NFL

Top 10 Stories Of 2015 NFL Preseason

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As preseason comes to a close we’re going to look back at the Top 10 story lines of what has been a crazy month and start to the season.

1. RG3 Benched

The marriage between the Washington Redskins and former starting quarterback Robert Griffin, III is in a downward spiral.  RG3 was clearly never Jay Gruden’s guy and he took verbal shots at him almost every chance he got.  Griffin opened the door for his benching by playing poorly and this gave Gruden enough ammo to hitch his wagon to Kirk Cousins.

It’s a pretty fair bet that neither Gruden, Griffin or Cousins are with the Redskins in 2016.

2. Stars Getting Injured

This story line isn’t 2015 specific, as stars get injured during every preseason and training camp.  Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin and Orlando Scandrick will miss the entire season due to torn ACL’s, and Maurkice Pouncey will miss a big part of it with an ankle injury.  Julius Thomas will miss significant time with the Jaguars.

This once again brings up the question of shortening games that don’t count that most people don’t care about.

3. Starting QB Battles

There were two “real” quarterback competitions in the NFL, in Buffalo and in Houston.  The biggest longshot entering preseason, Tyrod Taylor won his battle.  Taylor impressed Rex Ryan and the rest of the Bills coaching staff and simply made it impossible to give the job to anyone else.

Meanwhile in Houston, Brian Hoyer hardly set the world ablaze, but he was more consistent and less turnover prone than Ryan Mallett and that’s what won him the job.  This competition was especially interesting because we had a peek into it during HBO’s Hard Knocks.

4. Rugby Star Looks Like A Football Player

Lots of jokes were being bandied about when former rugby star Jarryd Hayne signed a contract with the San Francisco 49ers, albeit on a tryout basis.  The 6-foot-2, 220 pound Australian has caused a frenzy in his own country with TV networks trying to broadcast 49ers games.

On the field Hayne has looked great, popping off big runs and kick returns, while displaying soft hands.

Still, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula won’t commit to the Aussie making the final roster.

“I don’t know what the rules are in the media in Australia, but you might want to fact check,” Tomsula told San Francisco’s KNBR radio station.

“The 53 is not set.”

5. Timmy’s Back!

Somehow the National Football League survived 2014 without Tim Tebow being more confused by opposing defenses than a fourth-grader attempting calculus before throwing ducks to oncoming defenders.

Thank goodness we only had to endure a year of “The Chosen One’s” absence.

Tebow is back, this time in Philadelphia, doing all the wrong things at the quarterback position and occasionally making it work.  This is a chance where Eagles head coach Chip Kelly can display that he has enough of an ego to waste a roster spot because he thinks he can do what John Fox, Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick couldn’t: Make Tim Tebow a somewhat valuable professional football player.

The former University of Florida Heisman Trophy winner plays quarterback to the equivalent of someone at a blackjack table that continuously hits on 19, occasionally pulling out that magical 2 of spades.

He’s an absolute train wreck at the quarterback position and there might not be anything more intriguing to watch.

6. Rookie QB Watch

There are more than just two rookie quarterbacks playing in the preseason, but for the purposes of this discussion, we only care about the two.  Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston looked abysmal, then great, then horrific in his first three preseason starts.  That’s likely the way his rookie season is going to go.

Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota didn’t throw an interception for the first two weeks of Tennessee Titans practice, before throwing one in the first quarter and adding a fumble-six in his first preseason game.  Mariota has bounced back and progressively looked better and better each week.

The Bucs and Titans square off against each other in the season opener and these two quarterbacks will be measured against each other’s accomplishments for their entire careers.

7. Nate Boyer’s Short Run

Most everyone has heard about the story of Nate Boyer, 34-year old undrafted rookie from Texas, where he walked on after serving as an Army Ranger.  Boyer is a long-snapper who taught himself to long snap by watching Youtube videos.

Boyer is a true inspiration to everyone, and is one of the people in the world who goes after their dreams and makes a difference.

Unfortunately for Nate, there isn’t a lot of room for a 5-foot-11, 195 pound long snapper in the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks cut him after their second preseason game.

Al Villanueva’s Current Run

Although this story hasn’t received the national attention of Nate Boyer’s, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Al Villanueva is fighting for a roster spot and just might come away with one.

Villanueva served in the Army and was a collegiate wide receiver and tight end.  He tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles last season as a defensive end, and now might have found a home at offensive tackle.

“It’s not that hard,” Villanueva told Football Insiders when we asked about playing so many different positions.  “Football is football.  It’s a very simple process and you have to go out there and just play really hard and things take care of themselves.”

The former Army Cadet has put on enough good tape that he’s going to earn a significant paycheck playing football for someone this year.

9. The Punch Heard Round The World

One of the most bizarre stories this side of Washington, D.C. involved the formerly most dysfunctional team in football, the New York Jets.  In training camp, starting quarterback was punched in the face by teammate IK Enemkpali, reportedly over a $600 debt.

Smith has been out ever since and is likely to miss at least the first month of the regular season.

Enemkpali was subsequently released and then was claimed the next day off waivers from the Buffalo Bills, led by former Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

The incident has led many to question Smith’s leadership qualities and this will be a stain on his career.

10. Super Bowl Participants Struggling

Nobody believes that either the New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks will miss the playoffs.

With that said, there are some issues, and we’re not talking about the looming national nightmare which is “Deflate-gate.”

The Super Bowl XLIX champs lost their starting cornerbacks in the offseason and are trying to piece together a defense void of star power in the secondary.  The early results have been less than fantastic, as Malcolm Butler hasn’t looked like a Super Bowl hero.

In Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll loves to play “ground and pound” football, but is having a tough time doing so with the play of the Seahawks offensive line.  Without Max Unger, the Seattle line looks significantly worse, and the skyscraper of dominance that he’s built may look like a house of cards without solid play from the big guys up front.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.