Even beyond the fourteen teams squaring off for their second preseason games, Saturday quite the full news day around the league. We'll recap the most important takeaways from those preseason games, but first let's jump into new developments around the league.
Browns: Josh Gordon officially returned to the team after missing the previous three weeks of camp due for health reasons. There's no official reason to suspect that Gordon has violated any league policy, but the 27-year-old still remains in Stage 3 of the league's substance of abuse program and will therefore need to meet certain requirements before being cleared to practice. The organization expects the wideout to practice relatively soon, but for now Gordon can only attend meetings and do off-field work. Additionally, the Browns reportedly do not consider it a priority to sign free agent Dez Bryant. Bryant had met with the team Thursday and Friday, but the 28-year-old former Cowboy apparently did not close on the one-year "prove-it" deal he desired. If Gordon is able to return to practice soon, it seems that the once-murky Browns WR situation has largely stabalized.
Cardinals: Coach Steve Wilks said that rookie WR Christian Kirk has "created some separation" with regards to the No. 2 receiver job. Kirk has made the most of the opportunity given to him by Brice Butler's injury, having lead the team in receiving during Friday's game against the Saints, in addition to hauling in a touchdown from rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Look for the rookie wideout to see even more offensive opportunities in the team's Week 3 preseason bout.
Colts: T.Y. Hilton exited practice early Saturday, dealing with what has been revealed to be a sprained shoulder. The training staff wrapped Hilton's left shoulder in ice, and the 28-year-old was sidelined for the remainder of the day's practice. Thus far the injury isn't believed to be serious, and Hilton's chemistry with Andrew Luck shouldn't be impaired just by missing a bit of time in camp. However, it seems likely that the Colts' No. 1 wide receiver won't suit up for Monday's preseason game against the Ravens.
Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz was cleared to resume 11-on-11 drills, and will return to full-team work Sunday. While this doesn't necessarily mean that Wentz has will be cleared for contact, it's certainly a positive step in the 25-year-old's recovery process. Coming off reconstructive knee surgery, Wentz's Week 1 status will remain uncertain even if the third-year quarterback can practice fully. It seems likely that the Eagles will err on the side of caution with their franchise quarterback's recovery, despite the team's supposed Week 1 starter, Nick Foles, currently recovering from a shoulder injury. With Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor – two of the team's top receiving options – also working through injury, Philadelphia's passing attack could tentatively struggle during the early weeks of the 2018 season.
The most important developments in today's preseason games had to do with a single team's slew of injuries, so that's where we'll begin.
Cowboys: Dallas' scrimmage with the Bengals was defined entirely by a rash of injuries to the team. All-Pro right guard Zack Martin was the first Cowboy to leave the game, due to a knee injury suffered midway through the second quarter. One of the top players at his position in the league, a serious injury to Martin would be a huge loss for the Cowboys' offense. Martin is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Sunday, so information on the injury should not be much delayed. Soon after, starting free safety Xavier Woods suffered a hamstring injury while attempting to make a diving interception. Rookie running back Bo Scarbrough suffered a left hip injury and was evaluated in the locker room, and defensive tackle Datone Jones injured his knee. The severity of each injury thus far remains unknown, but updated information should be available as early as Sunday.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins looked every part of his $84 million contract last week, but came back to earth against a stout Jacksonville defense Saturday. The Vikings new starting quarterback went three-and-out on two of four series played, completing only three of eight passes for 12 yards. Running back Latavius Murray contributed heavily to the offense's struggles, fumbling twice. Contrasting the middling offense, Minnesota's defense limited Leonard Fournette to only 12 yards and produced an interception of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, courtesy of star safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings offense will have two opportunities to get healthy again before the regular season kicks off, against the Seahawks and Titans.
Jaguars: Jacksonville's starting defense looked as advertised, producing two sacks and two fumbles and not allowing a single Vikings third-down during the first half. Starting quarterback Blake Bortles struggled to find a rhythm, completing 12-of-20 passes for 159 yards and an interception with only one third-down conversion. Leonard Fournette compiled an unimpressive 12 yards on eight carries, but did find the end zone on fourth-and-goal run. T.J. Yeldon secured his role as Fournette's backup and looked electric doing so, with an112 yards on 15 total touches, largely against the Vikings second-team defense. Despite showing well down the stretch last season, second-year wideouts Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole were stifled by the Vikings defense: Cole was held catchless, while Westbrook logged only one pass for six yards. Veterans Donte Moncrief and Marquise Lee hauled in only two passes each, and did little in terms of offensive playmaking. If the Jaguars can't find a way to create pressure via their passing attack, Fournette could see similar difficulty running the ball during the season. Regardless, the fact that the 23-year-old is primed for one of the league's largest workloads at the position more than justifies his high draft price.
Buccaneers: Charles Sims injured his left knee in the opening kickoff against Tennessee and did not return to the game. This injury doesn't help Sims' chances of finding a role in the team's overflowing backfield, but does pave the way for Jacquizz Rodgers to make an impact as a change of pace back. Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II had the team's notable carries all to themselves in Sims' absence, and for the second consecutive week Barber impressed while Jones II struggled. Barber, a third-year veteran, lead the team in carries and yards by a fair margin and seems the favorite to lead the backfield come Week 1. Jones II's disappointing performance largely came against the Titan's second- and third-team defenses, and the rookie will need to rebound against the Lions come Friday for any chance to surpass Barber on the depth chart. 2018 second-rounder M.J. Stewart also suffered a foot injury, following a strong performance in which he forced two fumbles. The rookie had performed well enough in camp to earn a shot at the starting position, and Stewart should pick up where he left off if he can get healthy in a reasonable amount of time.
Chicago: After catching a five-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky in the first quarter against the Broncos, tight end Adam Shaheen suffered an ankle injury and was eventually carted to the locker room. In Shaheen's absence, starting tight end Trey Burton caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Burton got more looks from Trubisky than any other Bears receiver, which poses well for his in-season target volume. Star offseason acquisition Allen Robinson, however, did not draw a single target in his first game back from an ACL tear. Not much needs to be read into this, as the coaching staff was likely easing the 24-year-old back into gametime action. Robinson will likely be more involved in the offence during the team's preseason Week 3 scrimmage.
Texans: Despite DeAndre Hopkins sitting out for the second week in a row, quarterback Deshaun Watson looked impressive in his single on-field drive. Watson completed five-of-eight passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, connecting with Bruce Ellington for three receptions and 44 yards including a touchdown. Ryan Griffin, expected to start at tight end, showed chemistry with Watson on a 22-yard red zone catch. Wideout Sammie Coates did suffer a concussion in the game after logging three passes for 32 yards, and returning one kickoff for 24 yards.