The NFL did fans a favor with this week’s preseason schedule, putting exactly five games on each night this week.
Here’s what I’ll be looking for Friday evening while my wife silently stews that football dominates my life again.
Dolphins @ Falcons
I’m looking forward to seeing rookies Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers on the field for the Falcons. Rodgers can earn a significant role with a strong preseason, even with Jason Snelling returning to the team.
Bengals @ Lions
It sounds weird, but this is the game of the night. Both teams have a lot of questions to answer and intriguing young players, starting with Bengals rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. . . . The Bengals receiver spots are fairly up for grabs after Green.
Lions fans will just be hoping everyone stays healthy, primarily Matthew Stafford in his first action since his shoulder injury last year. … New Lions pickups Mike Bell and Jerome Harrison will vie with Maurice Morris for the backup role behind Jahvid Best. … There are still some spots open in Detroit’s defensive back seven, including their dramatically remodeled linebacker group.
Steelers @ Redskins
Young Steelers receivers like Tyler Grisham and Antonio Brown can make a move up the depth chart with big performances. . . . Rookie Cameron Heyward can show whether he’s picked up the 3-4 defense quickly.
John Beck will sit this one out, giving Rex Grossman his shot to stake a claim to the starting job. . . . Tim Hightower looks locked in to the starting running back job, but rookie Roy Helu can put some pressure on with a big preseason.
Bucs @ Chiefs
The backup running back job in Tampa is wide open, with Kregg Lumpkin currently in position to take the job. . . . Bucs draft picks Da’Quan Bowers, Adrian Clayborn, and linebacker Mason Foster make their debuts. Foster looks like the starting middle linebacker.
49ers @ Saints
Saints rookie running back Mark Ingram makes his debut. He’s had a strong camp and can solidify his role as the lead back in New Orleans. … Darren Sproles also makes his debut. … Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has talked up last year’s first round pick cornerback Patrick Robinson as someone making a big leap.