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30 things we learned in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL preseason

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 8/19/2018 Nate Davis

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LANDOVER, Md. — Week 2 of the NFL preseason is nearly complete. It featured Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold's first start, Alex Smith's debut with the Redskins, some notable injuries, more national anthem rumblings and continued consternation regarding the league's new rule designed to eliminate dangerous tackles involving the helmet. Now that 30 teams have played this weekend (the Ravens and Colts will meet Monday night), here are 30 things we learned:

1.Darnold might be as good an option as any under center for the Jets, but New York might be wise to boost the trade stock of resurgent vet Teddy Bridgewater first.

2.Don't sleep on Washington. Smith looked very sharp — he may be a better fit for this scheme than Kirk Cousins was — and the defense could make a huge leap with Crimson Tide brothers Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

3. New Monday Night Football analyst Anthony "Booger" McFarland gets to view games from a sideline crane. Down in front, Booger.

4. Players, coaches and preseason TV announcers are still railing against the NFL's highly legislated helmet rule. "I'm as baffled as anyone else," said Vikings veteran Brian Robison. "At the end of the day, it's a very confusing rule."

5. Tom Brady played the first half Thursday night. After missing most of the Patriots' offseason ... he looks perfectly ready for Week 1.

6. Aaron Rodgers is a crier. “To be back at Lambeau was a thrill and the ovation touched me,” Rodgers said Thursday, his first start in Green Bay since he missed most of last season with a busted collarbone. “I have to kind of wipe away some tears in my eyes.”

7. Anthem watch isn't going away. Tennessee star Jurrell Casey, who'd raised a fist after The Star-Spangled Banner in the past, saluted Saturday. Elsewhere, Miami's Albert Wilson once again kneeled, and outspoken Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins sent a message with his "You aren't listening" T-shirt before opting to stay in the tunnel for the anthem.

More: With Josh Gordon returning, Browns and Dez Bryant need to move on from each other

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8. The Vikings provided a nice tribute Saturday to late assistant coach Tony Sparano, who died suddenly last month from heart disease. His family, including Jaguars assistant offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr., was in attendance.

9. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey had a 71-yard TD run against Miami. He didn't rush for more than 66 yards in any game during his rookie season.

10. Memo to Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill: Twerking will cost you 15 yards.

11. Even in the remote event that both Nick Foles and Carson Wentz are unavailable for the regular-season opener, the Eagles are better off with third-string QB Nate Sudfeld (5 preseason TD passes) than pursuing another veteran.

12. The NFL should really avoid preseason games that replicate regular-season contests. The Rams hosted the Raiders on Saturday, and starters on both sides sat in a contest that was drab even by the measure of NFL football in August. The teams meet again in 23 days as the marquee matchup of ESPN's Week 1 MNF twinbill.

13. However Raiders RB Chris Warren III — son of former Seahawks star RB Chris Warren — took the opportunity to rush 18 times for 110 yards and a score. Take note, Money Lynch and Doug Martin.

14. Even though Rams stars Todd Gurley and Jared Goff got the day off, they're ready for Showtime, courtesy of LeBron James and the Lakers.

15. Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston looked crisp in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick. But that won't do Tampa Bay much good in the season's first three weeks.

16. Backup QB battle to watch: Davis Webb vs. Kyle Lauletta in a bid to hold the clipboard for Giants' Eli Manning.

17. The Browns had 83 net passing yards Friday. Welcome back, Josh Gordon. Bless 'em.

18. Oft-suspended Cowboys DE Randy Gregory played for the first time since the 2016 season. "He looked quick and explosive. He looked like himself. He certainly looks like he is comfortable and confident," said Dallas coach Jason Garrett.

19. Vikings RB Latavius Murray fumbled twice, losing one, on six carries. Dalvin Cook must have cracked a smile.

20. Steelers rookie QB Mason Rudolph's first (ill-advised) pass Thursday was returned for a pick-six by Green Bay's Tramon Williams. Ben Roethlisberger must have cracked a smile, too. To Rudolph's credit, he hooked up for a TD with JuJu Smith-Schuster five minutes later.

More: Luck and RGIII: Two top picks, each on the comeback trail

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21. Note to Le'Veon Bell: Second-year Pittsburgh RB James Conner looked nice while ripping off 57 yards on five carries.

22. Timing is everything. Browns fans got to boo Bills WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland's first-round pick two years ago, who was traded two weeks ago for buffalo wings.

23. Chargers WR Mike Williams, the seventh pick of the 2017 draft, scored on a 25-yard reception Saturday. Good news for a player whose rookie season was wasted by injuries.

24. It appears Cowboys Pro Bowl G Zack Martin avoided a major knee injury Saturday. "I just want to say we've got more to gain from (an MRI), but from what we've seen, I'll sleep good tonight on Martin," said Dallas owner Jerry Jones.

25. In a league where things change overnight, Bills rookie QB Josh Allen suddenly and surprisingly has much better odds to start a meaningful game soon after AJ McCarron went down with a broken collarbone Friday.

26. WR Christian Kirk is starting to show why he might be the Cardinals most valuable rookie in 2018.

27. The Saints are probably sunk if Drew Brees gets hurt. But shouldn't they get a better insurance policy than Taysom Hill or Tom Savage?

28. Seattle may have lost first-round RB Rashaad Penny for a month to a broken finger, but the run game is in good hands with Chris Carson. Teammates have raved about his camp, and he showed why Saturday on a 23-yard TD run ... that was negated by a penalty.

29. Broncos fans are infatuated with new backup QB Chad "Swag" Kelly ... but they're on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to 2016 first rounder Paxton Lynch, who heard lusty boo birds when he entered the game.

30. LB Alexander Johnson played his first game in four years Saturday, just five days after signing with Denver and three weeks after he was acquitted of rape charges. Johnson was kicked off Tennessee's football team after he was arrested during his senior season. GM John Elway declined Thursday to speak to the specific homework the Broncos did on Johnson beyond speaking to his former coaches.

Contributing: Lindsay H. Jones 

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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