The first week of the NFL preseason is in the books.
While it was far from a full-fledged regular season week, fans can expect an increased amount of participation from starters as the second week of the 2021 NFL preseason will likely mirror the most-advanced exhibition game of August -- a title held by preseason Week 3 in prior years.
Some QB competitions, like the one in Chicago between Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, will continue to dominate the headlines this week. It’s not all about QB though: Teams will make evaluations and decisions that will likely impact their final 53-man roster.
Here are seven storylines to look ahead for in Week 2:
Justin Fields back in action, Mitch Trubisky gets revenge game in Bears-Bills
The biggest star of the first week of preseason was Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago traded up for the former Ohio State star when he fell to the No. 11 overall pick, and so far he hasn’t disappointed. Fields’ preseason debut against the Dolphins last week was eye-popping -- 14 for 20, 142 passing yards, 33 rushing yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). He looked ready to compete with veteran Andy Dalton, the Bears’ presumed starting quarterback.
On the other side, Bills backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky makes his return to Soldier Field after playing the last four seasons in Chicago. The Bears famously traded up to No. 2 overall in 2017 to select Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Trubisky led the Bears to the playoffs twice in four seasons, but he never came close to reaching the heights of the two quarterbacks selected after him. Now playing behind Josh Allen in Buffalo, Trubisky has a chance to exact some revenge on his old team -- even if it’s only the preseason.
Trey Lance continues to push Jimmy G for 49ers’ starting QB job
With one throw, rookie Trey Lance mesmerized the NFL world. An 80-yard touchdown throw on his second passing attempt -- four yards longer than Jimmy Garoppolo’s longest career completion -- changed plenty of minds that thought Lance needed time to develop as a backup. The North Dakota State product won’t win the starting job over Garoppolo based on one play, but it’s definitely something for head coach Kyle Shanahan to monitor. Lance finished his preseason debut 5 of 14 for 128 yards and a touchdown, while Garoppolo was 3 of 3 for 26 yards.
Lance and the 49ers will face off with the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason on Sunday night. Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert won’t play in the preseason for L.A., so San Francisco will face a heavy dose of Chase Daniel and Easton Stick at quarterback. Lance and Garoppolo also won’t have to face star safety Derwin James, who is healthy but sitting out the preseason after missing all of 2020 due to injury.
Ravens go for preseason history against Panthers
The winners of preseason games are often forgotten, as the only real goals are to stay healthy, develop young players and work out the kinks before games actually matter. That won’t be the case on Saturday night when the Ravens visit the Panthers, because Baltimore is going for its record-tying 19th straight preseason victory. That’s right, head coach John Harbaugh’s squad hasn’t dropped a preseason contest since 2015. Lamar Jackson didn’t play last week against the Saints, but he could be used this week if the Ravens treat Week 2 as more of a dress rehearsal.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule similarly rested his starters in Week 1, including new quarterback Sam Darnold. The former Jet was traded to Carolina this offseason, where he’ll get a chance to resurrect his career after three up-and-down seasons with the New York Jets. Panthers rookies Chuba Hubbard (80 rushing yards) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (88 receiving yards) shined in their debuts against the Colts as they fight for playing time behind Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, respectively.
Patriots, Eagles clash in Super Bowl LII rematch
Even though the Patriots and Eagles faced off in Super Bowl LII less than four years ago, just about everything is different entering 2021. Bill Belichick still leads New England, but he’s got an unfamiliar challenge on his plate -- a quarterback competition. Cam Newton started 15 games for the Pats in 2020 before the team drafted Mac Jones at No. 15 overall in April. The veteran got the nod in Week 1, completing 4 of 7 passes for 49 yards. Jones entered in relief after two drives and went 13 of 19 for 87 yards. Belichick continues to keep his cards close to his chest, meaning we likely won’t know the Pats’ regular season starting QB for another few weeks.
Philadelphia kicked off the Nick Sirianni era with a 24-16 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener. Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts played just two drives, and it was former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco getting the majority of reps in relief. Second-year receiver Quez Watkins was the standout performer for Philly, taking a Flacco screen pass 79 yards to the house. He nearly had another touchdown earlier on a deep pass from Hurts that was slightly overthrown. Watkins’ place on the depth chart will be interesting to monitor as starters begin to play more in Week 2.
Trevor Lawrence to make Monday Night Football debut, Saints continue QB competition
The top pick from the 2021 draft had a quiet debut against the Browns last week, completing 6 of 9 passes for 71 yards before handing the reins to Gardner Minshew after two drives. Lawrence and new head coach Urban Meyer will get a chance to build on that performance on the biggest stage in Week 2. Sure, Monday Night Football isn’t exactly the same in the preseason. But it’s still more prestigious than a normal preseason game on a Friday or Saturday night.
On the other side, the Saints will continue their search for the first quarterback of the post-Drew Brees era. Head coach Sean Payton wasn’t pleased after a sloppy preseason debut, where the Saints had six turnovers (three interceptions, three fumbles). Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston both struggled at times under center, each throwing an interception. Hill (8 for 12, 81 yards, INT) started the game, while Winston (7 for 12, 96 yards, TD, INT) entered the game second.
Teddy Bridgewater to start over Drew Lock for Broncos vs. Seahawks
The Seahawks defeated Peyton Manning and the Broncos back in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. The stakes aren’t nearly as high in Week 2 of the 2021 preseason, but the game is incredibly important for Denver’s season. Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater are locked in an “even-steven” battle for the starting quarterback job after both were sharp in their preseason debuts. Lock started the game, going 5 of 7 for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater entered in relief and was even more efficient -- 7 of 8 for 74 yards and a touchdown. The veteran Bridgewater will start against the Seahawks, but both will have an equal chance to earn the job.
Seattle’s preseason opener didn’t go nearly as well as Denver’s, losing 20-7 against the Raiders. None of the Seahawks’ offensive starters played, including Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson. Still, it wasn’t the start Seattle wanted for new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. Saturday night against the Broncos could be our first live action look at Wilson in Waldron’s offense.
Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger battle for Colts’ backup QB job
The Colts’ quarterback competition isn’t technically for the starting job, but it could be if Carson Wentz misses time. Wentz was projected to miss five to 12 weeks and could be out for the beginning of the season. There’s still a chance he plays Week 1 against the Seahawks. If he can’t go, it’ll be either Jacob Eason or rookie Sam Ehlinger under center. Both players had some good and some bad moments in their preseason debuts -- Eason was 15 of 21 for 183 yards, while Ehlinger was 10 of 15 for 155 yards and an interception. The Colts’ game against the Vikings on Saturday night will go a long way to determining who is second in line behind Wentz.
Minnesota will look to be cleaner on offense in Week 2 after salvaging just six points against the Broncos. The Vikings rested 30 players, including Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson and other key starters. Rookie third-rounder Kellen Mond was iffy in his debut (6 of 16, 53 yards), so expect the Texas A&M alum to get more time against the Colts.