All 32 NFL teams were in action Thursday night, as the NFL put on its annual exhibition finale marathon. As is usually the case, the games featured a barrage of players competing for spots on the latter portion of depth charts. There were also other news and notes around the league unrelated to Thursday's games, so without further ado, let's delve into the latest!
Around the AFC
Offseason acquisition Kareem Hunt won't be able to help his new team until the Week 10 of the regular season due to a suspension, so he's taking steps to ensure he'll be at full health when he is able to suit up. Hunt underwent sports hernia surgery Thursday, leaving him plenty of time to recover. However, it's worth noting that rehab will have to be done outside of the Browns' team facility, as Hunt is naturally barred from the building after tonight until he's eligible for return.
Naturally, QB Andrew Luck's sudden retirement had a seismic effect on the Colts overall. One of the byproducts of his decision was the move of Chad Kelly to the No. 2 spot for the time being behind new starter Jacoby Brissett. Kelly saw extended action Thursday night against the Bengals and was exceedingly sharp, completing 13 of 16 passes for 138 yards with no touchdowns and one interception while also rushing three times for 20 yards and a touchdown. A 2017 seventh-round pick of the Broncos, Kelly never attempted a regular-season snap for Denver, but he's currently one Brissett injury away from leading the Indy offense.
Coach Brian Flores put an end to the great Dolphins Starting Quarterback Mystery on Thursday by naming veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick his starting quarterback to open the season. Fitz secures the job in spite of completing just 53.1 percent of his passes this preseason, as compared to Josh Rosen's 62.2 percent. However, Flores cited Fitzpatrick's experience and leadership as the overriding factors in his decision, while also praising Rosen for his improvement the more he's played in his second offense in as many seasons to open his NFL career. Fitzpatrick has certainly proven capable of limited spurts of excellence –- there's no better example than his trio of 400-yard efforts for the Bucs to open last season – but he also inevitably seems to have a limited shelf life as a starter.
The battle for a potential fourth and final running back spot in New York was one of the more notable aspects of Thursday's contest against the Eagles. Elijah McGuire saw a whopping 19 touches, and although he was awfully inefficient on the ground (14-29), he did bring in all five targets for 35 yards. One of his primary competitors for a backup job, Trenton Cannon, finished with four carries for 17 yards along with a pair of receptions for three yards. The second-year back also returned one kickoff for 14 yards, and his ability to play special teams could certainly help him garner a roster spot.
Fourth-pick Jarrett Stidham will apparently slot in as the third quarterback this season unless Brian Hoyer suffers an injury, but the rookie certainly offered reason for optimism during the preseason. With another excellent effort Thursday – Stidham played the full game against the Giants and went 18-for-28 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and added an impressive 50 yards on just seven rushes – he finished second only to the Buccaneers' Ryan Griffin during the preseason with 731 passing yards...One of the primary beneficiaries of Stidham's passing prowess was veteran Demaryius Thomas, whose 7-87-2 line harkened back to better days. Thomas looks ready to roll as New England's third receiver to start the campaign...Speaking of receivers who made a solid impression during the exhibition slate, Josh Gordon returned to action for the first time following his reinstatement and recorded two catches for 30 yards. Gordon played 22 snaps and seems set to open the season as the No. 2 wideout alongside Julian Edelman.
Around the NFC
Ryan Griffin looks set to head into the season as the Buccaneers' No. 2 quarterback with Blaine Gabbert tending to a shoulder dislocation, but even with that rather important role on tap, he still saw a decent amount of action in Thursday's finale against the Cowboys. Griffin actually was atypically turnover-prone, throwing two interceptions. He did counter that with one touchdown and a sharp 9-for-11 tally through the air.
RB Ezekiel Elliott's holdout has loomed large over all things Cowboys this summer, and that distraction doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. Owner Jerry Jones conceded as much Thursday, acknowledging he expected Elliott would miss regular-season games. Latest reports have neither side getting anywhere in recent talks, and with the opener now officially the next game on Dallas' calendar, Jones seems to simply be stating what will eventually come to pass. With Elliott's absence almost a guarantee given the owner's own words, rookie Tony Pollard becomes more and more coveted in all fantasy formats by the hour. However, it's worth noting veteran Alfred Morris is likely going to have his share of opportunities as well, especially given how well he performed during Elliott's suspension back in 2017.
TE Dallas Goedert officially remains among the Eagles' walking wounded to a calf injury, but it looks like the preseason finale will be his last missed game due to the issue. Goedert was seen catching passes prior to Thursday's contest against the Jets and is expected to be ready to go versus the Redskins in Week 1.
In the latest NFL chapter of It's So Hard To Say Goodbye, the Falcons and long-time placekicker Matt Bryant may be headed for a reunion. Bryant confirmed a tryout with Atlanta is forthcoming after the team saw Giorgio Tavecchio and Blair Walsh offer inconsistent results this preseason. Bryant looked nothing like a kicker ready for the rocking chair last season, as he drilled a career-high 95.2 percent of his field goals and boasted a 94.3 percent success rate on extra points.
Veteran placekicker Graham Gano is now a candidate to start the season on injured reserve due to knee soreness, certainly an interesting development just as preseason concludes. Gano also missed the last four games of the 2018 season with knee issues, but the good news in this instance is that the Panthers appear to have a very viable temporary replacement in Joey Slye. The Virginia Tech product came into Thursday's exhibition finale with a perfect 6-for-6 tally on field goals and a 2-for-2 showing on extra points this preseason. He then proceeded to drill a 59-yard attempt against the Steelers, his third kick of greater than 50 yards in the preseason.
Second-round pick D.K. Metcalf continues to tend to a knee issue as Week 1 approaches, and it appears his status for the opener versus the Bengals will come down to late next week. Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed as much this week, saying the team is very much in a "wait-and-see" mode with the rookie. If Metcalf ultimately fails to suit up for the opener, it's likely Jaron Brown and Gary Jennings behind Tyler Lockett at wideout against Cincinnati, with David Moore (shoulder) definitely out.