of what is to come.
As the weeks progress and eventually bleed into the regular season, the more vanilla schemes and approaches from coaching staffs and players around the league begin to regress in favor of the real thing.
The first week was fun in that rookies put on a show and veterans made debuts with new teams. But the newness factor is beginning to fade, and positional battles for a minuscule 53 roster spots on 32 teams will only continue to amplify in importance.
Week 2 is an important part of the escalation before Week 3 sees starters play the most snaps of any preseason contest. Let's take a look at the full slate and some of the marquee contests to set aside time for in the coming days.
2014 NFL Preseason Schedule
|Date||Matchup||TV Info (ET)|
|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."
Matchups to Watch
Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers
Were this a bout in the regular season, it would be a cannot-miss affair as two powerhouses from opposing conferences collide.
It still is thanks to a bevy of new faces as both franchises look to make a push at a Super Bowl.
For Denver, a win over Seattle a week ago means little. What is important is the development of those new faces, such as No. 31 overall pick Bradley Roby. After a shaky offseason, the cornerback went out and tallied four tackles and a forced fumble, a critical part of his development, as Troy Renck of the Denver Post notes:
#Broncos' Bradley Roby with hard tackle, causes Michael to fumble. ... After slow start to camp has been steadily building confidence.— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 8, 2014
Roby and a new-look secondary that includes free-agent acquisitions such as T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib will have to jell quickly to counter an offense that includes Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.
Last week, the 49ers lost the Harbaugh Bowl in epic fashion and got a 3-of-11 performance from Blaine Gabbert in the process, but a pair of rookies on what may be the deepest roster in the NFL rounds out what is sure to be a great contest in San Francisco.
There is wideout Bruce Ellington, the team's fourth-round pick, a speedy threat who brought in three receptions for 35 yards. He was also electric on kick returns, an area he may contribute at right away next season. The performance garnered strong comments from his coach, as captured by Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Jim Harbaugh on rookie WR Bruce Ellington: “He’s a football player. He’s got a knack.” #49ers— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 8, 2014
Do not forget about Carlos Hyde, either. The bruising back rushed just five times in his debut but led the team with 39 yards. He will continue to soak up carries and perhaps break into the lineup next season if he continues at this pace.
With starters mostly shelved for another week, both rosters tout enough in the "fresh" department to earn the eyes of fans around the globe.
Cleveland Browns vs. Washington
This matchup in particular has plenty of new faces and killer storylines to boot.
Yes, there is Johnny Manziel. The man who created a frenzy just by suiting up last week in Detroit for a modest pro debut and helped to overwhelm Ford Field, as Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post illustrates:
The Lions tell me Ford Field's press box is completely full for Manziel's PRESEASON debut Saturday. And that place hosted a Super Bowl.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) August 7, 2014
Manziel did not exactly live up to the hype—he attempted 11 passes, completed seven for 63 yards and ran for another 27. It was not a disappointment, either, but a showcase as to how offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is willing to use his rookie quarterback. Or rather, how he will bring him along slowly and protect him.
That sounds familiar, right?
Not too long ago, Shanahan was bringing along a rookie quarterback by the name of Robert Griffin III, who went on in 2012 to win a division title and the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Manziel is using the same offense, as Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan even hears from the rookie himself:
Manziel said OC Kyle Shanahan shows some RG3 film to demo some installation of the offense— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) August 11, 2014
Even better, fans will get a dose of Johnny Football with the first-team offense as the battle for the starting gig with veteran Brian Hoyer intensifies, as explained by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
#browns Pettine said bottom line is that both Hoyer and Manziel will get equal amount of reps with starters in washington— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 12, 2014
The interest extends to Shanahan's former understudy, too. RGIII attempted just four passes in his preseason opener after missing most of last year's exhibitions with a knee injury. Backup Kirk Cousins only attempted 13 but threw for 103 yards and a score.
It was an interesting turn of events, to say the least, when one takes into account a recent perspective from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss:
One of my biggest takeaways from Patriots-Redskins joint practices was surprise that Robert Griffin III didn’t look like the best quarterback on his own team. In fact, I thought Kirk Cousins was better than him, from the perspective of running the offense, fine-tuned mechanics and how decisively the ball came out of his hand. I wondered if I was alone, and then heard the same sentiment echoed by some others in the Patriots organization.
The game against Cleveland and subsequent exhibitions are important as RGIII attempts to wrap his mind around new head coach Jay Gruden's offense.
Offensively speaking, the interest in Washington far from ends there. Rookie back Lache Seastrunk lead the team in rushing with 63 yards on 12 carries last week, and free-agent acquisition DeSean Jackson may make his debut for Washington after missing last week's contest.
Normally, a preseason duel between two teams that won a combined seven games last year is one worthy of an eye roll, but individuals and storylines make this one anything but normal.
Note: Preseason stats courtesy of NFL.com.