This may have been the least revealing Preseason Week 1 in NFL history. There are a few interesting notes and/or unexpected twists. Many teams either started who we anticipated they would and where we expected them to start, or they started almost none of their regulars at all. Here is the lowdown.
So the Cardinals gave us one of the most interesting and possibly important twists of the week. Scooby Wright got the starts at middle linebacker over veteran Josh Bynes. It is hard to say if this is a real thing or a mirage. Everyone including the Cardinals know what they have in Bynes. He is a dependable veteran presence that can hold down the fort but is not a long-term answer. Wright is a young guy who would have been an early pick as a rookie in 2016 if not for a serious knee injury late in his last season in college. In other words, there is a boatload of potential. It seems logical they would play the young guy and see where he is. Wright looked good in general and was particularly solid in coverage.
Benson Mayowa stood in at end for Markus Golden who is still thought to be a few weeks away, and Jeremy Cash got the call for weakside linebacker Deone Bucannon who is a little gimpy. Other than that, the Cardinals were pretty much as expected. Haasan Reddick worked on the strong side and looked immensely improved after seeing lost much of his rookie year. He stayed on the field in some sub packages as well. It will be tough for Reddick to be more than marginally IDP relevant even as a three-down strong side backer, but it is a situation to keep an eye on the rest of preseason.
Chandler Jones started opposite Mayowa and was his usual disruptive self. On the inside, Corey Peters played the nose with Robert Nkemdiche as the 3-technique tackle ahead of Olsen Pierre. Pierre played well and put up good numbers down the stretch last year, so this is somewhat of an unexpected development. Nkemdiche was finally healthy for an offseason and looked great.
There was a little sigh of relief for many of us when it comes to the safeties. Shortly after Tre Boston was signed, Coach Wilks said Boston would start at free safety with Budda Baker working as the nickel safety and Antione Bethea at strong. Baker was a stretch run sensation for IDP owners down the stretch last season. We are not out of the woods yet but when he and Boston were in the opposite role against the Chargers, hope was rekindled for all of us who already have Baker on our rosters.
There were no surprises from the Falcons who started Deion Jones at middle backer, Duke Riley on the strong side, and De'Vondre Campbell weak. With Vic Beasley Jr moving to end on a full-time basis, the hope was Campbell moving into a three-down role on the weak side. So far so good as that is exactly what happened against the Jets. Campbell’s upside will be somewhat limited by the competition around him. That said he has the potential to be a quality third starter if he continues to play full time. It may be noteworthy that Riley moved to middle backer when the team began to take starters off the field. Store that bit of knowledge in case Jones misses time.
Other than Chuck Clark standing in for Tony Jefferson at strong safety, it was business as usual for the Ravens will all the anticipated starters on the field together. One guy to keep an eye on here is rookie inside backer Kenny Young who is competing with incumbent Patrick Onwuasor for the starting spot. Against Los Angeles, both players saw time with the starters. To have IDP value Young would not only need to beat out Onwuasor but would have to earn a three-down role as well. We are a long way from crossing that road but Young is on the radar.
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