NFL Preseason Blitz: Cam Newton injured, which is why teams shouldn't play starters

The third preseason game is the so-called dress rehearsal. Teams are more likely to play starters into the second half. That’s how it has always been.

In recent years teams seem more willing to sit their key players for most if not all of the preseason, and we all saw why when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton left Thursday’s game with a foot injury.

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Newton was playing his first preseason game this season in a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots, after offseason shoulder surgery. The Panthers might have felt he needed some preseason reps, to work out his repaired shoulder in a game and to feel ready for Week 1.

Instead, Newton came off with a limp after a play in which he was scrambling around and sacked. Newton headed to the locker room with a foot injury. He was ruled out almost immediately. He was seen wearing a walking boot after the game. Not good.

This is why teams sit starters in the preseason. Sean McVay of the Rams has taken it to an extreme, rarely playing anyone who we’ll see in a significant role to start the regular season. Last season the Rams had a sluggish first half in Week 1 of the regular season (which can happen regardless of preseason playing time) but they were healthy heading into September. It seems like a good tradeoff. It seems more teams are following that lead and scaling way back on the amount their starters play in the preseason.

We didn’t even see much of Newton before he got hurt. He didn’t push the ball downfield much. We have seen some nice deep passes from him in training camp, and his shoulder looks healthy based on those plays. Against the Patriots, Newton did have a nice, smooth out route to Curtis Samuel for a first down. But it’s very hard to imagine Newton’s six passing attempts were worth exposing him to injury.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the foot injury. There will be some panic in Carolina before we know if their franchise quarterback is OK. Either way, Newton goes into the season banged up at least a little bit. He takes enough punishment in the regular season. It didn’t seem wise to expose him to more hits in the preseason.

Cam Newton exits the field after suffering a foot injury against the Patriots. (Getty Images)
Cam Newton exits the field after suffering a foot injury against the Patriots. (Getty Images)

Spotlight team

It’s not that Daniel Jones can pass Eli Manning before the season starts. Manning is starting Week 1 at quarterback for the New York Giants. We all know that.

But the better Jones plays, the more urgency there might be to play him if Manning struggles early on.

Jones, the much-maligned sixth pick of the draft, has looked very good this month. Jones followed up two strong performances to start the preseason with another good outing in a 25-23 win at Cincinnati. In the first half he completed 9-of-11 for 141 yards. He passed with ease downfield, completing a 35-yard pass to Brittan Golden and a 27-yard pass to Darius Slayton to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass. He even showed his toughness when he was blasted on a blind-side hit by Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson. The ball popped out, but Jones got right up after the play.

Manning has looked pretty good in preseason too. And if Jones had struggled, Manning would have had a much longer leash to start the season. He could have had a bad game or two and the calls for Jones wouldn’t have been too loud. After a strong preseason from Jones, the Giants will be tempted to make a switch if Manning struggles early, even though that will be a sensitive situation given Manning’s stature within the franchise.

A good preseason from Jones is a big positive for the Giants, though it might make things more complicated in the short term.

Standout player

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton keeps surviving. The Bengals had a chance to draft Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State in the first round and passed. Cincinnati did draft Ryan Finley, but he’s not an immediate threat to Dalton. Dalton returns for his ninth year as Cincinnati’s starter.

Maybe a coaching change will be a blessing. Dalton, working with new coach Zac Taylor, looked sharp on Thursday night against the New York Giants. He finished 7-of-10 for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Dalton wasn’t great in Cincinnati’s first two preseason games, completing 12-of-18 for 116 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But he looked comfortable. His 26-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah had a great touch. He moved the offense even without injured A.J. Green and top running back Joe Mixon.

If Dalton doesn’t play well this season with Taylor, an offensive-minded head coach, it would make sense that the Bengals will look for someone new next season. Thursday night was a good sign that Dalton can have a pretty good year.

Other games

Baltimore Ravens 26, Philadelphia Eagles 15: Rookie quarterback Trace McSorley has been discussed as the Ravens’ version of Taysom Hill, the Saints’ quarterback who acts like more of a gadget player in certain packages. The way he threw the ball Thursday, maybe he can be more than a gadget player. In the first half, McSorley was 16-of-24 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for a score too. He might be a valuable piece for the Ravens to use in the short term, and an interesting player in the long term.

Miami Dolphins 22, Jacksonville Jaguars 7: After sitting out the first two preseason games, new quarterback Nick Foles played for his first time in a Jaguars uniform. Foles had a few early completions to Dede Westbrook, one of the receivers who should get a nice bump from improved quarterback play. Westbrook’s fourth catch of the first quarter was a 10-yard touchdown pass from Foles. Westbrook showed some toughness bouncing right back after a big hit from Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Washington Redskins 19, Atlanta Falcons 7: Case Keenum reportedly has a big lead to start at quarterback for Washington, but Thursday wasn’t his best outing. He went 9-of-14 for 101 yards in the first half, but didn’t lead a touchdown drive and threw an interception to defensive end Takk McKinley while under pressure. Keenum will likely be the Week 1 starter, but it will be interesting to see how long he can hold off rookie Dwayne Haskins.

Oakland Raiders 22, Green Bay Packers 21: This game got weird long before it started, due to unsafe field conditions in Winnipeg. Both teams held out many key players (though the Raiders had already planned to sit plenty of players). Read more about the weirdness of the night here.

Final thoughts

• Early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens-Eagles game was delayed for weather. The Ravens led 26-15 at the time. The rest of the game was canceled, with a little less than 12 minutes remaining.

• Tom Brady got some work during the preseason. The New England Patriots quarterback didn’t play in the first two games. On Thursday, he went 8-of-12 for 75 yards. He presumably won’t play in the preseason finale, so the next time we see him will be in the regular season opener.

• The Dolphins aren’t expected to be very good this season, and the third preseason game won’t raise expectations. Miami struggled on offense in a big way against the Jaguars. Running back Kalen Ballage got a big opportunity, and he had just 17 yards on 12 carries in the first half. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a 28-yard pass to Mike Gesicki, but only 5 yards on his other 10 first-half attempts. Give the Jaguars defense some credit too, but it wasn’t a good night for Miami as Fox broadcast the game to a national audience.

• Packers edge defender and first-round pick Rashan Gary, who had injury issues at Michigan last season, was carted to the locker room on Thursday with an apparent head or neck injury. He walked off the field but then was carted to the locker room. It would be a blow to the Packers’ pass rush if he has to miss some time, but the official Twitter account from Gary’s agency said Gary was fine.

Packers second-year receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was also carted off with what appeared to be a serious leg injury.

• Eagles rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was pretty quiet through training camp and the first half of the preseason, but he had eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown on Thursday night.

• Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett showed why the Falcons signed him to a four-year, $68 million deal. Jarrett went to the ground after the offensive lineman blocking him released to go block on a screen pass. Jarrett got up and hustled after Washington running back Derrius Guice and chased him down, limiting what could have been a big play to a 4-yard gain. That’s what the Falcons want to see after giving him a big deal.

• Patriots running back Sony Michel had a great 30-yard run called back due to a holding penalty. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t officially remain on the stat sheet; it was a shifty and strong run from a player whose knee issues have been a regular topic of the offseason. Michel looks healthy and ready to go.

• Redskins running back Derrius Guice, coming off a torn ACL, had a solid game. He had 44 yards on 11 carries in the first half and a catch for 4 yards. It’s a good sign for his health and perhaps the team’s plans for him that he got such a heavy workload.

• Ravens rookie receiver Miles Boykin has had a lot of positive buzz in camp, and that will continue after a nice 44-yard catch and run on Thursday night. The Ravens might have found a steal in the third round.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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