In between there will be hundreds of scenarios played out involving both veterans getting ready for the season and rookies hoping to simply make the team.
It's NFL preseason Week 2 and it comes packed with five national TV games, the final of which on Monday is a rematch of last February's Super Bowl XLI.
Every night, fans can see the team-molding unfold.
"Preseason is for seeing the progress of players," says New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini, whose club will host the Minnesota Vikings on FOX this Friday night. "The rookies last year, what kind of strides have they made? Your veteran guys that have a year in the system, what does their improvement look like? That's the great thing about training camp and preseason games. You get to look at a body of work."
That work continues in earnest this week. The five national TV games in Week 2 are listed below along with some interesting notes about other matchups around the league.
MIAMI at KANSAS CITY (Thursday, ESPN, 8:00 PM ET)
New Dolphins quarterback Trent Green comes back to Arrowhead Stadium where he had some of his greatest games as the Chiefs' QB from 2001-06. Green ranks as Kansas City's career top-rated passer (87.3) and either leads or follows at No. 2 Pro Football Hall of Famer Len Dawson in numerous club passing categories.
MINNESOTA at NEW YORK JETS (Friday, FOX, 8:00 PM ET):
Elsa, Getty Images
Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson – who last season became only the third Vikings rookie to start at quarterback (Fran Tarkenton, 1961; Tommy Kramer, 1977) – turned in an impressive performance last Friday night against St. Louis. The Alabama State product threw for 83 yards on 8-for-11 passing and scrambled twice for 25 yards. "He had good command of the offense, and that's what we're looking for," says Vikings head coach Brad Childress.
The Jets' Chad Pennington is locked in as the starter. The backup job may well have been solidified last Friday by Kellen Clemens, who became only the third Jets QB in the past 15 years to throw three TDs in a preseason game (Rick Mirer, 1999; Ray Lucas, 2000). "For a young QB, there's no substitute for reps," says Clemens.
SAN DIEGO at ST. LOUIS (Saturday, CBS, 8:00 PM ET)
St. Louis' No. 1 selection, nose tackle Adam Carriker (Nebraska), helped shut down Minnesota up the middle for a game total of 87 rush yards. Afterwards, Vikings Pro Bowl center Matt Birk told Rams head coach Scott Linehan that Carriker was "a handful, a heck of a player."
On St. Louis' offensive rookie side, second-round choice Brian Leonard (Rutgers), slotted to be the backup to All-Star Steven Jackson, turned in an impressive debut with nine rushes for 36 yards (and a TD) and five catches for 30 yards.
The Chargers Sunday may have found their No. 2 or 3 receiver behind Antonio Gates while Eric Parker recovers from toe surgery in Malcolm Floyd. The second-year wideout – who had three touchdowns among only 15 catches in '06 -- had five receptions for 65 yards against Seattle, including a TD.
NEW YORK GIANTS at BALTIMORE (Sunday, NBC, 8:00 PM ET):
Greg Fiume, Getty Images
New Ravens running back Willis McGahee, acquired in a trade with Buffalo, had a 16-yard run Monday night against Philadelphia and showed that he might supply the raw power that Baltimore used so effectively in its Jamal Lewis bulldozing days. "I still need to get comfortable with what the guys are doing up front, but it was a good start," says McGahee.
It was such for the Giants' Derrick Ward in Week 1. The four-year running back, sparsely used due to injuries and the dominance of now-retired Tiki Barber, showed he may be a factor in the battle with Brandon Jacobs and newcomer Reuben Droughns to replace Barber.
Ward had five carries for 29 yards, including a 19-yard gain and a five-yard TD burst against Carolina. He also set up a score with a 67-yard kickoff return. "I'm just trying to show the Giants this year that they can rely on me," says Ward.
CHICAGO at INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, ESPN, 8:00 PM ET)
A.J. Mast, AP
So…maybe there's a chance for Chicago to become only the third Super Bowl-losing team since 1990 to win a rematch the following preseason. The Super Bowl winners have gone 5-2 in that span. Only Tennessee in the 2000 preseason over St. Louis and Carolina over New England in 2004 have extracted some revenge the next summer.
Both clubs come off Week 1 games in which key performers turned in promising outings.
Indianapolis lost to Dallas, but rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh, competing to replace Glenn, held off the Cowboys' best rusher DeMarcus Ware. For Chicago in a win over Houston, running back Cedric Benson – due to carry a bigger load now that Thomas Jones has been dealt to the Jets – had five caries for 23 yards. "Cedric ran the ball really well," says Bears head coach Lovie Smith. "It's good to get him into the flow."
AMONG OTHER INTERESTING GAMES THIS WEEK: Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (knee in '06) should see his first preseason action vs. Carolina……Browns first-round choice QB Brady Quinn, will probably also see his first playing time vs. Detroit. Matchup will be one of 11 Week 2 games aired by NFL Network, and one of seven in high definition……Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren visits his old QB, Brett Favre, in Green Bay as No. 4 prepares to break the NFL career TD record this year……and Oakland plays in San Francisco, with the teams splitting the last six preseason meetings. "It's big to win the Battle of the Bay," says 49ers wide receiver Arnaz Battle.