Preseason football is usually a tease.
We wait months for football to come back and when it finally does with the first week of preseason, we have to settle for a few drives by the starters before the second, third and fourth-stringers take over the rest of the game.
Aside from a glimpse here or there – which mostly come in the dress rehearsal third week – it’s one big appetiser before the main course of the regular season.
But appetisers can be tasty and filling too, and this year’s preseason features plenty of storylines that should whet your appetite before the real games begin.
Here’s what to keep an eye on.
Try your Luck
For the first time in 585 days, Andrew Luck will be in uniform for an NFL game when the quarterback takes the field on Thursday night for the Indianapolis Colts’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
An injury to his throwing shoulder forced Luck to miss all of last year as the Colts finished just 4-12 in what was ultimately a lost season.
But now, Luck is ready to go and is expected to play about a quarter on Thursday in his much-anticipated return. There will undoubtedly be some rust to work through, but it will be interesting to see how Luck’s shoulder responds to hits.
“Nervous? I’ll be very nervous,” Luck told NBC Sports.
Luck isn’t the only big-name quarterback returning from injury in the AFC North.
In Houston, Deshaun Watson is back after an ACL tear limited to seven games in his sensational rookie season.
The Texans’ ceiling with a healthy and fully-functional Watson is high, considering the juice he brings to the offence with both his arm and legs.
Watson is likely to play in the preseason opener and one thing to watch with him is how comfortable he is running the ball. There’s no need to take risks in preseason, but Watson is at his best when he’s putting pressure on the defence with decisive decisions to leave the pocket.
Even though he’s heading into only his second season, Watson is already established as a premier playmaker.
In Kansas City, Mahomes has the chance to be the next Watson thanks to his absurd arm. Aside from last year, the Chiefs have mostly been a dink-and-dunk offence under Alex Smith. But with Mahomes now taking the reins after serving as a back-up, the downfield attack is expected to go to another level.
Trubisky, on the other hand, has already been a starter for the majority of a season as he took charge of the Bears in 12 games last year with mixed results. With Matt Nagy now at the helm as head coach, Trubisky should have a more open offence to work with. His weapons will also be greatly improved with the additions of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton.
Both Mahomes and Trubisky should get more work in the preseason than the standard entrenched starting quarterback because of their lack of experience, so the Chiefs and Bears will be worth tuning in for.
First look at rookies
One of the most exciting parts of preseason, if not the most exciting, is it gives us an initial look at all the new rookies.
Skill players in particular will be fun to watch, whether you’re preparing for your fantasy league draft or not.
Among quarterbacks, first-round picks Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson should all get significant time under centre.
In the case of Mayfield, Darnold and Allen, the door may be open for them to seize the starting spot if they impress. Rosen and Jackson will almost surely sit behind Sam Bradford and Joe Flacco, respectively, in the regular season, but they’ll also have opportunities to show off their talent in preseason.
Aside from the quarterbacks, there’s quite a few rookie running backs to follow after seven were taken in the first two rounds of the draft.
Saquon Barkley is the biggest name, but playmakers like Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny and Derrius Guice should be fun to watch as their teams figure out the best ways to utilise them as runners and receivers.
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