The second week of the preseason is upon us. Saturday's slate brings us 11 games. This is generally the week where the starters play around a half.
With 22 teams in action, here are some issues and players I'll be keeping an eye on this evening:
- Baltimore Ravens starting cornerback Fabian Washington, one of three players to suffer ACL injuries from their secondary over the past year, returns to the lineup against the Washington Redskins. Is he back all the way? I have a feeling the Redskins will test him.
- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is set to make his debut against the New York Giants. The bigger story might be in regard to who his replacement will be during his suspension. The talk around the NFL is that second-year pro Dennis Dixon is closing in on moving ahead of veteran Byron Leftwich on the quarterback depth chart.
- Second-year quarterback Rhett Bomar will start against the Steelers. He probably won't get a better chance to show what he can do than in this game since the two players above him on the depth chart won't suit up. Bomar always had a strong arm, but accuracy has been a big issue for him.
- The next test for St. Louis Rams first-round pick Sam Bradford will come against the Cleveland Browns. It will be good for him to face a team that uses a 3-4 scheme on defense. Recognizing the blitz will be a challenge for the young signal caller.
- The Kansas City Chiefs need to get their passing game going tonight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It appears they're willing to use shotgun formation more, but quarterback Matt Cassel needs to play better. He's really the key to this offense. General manager Scott Pioli has done a nice job this year of adding key personnel to the offensive side of the ball. Now it's up to Cassel to show Pioli why he traded for him last year.
- The New York Jets have a very good offensive line, so Carolina Panthers rookie defensive end Greg Hardy will have to take his game to another level in this matchup. He put together a very strong training camp and first preseason game. Now it's time for him to show if he's capable of challenging for serious playing time this season.
- While it may not be quite a Super Bowl preview, we should see a decent amount of offense in the Houston Texans-New Orleans Saints matchup. The key for Houston to making the playoffs is for the defense to take another step in its development. The Texans will get tested early and often by the high-powered Saints passing game.
- It will be interesting to see how Chicago Bears new offensive coordinator Mike Martz challenges the Oakland Raider secondary. Oakland plays primarily man coverage in their secondary.
- San Diego Chargers second-year outside linebacker Larry English is expected to fill in for veteran Shawne Merriman (Achilles) against the Dallas Cowboys. English, who was selected in the first round last year, needs to take advantage of every chance he gets to shine, especially since Merriman is on a one-year deal.
- The Detroit Lions will look to build upon the performance that their first-team offense had last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford looked sharp, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against the Denver Broncos, another team which uses a 3-4 scheme on defense.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, Seattle Seahawks signal caller Charlie Whitehurst played well against the Tennessee Titans last week. He'll face the Green Bay Packers, who are yet another team that utilizes a 3-4 defensive scheme. Whitehurst needs to continue to progress in order to show the coaching staff that he's seriously ready to challenge veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting quarterback job.