The first week of the NFL preseason is in the books, with some interesting developments among the quarterback battles and the rookie signal-callers. Anthony Richardson is the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts and Bryce Young took a lot of hits in his debut for the Carolina Panthers.
With joint practices taking center stage this week, let’s see how many starters participate in the actual games. There’s still plenty of developments throughout the preseason that are worth monitoring for each team.
Need a reason to tune in? Here it is:
Browns: The Browns aren’t going to play starters in this one thanks to the joint practices with the Eagles, so Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get the start. The rookie quarterback is 17 of 21 for 184 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in two games (134.9 rating). Thompson-Robinson is in the running for the Browns’ No. 2 quarterback job.
Eagles: The Eagles likely won’t play starters in this one, but Sydney Brown is coming off a strong week (nine tackles in preseason opener). Still fighting for a first-team spot at safety, Brown has an opportunity to continue to impress the coaching staff with his closing speed and ability to find the football.
Panthers: Carolina’s offensive line didn’t do the best job at protecting Bryce Young in his debut, as Young was sacked once and hit three times. The Jets defensive line is very good, and the Giants will also be a tough test. Young took a lot of hits in the opener, and needs to be better protected if he’s going to have immediate success in the league.
Giants: Jalin Hyatt has been making plays in training camp, but he had just one catch for -4 yards in his preseason debut. Stats aren’t an indicator of how performances are measured in the preseason, yet it would be beneficial for Hyatt to rack up a big play or two against Carolina’s secondary. Hyatt adds a vertical presence to the Giants passing game.
Bengals: Jackson Carman was battling for a spot on the first team with Jonah Williams at right tackle before a horrendous preseason debut. Carman was moved to the second team at left tackle after allowing four pressures in 27 pass-blocking snaps. A bounce-back performance from Carman — at the left tackle spot — is needed.
Falcons: A change of pace for Arthur Smith in the preseason opener, as Atlanta threw the ball 23 times and ran the ball 26. The Falcons ran the ball 55.29% of the time last season (second in NFL), but ran it 53.06% of the time in the preseason opener. The Falcons are always going to be a run-first team, but seeing Smith draw up more passing plays is a welcome sight.
Jaguars: Not only do the Jaguars have an explosive running back in Travis Etienne, they found a counter back in Tank Bigsby. The rookie had nine carries for 54 yards in the preseason opener, including a 34-yard run in the second quarter. He’s the short-yardage back in Jacksonville’s offense.
Lions: Brian Branch is having a strong training camp, and has gotten praise from Dan Campbell for how well he’s communicating with his teammates and learning the defense. The Lions can play Branch in the nickel and have significant depth at safety. Branch will get a strong look this preseason.
Dolphins: Since the Dolphins weren’t able to land Dalvin Cook, rookie De’Von Achane will be on notice the remainder of the preseason. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson appear to be the top two backs, but Achane’s speed adds even more explosiveness to an already fast offense. He had 66 yards on 14 touches in his preseason debut, including four catches for 41 yards.
Texans: How C.J. Stroud performs in his second preseason game is under the microscope. Stroud looked out of his element while making his preseason debut against the Patriots and arguably the best defensive coach in NFL history in Bill Belichick. In just two series, Stroud went 2 of 4 for 13 yards with an interception — a forced pass on third-and-long into the arms of Jalen Mills. Having difficulty in decision-making and getting rid of the football, Stroud didn’t look ready for what an opposing pass rush has to offer. Let’s see if he learned something from his debut.
Bills: The battle for the second cornerback job next to Tre’Davious White is heating up. Dane Jackson started the preseason opener and had an interception, but Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford each got a deep look from the coaching staff in the opener. Jackson is the favorite, but all three cornerbacks are still in the hunt. Good problem to have for Buffalo.
Steelers: Kenny Pickett was fun to watch in the preseason opener. Now the Steelers will get to see what he does against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Pickett finished 6 of 7 for 70 yards and a touchdown in his lone series — capped with a 33-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens — in his debut. More playing time for Pickett this week will be good for the Steelers offense.
Bears: Joint practices with the Colts will likely take the starters out of play, but how will the running back rotation shake out? Khalil Herbert appears to be the clear No. 1 over D’Onta Foreman, who signed with Chicago as a free agent replacing David Montgomery. Is Herbert now in the Montgomery role and Foreman in the Herbert role? Who plays this weekend — and how many snaps — will be a tell-tale sign.
Colts: Anthony Richardson is the starting quarterback (and likely won’t play because of the joint practices). Alec Pierce could have made his preseason debut better if he could have hauled in a perfect throw from Richardson that would have been a touchdown last week. The Colts need Pierce to step up and become more consistent in Year 2 if they want to get the best out of Richardson’s rookie year.
Buccaneers: Another team with a joint practice this week, but the quarterback battle between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask is in full swing. Mayfield appears to have the upper edge right now. Mayfield is more of a risk taker than Trask, which would play the “make-or-break” role in him winning the job.
Jets: Will Dalvin Cook make his debut this week? Cook signed with the Jets and is participating in practice, so perhaps the four-time 1,000-yard running back gets a few snaps this weekend. Breece Hall has also been cleared to practice this week, but it shouldn’t be expected for him to get any carries.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers (Sat., 8 p.m. ET)
Patriots: With the Patriots signing Ezekiel Elliott, there’s financial reasons to believe Elliott is the No. 2 running back behind Rhamondre Stevenson. So where does that leave Pierre Strong in the running back rotation? The 2022 fourth-round pick appeared set for an extended role in New England prior to the Elliott signing, but perhaps extended preseason touches may help his stock if the 2022 version of Elliott reemerges this year.
Packers: Sean Clifford was a risk taker as Jordan Love’s backup, making some exciting throws in his debut. The aggressive play also led to two interceptions, but Clifford did throw for over 190 yards in the first half of Green Bay’s preseason opener. Will Clifford play closer to the vest this week or continue the risk-taking throws?
Titans: More joint practices this week, so starters likely aren’t playing in this one either. The backup quarterback battle between Malik Willis and Will Levis is still intriguing, as neither appeared to have the upper hand on the job. Willis threw 25 passes in the opener while Levis threw 14. Willis has the upper edge right now with a year of experience under his belt, but let’s see how Levis fares with a game of experience as well.
Vikings: The interest in Kareem Hunt shouldn’t be surprising, given who the backup running backs behind Alexander Mattison are. Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler are fighting for the No. 2 job, but Nwangwu has an undisclosed injury and Chandler was just so-so in the opener, running 11 times for 41 yards and adding four catches for 29 yards. Chandler will get an extended look this week, perhaps proving the Vikings may not need to sign a player anyway.
Chiefs: Richie James is starting to get first-team reps at wide receiver after a strong preseason opener, highlighted by a 43-yard reception and a touchdown catch to follow shortly after. James has had a good camp and injuries to Kadarius Toney and Justyn Ross have given him the opportunity, although Ross returned to practice on Wednesday.
Cardinals: Hard to think there’s an actual quarterback competition in Arizona, but Clayton Tune did go 13 of 23 for 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception (70.0 rating). Colt McCoy is likely the starter until Kyler Murray returns, yet Tune may get an extended look this preseason as the franchise looks past 2023. The Cardinals like the fifth-round pick.
Broncos: The tight end battle in Denver is intriguing. Adam Trautman is the No. 1 tight end over Greg Dulcich, who was expected to take the starting job heading into Year 2. Trautman is a better blocker than Dulcich and more versatile, even though Dulcich is the better pass catcher. Denver appears to be going with Trautman to start the year.
49ers: Trey Lance held on to the ball too long in the preseason opener and looked indecisive on a few plays, likely playing his way out of any competition for the starting quarterback job with Brock Purdy. Can Lance play well enough so the 49ers get value for him or will he be the No. 2 quarterback in San Francisco?
Raiders: Tre Tucker didn’t have a good preseason debut, having two drops in a performance that saw him finish with one catch for 15 yards. The compensation in the Darren Waller trade, Tucker was responsible for two of Aidan O’Connell’s three incomplete passes. The Raiders still like Tucker’s speed, and he’ll get more opportunities this week (Tucker is arguably the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart).
Rams: Byron Young is a fascinating story, as the rookie wears the No. 0 for 0% chance for making it to the NFL. A former manager at Dollar General, he’s looking to build off a preseason debut that saw him finish with one tackle in 22 snaps with no pressures. The Rams are developing Young this preseason, so he’ll be getting an extended look.
Cowboys: Jake Ferguson looks to be the No. 1 tight end in Dallas, as the rookie had an impressive debut. He caught all three targets for 38 yards, which included an impressive 26-yard reception from Cooper Rush — a highlight-reel snag. The Cowboys have an intense battle on the depth chart for tight end, but Ferguson is the leader in the clubhouse.
Seahawks: Seattle moved Coby Bryant to safety, and he had a successful debut at the position. Despite not having played there since 2017, Bryant delivered big blows and showcased his skill in coverage. The Seahawks have been impressed with Bryant’s transition to safety, and he can play boundary cornerback and the slot.
Saints: Another joint training camp practice this week, but Michael Thomas is still working his way back from ankle, hamstring and toe injuries that have limited him over the past three seasons. The Saints have been cautious with Thomas as he’s starting to look like the player he once was, having heavily contested battles with Marshon Lattimore in training camp. Thomas still won’t say he’s 100%, but he’s getting there.
Chargers: Quentin Johnston didn’t have the preseason opener the Chargers expected, finishing with two drops in his debut. That was the knock on Johnston coming into the draft, even though he made up for it with the touchdown catch later in the game. This isn’t a Ja’Marr Chase situation since the drops were an issue for Johnston in college, but the Chargers would benefit to see them eliminated over the course of the preseason.
Ravens: Zay Flowers didn’t have a catch in the preseason opener, yet the rookie wideout made an impact on the game — drawing two pass interference penalties on a potent Eagles secondary. Flowers should play a bit this week with the joint practices, as he’ll get the opportunity to catch passes from Tyler Huntley in a game for the first time.
Commanders: Andrew Wylie signed a big free agent contract off a strong Super Bowl performance, yet struggled in the preseason opener. He allowed two pressures, a quarterback hit, and had two penalties. The offensive line has been revamped in Washington, with left tackle Charles Leno Jr., left guard Chris Paul, center Nick Gates, right guard Sam Cosmi and Wyle at right tackle — yet the unit didn’t perform well in the opener. They’ll have more time to gel this week (assuming Ron Rivera plays the starters after the joint practices).