Five players to watch: What will Mitch Trubisky do for an encore?

Jordan Schultz

How much we should make out of the NFL’s first preseason week is anyone’s guess, but an assortment of marquee position battles are heating up.

Starters will play more the next couple of weeks, and we will have another look at an impressive crop of rookies. Here are the six players we’ll be watching in Week 2 of the preseason:

Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky 

Trubisky has been the talk of the league after a strong opening performance against Denver, along with the woeful play of expensive free-agent acquisition Mike Glennon, who threw a pick-six on his second play. Trubisky – who started just 13 career games at North Carolina – wowed by displaying an accurate arm, and just as importantly, the ability to move the pocket. His best throw of the game was on third-and-long when he rifled a bullet down the middle of the field to move the sticks. It will be interesting to see how teams adjust to him, but if Glennon – who finished the game 2 of 8 for 20 yards with the pick – continues to struggle, it might behoove the Bears to give the offense to Trubisky (18 of 25, 166 yards and a touchdown) and let him go to work. “You know we’re excited about him,” Bears coach John Fox said.

Mitch Trubisky throws a touchdown pass in his NFL preseason debut. (AP)

Dallas Cowboys RBs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris

Losing Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension was a brutal blow to the NFC East champs. Elliott made life much easier for Dak Prescott last season and in turn, allowed the Cowboys to be a ball-controlled offensive machine. Dallas surely won’t be able to replace the All-Pro selection, but can it find a workable combination between McFadden and Morris? While both have been formidable rushers before, neither possesses anywhere near the type of explosive ability as the 22-year-old Elliott. The key thing to watch right now is how McFadden is involved in the passing game and if Morris looks spry, with the ability to break tackles.

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Seattle Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls

It’s still early in camp, but Rawls finds himself in the good graces of head coach Pete Carroll. “He really is back to the form we saw a couple years ago and we’re all really excited about that and he is too,” Carroll said, according to Seahawks Wire. As an undrafted rookie in 2015, the Central Michigan product led the NFL with a 5.6 yards per carry average, but has missed 10 games the past two seasons due to injury. We highlighted Eddie Lacy on this list last week, but he struggled – albeit in very limited work – during Seattle’s 48-17 win over San Diego. Rawls not only knows the offense better, but has clearly earned the trust of Carroll. The Seahawks host Minnesota and its stout defense in their second preseason game. If Rawls runs well, he could be on his way to locking up the starting gig.

Cleveland Browns QB DeShone Kizer

Kizer may already be better than Brock Osweiler. That’s how good he looked in his first preseason game, completing 11-of-18 passes with one touchdown against the Saints. Better yet, he flashed the big arm that the Browns loved during the predraft process, striking twice on deep balls. Predictably though, the learning curve remains immense for the second-round pick out of Notre Dame. “He is a lot better than he was in the spring, but he is still not there guys, and he knows it,” quarterbacks coach David Lee said. Pay attention to whether or not the 21-year-old Kizer lines up under center against the Giants, or if he remains in shotgun where he is more comfortable. Things like that will help determine whether or not he becomes the starter.

Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon

Mixon could not have been more impressive during his first NFL game action. The rookie running back displayed a lethal combination of patience as a runner and elusiveness as a pass-catcher, amassing a 5.2 rushing average, along with 42 yards on just seven touches in one half of action. Additionally, Mixon looked comfortable in pass protection and showed his versatility when the Bengals split him out as a receiver. The former Oklahoma Sooner provides a much different style than starter Jeremy Hill. He’s far more dynamic in the open field and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes Giovani Bernard somewhat expendable. If Mixon continues to play well, the Bengals will have no choice but to keep their second-round pick on the field.

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