The NFL has recently undergone some very exciting changes: a three-week preseason instead of four starting last year and an enhanced regular season that revolves around all 32 clubs playing internationally at least once every eight years, beginning this year. To contextualize, these changes are the first to occur in the seasonal structure since 1978, almost fifty years ago. And just as NFL Communications states, the new model will ensure up to four neutral-site games per year and will initially focus on sites in Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. Clubs can also choose to continue playing home games internationally, allowing the sport to reach further audiences.
This year, the NFL has announced the participation of five teams in the International Series: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. Starting in October and ending in November, these regular-season games are set to play in Munich, Germany; London, United Kingdom; and Mexico City, Mexico, according to the announcement the NFL released on its website.
Apart from the exciting news on the International Series coming up soon, here are some takeaways from this preseason, focusing on rookie performances:
The Ravens have won all three of their games this preseason, and they might have struck gold in their picks this year, especially in terms of overlooked players. In particular, tight end Isaiah Likely, a round four selection, has had a powerful display with 12 out of 12 receptions and 12 yards per reception, plus a touchdown. Furthermore, quarterback Anthony Brown, an undrafted player, has passed for 464 yards and three touchdowns in 47 attempts.
The Steelers have also won all three games throughout this preseason, albeit with one close call of 16-15 against the Jaguars. Their rookies are also doing quite well; for example, wide receiver George Pickens has had some strong showings, catching eight out of 12 passes with 10.1 yards per reception. In addition, quarterback Kenny Pickett has also proven himself capable, reducing his throw time from 3.2 to 2.5 seconds and throwing 261 yards plus three touchdowns in 36 attempts.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers are yet another team with rookies putting up a good showing, though they have only won one out of three games this preseason. For instance, wide receiver Romeo Doubs is performing competently, catching eight of 15 passes, with 10.3 yards per reception plus two touchdowns. Tackle Zach Tom has also put on a great display, with 124 offensive snaps played and only one penalty.
The Texans have also won all of their games this preseason, with a potential rising star in their rookie halfback Dameon Pierce. He has rushed for 86 yards on 11 carries, with one touchdown and no fumbles. This Florida product, selected in the fourth round, seems poised to become the RB1 for the Texans.
Los Angeles Rams:
Though the Rams have won just one out of three games this preseason, their undrafted rookie wide receiver, Lance McCutcheon, has proven to be a fantastic selection. He has caught 15 out of 20 passes, with 259 receiving yards and two touchdowns. McCutcheon has since been confirmed to be on the final roster by the Rams’ general manager Les Snead.