Brady back on field, perhaps vs. Brees in New Orleans
A look at what to expect in Saturday night's NFL preseason games (all times EDT):
PATRIOTS AT SAINTS, 7:30 p.m.
Tom Brady took every first-team snap in Thursday's final joint practice with the Saints in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. And he picked apart New Orleans' defense, looking much sharper than his brief but largely ineffective appearance in the Patriots' preseason opener against Green Bay.
It looks like Brady is determined to be ready for Week 1, even as he awaits the outcome of his legal challenge to his four-game ''Deflategate'' suspension. Brady's backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, didn't get much work Thursday, but will need plenty of preseason snaps in case Brady's suspension is upheld.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was a healthy scratch in the preseason opener and it's unclear how much he'll play when New England visits the Superdome. Saints coach Sean Payton is trying to evaluate three potential backups, including rookie third-round draft choice Garrett Grayson. Meanwhile, the Saints' starting defensive backfield has been sidelined by nagging injuries, so coaches should get good looks at reserves, including 2015 draft picks P.J. Williams and Damian Swann, who are trying to climb the depth chart.
Payton also has foreshadowed more action for second-year, 6-foot-6 receiver Brandon Coleman, who didn't have a catch last week at Baltimore, but has stood out in training camp.
BRONCOS AT TEXANS, 8 p.m.
Peyton Manning will make his 2015 debut. The 39-year-old Manning sat out the first preseason game, but coach Gary Kubiak said ''he'll play quite a bit'' against the Texans. Manning gets his first chance to showcase a new look where he'll mostly be lining up under center or in the pistol instead of working from the shotgun, where he's taken snaps for almost the entire time he's been in Denver. He'll be missing a main target Saturday with receiver Emmanuel Sanders sitting out with a sore hamstring.
It will be a homecoming for Kubiak, who was born in Houston and coached the Texans from 2006 until he was fired near the end of the 2013 season.
The Texans still haven't decided if Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett will start the season for them at quarterback. Hoyer started the first game, but coach Bill O'Brien said Mallett will get the nod this week. O'Brien said Thursday it remains an ''even battle'' and that he'll make a decision ''eventually.''
On defense, 2014 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt could get his first work after sitting out the preseason opener, along with new nose tackle Vince Wilfork and veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph. But there's a chance Watt might just be a spectator again, with O'Brien saying ''there will probably be a couple of guys who won't play in the game.''
RAVENS AT EAGLES, 7 p.m.
Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray are expected to make their debuts with the Eagles, though coach Chip Kelly wouldn't confirm if or how long his new quarterback and All-Pro running back will play.
Both players sat out Philadelphia's impressive 36-10 win over Indianapolis in the preseason opener. Bradford hasn't played since tearing his left ACL for the second time in less than a year last August with St. Louis. Murray is being eased in after leading the league in touches last year with Dallas.
Most of the focus will be on the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job between Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow. Barkley had better numbers against the Colts, but Kelly made sure to point out Tebow played with reserves and receivers ran wrong routes.
For the Ravens, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan makes his preseason debut after a strong showing in practices this week against the Eagles. Jernigan is replacing departed Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele (foot), Rick Wagner (foot), and Jah Reid (back) all didn't practice Friday and likely won't play.
The teams held joint practices for three days.
DOLPHINS AT PANTHERS, 7 p.m.
With Kelvin Benjamin out for the season with a torn ACL, the Panthers will be looking for answers at wide receiver, where neither starting position is settled. Corey ''Philly'' Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie Devin Funchess are considered the top four contenders for major playing time, although Funchess (hamstring) will not play Saturday night. The team no longer has a No. 1 wide receiver.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is expected to play after being held out against Buffalo. Carolina will be relying heavily on its running game, the playmaking ability of QB Cam Newton, and multiple tight end sets in the wake of the Benjamin injury.
Similarly, the Dolphins will be looking for someone to step up and fill in at safety after losing Louis Delmas to a torn ACL on Wednesday during a scrimmage with the Panthers. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is hoping Michael Thomas or Walt Aikens fills that role. That evaluation begins against the Panthers, with Philbin asking, ''Can they get a guy down in space? Can they tackle a guy when it's third-and-8 and the guy catches a 5-yard pass?
''Those type of things, we need to see them compete and make plays,'' he added.
CHARGERS AT CARDINALS, 10 p.m.
Carson Palmer will have a hard time improving on his brief performance in last week's preseason opener, but the Arizona quarterback will have more time to work.
Palmer, 4 for 4 for 70 yards in an 80-yard touchdown drive in his only possession against Kansas City, is to play the entire first quarter against the Chargers.
The Arizona first unit will have three new members: right tackle Bradley Sowell, left guard Ted Larsen and rookie nose tackle Rodney Gunter.
Sowell, the starter at left tackle two years ago, moved ahead of Bobby Massie, who reportedly is facing a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Massie, arrested on a DUI charge at Cardinals headquarters the night before the Super Bowl, has been splitting time with first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries with the second unit. The NFL has not announced the suspension, but a person close to the situation told The Associated Press that Massie had appealed the three-game suspension.
Larsen steps in for Mike Iupati, who will undergo surgery to repair a meniscus and will be out up to eight weeks. Gunter, a fourth-round draft pick from Delaware State, replaces Corey Peters, out for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon.
Coach Bruce Arians said he hopes to get newly signed Chris Johnson five or six carries. Rookie RB David Johnson, who had missed most of camp until this week with a hamstring injury, will play most of the second and all of the third quarter.
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, the 15th pick overall, expects to play despite missing Wednesday's practice with a sprained right ankle. ''Just go out there and be sharp. That's the whole thing about training camp, is to go out there and be clean on anything you do,'' he said.
Gordon had a limited role in Thursday's practice before the Chargers broke camp. He carried six times for 11 yards in last week's exhibition opener against Dallas.
Coach Mike McCoy declined to say if he'll start the same offensive line as last week. D.J. Fluker has moved from right tackle to right guard, and free agent pickup Joe Barksdale is now at right tackle. McCoy says Fluker has done ''a nice job'' at guard.
BEARS AT COLTS, 7:30 p.m.
The feature attraction, Jay Cutler vs. Andrew Luck, won't last very long. It might not even be that good.
Injuries forced Cutler to work without either of his projected starting receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, during two midweek practices against the Colts. It's also unclear how much work, if any, Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte will get in his first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium since rushing for 123 yards and one touchdown in a 29-13 victory in 2008. That was his NFL debut. But Forte didn't even touch the ball in last week's win over Miami.
Luck might not have more at his disposal, either. Frank Gore and Andre Johnson probably will suit up for their new home fans Saturday, though neither is expected to play long. Newly re-signed receiver T.Y. Hilton is likely to be on a play count, too, after sitting out Sunday at Philadelphia for personal reasons.
But the real questions for both teams are on defense anyway.
Indianapolis struggled with its tackling in a blowout loss to the Eagles, and the Bears are still trying to prove they'll be better after allowing the two highest point totals in franchise history in 2013 and 2014.
RAIDERS AT VIKINGS, 8 p.m.
The Raiders are trying to build off a decent preseason debut, an 18-3 victory over St. Louis. Their running game, last in the league in 2014 with an average of 77.5 yards per game, got a spark from expected starter Latavius Murray (35 yards on six carries).
Oakland's sideline will be a site for several familiar faces to Minnesota fans, spanning several stretches of team history. Quarterback Christian Ponder, the backup to Derek Carr, will conjure the freshest memories and, likely, a round of boos for his disappointing four-year stint with the Vikings.
Then there's the coaching staff, starting with new boss Jack Del Rio, who played for the Vikings from 1992-95. One of Del Rio's former teammates in Minnesota, Mike Tice, is his offensive line coach. Tice was fired 10 years ago by the Vikings after four-plus seasons as their head coach.
Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave served the same role for Minnesota from 2011-13. Finally, Oakland's new quarterbacks coach, Todd Downing, grew up near Vikings headquarters and was on their staff under Tice from 2001-05.
For the Vikings, 6-0 in exhibition games under coach Mike Zimmer, the main goal, naturally, is avoid getting anybody hurt. Starting right tackle Phil Loadholt was lost for the season last week because of a torn Achilles tendon. Rookie T.J. Clemmings has taken over. With Mike Harris at right guard and another potential backup, Carter Bykowski, out for the year (torn pectoral muscle), depth at tackle has been considerably thinned.
Outside linebacker Anthony Barr, whose bothersome knee has kept him from full participation in much of training camp, will get his first game action.
JAGUARS AT GIANTS, 7:30 p.m.
The Jaguars posted the biggest comeback in franchise history, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Giants in what was the low point of the 2014 season for New York.
Blake Bortles was 11 of 15 for 118 yards and ran for a touchdown in a win over Pittsburgh last week. Of his four incompletions, three were drops.
Bortles is expected to play most of the first half and will be without tight end Julius Thomas (broken hand) and receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring). Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon (sprained finger) is expected to sit out a second straight week.
Joining them on the sideline will be safeties Johnathan Cyprien (hand) and James Sample (forearm), defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and defensive end Chris Clemons, who returned to practice this week after dealing with personal issues. Defensive linemen Jared Odrick (knee) and Roy Miller (knee) are expected to make their preseason debuts.
Giants did little on either side of the ball in a loss to Cincinnati, and the lines failed to either stop the run or generate a rushing attack.
Eli Manning and the offense did not get a first down in four series. Odell Beckham Jr. should see limited action, while fellow receivers Victor Cruz (calf) and Rueben Randle (knee) probably won't play. Guard-tackle Geoff Schwartz (ankle) will make his preseason debut.
Veteran safety Brandon Meriweather is expected to make his Giants debut. Cornerback Prince Amukamara may play after missing opener with a groin injury.
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