Football is back, yo!

It didn’t seem like it for a while during the lockout, but we will have actual NFL action this year, beginning tonight!

All right, all right, it’s only the preseason, fake variety of football where all the good players play less than a quarter, but it’s still pro football nonetheless. It’ll be great to watch some actual action, until we realize that it’s PRESEASON FOOTBALL, and we have four more weeks of this exhibition garbage until the games matter.

We have five games on the menu tonight, and I guess if there’s any reason to watch fake football it would be to follow-up on storylines that have carried over from last season and the offseason:

Ravens at Eagles
The Eagles were the busiest team in the rapid-fire free agency period this year. It should be interesting to see how that upgraded defensive secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does against a diminished Ravens receiving corps that lost tight end Todd Heap and wideout Derrick Mason. Expect new Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young to see extra snaps in relief of Michael Vick. Receiver Jeremy Maclin is still out with an undetermined illness.

Jaguars at Patriots
We’ll get our first glimpses at the Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth experiments in New England. The Pats also have eight players on the roster listed at running back, so it should be interesting to see how the running back competition shakes out. The Patriots took running backs in the second and third rounds of the draft this year, but will BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who came from obscurity last year, lead the Patriots rush again this year?

Jaguars starting quarterback David Garrard is out with a back injury, so rookie Blaine Gabbert will get the start.

Seahawks at Chargers
With Matt Hasselbeck now in Tennessee, the Seahawks will have a new starting quarterback in the huddle for the first time in over a decade, with Tavaris Jackson coming over from Minnesota. Former Pro-Bowlers tight end Zach Miller and wideout Sidney Rice are also new faces in the Seattle attack this year. Rice, however, is out tonight with a shoulder injury.

On the Chargers side of the things, we’ll get our first looks at linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Bob Sanders in Chargers’ blue. Sanders is a notable addition to the team this year. After winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007, the seven-year veteran has played in only nine games since then due to injuries. San Diego also looks for a suitable replacement for Darren Sproles, who left for the Saints in the offseason. Second-year running back Ryan Matthews is expected to be that guy but has had an shaky training camp.

Broncos at Cowboys
New Broncos coach John Fox has a quarterback controversy on his hands after the team last week decided not to trade its starting quarterback, Kyle Orton. After Tim Tebow was vocal about his frustration with not being named the Broncos’ No. 1 signal caller, extra pressure is going to be on Tebow all preseason when he’s on the field. Will the second-year quarterback’s play with the second unit justify his frustrations, or will it prove there isn’t a quarterback controversy at all?

This game marks the debut of Rob Ryan as the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. The Cowboys are coming off a terrible defensive season that was its worst in team history and was a factor in former head coach Wade Phillips losing his job midway through the year.

Cardinals at Raiders
After just a week of practice with his new team, quarterback Kevin Kolb makes his debut with the Cardinals after being traded from the Eagles for Rodgers-Cromartie last month. This is the first starting job handed to him since he was drafted by the Eagles in 2007, so his performance will be something to watch not just during the preseason, but all season long.

The Raiders begin the post-Nnamdi Asomugha era after the star corner back signed with the Eagles this offseason. How the Raiders secondary will do with Asomugha’s departure remains a question mark. Something to take into account: Stanford Routt, opposite from Asomugha a year ago, was target three-times-more than Asomugha but had the exact same burn percentage as his now-departed teammate at 39.4 percent, which was tied for third-best in the league. This game also marks the beginning of the Hue Jackson era in Oakland. Jackson was named the Raiders head coach after Tom Cable was not retained by owner and Tales from the Crypt host Al Davis.

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