KICKING OFF: Freeney expected to make debut with Falcons


By The Associated Press

A look at Thursday’s NFL preseason matchups:


The Atlanta Falcons’ latest hope for boosting their pass rush, defensive end Dwight Freeney, is expected to make his Atlanta debut against the Cleveland Browns after reaching a deal on Aug. 2. The Falcons, last in the NFL with 19 sacks last season, have ranked no higher than 28th since 2012. Freeney, 36, is expected to play in nickel packages.

He may make only a brief appearance on Thursday night — or in any preseason game, for that matter.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn joked “I don’t think he’ll lead the league in playing time this preseason.”

Freeney had eight sacks in 11 games with Arizona last season. No Falcons player had more than four sacks.


When the Detroit Lions lost Calvin Johnson to retirement in the offseason, they immediately signed receiver Marvin Jones.

The Lions take on Jones’ old team when they host the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones had one catch in Detroit’s win over Pittsburgh last week.

Cincinnati lost Jones and fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu to free agency. It signed Brandon LaFell and drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round, but LaFell has an injured right hand and didn’t play last week against Minnesota.


For Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, the preseason is the time to take some risks that he might normally try to avoid when the games count.

“I definitely do stuff that I want to work on in a game setting against live bullets,” he said. “I definitely do that, nothing that would go against hurting or anything. But, I want to see if we can get better. I want to see if, ‘Man if we can do that, that would help’ you know? So I definitely do that sometimes,” he said.

Carr’s next chance to try that out will be Thursday night when the Raiders visit Green Bay, which hopes to give backup quarterback Brett Hundley the majority of snaps if his injured ankle allows it.


After practicing together this week and enduring a couple of scrums and shoving matches, the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears will play at Foxborough, Mass.

It culminates a week-long reunion between Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett and his former team, who traded him in March.

He shared hugs and pleasantries with several of his former teammates and coaches during three days of joint practices. But the outspoken Bennett and his brother, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, made a couple of nasty comments about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the last month.

Still, Chicago coach John Fox assured there is “no ill will” toward Bennett.

Tom Brady may see some action for New England, but Jimmy Garoppolo will get the majority of the work.


Seattle and Minnesota are meeting for first time since the Seahawks beat the Vikings 10-9 in the playoffs last season.

“This is a playoff team, won the Super Bowl a couple years ago and the NFC championship game a couple years ago,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of the Seahawks. “So, our guys know the competition that they’re facing. I don’t think they think of it as like this is the wild card round or anything like that, but I think it’ll be good competition.”

Seattle continues to lean toward undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin as its backup quarterback to Russell Wilson. Boykin completed 16 of 26 passes and threw a 37-yard touchdown to Tanner McEvoy on the final play of regulation to give the Seahawks’ 17-16 win.


Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running backs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Antonio Brown will not play in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

It remains to be seen whether the Eagles use new receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He was acquired from Tennessee on Tuesday for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.

By The Associated Press

Associated Press sports writers Charles Odum in Flowery Branch, Ga., Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Mass., Josh Dubow in Napa, Calif., Noah Trister in Allen Park, Mich. Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minn., Tim Booth in Renton, Wash. and Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J. contributed to this report.

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