Poor turf conditions for the Hall of Fame game caused the NFL preseason to be delayed but that slight interruption is over and the league kicks off their 2016 preseason tonight. NFL clubs have until August 30th to cut their rosters from 90 down to 75 so for a lot of the Bulls trying to make rosters these first couple of preseason games are huge.
Two years ago Branden Oliver went from "camp meat" to a guy to watch, and eventually, to the roster because of a fantastic showing in San Diego's opening preseason game against Dallas.
|Tampa Bay||Philadelphia||11-Aug||6:00 PM||Steven Means, Jake Schum|
Steven Means lines up across from the team that drafted him in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. At stake for Means is a shot at a job with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Means lasted two season in Tampa Bay before being one of the last guys cut in the 2014 preseason. He was signed by Baltimore and in the 2015 preseason Means was looking to make the team before being injured late in the preseason.
The word out of Philadelphia is that Means has shown big potential as an edge rusher. If he can show that potential in these early preseason games he could end up an Eagle this season.
Across the field, Jake Schum is trying to hold onto his job as Tampa Bay's punter. The Bucks spent a bit of money to bring in Bryan Anger for a preseason showdown with Schum. The last I heard is that right now Schum is slightly behind Anger in the race.
|Denver||Chicago||11-Aug||7:00 PM||John Kling|
John Kling has generated some great publicity in Chicago, especially for an undrafted free agent. The scuttlebutt is that the coaching staff thinks Kling has the potential to be a very useful swing backup lineman for Chicago. He has the size and has been focusing on the form this summer.
Not only has Kling held up his end on the field but he may benefit from some injuries that have thinned out Chicago's reserves on the lines. They recently brought in a former second-round pick who had to sit out all of 2015 with a back injury.
That could mean more time in these early games for Kling.
|Minnesota||Cincinnati||12-Aug||6:30 PM||Joe Licata|
Joe Licata is sitting fourth on the Cincinnati roster behind Keith Wenning. Either and only one of Wenning or Licata will end up on the Bengals practice squad so Licata is going to need to make every play matter in these early games.
Licata has played well in camp but an UDFA quarterback going into a stable situation where the best case scenario is the practice squad puts Joe behind the eight ball. Working in Licata's favor is an injury to AJ McCarron. With one of the two main roster guys likely to sit out Friday's game the Bengals will give more reps to Wenning and Licata.
If Joe can't overtake Wenning the extra reps will give him more game film to use while looking for other jobs in the NFL.
|Cleveland||Green Bay||12-Aug||7:00 PM||James Starks|
We were supposed to see Starks last week but the turf conditions led to the game being called off. So Starks will get his first action tomorrow against Cleveland. He's almost a lock to make the roster this season, at stake for Starks is an expanded role in the Green Bay Offense.
Last year Starks briefly took the starting job from Eddie Lacy but some ball security issues late in the season, along with Lacy getting his act together when it comes to conditioning, makes a repeat more difficult.
|Oakland||Arizona||12-Aug||9:00 PM||Khalil Mack|
|Khalil Mack is looking to be one of the best defensive players in the NFL this season. Chances are he only plays a series or two against Arizona. All the Raiders really want to see out of Mack this week is no injury.|
|Seattle||Kansas City||13-Aug||3:30 PM||Kristjan Sokoli|
Sokoli was drafted by Seattle as a project lineman and if he does not show some progress this preseason his stint with the Seahawks could come to an end.
He played defensive line at UB and was drafted because of his freakishly good athleticisim. The Seahawks saw someone who could be molded into a solid figure on the offensive line. But this season he is being pushed by a pretty deep collection of reserve linemen.
He's worked with Seattle's second team at guard and coaches have hinted he may get some training in at center.
|Dallas||Los Angeles||13-Aug||7:00 PM||Josh Thomas|
Thomas was brought into Dallas late last year to help an injury addled defensive secondary. He lived in the area and Dallas needed someone on short notice. Many thought his second stint with the Cowboys, who had initially drafted Thomas, would be short.
Thomas had different ideas. The journeyman defensive back has played well in camp, earning some first-team reps and holding his own against guys like Andy Jones.
Last year in Minnesota, Thomas came within a hair's breadth of making the final roster. This year in Dallas, if he has a good preseason, he may get over the top.
|San Diego||Tennessee||13-Aug||7:00 PM||Branden Oliver, Matt Weiser|
Matt Weiser is hoping to do what his teammate, Branden Oliver, did two years ago. Come out of nowhere as an UDFA in the presason and prove a lot of teams should have drafted him.
Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry the top tight ends on the depth chart. After that, there is a logjam for the third tight end slot. If San Diego holds onto four tight ends Weiser may have a puncher's chance.
The question for Oliver is how will San Diego use him? He's likely third on the depth chart but given his success when healthy the Chargers want to use him. Coaches have talked about adding formations aimed at increasing Oliver's role in the offense.