Before all that zaniness starts, let’s set the table with the final winners and losers of the preseason following the weekend’s game:
Trade rumors: I believe Jacoby Brissett is primed to succeed in Indianapolis, but the Colts are now in the market for a veteran backup quarterback. (Their only roster option for Week 1, with Chad Kelly’s two-game suspension, is … Phillip Walker.) The Patriots‘ Brian Hoyer and 49ers‘ C.J. Beathard are two options that should be available. The Texans look more likely than ever to trade Jadeveon Clowney after losing another key starter, and it’s hard to imagine Trent Williams ever playing for the Redskins. The Dolphins might be willing to trade anyone not named Laremy Tunsil and Xavien Howard. Notable names like former Packers second-round pick Josh Jones and Raiders running back Doug Martin have already been released. With plenty of cap space and flexibility throughout the league, a few surprise names are bound to be available. Stay ready.
Buffalo Bills‘ backfield: Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy both ran like men five years younger during an impressive preseason outing against the Lions. Rookie Devin Singletary, meanwhile, has been the story of Bills camp, with many teammates saying he was the best player on the field in August. This is an unconventional approach to a backfield in 2019, but it may just work. Less work for each player could keep them all fresh and provide more overall production for an offense that needs it.
New York Giants‘ long-term vision: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman can’t say “I told you so” quite yet. The terrific preseason by No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones has everyone associated with the Giants giddy, but the settling of scores will have to wait until Jones plays in the regular season. That date may now come more quickly than expected.
There’s a lot to like about Jones’ three preseason outings, but his accuracy and willingness to pull the trigger on difficult downfield throws ranks near the top. His calculated risk-taking is reminiscent of Eli Manning at his 2011 season best and is far ahead of where Manning was during his rookie camp as a No. 1 overall pick.
Jones has erased any margin for error Manning had entering this season. Manning could — and should — be replaced the minute the Giants fall two games under .500, even if it happens in September. It’s possible Manning could even lose his job at midseason if the Giants are winning, like Tom Coughlin once benched Kurt Warner for rookie Eli despite the Giants having a 5-4 record at the time. This team isn’t winning the Super Bowl, so Big Blue should prioritize Jones getting as many valuable snaps as possible before 2020.
NFL Network sage Daniel Jeremiah warns about declaring scouting victories in August, so Gettleman will likely swallow his smile for now. But it’s safe to say he’s prepping his one-liners if Jones emerges this season, eager to settle scores with media members and fans alike who laughed at him back in April.
Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins: Finally getting back on the field is a huge victory for Guice, who has faced a long journey with setbacks since tearing his ACL last August. He ran with power and made some strong cuts against the Falcons, even if the LSU product’s old explosiveness isn’t all the way there yet. He should start the year in a timeshare with Adrian Peterson.
Josh Allen, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: The No. 7 overall pick made a mockery of the Dolphins‘ offensive line while rushing the passer, but it was Allen’s ability to also track down Miami running back Kalen Ballage in coverage that was truly mind-expanding. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash will be able to mix up his tactics because of Allen’s strength, speed and versatility, giving one of the best defensive fronts another way to attack offenses with a different looks than the Jags’ traditional 4-3 approach.
Ryan Finley, QB, Cincinnati Bengals : Noted quarterback guru Chris Wesseling believes the Bengals have found something in the rookie fourth-round pick. Andy Dalton‘s backup has completed over 73 percent of his passes this preseason and could potentially push for a look late in the season if Cincinnati’s out of contention. New Bengals coach Zac Taylor drafted Finley, not Dalton. And Dalton’s contract would make him quite tradable next offseason if the Bengals were so inclined.
Russell Wilson‘s degree of difficulty: Second-round pick D.K. Metcalf is coming off knee surgery. Metcalf’s potential replacement, David Moore, meanwhile, is expected to be out early in the regular season after hurting his shoulder in practice. The Seahawks are a Tyler Lockett injury away from absolute disaster in the passing game.
Duron Harmon‘s role on the New England Patriots: Before Patrick Chung’s indictment on cocaine possession charges, Harmon’s spot in New England may have been in doubt. Essentially a starter with over 600 snaps in each of the last four years, Harmon looked like a potential trade candidate to one of the Patriots‘ satellite offices in Nashville or Detroit before the Chung news hit. Now it’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick giving up depth at the position with Chung’s status in doubt.
Leonard Fournette‘s running style: He’s back to barreling through tacklers and looks noticeably quicker than a year ago, when he struggled with his weight all season. Fournette doesn’t even need to be a top-10 back to help the Jaguars. He just needs to stay healthy and continue to run hard.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins: Jay Gruden announced on Sunday that Case Keenum is the Week 1 starter for the Redskins. Considering the poor state of Washington’s offensive line and the early-season schedule (games at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas and vs. Chicago’s defense on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3), Haskins is better off biding his time … until just after that Bears game.
Oakland Raiders‘ youth movement: Cutting running back Doug Martin in favor of fourth-year pro DeAndre Washington is the type of move Jon Gruden may not have made without general manager Mike Mayock in the building. Consider that progress.
The Lamar Miller era in Houston: Acquired in 2016 with questions about whether he could “handle the load,” Lamar Miller was nothing if not durable in three seasons as the Texans‘ starter. The torn ACL he suffered Saturday changed all that — and now similar questions are being asked about recent trade acquisition Duke Johnson‘s sturdiness as a potential every-down back. I don’t see why he can’t carry the mail.
Johnson had a solid chance to lead the Texans in touches even before Miller’s injury because of his versatility. The former Browns third-down back was a primary RB in college and his body type (5-foot-9, 210 pounds) is hardly anomalous for a player getting over 250 touches. Houston could be closing in on signing Jay Ajayi, who’s coming off of injury and would profile as a 1B type of backup to pair with Johnson. The Texans also have a huge hole at left tackle with 2017 Browns fifth-round pick Roderick Johnson taking over the job from an injured Matt Kalil last week, and there have been rumors they are looking for a wide receiver. It’s Bill O’Brien’s world and the Texans are just living in it.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: NFL Network’s Tiffany Blackmon got the scoop from coach Ron Rivera that Newton would participate in practice this week and Newton was seen out of his walking boot Sunday. On Monday morning, he was at practice working with trainers off to the side. All of that makes Cam sound like a somewhat-safe bet to play the opener. Still, the mid-foot sprain Newton suffered against the Patriots could limit Cam’s mobility early in the season. After coming off shoulder surgery and a positive camp, a new injury was the last thing Newton wanted heading into a Week 1 date with the Rams. Carolina’s offensive line also looked woeful against the Patriots, with the Panthers only gaining 29 yards in 17 snaps with the starting unit.
Jimmy G panic: There’s no telling how Jimmy Garoppolo plays this season, hopefully his first full one as a starter and definitely his first after a major injury. His strong performance in San Francisco’s third preseason game, however, should quell some of the hand-wringing that came after Jimmy G’s rough “Monday Night Football” debut the week before. The follow-up effort — 188 yards and a score on just 20 attempts against mostly Chiefs backups — provided valuable reps that won’t get nearly as much attention as his previous struggles. The reality: Neither performance is too instructive and his healthy offseason is the main news here.
Detroit Lions‘ Week 1 defense: Starting inside linebacker Jarrad Davis suffered a high ankle sprain in Detroit’s third preseason game, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. While that’s better than what the team originally feared, it appears rookie second-round pick Jahlani Tavai will get the start in the opener against the Cardinals. Nearly half of Detroit’s starting defense has barely suited up in August because of injuries.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins: After his first fully healthy camp in years, it was a shame to see Reed leave Thursday’s game against the Falcons with a concussion. Jokes made about Reed’s durability are unfair and cruel after he took a vicious helmet hit directly to his earhole from Falcons safety Keanu Neal, the type of hit that the NFL is trying to legislate out of the game. It is at least the seventh reported concussion of Reed’s career.
Jakobi Meyers‘ Hall of Fame bust: The undrafted rookie story of Patriots camp had a rough time in his first preseason snaps with Tom Brady, failing to haul in three targets because of a miscommunication and a drop. He also had a penalty call back a big running play. Meyers wound up catching seven passes from backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham and has earned a role in the team’s Week 1 offense, but this learning experience is a reminder he may not start the year being handed 60 snaps a game.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.