The NFL preseason is about as interesting as Olympic Curling. While most fans have to fabricate a reason to watch these ostensibly pointless contests, I'm giving Virginia Tech fans a viable excuse on this, the first night: to watch the many recent Tech alums who will be in action.
Tyrod Taylor makes his debut for the Baltimore Ravens against Michael Vick's Philadelphia Eagles. As a Hokie, could you ask for anything more? If so, don't fret; there are many more former Hokies who will be taking the field for the first time in 2011 tonight.
Tyrod Taylor has been getting positive reviews coming out of the Baltimore Ravens training camp. Just as it did in Blacksburg, his athleticism is wowing coaches in "Charm City."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who obviously knew about Tyrod's feet, has been more impressed by the throwing prowess Taylor has displayed in camp.
With starters typically playing a quarter or less in the first preseason game, Taylor is likely to see more than two quarters of action tonight.
NFL coaches are not historically comfortable with having rookies as their backups, but the Ravens have yet to sign another veteran quarterback. They have also not ruled that possibility out.
So Tyrod's debut tonight has serious ramifications. If he plays well, it could go a long way towards securing his spot as Joe Flacco's backup.
It's hard to say how much Ryan Williams will play tonight against the Oakland Raiders. Beanie Wells is still listed as the Arizona Cardinals starting running back. As a second stringer, Williams is likely to see a fair amount of action.
It's also fair to assume the Cardinals care just as much about their second-round draft choice, fearing Williams getting injured just as much they do Wells going down.
Either way, Ryan Williams will be on the field tonight, and it will be the first of his many auditions for the starting running back position. Much of the chatter coming out of Cardinals camp indicates that Williams looks like the better back. Tonight Hokie fans will get a glimpse to see if that's true.
Kam Chancellor was limited in his playing time in his first year with the Seattle Seahawks, with game experience restricted to special times play and dime defensive formations.
Chancellor had 23 tackles in the 2010 season, and stepped up for the Seahawks in the playoffs with a big pass breakup late in the Wild Card game against the defending champion New Orleans Saints.
In 2011, Chancellor looks to be the starter for the Seahawks at strong safety opposite Earl Thomas. Tonight will be his first game experience with the first team.
Chancellor will likely get less than a half's worth of play, so Tech fans will be watching early to catch a glimpse of the freakish athleticism that made the 6'3'' Chancellor so popular with the Hokie faithful.
The five-year veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp will be competing in a very crowded Philadelphia Eagles defensive front. The additions of Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, along with guys who were already there like Trent Cole and Juqua Parker, give the Eagles one of the deepest defensive lines in football.
The Philadelphia defense operates with a lot of rotation of their front four. Tapp, coming off a solid season of three sacks and four passes defensed, should get a reasonable amount of time on the field in 2011.
Still, Tapp knows he will have to continue playing well to maximize his playing time this season. It all starts in the preseason, specifically chasing after his fellow Hokie Tyrod Taylor tonight.
Eddie Royal will likely not be seeing much playing time for the Denver Broncos in their first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys tonight. But as anyone who has seen Royal play knows (and Virginia Tech fans will never forget), it only takes Royal one play to make something happen.
Royal had a nice season in 2010 with 59 receptions for 627 yards and three touchdowns, bouncing back from his sophomore slump. Hopefully in 2011 he can aspire to the level he established with Jay Cutler in his rookie season, when he had 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns.
I'm not certain if Royal will be returning kicks tonight, as it's the first preseason game, and coaches both want to keep starters safe and allow backups to showcase their talent.
Royal (who has had several crowd-rousing plays in training camp) can make things happen no matter where he is playing, so keep your eyes glued anyway.
The Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick is not going to see much playing time tonight against the Baltimore Ravens, and after what happened against those same Ravens in a preseason game in 2003, I doubt he will be taking any chances when he is on the field.
Jeff King makes his debut tonight for the Arizona Cardinals. King will essentially be, as he was with the Carolina Panthers, a sixth offensive lineman. Don't look for him to catch too many passes this year, especially with the addition of Todd Heap.
Justin Harper will be playing receiver tonight for the Baltimore Ravens and Tyrod Taylor. Hopefully we'll see the former teammates in sync again, just as they were in the orange and maroon a few years ago against Florida State.