Finally, we have some live football to watch! There are a lot of uncertain situations we have been following this summer in hope of getting some clarity. As is always the case with the first round of preseason games, we got a few answers and found some new questions. In years past the first week of preseason seemed to give us a lot more. The way the NFL has evolved over the past decade or so, it is now much harder to tell what is real and what is the coaching staff looking at their depth chart and giving guys a chance to show something. This is what caught my eye in round one of the warm up season, and my best-educated guess as to what it all means. You may notice I do not talk much about corners. At this stage, most teams are looking at a lot of defensive backs and there were a ton of starters that didn't even suit up. We could get a lot of false reads if we pay much attention there before the third warm-up game.
It would have been nice to get some clarity as to what position Jadeveon Clowney is playing this year. Some leagues have him as a linebacker while some call him a defensive end. If our first glimpse at the Texans is any indicator (which I believe it is in this case), there is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. In the first two series against Carolina, Clowney played end on five snaps and linebacker on four. Keep in mind that most of the time the only difference between the positions is if the player puts his hand on the ground or not. Since there is no strong evidence either way, Where ever he is currently listed in your league's positional settings is probably where Clowney will stay. This situation is a perfect example of why we need to revamp IDP positions to include an outside rusher designation.
Bernardrick McKinney had the night off so rookie Zach Cunningham got an extended look. He started and stayed on the field well into the second team substitutions. Cunningham passed the eyeball test with flying colors. He was aggressive and productive (4-3-0) making no obvious mistakes. If/when Brian Cushing is injured this year, he may find it difficult to get back on the field.
The Panthers sat veteran defensive ends Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers so Mario Addison and Wes Horton were the starters. Addison played particularly well so it will be interesting to see if he or Peppers gets the title of starter. Either way, the playing time is probably going to be shared relatively evenly.
An earlier report said Kurt Coleman would go back to free safety this year. From what I could tell the Panthers were using more of a right and left alignment with Coleman on the right most of the time. He lined up as both a deep coverage free safety and closer to the line as strong safety while the starters were in the game. It doesn't seem to matter where he starts, Coleman has a knack for ending up around the ball.
There was some speculation Thomas Davis might have his role reduced in 2017 to keep him fresh and give Shaq Thompson an opportunity to take on a bigger role. There were no indications from this game to suggest that will happen in 2017. Davis was in his normal three down role next to Luke Kuechly.
The Falcons threw us a little curve when they opened in a 3-4 against Miami. They used the alignment a few times while the starters were on the field but were still in a base 4-3 most of the time. The breakdown of playing time at linebacker was a bit interesting. Deion Jones was full time as expected while LaRoy Reynolds got the call over De'Vondre Campbell as the base down weak side backer on the first series. Campbell played with Jones in the nickel on the first series and came on at WLB in base packages in the second. Rookie Duke Riley also got in the game on series two. He was with Jones at ILB when the Falcons were in the 3-4. Riley had a rough night, missing a tackle or two and not looking good in coverage. I don't think we should take anything from all this other than the coaching staff is giving guys an opportunity and seeing what works. Campbell owners should not get in too big a hurry to part ways with him.