Will the Broncos part ways with veteran Mark Sanchez and keep just two quarterbacks? What will the Giants do with Victor Cruz? Is former top-10 pick Justin Gilbert on his way out in Cleveland? NFL Nation reporters answer these questions and much more as they take their final crack at projecting the 53-man rosters for all 32 teams.
Click the links after each team’s description to view the full posts.
Arizona Cardinals: Within the past few weeks, Mike Jenkins has made a push at cornerback. There isn’t a clear-cut starting corner opposite of Patrick Peterson.
One saving grace in light of what has been an injury-filled August is fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who has been one of the breakout players of the 2016 preseason. Among quarterbacks with 25 attempts or more this preseason, Prescott leads the league in passer rating (137.8). He’s third in completion percentage (78.0 percent), fifth in yards per attempt (9.1 yards per throw) and has thrown for five touchdowns without an interception. Toss in two rushing touchdowns and Prescott has arguably been the offensive MVP of the preseason.
Still, the questions for the Cowboys are everywhere.
What have the Cowboys done to put themselves in this situation? Can they work their way out of it? And is their 2016 season doomed before Week 1? I watched Prescott’s preseason tape, ran through some numbers, and found some echoes from bad Cowboys decisions of the past still haunting them years later. Let’s attempt some answers.
Romo is hurt, but Prescott has looked great so far. So should the Cowboys be worried about their offense?
Yes, the Cowboys should be worried. Obviously, there’s no reason to feel worse about things with Prescott playing well; you would much rather have your rookie quarterback look precocious in the preseason than overwhelmed and underprepared. I just don’t know how much Prescott’s preseason performance means and how well he fits in the offense the Cowboys have run over the past few years.
There’s no real history of preseason performance by rookies (or players in new places) having any meaningful value in projecting their immediate NFL futures. I wrote about this very topic in regards to Blake Bortles in 2014 after the then-rookie got off to a sterling start in August. Bortles was a mess during the same regular season. In 2015, Bortles’ preseason performance was worse, and yet, he was a much better quarterback during the regular season. During that same 2015 preseason, Sam Bradford was so incredible during a 15-pass preseason that he turned down a four-year, $72-million contract extension.
Raw rookies can look great in the preseason for a number of reasons. One, they’re often playing against the opposing team’s backups with the second and third strings. Second, the schemes they are running are simplified and nowhere near as complex as the responsibilities they’ll be forced to run when the games count. And even more important, the same is true of the defenses they’re up against: Preseason defenses are less likely to blitz and regarded as far more vanilla than the stuff they’ll show to the opposition during the regular season.
Thanks to Romo’s injuries even before this past week, Prescott has spent some time during this preseason with the Dallas ones. He has exhibited all the tools you would want from a modern quarterback, showing off arm strength, a quick release and the speed to get out of the pocket when things get hairy. You can see why Dallas drafted him despite less-than-impressive efficiency numbers at Mississippi State.
Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley Jr., the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has to elevate his game after a disappointing preseason. Maybe the switch from end to strong-side linebacker has been too much.
Baltimore Ravens: Michael Campanaro gets the nod over rookie sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds for the slot receiver/returner job.
Buffalo Bills: Undrafted rookie Glenn Gronkowski saw some action with the first team, and coach Rex Ryan did not rule out the possibility of keeping two fullbacks. It’s hard to see the Bills managing that, however.
Carolina Panthers: Why keep a third quarterback when Cam Newton has missed only two starts in five seasons and Derek Anderson is a reliable backup? Simple. Joe Webb can play quarterback, wide receiver and on special teams.