Before Saturday's eight-game slate commenced, practices, or walkthroughs at the very least, littered the landscape. Dwayne Bowe headlined the skill-position players returning to drills, attending a walkthrough after missing the Browns' first two preseason contests as he tended to a hamstring injury. Currently, it's unclear whether he'll receive clearance to play in one of the two remaining exhibitions, but he expects to be ready for the regular season opener on Sept. 13 against the Jets.
Making his first appearance since Aug. 7, Fred Jackson was the first of the Bills' injury-plagued backfield to make his presence felt on the practice field, and he fit in more work than head coach Rex Ryan expected. With LeSean McCoy (hamstring), Boobie DIxon (calf), Bryce Brown (hamstring), and Karlos Williams (undisclosed) still out of commission, Jackson exists as the clear-cut No. 1 back at the moment and anticipates taking on that role in next Saturday's preseason contest versus the Steelers. Joining Jackson at practice was the wideout tandem of Sammy Watkins (glute) and Robert Woods (muscle tightness), who logged individual drills but were held out of the team portion.
As the day made way for evening, teams made clear who wouldn't suit up in advance of kickoff. Among the fantasy-relevant, Philip Rivers (rest), Melvin Gordon (ankle), Chris Johnson (hamstring), Jay Ajayi (no injury), Alshon Jeffery (calf), Julian Edelman (undisclosed), Brandon LaFell (foot), Victor Cruz (knee), Greg Jennings (elbow), and Coby Fleener (no injury) were ruled out for their respective outings. While T.J. Yeldon (finger) was also a member of this group, Jaguars general manager David Caldwell announced that the rookie running back is expected to play Friday against the Lions. With inactives aside, actual games followed:
Miami at Carolina
- Ted Ginn was handed the first chance to fill in for Kelvin Benjamin (torn ACL), but aside from one catch for 15 yards and two punt returns in the first half, his night was rather quiet. Meanwhile, Philly Brown also worked with the first-team offense, going without a reception on three targets. After the starters left for the night, the remaining wideouts – Brenton Bersin (one catch for 20 yards on four targets), Jarrett Boykin (six for 53 on 12), Mike Brown (five for 58 on six), and Damiere Byrd (two for 36 and one touchdown on two targets) – showed off their limited wares.
Baltimore at Philadelphia
- In his Eagles debut, Sam Bradford was under center at the outset and directed a penalty-plagued (from the Ravens' standpoint) touchdown drive in which he was knocked down numerous times, including a touchy roughing the passer call on Terrell Suggs. Overall, Bradford was 3-for-5 passing for 35 yards, but head coach Chip Kelly likely wants the Oklahoma product to cobble together consecutive crisp drives prior to the regular season opener. Expect an expansion of Bradford's workload next Saturday at Green Bay.
- DeMarco Murray likewise donned an Eagles uniform for the first time but wasn't utilized in a workhorse manner, as he was in Dallas last season. While he plunged untouched for a two-yard touchdown run among six touches (five carries for 17 yards and one reception for 14 yards), both Sproles (two rushes for 10 yards and two catches for 15 yards) and Ryan Mathews (three rushes for 19 yards and a score) received all of their snaps on the first two drives, either working in conjunction with or spelling Murray. If the preceding translates to the upcoming preseason tilt, Murray's ADP, which currently sits at 16.33 in NFFC leagues, could experience a hit.
- To cap off Eagles happenings, Riley Cooper suffered a thumb injury and didn't return. However, X-rays were returned negative, meaning his practice participation in the short term may be the sole casualty of his workload.
- The Ravens didn't emerge unscathed either, as backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was removed from Saturday's game in order to have his knee examined. If the issue persists, rookie Javorius Allen (six carries for 19 yards and two receptions for 25 yards) could have the opening he needs to move up the depth chart.
New England at New Orleans
- After Tom Brady conjured punts without a first down on three drives to open the game, Jimmy Garoppolo took the reigns of the offense and set the Saints alight. A missed field goal, punt, and turnover on downs characterized his first three possessions, but Garoppolo accounted for three touchdowns and two field goals on six drives thereafter, fueling much of his production. In the end, he completed 28-for-33 passes for 269 yards to go with one touchdown and one interception, which should appease the minds of owners who are banking on Judge Richard R. Berman upholding Brady's four-game suspension.
- On the other side, second-year receiver Brandin Cooks ran amok, gathering in all four targets for 117 yards. Especially sweet was a 45-yard touchdown in which the burner corralled a Drew Brees strike as he fell to the Superdome turf. In many formats, Cooks appears on the verge of distinct WR1 status.
Chicago at Indianapolis
- The Bears took another hit to its wide receiver corps, losing Marquess Wilson to a hamstring injury. While the severity isn't known, he joins Kevin White (shin) and Jeffery on the pine.
- Outside of the aforementioned ailment, rookie Jeremy Langford officially put his hat in the ring for Matt Forte's backup with two fruitful second-half drives. On the back of a 46-yard dash, Langford accrued nine carries for 80 yards and one touchdown, which far outpaced fellow backs Jacquizz Rodgers (nine runs for 34 yards and one catch for two yards), Ka'Deem Carey (five rushes for 13 yards), and Senorise Price (four carries for one yard).
- Colts rookie Phillip Dorsett sustained a bruised knee and was listed as probable to return, but the wideout didn't make an appearance after grabbing his third reception of the contest in the third quarter.
Jacksonville at the New York Giants
- With Cruz out of the picture, Eli Manning made a concerted effort to get Odell Beckham (hamstring) involved, but all five of his attempts fell to the turf.
Oakland at Minnesota
- The action on the field was nothing compared with the weather, which forced an evacuation of TCF Bank Stadium due to lightning-laden storms in the second quarter. After a delay of more than an hour, the Vikings' Blair Walsh was unable to correct his kicking woes, missing from 35, 38, and 49 yards as well as one of his three extra points on the night. Last month's four-year contract extension likely provides Walsh with leeway, but inclement conditions will certainly rear its head at some point during the season.
Denver at Houston
- Although Montee Ball carried four time for four yards, the rest of the backfield found success on the ground, rushing at better than 6.0 YPC. Ronnie Hillman led the way with eight runs for 54 yards, but C.J. Anderson (four for 24) and Juwan Thompson (five for 32) also fared well. Considering Hillman was utilized before Ball, the Broncos' RB pecking order may be pointing in a particular direction at the midpoint of the preseason.
San Diego at Arizona
- Chris Johnson experienced everything but in-game touches this week: he signed Monday, practiced Tuesday, injured his right quadriceps on the last play of practice Thursday, and was held out of Saturday's exhibition. Afterward, head coach Bruce Arians said that Johnson could require 1-to-2 weeks to recover from a pulled hamstring, which places his preseason and potentially his roster spot with the Cardinals in peril.
- In the veteran's stead, David Johnson garnered the first professional snaps of his career and impressed thoroughly, setting game highs with 13 carries for 66 yards. The rookie further showed off his noted hands by hauling in both targets for 15 yards. If Chris Johnson proves unable to return in a timely fashion, Johnson, the younger, is a candidate to cement his place as Andre Ellington's primary backup.
- Finally, the Cardinals' budding wide receiver duo of John "Smoke" Brown and J.J. "Fire" Nelson again laid waste to the opposition. Operating in the No. 1 offense, Smoke engulfed the Chargers underneath, notching a 17-yard score en route to three catches for 39 yards. Prior to that opening touchdown, though, Fire blazed down the left sideline and struck for the longest connection (57 yards) of the contest. Clearly, Michael Floyd's (fingers) absence is paving the way for Nelson's quick ascension, but Carson Palmer's comfort with the rookie is eerily reminiscent of his rhythm developed with Brown from a season ago.