NFL Preseason Games: 5 Things to Watch Thursday

It’s time for NFL preseason football. 

The Hall of Fame Game was a nice appetizer, but it’s time for the other 30 teams in the NFL to begin their journey. We’re getting right into it, with 12 games taking place on Thursday. While most of the starters will either play one quarter or not at all, there are still plenty of angles worth tracking throughout the league.

Here are five things to keep an eye on with all of Thursday’s action.

The Rookies

It’s time to see these rookie quarterbacks. We already got our first taste of Lamar Jackson, but he’s had extra time to prepare for his game against the Rams. We’ll also see the debuts of the first two picks of the draft, as Baker Mayfield and the Browns take on Saquon Barkley and the Giants.

Josh Allen is also in action tonight, but the other two quarterbacks play later in the week. Sam Darnold and the Jets play on Friday, and we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see Josh Rosen in action for the Cardinals.

Also, he may not be a true rookie, but I’m excited to see Patrick Mahomes now that he’s definitely the Chiefs starting quarterback heading into his Sophomore season.

The Returns

After missing all of last season due to injury, this quarterback is finally ready to return tonight in his team’s preseason debut.

Ryan Tannehill.

Just kidding! While it’s true that the Dolphins QB returns from a torn ACL on Thursday, but the real hype surrounds Colts QB Andrew Luck. The former top pick hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2016, and his Colts open the preseason in Seattle.

The Houston Texans are also welcoming familiar faces back to the field, as Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt will both return to action against the Chiefs.

New Systems

This is a little bit tougher to notice than a new player, but several teams will be changing their schemes for 2018. The most notable are the Bears and Giants, who are both in action Thursday. The Bears should be opening things up more with Matt Nagy in charge, making Mitchell Trubisky much more appealing as a fantasy prospect.

There’s change on both sides in the first game tonight between the Browns and Giants. Todd Haley made his first impression with fans on the season premiere of Hard Knocks, while the Giants brought in Pat Shurmur from Minnesota to change up last year’s offense.

Fantasy Battles

Why else would we watch Bucs-Dolphins on a Thursday? Fantasy Football, of course.

The most important thing to keep an eye on will be the running backs brought in with the first unit. This is especially significant in places like Seattle, Indianapolis and Denver, where the starting running back for this season is still unknown. We won’t get any concrete answers tonight unless somebody shows out, but it’s a good indication of who the coaching staff is leaning towards as the starter.

That Stupid New Rule

Before you become the Worst Person At The Bar Every Sunday (THAT WAS A FLAG), it’s time to learn about the NFL’s new helmet collision rule. It may be tough to see real-time, but helmet-first contact is something the officials will be looking for in the preseason. The league wants textbook examples of the penalty to put on tape, so they can have less reports like this one from Eagles camp.

Source: Heavy Sports