Thursday NFL preview: Could Cowboys trade Darren McFadden?

Why Dak Prescott's preseason hasn't changed Dez Bryant's value (1:12)

Thanks to Dak Prescott's preseason, the Cowboys shouldn't be worried about their backup QB situation, but Matthew Berry's concerns about Dez Bryant have nothing to do with QB play. (1:12)

NFL Nation reporters assess the top storylines to watch for every team on Thursday.

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
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Dallas Cowboys

Darren McFadden was named the Cowboys' offensive MVP for 2015 at the Cowboys' kickoff luncheon on Wednesday, but will he be on the team in 2016? He is currently on the non-football injury list, but the Cowboys have received some calls from teams inquiring about McFadden, who ran for 1,089 yards last season. He continues to recover from a broken right elbow suffered in the offseason. The goal was to have him ready for Week 1, but it is possible the Cowboys could move him to reserve/NFI when they make their final cuts to the 53-man limit on Saturday. If they agree to a trade, McFadden would have to pass a physical to make a deal go through. Depending on how much a team wants McFadden, that physical could be greenlighted without a problem. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Wide receiver Victor Cruz appeared in a game Saturday for the first time in 685 days. He's set to make his second appearance five days later. The Giants want Cruz to get more work in a game environment after an almost two-year absence. Rookie Sterling Shepard and most of the first-team offensive line will also play against the Patriots on Thursday night. But while the Giants want to leave the preseason with a better taste in their mouth, don't expect to see star quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a struggle for Eagles defensive end Marcus Smith since being selected with the 26th pick in the 2014 draft. He has just 1.5 sacks over two NFL seasons and has been used sparingly to date. He has shown some signs of promise this summer as he fights for a roster spot. A strong performance in the preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday night will help ensure his place on the roster, allowing him more time to prove his worth. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

The Redskins have a few decisions that will be tough when they get to the final 53-man roster. Among them: both lines. For a while it appeared they'd keep nine offensive linemen, but there's a chance now they'll only keep eight, leaving centers Austin Reiter and Josh LeRibeus competing for one spot. Also, for a while it seemed they'd keep seven defensive linemen, but now there's a chance they'll only keep six. A lot depends on if they feel they can sneak rookies Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier or first-year Corey Crawford onto the practice squad. Only one would likely make the roster. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

History suggests coach John Fox sits the bulk of his starters on Thursday night, maybe even veterans Zach Miller and Eddie Royal, who have not played a single preseason snap due to concussions. "Oh, I don't know," Miller said when asked if he needs play in the exhibition finale. "We've got to play football. I've got be ready either way, whether it's Thursday or Week 1. When that time comes we'll be ready to play some football." This marks the 13th straight year the Bears and Browns will face off in the final game of the preseason. Over that span, the series is tied at 6-6. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

There are a few roster spots still potentially up for grabs when the Lions face the Bills in the preseason finale. So who is the game most important for? Pay attention to cornerback Alex Carter, defensive end Anthony Zettel, defensive tackles Stefan Charles, Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright, receivers Andre Roberts, Jace Billingsley and Jay Lee and quarterback Jake Rudock. If one or two star against the Bills, it could push them onto the initial 53-man roster. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Jacob Schum essentially has a one-game audition to win the Packers' punting job after he was claimed off waivers on Tuesday. He joined the team in Green Bay on Wednesday in order to travel to Kansas City for Thursday's preseason finale. He will handle all the punting duties against the Chiefs after the Packers cut veteran Tim Masthay. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' final preseason game will provide a final audition for their two healthy quarterbacks not named Shaun Hill to claim a roster spot. Joel Stave and Brad Sorensen should get plenty of playing time against the Los Angeles Rams, and while the Vikings figure to keep looking for a veteran quarterback, they might keep one of their other passers around if they see something they like on Thursday. Given the fact Stave fumbled twice on Sunday against the Chargers, there might be more intrigue with Sorensen, who'd previously been with the Chargers and Titans and might have the arm strength to merit a longer look. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons

One of the battles to watch in fourth and final preseason game for the Falcons vs. the Jaguars is at kicker, where veterans Matt Bryant and Shayne Graham are locked up. Bryant, the team's regular kicker since 2010, has struggled with muscle tightness that has limited his action this preseason. But the 41-year-old Bryant seems to be healthy now after some time in a hyperbaric chamber. Graham, who replaced an injured Bryant at the end of last season and was re-signed this preseason when undrafted rookie Nick Rose failed miserably in place of Bryant, is fresh off making a 53-yard kick last week. If Bryant is healthy, expected him to be the guy. But you never know what the heat of competition will bring out in Graham on Thursday night. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

It will be the Joe Webb Show on offense for Carolina's preseason finale against Pittsburgh. The staff won't risk quarterback Cam Newton to injury, and backup Derek Anderson has missed all week of practice with soreness from too many shots last week against New England. Anderson would be the emergency QB if something were to happen to Webb. Several other players have volunteered, but coach Ron Rivera basically said they should stick to their day job. Rivera said seven positions for the 53-man roster are up for grabs. One to keep an eye on is running back Brandon Wegher. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson needs to leave the Saints with a strong lasting impression in Thursday's preseason finale against the Ravens. Grayson has thrown one touchdown pass with four interceptions this preseason, and coach Sean Payton acknowledged last week that he "would like to see him further along at this point." Grayson could be in danger of getting cut next week, but he is definitely in danger of being replaced by another young developmental QB next spring. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It was a sloppy preseason finale Wednesday night in Tampa with the Bucs playing in tropical storm conditions. In the first quarter alone, the Bucs had three fumbles due to a wet ball. Quarterback Mike Glennon fumbled rolling out and completely untouched. The worst of Tropical Storm Hermine is expected to come Thursday and Friday, and right now, it doesn't appear to impact the Bucs' preparations for Week 1. When the team resumes practices though, they may have to deal with some very soggy field conditions, depending how much rain the area receives. If it's gets bad enough, it usually means heading to Tropicana Field to practice indoors, but the Tampa Bay Rays are home until Wednesday of next week. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Between injuries and veterans having the day off, the Cardinals' depth chart at cornerback for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Broncos will be limited. If Justin Bethel doesn't play, Cariel Brooks will take his spot and be served a prime opportunity to make a case for a spot on the 53-man roster on a silver platter. With one corner job belonging to Patrick Peterson and the other a battle between rookie Brandon Williams, Bethel ---who has had just five practices since returning to training camp from a foot injury -- and, basically, whoever else is healthy, Brooks can be an unlikely candidate to steal a spot on the roster with a strong showing Thursday night. But he'll have to play shut-down ball and cause a turnover or two to secure a job. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Thursday's preseason finale at Minnesota will be crucial for several players on the bubble. That list features a handful of young receivers, including Bradley Marquez, Austin Hill, Paul McRoberts, Duke Williams and Mike Thomas. Young defensive players like lineman Ian Seau and linebacker Josh Forrest could also benefit from a strong showing. Said Rams coach Jeff Fisher: "There are still a few players that have an opportunity to show us some things as far as an opportunity to either make the [53-man roster] or practice-squad roster." -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers traveled to San Diego on Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday night's preseason finale. San Diego is celebrating its 28th annual salute to the military night as 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick plans to continue his protest of racial oppression by sitting during the national anthem. The Chargers say they have no plans to beef up security, and ticket sales have not increased this week. The 49ers declined to say whether they have additional security plans but they have traditionally been progressive on that front. For his part, Kaepernick has said he's not worried about it: "At the end of the day, if something happens, that's only proving my point," Kaepernick said. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

All eyes will be on running back Thomas Rawls when the Seahawks take on the Raiders in their preseason finale. Rawls (fractured ankle) has not had any live game action since last December, but coach Pete Carroll indicated Wednesday that the second-year back could see the field Thursday night. Rawls practices with a unique intensity and has said he doesn't need preseason touches to get ready for the opener. Whether Rawls plays against the Raiders or not, Carroll said there's "no question" that he will be ready in Week 1, barring something unforeseen between now and then. -- Sheil Kapadia


Buffalo Bills

The Bills will close out their preseason Thursday night in Detroit. With the 53-man roster cut down looming Saturday, this game will be important for players such as wide receiver Walter Powell, linebackers Randell Johnson and Bryson Albright, and safety Jonathan Meeks. At this point, the Bills have about 45-to-50 roster spots decided, but the last few roles remain up for grabs. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

All eyes will be on the Dolphins' rookies Thursday when they host the Titans in the preseason finale. Second-round pick Xavien Howard and third-round pick Kenyan Drake will make their NFL debuts after suffering injuries this summer. First-round pick Laremy Tunsil also will get his final tune-up on the offensive line before the regular season. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made the trip with the team for Thursday's preseason finale against the Giants. If he plays snaps at quarterback, it would mark the first time since 2011 that he does so in a preseason finale. Brady played one snap in the preseason finale in 2014 as a holder, which would have been his job in the regular season in the event of injury. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

The Jets head into their final preseason game at the Eagles with "quite a few" roster spots up for grabs, coach Todd Bowles said. The most competitive positions: Wide receiver and linebacker. Three rookie receivers are pushing for spots -- Charone Peake, Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall. The stiff competition indicates the Jets have better depth than in previous years. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

History says quarterback Joe Flacco won't play at all Thursday at New Orleans, along with the rest of the starters. No one on the first-team offense or defense suited up in last year's preseason finale. The last time Flacco played in the final preseason game was 2008, his rookie season. Backup Ryan Mallett might play one quarter or not take the field at all. It could be an instance where third-string quarterback Josh Johnson plays the entire game. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Don't expect to see many starters play when the Saints host the Colts on Thursday. The Bengals pulled their starters quickly after cornerback Adam Jones, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Cedric Peerman had various degrees of injuries in the first half. The Bengals will likely err on the side of caution and look to get out of the preseason without any more injuries. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Coach Hue Jackson doesn't really think in negatives, but it's not difficult to figure how he'll feel if the Browns starters -- and quarterback Robert Griffin III -- struggle in the time they get against Chicago. The Browns' first-teamers will be playing backups, so the last thing a team needs that has lost three games by a combined score of 71-37 is another clunker. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Now that the Steelers have restructured wide receiver Antonio Brown's contract, paying him an additional $4 million this year, expect the team to get something done with All-Pro guard David DeCastro. He's one of the league's best guards, and the team values continuity on the offensive line. The hard deadline for a contract is Sept. 12, as the Steelers refuse to negotiate in-season. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Coach Bill O'Brien wouldn't say for sure who will play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Cowboys. But don't expect starters like quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Lamar Miller or wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to see the field. The Texans have been extremely fortunate to not suffer any serious injuries in a preseason game this year, and O'Brien will not test that luck Thursday. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Coach Chuck Pagano didn't say who wouldn't play in their preseason finale at Cincinnati on Thursday, but it's a safe bet players like quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver T.Y. Hilton, running back Frank Gore and any other key player on the Colts' roster won't play a snap. Not only because it's the fourth preseason game, but also because the Colts aren't any position to lose any more important players on their roster. They've been ravaged by injuries to starters like Vontae Davis, Clayton Geathers and Kendall Langford this preseason. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Expect quarterback Brandon Allen to play most of the Jaguars' preseason finale against Atlanta on Thursday. He didn't play at all against Cincinnati -- Chad Henne played the entire second half -- last Sunday. The Jaguars really like Allen, a sixth-round pick from Arkansas, and it appears they are going to keep him on the active roster. He's viewed as the eventual replacement for Henne as Blake Bortles' backup. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

The Titans' starters will probably only play a series in the preseason finale. The team very likely knows the form its final 53-man roster will take. But Thursday night in Miami, a strong showing from cornerbacks Cody Riggs and Kalen Reed, running backs Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey, defensive linemen Antwaun Woods and Mehdi Abdesmad, linebacker Aaron Wallace and safety Marqueston Huff could be influential -- if not for the Titans, for another team shopping their positions after cuts around the league. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos

The Broncos' starters will be easy to find in Thursday night's preseason finale in Arizona -- they will be the players standing over by coach Gary Kubiak because they won't be on the field. The game is "for the young guys'' as Kubiak put it, and there are likely a few roster spots in play, especially where some of the more difficult decisions will come -- running back, wide receiver and linebacker. Rookie Paxton Lynch will start at quarterback, and Kubiak's plan is to play Lynch for the entire game. If Lynch, for some reason, had to leave the lineup against the Cardinals, Mark Sanchez would go into the game. One player to certainly keep an eye on is running back Ronnie Hillman. Hillman was the team's leading rusher in 2015 and now finds himself fighting for a roster spot because he hasn't been a special-teams regular in his career. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are easing running back Jamaal Charles back into their lineup after a torn ACL ended his 2015 season. He is unlikely to play in Thursday night's final preseason game and has yet to regain the full-time featured back role he had before the injury. But the goal is to have Charles for the entire season and not just the season opener, so the Chiefs won't rush things. He will probably be a part of a running back rotation when the season begins. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Mighty Mite rookie running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard should see significant time in Thursday night's exhibition finale against the Seahawks. Will they resemble the diminutive backs others are ready comparing them to the preseason? Coach Jack Del Rio sees some Maurice Jones-Drew in the duo, while quarterback Derek Carr likens Washington to Domanick Williams and Richard to Barry Sanders. "Teams have to get ready for that," Carr said. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers likely will rest most of their frontline players for the final preseason against the 49ers on Thursday, including first-round selection Joey Bosa. The Ohio State product participated in just one practice this week in helmets and a jersey, and he will continue his crash course in quickly learning the playbook with defensive line coach Giff Smith this week. -- Eric D. Williams