NFL preseason: Big-name vets, rookies out to make good first impression

Reading too much into the preseason can be dangerous. That does not stop us from trying.

A five-day slate of NFL preseason games begins tonight, as teams go from hitting each other to hitting opponents.

Broncos QB Tim Tebow will take the field Sunday in his first outing as a pro.
Broncos QB Tim Tebow will take the field Sunday in his first outing as a pro.

"I’m hoping coach (Mike) Shanahan leaves me out there for awhile," Redskins tight end Fred Davis said, looking forward to Friday’s game against the Bills. "I want to make some plays and have a little fun."

With 16 games on the schedule over a 96-hour span, we will get our first in-game look at some intriguing faces in new places:

Thursday

Panthers at Ravens. Carolina rookie QB Jimmy Clausen will get his first game action. While Matt Moore enters preseason as the clear starter, a strong preseason by Clausen could set the stage for him to take over if Moore hits a rough patch.

Friday

Bills at Redskins. Donovan McNabb makes his Washington debut and will get some live reps in a new offense after 11 seasons in Philadelphia.

"Donovan is still feeling all of us out, but the chemistry is getting there," Davis said. "He’s a confident guy, and he still wants that ring. When you’re chasing a Super Bowl, you’re always willing to put in extra work."

Asked how much action McNabb would see Friday, Shanahan said: "We’re going to play him somewhere in the area of 15 to 18 plays." Shanahan said nose tackle Albert Haynesworth would play, too.

This game also features the Bills’ three-way quarterback battle between Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm.

"We have a brand new offense, brand new coaches, a lot of new players," Fitzpatrick said. "We’re just trying to develop some continuity and some consistency, keeping the offense on the field. It’s like most preseasons, but there might be a little bit more on the line."

Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller also is eager for game action. The coaches will use Spiller in a variety of ways, looking to get him the ball in open space.

"I took some great notes during OTA and minicamps that helped me stay up to par with the offense, and hopefully it will pay off on Friday," Spiller said. "Every game you get butterflies. If you’re not nervous, then you need to kind of check yourself."

Saturday

Vikings at Rams. The goal for No. 1-overall pick Sam Bradford is to outplay A.J. Feeley in preseason, making it much easier for coach Steve Spagnuolo to start Bradford in the Sept. 12 opener vs. Arizona.

Sunday

Broncos at Bengals. Tim Tebow, fresh haircut and all, takes the field for the Broncos. We might get an early glimpse of how coach Josh McDaniels plans to use Tebow in various formations.

Monday

Giants at Jets. A national television audience will watch as both teams get a look at their new home, Meadowlands Stadium. There was concern about the newness of the turf at the new stadium when the Giants practiced there in June and lost wide receiver Dominik Hixon to a knee injury.

"They did some work on the center of the field," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They did some work to make sure the distribution of the granules was even. They checked each area with a meter to make sure it all me to the specification."

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

Reading too much into the preseason can be dangerous. That does not stop us from trying.

A five-day slate of NFL preseason games begins tonight, as teams go from hitting each other to hitting opponents.

Broncos QB Tim Tebow will take the field Sunday in his first outing as a pro.
Broncos QB Tim Tebow will take the field Sunday in his first outing as a pro.

"I’m hoping coach (Mike) Shanahan leaves me out there for awhile," Redskins tight end Fred Davis said, looking forward to Friday’s game against the Bills. "I want to make some plays and have a little fun."

With 16 games on the schedule over a 96-hour span, we will get our first in-game look at some intriguing faces in new places:

Thursday

Panthers at Ravens. Carolina rookie QB Jimmy Clausen will get his first game action. While Matt Moore enters preseason as the clear starter, a strong preseason by Clausen could set the stage for him to take over if Moore hits a rough patch.

Friday

Bills at Redskins. Donovan McNabb makes his Washington debut and will get some live reps in a new offense after 11 seasons in Philadelphia.

"Donovan is still feeling all of us out, but the chemistry is getting there," Davis said. "He’s a confident guy, and he still wants that ring. When you’re chasing a Super Bowl, you’re always willing to put in extra work."

Asked how much action McNabb would see Friday, Shanahan said: "We’re going to play him somewhere in the area of 15 to 18 plays." Shanahan said nose tackle Albert Haynesworth would play, too.

This game also features the Bills’ three-way quarterback battle between Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm.

"We have a brand new offense, brand new coaches, a lot of new players," Fitzpatrick said. "We’re just trying to develop some continuity and some consistency, keeping the offense on the field. It’s like most preseasons, but there might be a little bit more on the line."

Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller also is eager for game action. The coaches will use Spiller in a variety of ways, looking to get him the ball in open space.

"I took some great notes during OTA and minicamps that helped me stay up to par with the offense, and hopefully it will pay off on Friday," Spiller said. "Every game you get butterflies. If you’re not nervous, then you need to kind of check yourself."

Saturday

Vikings at Rams. The goal for No. 1-overall pick Sam Bradford is to outplay A.J. Feeley in preseason, making it much easier for coach Steve Spagnuolo to start Bradford in the Sept. 12 opener vs. Arizona.

Sunday

Broncos at Bengals. Tim Tebow, fresh haircut and all, takes the field for the Broncos. We might get an early glimpse of how coach Josh McDaniels plans to use Tebow in various formations.

Monday

Giants at Jets. A national television audience will watch as both teams get a look at their new home, Meadowlands Stadium. There was concern about the newness of the turf at the new stadium when the Giants practiced there in June and lost wide receiver Dominik Hixon to a knee injury.

"They did some work on the center of the field," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They did some work to make sure the distribution of the granules was even. They checked each area with a meter to make sure it all me to the specification."

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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