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Since cutting the preseason to three games, there has been no consensus among NFL teams on how to use the warmup games. Some teams played virtually all of their starters in the first tilt, other teams had no starters even dress for the games. Several teams sat veterans but played some young guys, etc.
When it comes to getting the answers we need to our important IDP questions, we can pick up some clues from this round of games but there are not many clear answers. This is a rundown of what I gleaned from the warmup games, along with other relevant happenings since my original rundown of each team.
Several teams have posted an initial depth chart that can give us some clues. Beware of these depth charts, though. They are unofficial and often put together by the team's media department.
Krys Barnes is listed as the starter next to Kyzir White on the Cardinals' initial depth chart, with Owen Pappoe buried at third string. White did not play in the preseason game, so Josh Woods started at that position. For what it is worth, both Barnes and Woods stayed on the field in nickel looks while they were on the field. Barnes was at linebacker for the dime package.
Jalen Thompson and Budda Baker are the starting safeties on the Cardinals' depth chart. Baker sat out against Denver, so Simmons played next to Thompson. Arizona did not show any three safety looks while the starters were in the game
Dennis Gardeck and Zaven Collins are listed as starting edge defenders on the initial depth chart, and they were on the field with the first team against Denver. Myjai Sanders and BJ Ojulari are both banged up and did not play.
The Falcons have not yet provided a depth chart, and they played no starters against Miami. They did, however, give us a definitive answer to one of our big questions. Mykal Walker got the start against the Dolphins, then was promptly waived the day after the game. This locks in Kaden Ellis as the starter next to Troy Andersen. All we need to know now is if both will play every down or who will leave the field in sub-package sets.
The Ravens played no starters against Philadelphia, and there were no surprise names running with the second team. They did post a depth chart though, confirming that Kyle Hamilton will line up at strong safety. The depth chart also lists Rock Ya-Sin as the starting corner opposite Marlon Humphrey.
The Bills have not yet posted a depth chart but did play the starting defense for a while against the Colts, and there are some interesting notes from the game. After much off-season speculation that Matt Milano would move to the middle, that does not appear to be the case. Milano worked from his usual weak side position.
Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson are competing for the middle linebacker job. Bernard is dealing with a sore hamstring and did not suit up versus the Colts. If he is not back on the field soon, the competition could be over by default. It is also interesting that Dodson wore the green dot communications helmet and was calling the plays in the huddle. Both linebackers stayed on the field in sub-packages, which is a good sign for whoever gets the call in week one.
The Panthers have not yet posted a depth chart, but we did get a look at most of their starters against the Jets. The most impactful note for IDP managers from this game was the role of Jeremy Chinn. Carolina opened in their base 5-2 defense with Vonn Bell at strong safety, Xavier Woods at free, and Chinn on the sideline. Managers with shares of Chinn will be disappointed to hear that this was the norm for the long first series. Chinn came on when Carolina went to a nickel, and even then, he was well off the ball. The Panthers were in nickel less than half of their snaps while the starters were working. It was a preseason game, so don't overreact, but the signs are not good for Chinn's IDP prospects at the moment.
Chicago played a few of their younger starter versus the Titans, and there were no surprises with anything they showed.
Recently signed Yannick Ngakoue and DeMarcus Walker are the starting defensive ends on the initial depth chart, but neither saw action. On the Bears' depth chart, fan and IDP manager favorite Jack Sanborn is the starting strong-side linebacker. Against Tennessee, he played in the middle, with Tremaine Edmunds getting the night off. Unless there is an injury to Edmunds or T.J. Edwards, Sanborn seems destined to be a footnote in IDP history.
The Bears wasted no time claiming Mychal Walker off waivers from the Falcons. At this point, he projects as no more than depth for Chicago, but the situation is worth keeping an eye on.
The only Bengals starter to see action on defense against the Packers was free safety Dax Hill. This makes good sense considering he is a young guy moving into the lineup for the first time and can use the experience. The only IDP-relevant note on the Bengals is that looks like Nick Scott is set to open the season at strong safety, while rookie Jordan Battle will have to wait and learn for a while.
Rookie pass rusher, Myles Murphy, is currently buried at the bottom of the depth chart.
The Browns played a few starters against the Commanders. Mostly players that are either young or new to the team. They also gave us a depth chart, complete with no surprises.
Going into the preseason, Cleveland was one of the few teams with no major question marks as far as who would be starting. The most suspenseful situation was at middle linebacker, where any remaining doubt was removed when Jacob Phillips tore his pectoral and will be lost for the season. Walker is now entrenched at middle linebacker and is in line for a solid season if he can stay healthy himself.
The Cowboys didn't even dress many of their starters, but they did give us an initial depth chart that confirms everything that is generally expected. It even shows three starting safeties which is a look the team used as their base defense in 2022. The closest thing to a mystery in Dallas is the recovery of Donovan Wilson from a calf strain. He is not expected to see any preseason action in the hope that he can be ready for week one. If Wilson is your guy, be prepared to live without him for a game or two, just in case.
Denver played some starters and has released an initial depth chart. There were no surprises in either place.
Looking back and forth between the Lions' starting lineup against the Giants, and the depth chart they posted, is a bit confusing. The Depth chart shows Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes as the starting linebackers, with Jack Campbell and Malcolm Rodriguez as the backups. Against New York, the team started Barnes and Rodriguez. Likewise, the depth chart has Charles Harris as the starting defensive end opposite Aiden Hutchinson, with John Cominsky second behind Harris and Romeo Okwara fourth string behind Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, and James Houston IV. Yet it was Okwara and Cominsky running with the twos for the game. Hopefully, the fog will clear after round two of preseason action. As it stands now, the only clear point is that Jack Campbell is not seeing much, if any, time with the starters yet.
As whacked out as everything else is, it's hard to tell if we can put any weight on what we are seeing at the safety positions. For what it's worth, Tracy Walker and Kery Joseph are listed as starting strong and free safeties, respectively, with rookie Brian Branch behind C.J. Gardner-Johnson at the nickel position.
Green Bay Packers
There are some interesting notes when it comes to the Packers. They ran out most of their starters against Cincinnati, and we have an initial depth chart to look at. The most impactful news is at inside linebacker, where both Quay Walker and De'Vondre Campbell were on the field. The interesting part of the story is that Walker had the green dot communications helmet that Campbell wore previously. Maybe this was just for the sake of practice, but it might be a sign of a changing of the guard. The rest of the story is that both linebackers stayed on the field in sub-package situations.
The Packers activated Rashan Gary from the PUP list last week. He will be eased back into action roughly nine months after ACL surgery, and there is hope he will be available for the opener. Meanwhile, Justin Hollins is running with the starters while first-round puck Lucas Van Ness remains buried on the depth chart.
The Texans played starters against New England, but it was interesting to see who some of those starters were. Jonathan Greenard got the call opposite Will Anderson. In years past, the Texans have rotated a lot of guys at the edge positions. They are not as deep this year which could mean a bigger play share for Greenard. He missed much of last season but was a factor in 2021 with 33 combined stops and 8 sacks in twelve games.
Greenard as a starter is not a surprise, but there are some twists at the linebacker positions. Christian Kirksey has been sidelined by a hamstring injury for a bit, so he was not available to face the Patriots. The injury explains why he missed that game, but it doesn't explain why Kirksey is listed on the depth chart as the backup to Blake Cashman at strong-side linebacker. This could be a symptom of having the media department responsible for making the depth chart, but it is certainly something we need to watch.
The depth chart has Denzel Perryman as the middle backer, with Christian Harris on the weak side. Rookie Henry To'oTo'o is backing up Perryman, and Cory Littleton is behind Harris. Perryman and Harris both stayed on the field in sub-packages.
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