The NFL season is here.
Well, the preseason is here and there is plenty to follow as everyone prepares for the other Week 1 starting Sept. 5.
The Cardinals have a new quarterback under center while the Dolphins are trying to find theirs. A few teams have tons of new personnel while others are dealing with the losses of their stars. Some have even chosen to spend the early weeks far, far away from the field.
We tracked down the top storylines as the preseason begins Thursday night.
5 storylines to watch in Week 1 of NFL preseason
1. Kyler Murray will debut Thursday night.
It’s no surprise Kyler Murray is the Cardinals’ No. 1 quarterback. After a dismal 2018 campaign, Arizona hired a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury and in turn made Murray the top draft pick and the two will pair up, the team hopes, to revive the offense.
The Cardinals are looking to improve on last season’s 3-13 record which shouldn’t be hard to do with a player of Murray’s caliber. Kingsbury has praised the former Oklahoma star throughout training camp and will be utilizing his dual-threat ability this season — something the franchise hasn’t had in its arsenal for a really long time, if ever.
“You ask any offensive coach — if you have that ability to run down there with your QB, it helps as the field condenses,” Kingsbury said earlier this week, via the team’s website. “It adds a hat (the defense must account for) in that offensive strategy. There’s no question he’s a red-zone threat.”
Murray won’t be the only rookie to keep an eye on. Daniel Jones will be making his NFL debut with the Giants after many questioned why New York selected the former Duke QB as the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft.
Game time: Chargers at Cardinals, 10 p.m. ET Thursday (NFL Network)
2. The Cowboys backfield will be missing a familiar face.
Dallas will be entering the preseason without its star in the backfield. Ezekiel Elliott continues his holdout in hopes of getting a new contract before he suits up, but the Cowboys haven’t made the two-time Pro Bowl running back a priority.
However, recent reports have indicated team executives want a deal done by the beginning of the regular season. Whether it gets done or not, Dallas will be working with a very young group of rushers without Elliott.
The Cowboys currently have Darius Jackson, Jordan Chunn, rookie Tony Pollard and veteran Alfred Morris listed on their depth chart. They will likely end up as backups to Elliott, but for now they can use the next couple of weeks as an opportunity to show up the team’s star, who is currently in Cabo San Lucas.
Game time: Cowboys at 49ers, 9 p.m. ET Saturday (NFL Network)
3. The revamped Browns offer a first look.
The Browns made a blockbuster move this offseason and landed Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants. The trade bolstered the team’s receiving corps which now includes Beckham, Jarvis Landry and young wideouts in Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins and Jaelen Strong.
There’s no question Beckham and Landry will help lift the team’s offense, but they also will provide ample inspiration, and competitiveness, for the younger trio of receivers.
“Each and every day it is getting better and better,” receivers coach Adam Henry said about Beckham and Landry’s development with the offense. “There are going to be ebbs and flows, and you stay with it.”
Baker Mayfield, who’s entering his second season at quarterback, couldn’t ask for better hands. He impressed in his rookie season when he stepped in as the starter in Week 3 and finished with a rookie-record 27 touchdown passes. He will likely improve on that number this year.
It’ll also be interesting to see how well everything works under Freddie Kitchens, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach during the offseason.
Game time: Redskins at Browns, 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday
4. Who will get the ultimate starting nod in South Beach?
First-year Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the preseason opener. But that doesn’t mean he’ll also get the starting nod when the regular season comes.
After Miami gave Josh Rosen a second chance, Flores wants to see how well the two fare as starters. Rosen will likely to start Week 2 and Flores will then compare the two.
Even if Fitzpatrick is “leading the way” in the run for QB1, Rosen is looking forward to his new opportunity, especially after a poor rookie season with the Cardinals.
“Very rarely do you get a second chance to make a first impression,” Rosen said at his introductory press conference Monday. “It felt like I got drafted twice.”
Game time: Falcons at Dolphins, 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday
5. The Steelers offense will look a little different
No Antonio Brown. No Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers will have a new offense this season that will look different from the explosive one they had a year ago.
Brown helped quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rank in the top five last season and Bell was one of the league’s best running backs who Roethlisberger also used as a receiver. There’s no replacing their talent, but there are still some familiar faces who return in wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and rusher James Conner.
While Roethlisberger won’t see any time in Week 1, coach Mike Tomlin wants to see how the rest of the offense will do once they see real playing time. There is plenty of young talent in receivers James Washington, Donte Moncrief and Diontae Johnson as well as running backs Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell.
“It’s going to be really good to see who can take the skills they’ve displayed here or learned here and put them in a real fluid football environment,” Tomlin said, via the team’s website, “and think and play on their feet. I think those are the things all teams go through as we take this first significant step.
“You’ll know more about the group, both individually and collectively, after this. We know that, and we’re excited about it.”
Game time: Buccaneers at Steelers, 7:30 p.m. ET Friday (NFL Network)