The vanilla week one of the preseason is thankfully in the books, and thankfully now it's on to what should be a far more eventful week two.
With 16 games across the league featuring players battling for jobs, there will be plenty to keep us interested over the weekend. What players in particular should focus on over the next several days?
Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns, Thursday 7:30 EST
Ziggy Ansah made a splash in his NFL debut, picking off Mark Sanchez and running it back for a touchdown. It was a fantastic start, but the Lions will still be looking to see even more out of the defensive end. They've made it clear that they don't view Ansah as just a situational player, and they'll give him plenty of chances to prove that they're right on Thursday night.
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens, Thursday 7:30 EST
For Baltimore, a key to this offseason has been to find replacements for Ed Reed and Dennis Pitta. So far, the Ravens can't feel too comfortable with the new additions to the roster. At tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe dropped too many passes in week one, and rookie safety Matt Elam still hasn't been able to earn much playing time with the starters. Will that change this week?
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday 7:30 EST
Although he'll be playing behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, it's still easy to under estimate the importance of third running back on the depth chart. Both Stewart and Williams have battled significant injuries during their careers, and Carolina is a team that clearly wants to make the ground game a proiority. Tauren Poole has gained praise from coaches for a strong training camp. Can Kenyon Barner beat out the 2012 UDFA?
San Diego Chargers at Chicago Bears, Thursday 8:00 EST
Chicago has spent several seasons trying to fix their offensive line, and after one preseason game it appears as though they've taken some significant steps towards doing just that. Rookie guard Kyle Long looked solid, and far more surprisingly fifth round selection Jordan Mills played well enough to earn a start at left tackle this week. How will both these rookies do in starting roles?
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills, Friday 7:00 EST
After Kevin Kolb injured himself slipping on a map and yielded the first start of the preseason to EJ Manuel, it wouldn't have been unreasonable to expect Manuel to get a second start here in week two. Manuel played well in his first game, but Buffalo still appears determined to make sure he wins the job outright. Kolb will be the starter in week two. Will Manuel be able to make a statement with the playing time he sees?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots, Friday 8:00 EST
With all the change on the Patriots' offense, some have considered it to be a surprise that New England hasn't pursued free agent WR Brandon Lloyd. However, when you consider the play of undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, maybe the lack of action from the front office isn't so surprising. Thompkins is getting rave reviews and could be a big contributor this year based on his practice performances. Can he do the same in a game?
Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints, Friday 8:00 EST
To put it simply, the quarterback situation in Oakland isn't pretty. In week one of the preseason, starter Matt Flynn fumbled the ball once and while he completed 4-5 passes, they only went for 37 yards. Later in the game Terrelle Pryor flashed athleticism and potential, but also made some bone headed plays in the red zone, including an interception on a play where he could have scored on the ground. The Raiders need to see some big improvement from both players in week two. Will they get it?
San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs, Friday 8:00 EST
For all the great moves that the 49ers front office has made, as of yet selecting AJ Jenkins in the first round hasn't been one of them. He failed to catch a single pass in his rookie campaign, and things haven't gone much better in year two. It's gotten to the point where media in San Francisco is actually suggesting that the 49ers would be better off to release him outright. That's not likely to happen, but there's no doubting that Jenkins needs to step up quickly. Will this week be the week?
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, 4:30 EST
For the athlete formerly known as Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu's departure for LSU couldn't have gone much worse. Thankfully, the next step in his career has gone far better. After being called pound for pound the most talented player on the Cardinals roster, Mathieu has already earned his first start. Although Mike Jurecki is still technically the first string free safety, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mathieu take hold of this chance and not let go for quite some time. Will he be able to capitalize?
Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, 7:00 EST
Tennessee ignored other areas of need and gave up valuable draft picks to move up in the second round and select Justin Hunter. So far, Hunter hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations the Titans clearly have for him. Whether it's been running the wrong routes, dropping easy catches, or just playing soft, Hunter's introduction to the league hasn't been a smooth one. With such an investment in him, the Titans will clearly be looking to work him hard for the rest of the preseason to see what sort of a player he really is. Can he turn things around?
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets, Saturday 7:30 EST
There will be plenty of focus given to the circuses that are the quarterback situations for both teams, but neither team should overlook the running back situation either. For Jacksonville, they'll see Maurice Jones Drew on the field for the first time since last October. New York will be hoping to see Chris Ivory on the field for the first time this season. Both teams figure to rely heavily on the running game this year with shaky situations at quarterback. Will these two starting running backs give their teams reason to be optimistic?
Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans, Saturday 8:00 EST
Lamar Miller is a talented back, and should be without question the guy getting the majority of the carries in Miami. Unfortunately, the Dolphins coaching staff may not see things in exactly the same fashion. Miller is still in a situation where he has to prove that he's worthy of being the primary back. Going up against a stiff defense like Houston's will provide Miller with a great opportunity to show that he's capable of making plays against the top defenses in the league.
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams, Saturday 8:00 EST
With the four game suspension of outside linebacker Jo-Lunn Dunbar, the pressure on rookie 'backer Alec Ogletree was clearly increased. Ogletree was already going to be a starter – now the Rams need him to be a difference maker. Ogletree must now take advantage of every snap from now until the regular season opener to make sure he doesn't let down a team with high expectations in 2013.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks, Saturday 10:00 EST
With two of the hottest teams in the league, this match up could easily be a Super Bowl preview. Both teams have had some adversity to deal with to start the year, however. The Seahawks will be looking for another playmaker on offense while they wait for Percy Harvin to get healthy, and Denver must find another pass rusher to compensate for the question marks surrounding Von Miller. The match up of Seattle's offense versus Denver's defense could likely end up being one of the most crucial of the week's action across the league.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, Sunday 7:00 EST
The Giants selected offensive tackle Justin Pugh with expectation that he'd be able to contribute at both right and left tackle in his rookie year. Being the “swing” tackle takes plenty of practice to be able to effectively move from side to side depending on where you're needed. That process was put on hold as he didn't play in week one, but he appears to be on track to play Sunday. He should see time on both sides of the line – a tall task for a rookie who has missed some time with a concussion. Will Pugh be up to it?
Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins, Monday 8:00 EST
Perhaps the most hotly contested position battle in Pittsburgh this summer has been for the starting running back spot. Le'Veon Bell postponed his rookie debut due to injury, but Jonathan Dwyer wasn't able to do anything to make a case for his being the starter in Bell's absence. Bell will get the start in week two, and if he doesn't disappoint it'll be difficult to picture any of the Steelers' other backs catching him by the regular season.