The first week of the NFL Preseason is nearing and we've got a two-game slate on Thursday night with the New York Giants squaring off against the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans facing the Baltimore Ravens.
The NFL shifted from four preseason games to three last year, with this year's preseason schedule following the same outline.
Let's dive into the news, notes, depth charts, historical playing time, and notable injuries for all four teams heading into Thursday.
Giants Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: WR Sterling Shepard (Achilles), WR Kadarius Toney (leg), TE Ricky Seals-Jones (undisclosed), TE Andre Miller (wrist), DT Leonard Willims; UNLIKELY TO PLAY: RB Matt Breida (undisclosed), WR David Sills V (undisclosed), WR Austin Proehl (undisclosed), DE Azeez Ojulari (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: RB Antonio Williams (knee), WR Robert Foster (undisclosed); LIKELY TO PLAY: WR C.J. Board (undisclosed)
Giants News & Notes:
Mike Giardi of NFL Network notes that Saquon Barkley will play on Thursday, "even if it's not for long." Barkley has only played 6 preseason snaps in his career.
There could be a rough gameplan for the Giants' quarterbacks in terms of playing time, according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News:
"Expect Daniel Jones and the first-string offense to play about a quarter of Thursday night’s preseason opener in New England, depending on the flow of the game. Individual players could have their own plans, too. Tyrod Taylor then probably will clean up the rest of the first half before third-stringer Davis Webb plays the second half."
"Everybody’s in new offensive and defensive systems here,”. “I think that’s important to play football: to have live reps. How many reps that’s going to be, I can’t tell you right now. I think it’s going to be less for some and more for others, and each game will have a plan going into it."
Certain starters might play just one series, per Art Stapleton of The Record Sports.
The Giants are likely to enter this game extremely light at the running back and wide receiver positions. Since the starters are expected to have their reps limited, there could be ample playing time available for WRs Collin Johnson, Darius Slayton, and Richie James. Looking at running back, Gary Brightwell and Jashaun Corbin should get plenty of run if Antonio Williams doesn't suit up. According to the Giants' first unofficial depth chart, Brightwell is listed ahead of Williams, though Williams has gotten plenty of reps as the No. 3 RB throughout training camp.
Patriots Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: RB James White (hip); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: QB Mac Jones and "most Patriots starters." QUESTIONABLE: TE Devin Asiasi (hand), TE Dalton Keene (undisclosed), LT Isaiah Wynn (undisclosed); LIKELY TO PLAY: WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey (undisclosed)
Patriots News & Notes:
Mac Jones isn't participating in pregame warmups. Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe will be the Patriots' quarterback combination on Thursday night.
ESPN's Mike Reiss shared the below image on Thursday, which is what he expects the Patriots' lineups to be against the Giants:
In classic Patriots and Bill Belichick fashion, New England is keeping most of their preseason plans close to their vest. Belichick stated:
"[The team] hasn’t had a discussion yet about which starters will and won’t play in the preseason opener on Thursday."
Over the last two preseasons, we can see the Patriots had two vastly different ideas for playing time in the first preseason game. To note — 2021 was the NFL's first year of implementing just three preseason games, and that could've played a role in the adjustment for Belichick and his staff.
According to Zack Cox of NESN, Belichick also dodged questions about starting quarterback Mac Jones' potential playing time heading into the preseason opener:
"Will Mac Jones play Thursday night? Belichick: 'We haven’t even had those conversations yet.'"
Death. Taxes. Belichick keeping it close to the vest. ESPN NFL Nation Reporter Mike Reiss suspects Jones will likely sit, giving way to backups Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe. Hoyer likely won't play much considering his veteran status, leaving much of the playing time to Zappe:
Titans Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: RB Derrick Henry (rest); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: QB Ryan Tannehill (rest), WR Robert Woods (knee/rest); QUESTIONABLE: RB Dontrell Hilliard (hand), TE Tommy Hudson (leg), TE Briley Moore (undisclosed), CB Caleb Farley (knee)
Titans News & Notes:
Jim Wyatt of TennesseeTitans.com writes that viewers hoping to see Ryan Tannehill and other veteran starters on offense will be disappointed. Wyatt adds that backup QBs Malik Willis and Logan Woodside are "each expected to play roughly a half."
It shouldn't come as a surprise, but Henry is not going to play in preseason Week 1. Frankly, the Titans would be wise to hold him on the sidelines for the entirety of the preseason. His exclusion should allow for Dontrell Hilliard — if healthy — Jordan Wilkins, and Hassan Haskins to receive plenty of work.
All eyes are going to be on rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks. The good news is that we should get to see Burks and the other young players, according to Vrabel.
Woods and Farley are both recovering from torn ACLs and should be considered questionable for all intents and purposes. Both players have continuously practiced and could probably suit up if it was Week 1 of the regular season, but the Titans really have no reason to push either player. It wouldn't be surprising if the team errs on the side of caution and opts to hold them out.
Looking back to last year, Vrabel went with an extremely cautious approach in preseason Week 1, allowing just his tight end and right tackle to play a handful of snaps:
It's obviously not a guarantee Vrabel decides to utilize the same strategy, but there's a chance we see a lot of backups for the Titans across the board on Thursday night. Three intriguing names to look out for that have stood out in training camp practices are WRs Racey McMath and Kyle Phillips, and TE Chig Okonkwo.
Ravens Notable Injuries/Absences:
OUT: QB Lamar Jackson (rest), RB Gus Edwards (knee), WR Rashod Bateman (rest), WR Devin Duvernay (rest), WR James Proche (rest); TE Mark Andrews (rest), TE Charlie Kolar (hernia), LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), C Tyler Linderbaum (foot), DE Justin Houston (rest), DE David Ojabo (Achilles), S Marcus Williams (rest), CB Marlon Humphrey (rest), CB Marcus Peters (knee); UNLIKELY TO PLAY: RB J.K. Dobbins (knee), WR Devon Williams (undisclosed), DE Tyus Bowser (Achilles); QUESTIONABLE: WR James Proche II (undisclosed), WR Bailey Gaither (undisclosed), WR Slade Bolden (undisclosed)
Ravens News & Notes:
No team has provided us with more preseason information than the Ravens. The list of players that are sidelined is long and includes multiple offensive stars. We don't know who they're planning to start yet, but there's a good shot QB Tyler Huntley, RBs Corey Clement, Mike Davis, and Justice Hill, and TEs Nick Boyle and Isaiah Likely will get some playing time in this game.
Boyle is tougher to project, though the veteran tight end is basically begging for some preseason reps as he returns from a season-ending knee injury in 2021.
The receiver position has plenty of question marks as Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay just returned to practice, and James Proche missed practice on Tuesday. There's a chance all three sit or play minimal snaps if they do suit up. In that case, Tylan Wallace and Jaylon Moore could get ample playing time.