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Thursday camp preview: What to watch for in Week 1 of preseason

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

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

With the bad news delivered Wednesday about rookie linebacker Reggie Ragland -- that he tore his ACL and is expected to miss the entire season -- the Bills will try to turn the page Thursday to Saturday's preseason opener against the Colts. While coach Rex Ryan has not yet finalized his plans for how long starters will participate in the game, the expectation is that we'll see little, if any, of wide receiver Sammy Watkins. It's also highly unlikely that starting left tackle Cordy Glenn or left guard Richie Incognito will play. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are about 24 hours away from their preseason opener against the Giants and have some key decisions to make with star players coming off injuries. Coach Adam Gase said he hasn't decided if former Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake (Achilles) and wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) will play Friday. Gase, however, has made a decision to rest running back Arian Foster (Achilles) against the Giants as a precaution. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

When Jimmy Garoppolo was asked if he will be starting Thursday night's preseason opener against the Saints, he responded, "Your guess is as good as mine." That is the way coach Bill Belichick likes it, keeping players on their toes. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Tom Brady won't play in the opener. Even if that changes at the last minute, as happened in 2015 when Brady wasn't expected to start a preseason game but then did, Garoppolo should get the bulk of the work. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

The focus in Thursday night's opener against the Jaguars will be on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who missed the offseason due to a contract dispute. He figures to play a series or two (the Jets haven't said). His goal for the offense is basic: no turnovers, no silly penalties and, hopefully, a few first downs. He won't have new running back Matt Forte, who is out with a hamstring injury. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

When the Ravens open the preseason Thursday night against the Panthers, all eyes will be on Baltimore's running back battle. Justin Forsett is atop the depth chart for now, but he probably won't get many carries. The Ravens want to see what they have in their young backs such as Buck Allen, Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. If any of these runners break out, they could start to close the gap on Forsett. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

After a rather shoddy offensive performance in Wednesday's joint practice with the Vikings, the Bengals will be looking to showcase better play Thursday. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese seemed displeased with the unit's crispness and tempo as it faced another team for the first time under his control. Although he spoke to reporters who approached him after the practice, he didn't spend even 60 seconds with them, saying the offense needed to work on "everything" before it practiced again. The joint workouts continue Thursday, when the teams square off for about an hour ahead of Friday's preseason opener at Paul Brown Stadium. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns

How much playing time will Robert Griffin III get in Friday's preseason opener in Green Bay? That's to be determined. Coach Hue Jackson said he would figure out playing time on Thursday or Friday. The only hint he would give is to say he wanted to see all four quarterbacks in the game. That might indicate Griffin would get one quarter, though Jackson said game situations ultimately dictate playing time. For example, if the quarter ends with the Browns in possession, Griffin would finish the drive; Jackson also might not hesitate to give Griffin an extra series or two if he feels the quarterback needs it. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

With the Steelers resting several offensive starters Friday against Detroit, the stage is set for tight end Jesse James to take ownership of the starting job with Ladarius Green injured. James caught an off-balance touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during Wednesday's joint practice with the Lions, and he's eager to prove he's a capable inline blocker. And don't forget about wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey in the passing game. Roethlisberger still likes throwing to him. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

The Texans will travel to Santa Clara, California, before their joint practice with the 49ers on Friday. This will be a chance for quarterback Brock Osweiler to face a defense that is not his own, and will give coach Bill O'Brien the chance to see how Osweiler and his receivers fare against another team. Look for receiver DeAndre Hopkins to be heavily involved early on. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts wrap up their two-week training camp at Anderson University in Indiana with an early morning practice on Thursday. It'll also be the team's last practice before their preseason opener against Buffalo on Saturday. They'll have a walk-through at their facility Friday before flying to Buffalo. It won't be surprising if Thursday's two-hour practice is shortened because coach Chuck Pagano has routinely allowed his players to break camp early in the past if they make a long field goal or complete a challenge that the coach presents to them. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars on Thursday open the preseason at the New York Jets. The offense has been focusing on starting fast during camp, and the first drive will be key. The Jaguars averaged just two points in the first quarter last season, which ranked 31st in the NFL. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

The Titans will likely find out Thursday a bit about what coach Mike Mularkey and his staff expect to do Saturday night against the Chargers in terms of snaps. He intended to discuss things with his staff Wednesday night, but said there are some factors that could prompt them to look at starters longer in preseason work. "We've got some new receivers that (Marcus Mariota) is going to be working with," Mularkey said. " You know, it's a new play-caller (in Terry Robiskie), there's a lot of new [things], not just Marcus [Mariota] that you may want to see a little more." -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

The Broncos will give Mark Sanchez the start at quarterback in the preseason opener against the Bears, and he will play a quarter. Trevor Siemian, meanwhile, will play the second quarter and rookie Paxton Lynch is scheduled to play the second half. That doesn't mean Sanchez has won the job, but he will have the starters around him in the formation -- at least briefly -- as he and Siemian will largely play alongside the second-teamers. The Broncos' starters are expected to play only a handful of plays. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs would try to play all five of their quarterbacks in Saturday's preseason opener against the Seahawks. The focus will be on the recently signed Nick Foles, who has moved into the No. 2 role and will be the first QB off the bench in relief of starter Alex Smith. Foles indicated he wanted to improve his throwing accuracy, which has been inconsistent in practice in his first week with the Chiefs. "It's not where I want to be, but I know why it's not there,'' Foles said, referring to some technique issues that he believes resulted from an offseason when he didn't practice with his former team, the Rams. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is approaching Friday night's exhibition opener at Arizona like a regular-season game. "Whether it's preseason, regular season, playoffs, Super Bowl, whatever," Carr said. "Hopefully we'll get there, but no matter what it is, I'm going to play my heart out, whether it's one play or 90 plays. Anytime you put an NFL jersey on, put a helmet on, it's time to go. I think that going into this one, obviously, we probably won't play a full game, but we'll play somewhere in between there and it'll be fun." -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry will be about a six-hour drive from his hometown when San Diego hits the road to take on the Titans this weekend. Henry said his parents, two brothers and sister will travel to Nashville to watch him play in an NFL uniform for the first time. Fellow tight end Antonio Gates has been impressed with the rookie second-round selection's progress so far during training camp. "His toughness, to me, is something that stands out about him," Gates said. "He's a guy that understands the game, which is rare for a guy that comes into the league." -- Eric D. Williams

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Coach Jason Garrett opted to change up the normal practice schedule to give his players the feel for a "regular-season Friday" with the preseason opener coming Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams. Instead of an afternoon practice, the Cowboys will practice at 10:45 a.m. and hold a walkthrough at 5 p.m. Part of the idea is to back off a little bit to help the players physically get ready for the game. The Cowboys will operate the same way leading into their second preseason game against the Dolphins on Aug. 18. Garrett said a final decision on who will or will not play has not been made, but look for a lot of the regulars to not play. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard has opened eyes with the Giants this spring and summer. Even Odell Beckham Jr. has taken notice. From what the Giants star has seen, Shepard is going to be a "big time" player, and he's going to make an instant impact. Based on the results during training camp to date, it's hard to argue. Shepard has made plays on a regular basis, including Wednesday. But Shepard won't be making any Thursday when the Giants won't practice prior to their preseason opener Friday against the Dolphins. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

When the Eagles open the preseason against the Buccaneers on Thursday night, tt will be the first chance for fans to see rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. Most of the conversation, however, has been about the possible PED-related suspension of right tackle Lane Johnson. It appears Johnson will start and play roughly a quarter with the first team. It is not clear when a decision will be reached on Johnson's status for the Eagles' first 10 games. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins

One focal point for Washington in Thursday's preseason opener at Atlanta will be the slot corner position, where Dashaun Phillips and Kendall Fuller are battling. The Redskins have rotated at this spot throughout training camp. Fuller has done more than Washington anticipated coming off microfracture surgery, and he has made this the tightest competition in camp. Fuller plays with a veteran savvy. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Bears coach John Fox will play it safe Thursday night, but most healthy starters can expect to see a little action in preseason game No. 1 against Denver. "Typically, and it won't be exact, but in the first game, our first team will play the first quarter," Fox said. "Then our second team will be on the field for the second quarter. Then the second half belongs to our third-string guys." Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Eddie Royal (concussion) and tight end Zach Miller (concussion) are unlikely to face the Broncos, but all three are inching closer to returning. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

After two joint practices with the Steelers, the Lions are remaining in Pittsburgh for the preseason opener Friday at Heinz Field. It's not clear yet how much -- if at all -- key starters will play but figure you won't see guys such as Matthew Stafford, Haloti Ngata, Glover Quin and Ezekiel Ansah for more than a series or two, if at all. It would be surprising to see Ameer Abdullah play as well since he has worn a red non-contact jersey the entire preseason. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Forget quarterback, the Packers might not have anyone to snap the ball. Heading into Friday's preseason game against the Browns, there's a chance the Packers might be without their top three centers. Corey Linsley (hamstring) is definitely out; he remains on the physically unable to perform list. JC Tretter (illness) didn't practice at all this week and rookie Jacob Flores (knee) dropped out this week. It leaves a pair of utility linemen -- Don Barclay and Matt Rotheram -- as perhaps the only two centers available Friday. No wonder quarterback Aaron Rodgers probably won't make his preseason debut this week. Offensive line coach James Campen, a former center himself, was asked if he could get back out and play. "I play it every day in my mind," he said. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings left a number of players home from their joint practices with the Bengals because coach Mike Zimmer figured they'd be able to get better injury treatment in Minnesota. Particularly with the team's linebacker group, where Eric Kendricks and Edmond Robinson have been out, the absences create opportunities for younger players like fifth-round pick Kentrell Brothers. The Vikings could also get a longer look at rookie cornerback Mackensie Alexander and second-year corner Trae Waynes with Terence Newman slowed because of a nagging injury. -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

As the Falcons prepare for Thursday night's exhibition against the Redskins, they are likely to be without first-round pick Keanu Neal, who suffered a "trunk" injury in practice. Since Neal probably won't be on the field, second-round pick Deion Jones is sure to be under the spotlight at middle linebacker. Jones has gotten his share of reps in practice while competing against Paul Worrilow. And Jones continues to learn on the fly thanks to veterans such as Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon, among others. "I feel like all of them are tough on me," Jones said. "They push me. They see the potential that I have, and they want to push me to that level." -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly on Tuesday got his first vet day since entering the NFL in 2012, and the team didn't practice Wednesday as it traveled to Baltimore for Thursday night's preseason opener. Kuechly won't know what to do with so much free time. Actually, he put his vet day to good use, acting as another coach. Or as Coach Ron Rivera said joking, "Getting in the way.'' Don't look for Kuechly or most of Carolina's other stars to play past the first series or two against the Ravens as the focus is on young players. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

It's a good thing Drew Brees got so much good work in against the Patriots during Tuesday's joint practice, because Wednesday's practice session was basically just a walk-through between the two teams. And Brees said he expects to play only "a series or so" in Thursday night's preseason opener. But let's face it, Brees doesn't need the reps. This game will be much more important for New Orleans' young defense. Expect to see a ton of young cornerbacks P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris as they try to build on their terrific training-camp starts. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs touched down in Philadelphia early Wednesday evening in preparation for Thursday night's preseason opener against the Eagles. Still no word on whether banged-up wide receiver Vincent Jackson or running back Charles Sims will play, but coach Dirk Koetter hinted at erring on the side of caution. Aside from testing out some unproven players in the game, they'll also be testing out a new headset system for the coach and the quarterback. In Philly last year, Jameis Winston couldn't hear Koetter through most of the first two offensive series. They'll also have defensive coordinator Mike Smith up in the coaches' booth. Koetter called it "good practice." -- Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals hosted their last public practice in Arizona until Aug. 21, as they prepare for five days in San Diego. While coach Bruce Arians ruled out nine players, plus the four players on the PUP list, of this Friday night's game against Oakland, it appears the spotlight will be on quarterback Matt Barkley, who's scheduled to play most of the game. Arians has been critical of both Barkley and fourth-string QB Jake Coker, who are in a battle for the third spot on the roster, saying neither has what it takes to make the roster. But Friday could help one or the other separate themselves. "Both have potential," Arians said. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

The quarterback situation remains in flux. Case Keenum will start the first preseason game of the season against the Cowboys on Saturday. He started the final four games of last season with the Rams winning three. No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff took his first snaps with the first team on Tuesday. "Read whatever you want [into it]," Fisher said. "We'll start [Goff] when he's ready to play. It's all about the process. It's about being patient." -- ESPN.com staff

San Francisco 49ers

It was not a good day Wednesday for either quarterback, especially Colin Kaepernick. The Niners will need them to bounce back Thursday in anticipation of one of their best tests of the preseason Friday when the Texans come to town for a practice and Sunday's game. Those are big opportunities for Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick to begin gaining separation in the battle for the starting job. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Tight end Jimmy Graham (ruptured patellar tendon) returned to practice Wednesday, and the one area where the Seahawks want to get more from him is the red zone. Graham caught two touchdowns in 11 games last season. In his previous four years with the Saints, Graham averaged 11.5 touchdowns per season. He still has a long way to go with his rehab, but the Seahawks are planning for Graham to be a contributor on offense. "We think he is a huge part of us, absolutely," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We know that we are better with him." -- Sheil Kapadia