FOX Sports South projects the top seven storylines for Week 2 of the NFL preseason -- a time when many star playmakers log significant reps ... and rookies, namely the Browns' Johnny Manziel and Jaguars' Blake Bortles, garner extended auditions for quarterbacking jobs that are seemingly wide open. (Photos: Andrew Weber/Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Miller's Golden Opportunity
RANKING: 7 ... MATCHUP: Jaguars @ Bears ...SKINNY: In last week's preseason opener, Zach Miller -- the OTHER Zach Miller in fantasy circles -- caught six balls for 68 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, fueling talk the Bears could possibly do without the hot/cold production of enigmatic tight end Martellus Bennett, who was previously kicked out of training camp practices for body-slamming rookie teammate Kyle Fuller. While Miller certainly deserves credit for his success against Philly ... let's also remember he has registered just four TDs, five starts and 45 catches in his pedestrian four-year NFL career. Bennett, on the other hand, has averaged 60 receptions, 685 and five scores the last two seasons.
Mohamed Sanu Has Big Shoes To Fill
RANKING: 6 ... MATCHUP: Jets @ Bengals ...SKINNY: In the wake of Marvin Jones' foot injury, likely sidelining him until early October, the Bengals will undoubtedly fill that WR2 spot in-house, meaning that Sanu (above), Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Tate, Ryan Whalen or even tight end Tyler Eifert could occupy the wideout slot, opposite star receiver A.J. Green. Sanu possesses the greatest upside for that coveted role, collecting five or more targets seven times last season and pulling down 47 catches for 455 yards. Here's something else to motivate Sanu: Jones' breakout game of 2013 (eight catches, 122 yards, four TDs) came against the Jets -- Cincy's opponent for Saturday.
Something Has To Give With The Texans' QB Mess
RANKING: 5 ... MATCHUP: Falcons @ Texans ...SKINNY: Over the years, we've heard the line, "You could do worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick as your quarterback" -- a nod to his Harvard education, solid completion percentage (around 60) and three-year average of 23.7 passing TDs from 2010-12. But that was then ... this is now for the 31-year-old passer, who was never blessed with great quickness or a strong arm in his 20s. As Exhibit A, Fitzpatrick (left -- two INTs) struggled mightily in Houston's 32-0 debacle vs. Arizona last week. Of course, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien isn't flush with options in Houston -- Case Keenum, rookie Tom Savage or perhaps trading for Pats backup Ryan Mallett (right), who has intimate knowledge of O'Brien's offense, dating back to their New England days. (Photos: Matt Kartozian/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Does It Matter If Blake Bortles Plays Well In August?
RANKING: 4 ... MATCHUP: Jaguars @ Bears ...SKINNY: There are two schools of thought with rookie quarterbacks playing on bad teams: 1) Start 'em from Day 1 and let the passers get their obligatory first-year mistakes out of the way. 2) Slowly work 'em into the gameplan, perhaps allowing for the rookie to handle a series of scripted snaps in the first half. Both methods have their merits, just like both theories can affect the bottom line by season's end. In Jacksonville's case, the club feels no pressure to rush Bortles (the No. 3 overall draft pick) into action -- even coming off a good performance in the preseason opener (7 of 11 for 117 yards, including four completions in tight spaces). Of course, if Bortles should light up the Bears on Thursday ... the patient stances of Jags Nation may wildly shift in the other direction.
NFL Hails Broncos-49ers As Must-See TV -- Twice
RANKING: 3 ... MATCHUP: Broncos @ 49ers ...SKINNY: The NFL may be a fuddy-duddy league at times, but let the record show: The league has a sense of humor with scheduling. Why else would Peyton Manning's Broncos draw the NFL's two best teams in the first two outings of the preseason -- the same Seahawks and 49ers clubs they'll see for Weeks 3 and 7 of the regular season? Yes, we understand the regional proximity involving Seattle/Denver and Denver/San Francisco, but is it really fair for teams to meet in the preseason andregular season? The lone saving grace for Manning (left) and Colin Kaepernick (right): Neither quarterback will do much game-planning for Sunday's potential, uh, 'Super Bowl preview.' (Photos: Ron Chenoy/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Should Ryan Mathews Be Treated As A Workhorse Back In San Diego?
RANKING: 2 ... MATCHUP: Chargers @ Seahawks ... SKINNY: As an isolated play, it makes little sense to overreact to Mathews' goal-line fumble in last week's preseason opener (against Dallas). But in the grander view, it's fair to wonder if the Chargers should keep pushing Mathews (1,444 total yards, seven TDs last year) as their "workhorse" back -- given the 2013 successes of backups Danny Woodhead (1,034 total yards, eight TDs), Donald Brown (751 yards, eight TDs with Indy) and the explosive potential of rookie Branden Oliver -- a Darren Sproles clone (wears No. 43, as well). At age 27, Mathews has yet to amass 320 total touches in a single campaign ... a pattern that could continue in 2014, especially if the fumbles persist.
The Manziel Circus Heads To Our Nation's Capital
RANKING: 1 ... MATCHUP: Browns @ Redskins ... SKINNY: We're going to stay consistent here, relative to last week's "storylines" preview: QB Brian Hoyer (92 yards passing in Cleveland's preseason opener) is facing an uphill (and perhaps mountainous) climb to be the Browns' Week 1 starter, given all the attention to rookie Johnny Manziel (90 total yards last week). In this so-called 50/50 competition, Hoyer needs to outclass Manziel from a production standpoint to draw the opening-day start; but he has yet to create that separation. Plus, if the Browns coaches are genuinely considering Manziel for a possible Week 1 start ... he'll need to log substantial time with the first-team offense during the preseason (read: the next two weekends).