It's important that you don't put too much into preseason action. Yes, it's important because it helps decide quarterback battles where they need to be decided. A nuanced approach will help you figure out who's actually making moves in the preseason.
Depth chart battles are key, and looking at how rookies perform in their first live NFL action is pretty critical too. We'll highlight some of the guys who are up and down below, with a special focus this week on the rookies who did well -- and those who didn't -- in the first week of the preseason.
Couple of things to keep in mind here (and going forward). This isn't some end-all/be-all list of good and bad players from the preseason. Both Kenbrell Thompkins and Shane Vereen of the Patriots could be worthy of the "Bull" list below. And, two, yes I know it's the preseason. Relax.
Anyway, with a nod to CBSSports.com MLB colleague Jon Heyman, let's roll out the NFL stock watch for this week.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: Patterson isn't going to suddenly not be a raw-ish prospect. He's got to refine his route running in order to become a complete wide receiver. But the best thing Minnesota can do is get the ball in his hands. He showed that on the Vikings opening kickoff against the Texans, a 50-yard return that flashed his smooth explosiveness. Patterson ended up catching four balls for 54 yards and would've had better production if he didn't have Matt Cassel throwing his way. Patterson's got to beat out Jerome Simpson to crack the starting lineup, but if the Vikings are smart, they'll let him. He's a much more explosive athlete and would pair well next to Greg Jennings, particularly given how creativity with Patterson from an offensive standpoint would almost immediately equate to production.
Damontre Moore, DE, Giants: Moore came out firing pretty early, blocking a punt where he flashed some impressive speed moving through the line of scrimmage, not to mention athleticism to get after Drew Butler's kick. Moore would pile on four tackles and generate some serious heat throughout the game. Moore generated any number of quarterback pressures, including a brutal hurry on Ben Roethlisberger during the first quarter just as he was releasing the ball. Moore had a horrible combine that sent him plummeting in the draft, but in his first preseason action he showed the moves that made him a coveted pass rusher coming out of Texas A&M. Moore was consistently in the Steelers backfield and also flashed good instincts on when to retreat and pursue a deflection or a runner.
Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals: If Denard Robinson is the Jaguars "OW" (Offensive Weapon) on the depth chart, can the Honey Badger become Arizona's "DW"? He played primarily with the second-string defense, but he was all over the field. The Cardinals plugged him in the box, put him deep, set him up in the nickel and generally put him everywhere. Bruce Arians clearly was impressed, giving Mathieu more snaps than any other defensive back on Arizona's roster. Early on he looked itching to pop someone, but maybe we shouldn't have been surprised?
A whole year of controlled rage to release tomorrow ..— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) August 9, 2013
Mathieu doesn't fit the typical stereotype of a successful football player. He's undersized, he's not necessarily a "traditional" burner (but he ran well at the combine) and he's had his off-field issues. But the dude can play and it's hard seeing him not making an impact once the season starts.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: Hopkins flashed first-round talent against the Vikings, catching four passes for 52 yards including this sky-high leap to snare a touchdown. This shows athletic ability, of course, but watch how he's tracking that ball and check out the timing on the jump, not to mention the subtle (or not-so-subtle?) push off the defender to go up and get the ball:
The Texans might finally have a legit weapon opposite Andre Johnson.
Josh Norman, CB, Panthers: It's not all rookies who saw their stock jump during the preseason, of course. Norman's a guy I've been high on this offseason -- he justified that with a strong preseason performance against the Bears. Norman picked off two passes -- one on Jay Cutler's first pass to Brandon Marshall when he perfectly read Cutler's moves and jumped all over the pass:
Norman's second pick was a 60-yard INT to the house, which is pretty awesome, even if it did come against backup-to-the-backup Matt Blanchard. Oh and check out this sick one-handed interception Norman made during Carolina's final preseason practice.
Bacarri Rambo, S, Redskins: The Redskins, who just lost rookie safety Philip Thomas, are probably gonna end up starting some rookies in the secondary as the season goes along. I very much like Rambo and rookie cornerback David Amerson, but the former had a rough day against the Titans in Week 1.
It started with Rambo trying to tackle Tennessee running back Chris Johnson in the open field:
It's not a full-blown indictment of Rambo though. CJ?K is really freaking fast and he's tough to stop. Plus it's a good lesson for the rookie.
"That's something I wasn't expecting," Rambo said afterwards. "But only thing I can do is learn from it, just get in the film room, talk to the coaches and the vets and try to learn things: how to take better angles and stuff like that."
Unfortunately Rambo also struggled to tackle Shonn Greene, which is not quite as understandable. Playing from day one and succeeding in an NFL secondary ain't easy. He'll bounce back from this I think. But definitely a jock-losing lesson in the early going for the awesomely-named youngster.
Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins: When Jeff Ireland traded up to the No. 3 overall pick to grab Jordan out of Oregon, it's hard to think he imagined the pass rushing talent being shut down so that the team didn't "overload" him at this point.
He was limited to just seven snaps in the preseason matchup against the Jaguars and came away with just one tackle. Jordan's still recovering from surgery and could certainly bounce back but this can't be considered "good" news:
Geno Smith, QB, Jets: Not necessarily his fault so much as an injury creating an issue but Geno's not exactly taking advantage of a clear-cut shot at grabbing the Jets' starter's job. Geno ended up going 6-for-7 for 47 yards in a quarter-and-change's worth of action against the Lions. He wasn't bad, but it's not like he flashed a ton. Two of his six attempts were against two-minute drill/backed-up coverage by the Lions and some of the completions weren't exactly darts. His bigger problem might be that Mark Sanchez played not that horribly, his pick six to Ziggy Ansah aside.