Aug 16, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (10) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Takeaways: Michael Sam Earning His Draft Spurs

Preseason action continues around the NFL with loads of interesting subplots taking shape.  Here are some takeaways.

Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt will terrorize the league

Any older football fan may remember how frightening it was for quarterbacks when they played against Reggie White and Jerome Brown of the Philadelphia Eagles back in the late ’80s.  They were arguably the most dominant pass rush tandem in the past 30 years.  Based on early returns, the Houston Texans may have new challengers.  Regardless of their quarterback situation, the pairing of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt is going to produce sacks.  A lot of them.  Opposing backfields better beware.

Sam validating the St. Louis Rams decision to draft him

More than a few people criticized the St. Louis Rams when they elected to draft Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in the 7th round this past May.  It was felt as nothing more than a publicity stunt because the young man became the first player to declare he was openly gay in NFL history.  Head coach Jeff Fisher insisted the move was made for football reasons.  Sam has rewarded that faith.  After a decent debut in week 1, he made two more tackles against Green Bay and also notched his first sack.  He hasn’t crossed the finish line yet, but Sam is closing in on a earned roster spot.

Ryan Nassib throws hat into deepening backup pool

Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallet and Brock Osweiler have all taken their turns at showing their prowess under center this preseason.  Such performances offer tremendous value to their respective teams, not just as backups but also as trade chips for future draft picks.  It’s a time-tested strategy many teams have benefited from.  It seems the New York Giants may be another one as their second-year backup Ryan Nassib has put together a very solid August.  It peaked in week 2 against Indianapolis when he led the offense to 20 points including a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter, capping a wild comeback.  He still has work to do, but the Giants are seeing their investment grow more valuable with each week.

Teddy Bridgewater returns Blake Bortles volley in rookie derby

One of the more entertaining subplots of the NFL preseason is the ongoing races between the top rookie quarterbacks of the 2014 draft to decide who will be the first to start in the pros.  Blake Bortles jumped ahead of the pack with his solid showing in Chicago.  Not to be outdone however, Vikings 1st round pick Teddy Bridgewater returned Bortles’ salvo with a scintillating display against Arizona in which he posted 177 yards, two touchdowns and led a 4th quarter comeback with seconds remaining.  Matt Cassel is still leading the race, but his grip has slackened slightly.

Tags: J.J. Watt Jadeveon Clowney Michael Sam NFL Ryan Nassib St. Louis Rams Teddy Bridgewater

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