The NFL's Friday slate features a three-game showdown between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, and Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams.
Let's dive into the news, notes, depth charts, historical playing time, and notable injuries for all four teams heading into Thursday.
Panthers Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: QB Baker Mayfield (rest), QB Sam Darnold (rest), RB Christian McCaffrey (rest), WR D.J. Moore (rest), WR Terrace Marshall (leg), WR Robbie Anderson (quad), WR C.J. Saunders (quad), WR Andrew Parchment (undisclosed), WR Brandon Zylstra (undisclosed), C Bradley Bozeman (leg), DE Brian Burns (rest), LB Shaq Thompson (knee), S Jeremy Chinn (rest); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: TE Ian Thomas (ribs), TE Josh Babicz (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: WR Shi Smith (undisclosed), WR Andre Roberts (undisclosed), TE Collin Thompson (calf), TE Stephen Sullivan (personal), TE Tommy Tremble (undisclosed), CB Jaycee Horn (foot); IN: LT, Ikem Ekwonu
Panthers News & Notes:
This is the expected starting lineup for the Panthetrs, per Schuyler Callihan of SI Now :
A boatload of veterans won't play for the Panthers, as expected:
Rookie LT Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu will play tonight.
WR Terrace Marshall Jr. is not dressed for the game tonight. It's safe to say he won't be participating in this contest.
The Panthers will start P.J. Walker in this contest. The veteran and rookie QB Matt Corral will rotate quarters, with Walker playing the 1st and 3rd, and Corral playing the 2nd and 4th quarters.
The Panthers have a litany of injuries at WR and TE. Going back to Week 1, Jared Scott led the TE position with 32 snaps while Ra'Shaun Henry led the receivers with 47 snaps. There should be plenty of playing time available for the end-of-the-roster names at both spots.
Patriots Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: CB Malcolm Butler (undisclosed); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: WR Kristian Wilkerson (head); QUESTIONABLE: WR Kendrick Bourne (undisclosed), TE Hunter Henry (undisclosed), TE Dalton Keene (undisclosed), RT Isaiah Wynn (undisclosed), C David Andrews (undisclosed); LIKELY TO PLAY: TE Devin Asiasi (hand)
Patriots News & Notes:
While the Patriots were entering this week with a secretive game plan, Mike Reiss of ESPN and Mike Giardi of NFL Network reported the Patriots are expecting to play "most of" their healthy starters. That includes QB Mac Jones. There wasn't any information on how long they might go, but Giardi did say they'd go "for a stretch", suggesting they may not play very long:
Standout WR Kristian Wilkerson — who led his position with 46 snaps and eight receptions on 12 targets in Week 1 — suffered a head injury in a joint practice with the Panthers on Wednesday. He seems like a lock to miss this game.
Saints Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: QB Jameis Winston (foot); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: RB Mark Ingram (rest), RB Alvin Kamara (rest), WR Jarvis Landry (rest), WR Michael Thomas (rest); QUESTIONABLE: RB Dwayne Washington (undisclosed), TE Taysom Hill (ribs), TE Nick Vannett (illness), DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder, finger), LB Pete Werner (groin)
Saints News & Notes:
The Saints appear to be resting a boatload of important starters in this game:
QB Jameis Winston is not going to suit up in this game as he recovers from a sprained foot:
Winston appears to be getting healthier and was seen running sprints on Wednesday, but there is no reason for the team to rush him back in a worthless preseason game. Backup QB Andy Dalton had five passing attempts on six dropbacks and third-string QB Ian Book had 22 attempts on 28 dropbacks in Week 1. According to John DeShazier, Dalton's workload could be expanded to 20 plays, though that is just a guess:
"With starting quarterback Jameis Winston (foot) ruled out, Andy Dalton again. He was scripted to go 10 plays in the opener against Houston, and went 10 while leading a touchdown drive on his one and only possession. The guess here is that Dalton's workload will expand a bit; maybe he goes 20 plays. The caveat, of course, is that if he leads a pair of five-play touchdown drives, well, that'll be enough.
Some of the players DeShazier suspects won't play include RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and WR Michael Thomas.
He also thinks Book will take over in the second quarter:
"Figure to see Ian Book in this quarter. He may have gotten snaps by the end of the first, depending on how well things go with the No. 1 offense."
First-round rookie WR Chris Olave played just 15 snaps in Week 1, while WR Kawaan Baker led all skill-position players with 37 snaps. No RB saw more playing time than Devine Ozigbo (21 snaps). It was Dwayne Washington who led the position in rushing attempts (nine) and targets (three), though he could miss Week 2.
DeShazier also took a stab at the RB position:
"The battle at backup running back continues between Tony Jones, Devine Ozigbo and Abram Smith. I don't include Dwayne Washington simply because his special team value is so high, I think he's in even if he's not the No. 3 running back (though he has made a strong case for that, too)."
The third quarter could include Jones or Ozigbo at RB and Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty at WR out on the field.
Packers Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: QB Aaron Rodgers (rest), RB Aaron Jones (rest), RB A.J. Dillon (rest), RB Kylin Hill (knee), WR Sammy Watkins (rest), WR Christian Watson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (rest), WR Allen Lazard (rest), WR Danny Davis (undisclosed), TE Robert Tonyan (knee), TE Marcedes Lewis (rest), LT David Bakhtiari (knee), RT Elgton Jenkins (knee), DE Rashan Gary (rest), S Darnell Savage (hamstring); LIKELY TO PLAY: WR Juwann Winfree (groin)
Packers News & Notes:
The Packers have a massive list of players resting for tonight's contest:
Green Bay has some unknowns at the WR position in terms of availability, while the top two RBs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are going to be rested. WR Amari Rodgers benefitted greatly last game with a position-high 53 snaps. No RB topped Tyler Goodson's 29 snaps. Rookie WR Romeo Doubs (22.6% target share) and WR Juwaan Winfree (9.7% target share) could be in a position for solid workloads once again.
It's fair to expect Goodson to continue getting a strong workload. Head coach Matt LaFleur suggested Goodson and Patrick Taylor would carry the load throughout the course of the preseason.
Texans Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: RB Darius Anderson (knee), WR John Metchie III (knee, Leukemia), WR Davion Davis (undisclosed); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: WR Drew Estrada (leg), TE Anthony Auclair (knee); QUESTIONABLE: QB Kyle Allen (COVID-19), RB Rex Burkhead (rest), WR Brandin Cooks (rest), WR Chester Rogers (ankle), TE Pharaoh Brown (hamstring), TE Teagan Quitoriano (undisclosed), LT Laremy Tunsil (rest), T Kenyon Green (knee), CB Derek Stingley Jr. (Lisfranc)
Texans News & Notes:
The Texans are going to be missing a handful of players, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network:
Texans head coach Lovie Smith did not delve into his plans for playing time ahead of their game with the Rams:
We can only wonder why, but Smith has chosen to be secretive. With that being said, the Texans did start a handful of their regular starters in preseason Week 1, including QB Davis Mills. He — and the majority of the starting lineup — played just seven snaps.
All eyes were on rookie RB Dameon Pierce, and deservedly so. The rookie racked up 49 rushing yards on just five attempts. He looked explosive and decisive and could work his way up the depth chart with another strong showing this week.
Rams Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: QB Matthew Stafford (rest), RB Cam Akers (rest), RB Darrell Henderson (rest), RB Xavier Jones (Achilles), RB Kyren Williams (foot), WR Cooper Kupp (rest), WR Allen Robinson (rest), WR Van Jefferson (knee), WR Brandon Powell (knee), TE Tyler Higbee (rest), DT Aaron Donald (rest), CB Jalen Ramsey (shoulder); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: WR Tutu Atwell (rest), WR Ben Skowronek (rest); QUESTIONABLE: WR J.J. Koski (shoulder), TE Jacob Harris (knee); WILL PLAY: QB John Wolford
Rams News & Notes:
The Rams could very well be the most boring yet straightforward team in the NFL when it comes to their intentions. Just like they did in Week 1, the Rams will not play any starters nor "key contributors" in this game, though backup QB John Wolford will play. He's slated to start the first half, with Bryce Perkins taking over the second half:
It could mean absolutely nothing, but one has to wonder if that means Wolford's job as the backup isn't so safe after Perkins' stellar three-touchdown performance.
While Perkins did a great job chucking the football, it was WR Lance McCutcheon who did damage on the receiving end. The undrafted rookie secured a team-high five receptions on six targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
There wasn't much to evaluate in the RB room, but Raymond Calais led the way with 24 snaps. The remaining trio of Jake Funk (13), Trey Ragas (10), and Asim Rose (14) divvied up the snaps pretty evenly. It could look similar this week with Kyren Williams being ruled out, and Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson sidelined because of rest/soft-tissue injuries.