New faces take center stage on Saturday
Three first-year head coaches will get after it in the weekend set of games, while three quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks of April's draft figure to see some playing time. Let's take a glance at some of Saturday's NFL preseason story lines:
A lengthy list of Packers, especially on defense, might not suit up in this one. That's probably OK with Cleveland, which would like to get off to a good start under new coach Pat Shurmur, even if it's just a preseason game.
The Browns have changed schemes on both offense and defense -- to a West Coast attack and 4-3 set, respectively -- so there could be some kinks to work out for a team that finished 5-11 last season.
Giants at Panthers: Jimmy Clausen will start for Carolina, which means the Cam Newton Experience will be delayed until at least the latter portions of the first quarter. This QB battle will be one of the more intriguing to follow throughout the preseason, so every game performance counts.
Ron Rivera also makes his first game appearance as the Panthers' head coach, following the collapse of the John Fox regime.
The Giants would like to get off to a strong start on the offensive line, particularly at center where David Baas takes over for long-time Giant Shaun O'Hara. New York would also like to see some early production from tight ends Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe -- getting Beckum into the flow of the offense early could bring Jeremy Shockey-like returns in the regular season.
Saturday will mark the Bills debuts of Nick Barnett and Shawne Merriman, who never played a down for Buffalo after being claimed off waivers last season. No. 3 overall pick Marcell Dareus is also expected to suit up for his Buffalo action.
Jay Cutler won't be able to ease any concerns about him in limited preseason duty. Like the Giants, though, the Bears also made a change at center, from Olin Kruetz to (for now) Roberto Garza. How he interacts with Cutler will be important for the Bears' first-team offense.
We should also get a look at Roy Williams and Marion Barber, two ex-Cowboys added to Chicago's attack.
For the Vikings, 34-year-old Donovan McNabb starts his 13th NFL season with his third team after a miserable one-year stop in Washington. Charging hard behind him is 23-year-old rookie Christian Ponder, the 12th pick in April's draft.
On the other side of the field, 35-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, who's struggling to adjust to Tennessee, will get first-team reps. But everyone really wants to see 23-year-old Jake Locker, taken No. 8 in the draft.
As an added bonus, the Titans are playing their first game without Jeff Fisher as head coach since they were the Houston Oilers in 1994. Fisher's offensive live coach, Mike Munchak, has the reins now.
Colts at Rams: St. Louis had a very strong offseason, stockpiling talent on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Rams are trying to find a WR to take some heat off Danny Amendola. Mike Sims-Walker, formerly of the Jaguars, or third-round pick Austin Pettis could state his case Saturday night.
And on defense, St. Louis is hoping linebackers Zac Diles and Ben Leber can come in and shore up the defense. It's all about health issues for Indianapolis. Front and center there is Peyton Manning, who may not play all preseason after neck surgery. That leaves the door open for Curtis Painter, Nate Davis and Dan Orlovsky to slug it out for a backup QB role that may be wind up being more important than the Colts hope.