With regular season football on the horizon, preseason contests will continue to grow in their intensity (and hopefully their level of polish) compared to previous weeks. Below are a few storylines that are playing out in Week 3.
Josh Allen gets the start for Buffalo
The Ravens will host the Bills in Week 1 of the regular season, making Buffalo’s preseason developments more interesting to the Baltimore base. While AJ McCarron is expected to return to practice soon, Josh Allen is still slated to get the start in Buffalo’s Week 3 contest against the Bengals after making strides in his last appearance.
Against the Browns last Friday, Allen went nine of 13 for 60 yards and recorded one touchdown and no turnovers, resulting in a 104.6 passer rating. In Week 1, Allen completed nine of his 19 passes for 116 yards, threw one touchdown and zero interceptions for a 84.5 passer rating.
Josh Allen declined in his last year at Wyoming, throwing for 1,391 less yards and 12 fewer touchdowns. However, he threw just six interceptions compared to 15 in 2016. The fact that he played in the Mountain West makes it harder to evaluate his NFL potential, given his lack of experience against Power 5 talent compared to other quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class. It will be interesting to see if he can separate himself from AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman when given the chance to perform with the first team offense.
Roquan Smith to make his debut for the Bears
Georgia linebacker, Roquan Smith is set to make his debut for the Chicago Bears when they square off against the Kansas City Chiefs. The eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, Smith held out for 29 days, 15 practiced and two preseason contests, and he was the final rookie to sign a deal. The dispute originated from contract language regarding reclaiming guaranteed money if he were to be penalized for illegal helmet hits. Given the uncertainty and disparities in enforcing the new helmet-contact rule, Smith was wise to protect himself against financial fines.
In his final collegiate season, Smith had 137 total tackles (85 solo and 52 assisted), two passes defensed, 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble. It will be worth watching to see if his time away from training camp impacts his ability to contribute and adjust to the pros.
The helmet-contact rule saga continues
Perhaps the biggest story developing this preseason is the drama surrounding the new helmet-contact rule. Stakeholders including players, coaches, NFL alumni, media and fans have all expressed confusion and disdain for both the implementation and officiating of the new rule. On Wednesday, the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations released the following statement:
While the NFL is remaining steadfast, if the negative response and potential for game changing impact persists into the regular season, then the rule will surely become a hot button issue. The NFL is not that far removed from the repercussions of the 2012 NFL referee lockout and is struggling to maintain viewership, so fans should not be surprised if tweaks end up being implemented. In the meantime, the NFL is updating the league’s video tutorial on the rule for game officials, coaches and players, according to ESPN. The new video is set to be made available ahead of the regular season.