2023 NFL Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes: Week 1

**** NOTES FOR EVERY GAME WILL BE UP AS SOON AS I WATCH THEM **** Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

2023 Preseason Notes: Week 1
2023 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 1

Raiders 34, 49ers 7

  • This was an anticlimactic way to end the first week of the preseason, as both the 49ers and Raiders utilized nothing but backups. This was a battle of Trey Lance versus Aidan O’Connell. I’m sure many would have expected Lance to out-duel O’Connell, but the opposite occurred.

    Lance’s stats weren’t bad – 10-of-15, 112 yards, one touchdown – but he had miserable pocket presence and awareness. He held on to the ball forever, as he struggled to see the field well. He took way too many sacks, and even his touchdown shouldn’t have counted. A pass of his thrown into the end zone should have been intercepted, but the Raider defensive back bobbled the ball, which floated into the arms of a San Francisco tight end. Lance looks like he has actually regressed from where he was a couple of years ago. He needs plenty of development to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.

    Conversely, O’Connell was sharp. His first pass was an excellent strike to Tre Tucker for a gain of 15 yards. He continued to make accurate passes while releasing the ball quickly. O’Connell went 10-of-13 for 107 yards and a touchdown, and unlike Lance, O’Connell’s numbers should have been better because a receiver of his dropped a deep pass in the second quarter.

  • Zamir White is a player of significance because he may start if Josh Jacobs continues to hold out. White was solid, dashing for 43 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. It should be noted that his offensive line blasted open some huge running lanes for him.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Matt Millen was the Raiders’ play-by-play guy. Here were some interesting things that he said:

    I’m saying he’s going to go inside.

    They need to bring an inside out guy on them.

    He’s doing a great job of not giving up on the backside.

    He runs him down from behind.

    You have to stick your face right into the middle of his chest.

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    Saints 26, Chiefs 24

  • Andy Reid is one of the greatest NFL coaches in our lifetime, yet I have to question his decision-making regarding Patrick Mahomes’ usage in the preseason. Mahomes typically plays a drive in the initial exhibition contest, and that’s what occurred in this contest. Mahomes, however, was basically just a vessel to showcase Clyde Edwards-Helaire, perhaps for a trade. Using Mahomes in this fashion would not have incurred any sort of risk – except Mahomes scrambled on a third down and slid, which could have put him in a situation in which he had gotten hurt. Mahomes, who went 2-of-2 for 15 yards, is fortunate that he didn’t suffer an injury when he slid awkwardly.

    Here were Mahomes’ targets:

    Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 2

  • With Mahomes starting, I was hoping we’d see how he would interact with Skyy Moore. Unfortunately, all Mahomes did was throw to Edwards-Helaire. Moore didn’t register a single target. The same can be said for Travis Kelce and the other Chiefs starting receivers.

  • Rashee Rice eventually saw action with the backups. He caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 13-yard reception he made in heavy traffic.

  • Derek Carr was also on the field. He played one drive, but looked like he had been in New Orleans’ offense for a decade. Carr was very sharp, going 6-of-8 for 70 yards and a touchdown, which was a perfect pass to Keith Kirkwood.

    Here were Carr’s targets:

    Juwan Johnson: 2
    Alvin Kamara: 2
    Keith Kirkwood: 1 (1 end zone)
    Chris Olave: 1
    Michael Thomas: 2 (1 end zone)

  • I tweeted that Alvin Kamara looked like the pre-2022 Alvin Kamara in his preseason debut. Kamara was lacking explosion last year, but it returned in this game. He dashed for 14 yards on three carries and also caught two passes for 21 receiving yards. He has to serve a three-game suspension, but he’ll be a great producer upon his return.

  • I was looking forward to watching Kendre Miller more than any other player in this game. Unfortunately, Dennis Allen apparently forgot that Miller was on the roster. Allen spent most of the first half feeding established veteran Jamaal Williams instead of Miller. The result was nine carries for Miller and only four for Miller. I wish I could give you some analysis of Miller, but he touched the ball only five times. Allen is one of the worst head coaches in the NFL, and this was yet another example of his incompetence.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The play-by-play announcer repeatedly harped about how hot it was outside, almost seeming bewildered that the temperature was high in August. Apparently, this guy had never heard of the summer before. If you haven’t either, it’s the season where it gets hot outside.

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    Chargers 34, Rams 17

  • The Rams and Chargers are notorious for not playing their starters in any of their preseason games. This occurred yet again in the 2023 exhibition opener, as Easton Stick and Brett Rypien were the starting quarterbacks.

    The most significant player to suit up was Quentin Johnson, who got off to a very ugly start. Johnson dropped three passes in early drives, including a deep attempt. Johnston, however, was able to rebound with a touchdown much later in the game. Johnston hauled in three balls for 10 yards and the score.

  • A player I was excited to watch was Stetson Bennett, the two-time college football national champion. Bennett got off to a shaky start, nearly throwing two interceptions on his initial drive. Bennett stared down his receiver on the first occasion, then proceeded to throw the ball right to the defender on the second. Bennett, however, got into a groove after this. He began firing perfect strikes, beginning with a 17-yard completion he had to convert a third down. He was very impressive at times, and his stats – 17-of-29, 191 yards, one touchdown – don’t do him justice. Bennett drew multiple deep pass interference flags, so his numbers could have been much better.

  • The other quarterback of note was Max Duggan, who played the entire fourth quarter. Duggan went just 2-of-3 for 19 yards, but he also scrambled four times for 20 rushing yards. He also drew a deep interference flag. Duggan was lit up by the Rams’ defense, as the Charger offensive line couldn’t protect him at all.

  • Rams fifth-round rookie receiver Puka Nacua had a solid showing in his first preseason action. Nacua caught three of his five targets for 32 yards and a touchdown. Sean McVay told reporters that he was a big fan of Nacua, who could really aid the Rams’ horrible receiving depth.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Rams’ sideline reporter bragged that he had Van Jefferson’s dad, Shawn Jefferson, on his fantasy football team back in the day. This guy must suck at fantasy because Shawn Jefferson never reached 900 receiving yards in his career.

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    Ravens 20, Eagles 19

  • Both teams used their backups in this game. With that in mind, something should really stand out if you glance at the box score.

    That something is Philadelphia’s running back usage. D’Andre Swift started and had a nice 22-yard burst. He then gave way to Rashaad Penny, who mustered 34 yards on nine carries. Both players looked good, but that’s not the primary take-away. That would be that Kenneth Gainwell did not play in the preseason opener. Given that the Eagles sat all of their starters, this is extremely bullish for Gainwell, who has seen an increase in first-team reps recently.

  • Staying in Philadelphia’s backfield, I was impressed with how sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee performed. McKee had some deep completions, including a 33-yarder in which he showed amazing touch. His final stat line – 10-of-20, 148 yards – doesn’t do him justice. McKee also had a long completion wiped out by offensive pass interference.

  • As for the Ravens, the only player of significance was Zay Flowers, who didn’t do much in the box score. In fact, the only stat he logged was a 1-yard rushing attempt on a quick toss. However, he drew two defensive penalties, so Baltimore supporters should at least be encouraged by that.

  • Ugh. As someone who bet the Ravens -6, I am very frustrated. The Ravens were up seven with possession in the fourth quarter, but fourth-string quarterback Anthony Brown threw a pick-six to ruin our cover.

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    Jaguars 28, Cowboys 23

  • Doug Pederson wanted to use his starting offense in this game for some reason, and things did not go well for Trevor Lawrence at the very beginning. Lawrence rolled left and threw a horrible pass across his body. The ball floated into a crowd and was picked. Following a failed, quick drive, Lawrence finally got his act together, albeit versus Dallas’ backup defense. Lawrence connected with Calvin Ridley twice and then hit Christian Kirk for a touchdown. He followed that up by finding Zay Jones for a two-point conversion.

    Lawrence’s interception was his only misfire, as he went 5-of-6 for 36 yards, one touchdown and a pick. We can’t really take away anything from this performance, aside from Lawrence looking comfortable throwing to Ridley.

    Here were Lawrence’s targets:

    Evan Engram: 1
    JaMycal Hasty: 1
    Zay Jones: 1 (1 end zone)
    Christian Kirk: 2 (1 end zone)
    Calvin Ridley: 2

  • Ridley, wearing one of those new No. 0 jerseys, caught both of his targets from Lawrence for 21 yards. This wasn’t much of a sample size, but Ridley looked in rhythm with Lawrence.

  • Travis Etienne got all the first-team attempts, rushing for 22 yards on five carries. Rookie Tank Bigsby took the field after him and did pretty well. He rumbled for 52 yards on nine attempts, though he failed to score a touchdown on two attempts near the goal line.

  • Undrafted rookie quarterback Nathan O’Rourke threw one of the most incredible touchdowns you’ll ever see in the preseason. He somehow broke out of four tackles in the backfield and heaved the ball downfield as he was getting dragged to the ground. The ball sailed right to the hands of his receiver for a 21-yard touchdown. O’Rourke went 9-of-17 for 153 yards and the touchdown, and he also rushed for 20 yards and another touchdown on six scrambles.

  • There’s not much to say about the Cowboys, who played nothing but backups. The one exception could be tight end Jake Ferguson, who caught three passes for 38 yards. He played ahead of rookie Luke Schoonmaker, who had just one reception. Ferguson could be a decent red zone threat for Dak Prescott.

  • Sixth-round rookie running back Deuce Vaughn looked incredible in his debut. He displayed great burst, a ridiculous spin move and ankle-breaking jukes on several of his runs. Vaughn dashed for 50 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and he also caught three passes for six receiving yards.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Cowboys have sadly changed their broadcasting format. They used to employ some old guys, including a dude named “Babe,” and they’d welcome in old Cowboys from the 90s, including Emmitt Smith. That’s no longer the case, as the Dallas three-man booth is comprised of young people I didn’t recognize.

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    Jets 27, Panthers 0

  • C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis all underwhelmed in their preseason debut. Would Bryce Young be better than that trio? Everyone would quickly find out, as Young made the start versus the Jets.

    Young, in short, didn’t really do much. He either released quick passes or took big hits from the Jets’ backup defense. Carolina’s offensive line was too inept to keep the New York reserves out of the backfield, allowing Young to take three hits and one sack. That would explain why Young finished just 4-of-6 for 21 yards. One of his incompletions was a miscommunication with Laviska Shenault.

    Here were Young’s targets:

    D.J. Chark: 2
    Chuba Hubbard: 1
    Laviska Shenault: 1
    Adam Thielen: 1

  • Matt Corral took over for Young in the second quarter. Given that Corral got hurt last year, it was interesting to see how he would perform at the pro level. Corral was worse than any of the rookie quarterbacks, unfortunately. The stats don’t look bad – 15-of-22, 126 yards, one interception – and his pick shouldn’t even count because it was a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. However, Corral fumbled a snap and threw nothing but checkdowns. Even Panthers color analyst Steve Smith expressed frustration with Corral when the second-year quarterback checked the ball down on third-and-long.

  • I was looking forward to seeing Jonathan Mingo make his debut, but the rookie receiver played just five snaps. He wasn’t targeted on a single occasion. Despite the lack of production, it might be a positive that the Panthers didn’t want to use him very much.

  • As for the Jets, they played their backups, so there isn’t much worth mentioning. One exception is Israel Abanikanda, who was impressive in his second preseason game. Abanikanda had some nice gains after catching screen passes and was robbed of a touchdown after replay review negated his score. He was impressive as a runner, utilizing a sick spin move on one occasion. Abanikanda finished with 56 rushing yards on 12 carries to go along with three catches for 31 receiving yards.

  • Zach Wilson played most of the way. He looked pretty good, going 14-of-20 for 123 yards and a touchdown. I came away convinced that he could develop into a great preseason quarterback; perhaps even the next Kyle Sloter.

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    Bears 23, Titans 17

  • Justin Fields and the rest of the offensive starters played in this game. If you look at the box score, you’ll see that Fields went 3-of-3 for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and you may be tempted to bet him to win MVP.

    Before you do so, consider two things: One, Fields did this against Tennessee’s backup defense. And two, of his 129 yards, 118 of them came on short tosses to D.J. Moore and Khalil Herbert, who respectively took 62- and 56-yard receptions to the house. It should be noted, however, that Fields didn’t have Moore’s type of play-making at receiver last season. Moore certainly adds a new element to Chicago’s offense.

    Here were Fields’ targets:

    Khair Blasingame: 1
    Khalil Herbert: 1
    D.J. Moore: 1

  • Khalil Herbert, who scored on a 56-yard reception in the preseason opener, was the only running back used with the starters. This could eventually change later in the year, but Herbert is being undervalued at the moment.

  • While Herbert had the big play, Roschon Johnson was impressive as well. The rookie runner showed some great power and tackle-breaking ability on his runs in the preseason opener, as he gained 44 yards on 12 carries. He also caught three passes for two receiving yards. His best play was a 24-yard burst in which he broke five tackles.

  • The Titans didn’t use any of their starters. They rotated their backup quarterbacks, Malik Willis and Will Levis, the entire afternoon. Levis was the second quarterback on the field, and he didn’t have a very good performance. There were some bright spots, including a 21-yard connection he made while on the move. However, he had an early potential interception that was dropped by the defender. Levis made a late throw on an out route and was fortunate not to be penalized for it. Much later, Levis’ final drive was a disaster. He had an open receiver whom he missed horribly for a substantial gain and then heaved an interception on an overthrow. Levis finished 9-of-14 for 85 yards and the pick.

  • Tennessee’s other skill-position rookie was much more impressive. That was running back Tyjae Spears, who made the start. Spears picked up a short-yardage opportunity easily and then got the edge to gain 14 yards. Spears logged 32 yards on six carries, and he also caught a 4-yard pass. He’s an immediate add if Derrick Henry suffers an injury.

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    Bills 23, Colts 19

  • All eyes were on Anthony Richardson, who was making his NFL debut against the Bills. Richardson had the misfortune of battling Buffalo’s first-string defense, so this was a good test for him.

    Unfortunately for Richardson, this initial outing was a near-failure. Following two short tosses to begin the game, Richardson panicked under pressure and flung a hideous side-armed toss that was intercepted. On the next drive, Richardson made a short throw that was way off the mark. The Buffalo color analyst sighed, “That’s a routine throw you have to make.”

    It wasn’t all bad for Richardson. He had a 5-yard run in which he broke out of a tackle like a running back. He also nearly ran in for a touchdown, but his 7-yard rush was negated by a hold. Aerially, Richardson lofted a nice, deep toss to Alec Pierce, but Pierce dropped it.

    Richardson finished 7-of-12 for 67 yards and an interception to go along with two scrambles for seven rushing yards. This was a disappointing debut, but it wasn’t unexpected from such a raw quarterback.

    Here were Richardson’s targets:

    Kylen Granson: 2
    Evan Hull: 1
    Isaiah McKenzie: 4
    Michael Pittman: 3

  • Many of Buffalo’s offensive starters were on the field as well, though they weren’t joined by Josh Allen or Stefon Diggs. Instead, James Cook was the focal point. Cook performed well, rushing four times for 20 yards and a touchdown. His best run featured a broken tackle for a gain of seven.

  • Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid also played, but he wasn’t targeted at all. Bills backup quarterback Kyle Allen, who completed 6-of-11 passes, was simply too incompetent to deliver the ball to Kincaid.

  • Another young pass-catcher, Khalil Shakir, made a terrific, leaping reception. However, he later committed a bad drop on third down. He finished with two receptions for 25 yards.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: “The Bills made a smart play to negate the penalty.” An announcer said this, and I had to wonder how a coaching decision can count as a play.

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    Falcons 19, Dolphins 3

  • Unlike the Browns-Redskins game analyzed below, the Falcons-Dolphins matchup didn’t have much substance to it. The Falcons didn’t play anyone of note, opting to go with Logan Woodside as their quarterback the entire evening. Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts were nowhere to be seen. In fact, the Falcons didn’t use any of their top three running backs.

    The Dolphins, meanwhile, didn’t play any starters either, but we got to see some of their young players. This includes De’Von Achane, who was the backup to Myles Gaskin in this game. Achane didn’t have the best rushing stats – 10 carries, 25 yards – but he caught four passes for 41 receiving yards. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon at times, but he just didn’t have much running room in the interior.

  • Anyone who is sick enough to play preseason DFS like me knows of Erik Ezukanma. The speedy threat is constantly impressive in these exhibition games, and tonight was no exception. Ezukanma caught three passes for 15 yards, but did his best work as a runner, rushing twice for 52 yards. Ezukanma has great speed, so it would make sense for the Dolphins to feature him more during the regular season as a fourth receiver.

  • If you’re curious as to who quarterbacked the Dolphins, it was former Jet Mike White. Things began well for White, who looked very sharp on the opening drive – at least until White foolishly threw late over the middle as he was drifting the other way. The pass was fired into heavy traffic in the end zone, and it was predictably picked off. White finished 9-of-14 for 85 yards and the interception.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Dolphins’ preseason TV network had the longest introduction I have ever seen for any exhibition game. They had a five-minute montage of complete nonsense, ranging from Marlins baseball to Miami soccer featuring some guy named Messi. At one point, I was wondering if I had tuned into the correct broadcast.

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    Redskins 17, Browns 15

  • While many teams rest their starters in the preseason, especially during the first weekend, both squads had their first-string units on the field for this game. Given their circumstances, this was not a surprising development.

    The Browns had to give Deshaun Watson some reps after what transpired last year. We saw a glimpse of things to come from Watson during the 2022 preseason in which the Browns had a futile and hilarious performance. Seriously, if you want a good laugh, go back and watch what they did with Watson last preseason. The difference between that game and this one was night and day, however, as Watson looked much better. Granted, it was a small sample size, but Watson looked sharp as he completed all three of his passes for 12 yards. He also had some crucial runs to move the chains, picking up 20 yards on three carries.

    Unfortunately for the Browns, their sole offensive possession with Watson on the field ended with a fourth-down miscue that was a byproduct of some horrific play-calling from Kevin Stefanski.

    Here were Watson’s targets:

    Jordan Akins: 1
    Elijah Moore: 1
    David Njoku: 1

  • Watson played without Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper. He had Elijah Moore, however, and the former Jet caught a 6-yard pass and sprinted for an 18-yard rush. There was also rookie Cedric Tillman, who made a nice block on a running play. Tillman would eventually catch two passes for seven yards and draw an interference flag. He dropped a pass that would have given him a 15-yard gain, however.

  • For the second week in a row, Dorian Thompson-Robinson outplayed the other Cleveland backup quarterbacks, and that includes Joshua Dobbs. Thompson-Robinson misfired only once, going 9-of-10 for 102 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled thrice for 11 rushing yards. Thompson-Robinson was excellent, and his touchdown was a byproduct of him diagnosing the blitz and throwing the ball to the correct spot to beat it. His lone misfire was broken up by a Washington defender. And for good measure, Thompson-Robinson flipped off the Redskin sideline at one point. It’s a shame Thompson-Robinson is blocked by Watson because he could challenge for a starting job on a team like Tampa Bay or Atlanta.

  • I would have said Washington as a possibility for Thompson-Robinson, but Sam Howell enjoyed a solid performance in his 2023 debut. Howell went 9-of-12 for 77 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland’s starting defense. He also had a nifty 8-yard scramble to pick up a first down on a third-and-6 run. Howell’s score was a nice pass to Jahan Dotson, and his stats would have been better had tight end John Bates not dropped a potential 15-yard reception.

    Here were Howell’s targets:

    John Bates: 1
    Jahan Dotson: 2
    Antonio Gibson: 3
    Terry McLaurin: 1
    Brian Robinson: 1
    Curtis Samuel: 2
    Cole Turner: 3

  • Jahan Dotson looked like he had strong chemistry with Sam Howell in the preseason opener. Dotson caught two passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, making a great grab on the score. I’m high on Dotson this year, so I was glad to see this performance.

  • Brian Robinson appears to be the clear-cut No. 1 running back on the Redskins. Robinson handled all the first- and second-down work versus Cleveland, rumbling for 16 yards on three carries. Antonio Gibson served as the third-down back.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: We had this quote during the broadcast from one of the color analysts: “Those back end jobs don’t usually work very well.” If Matt Millen happened to be watching, I bet he yelled at the TV that he could help the back end jobs work much better.

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    Lions 21, Giants 16

  • The Lions didn’t play some of their starters, but they had their young playmakers on the field versus the Giants. This includes Jahmyr Gibbs, Jameson Williams, and Sam LaPorta. Let’s review how each of them fared.

    Jahmyr Gibbs was the best of Detroit’s youngsters. He rushed for 19 yards on six carries and caught an 18-yard pass. He showed great patience on one run where he waited to burst through a hole to pick up a gain of eight yards. He then broke a tackle to get to the edge on an ensuing run. The Lions envision Gibbs as the next Alvin Kamara or Jamaal Charles, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the No. 12 overall pick get off to a great start.

    Jameson Williams caught two passes for 18 yards, but could have enjoyed a much better night. Williams was targeted on a deep pass on the very first snap, but the pass was intercepted. This wasn’t Williams’ fault, as Nate Sudfeld was hit upon release. However, Williams was to blame on a drop, as he had the ball bounce out of his hands on another potential deep completion.

    Sam LaPorta was also guilty of a drop. He let the ball hit the ground on a fourth-down attempt. Unlike Williams, LaPorta failed to reel in a single reception.

  • Brian Branch is not an offensive playmaker, but he figures to have a big impact in Detroit’s secondary despite being a rookie. Branch made a great play in this game, flying from far away to make a big hit to force a loss.

  • I have no notes on the Giants. They played no one of note, save for No. 2 running back Matt Brieda, who was given just one carry. Cole Beasley saw some action, catching four passes for 33 yards, but I don’t expect him to make the final roster.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Is it just me, or were these two men standing uncomfortably close to each other?

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    Cardinals 18, Broncos 17

  • Denver fans who were excited to see how Russell Wilson would look in his first game under Sean Payton had to be greatly disappointed. Denver’s starting offense was a disaster in this game, as the team struggled to move the chains consistently despite battling Arizona’s third-string players. Denver finally scored a touchdown, but that didn’t happen until the middle of the second quarter on a blown coverage.

    Russell Wilson went 7-of-13 for 93 yards and a touchdown. He threw behind Adam Trautman on one occasion. He was strip-sacked on another play, but recovered the loose ball. His performance was underwhelming, but it was far from his fault, as his offensive line really struggled to pass protect. Even the Arizona announcers were shocked that the Cardinals, who are known for their weak pass rush, were able to constantly generate pressure on Wilson.

    Here were Wilson’s targets:

    Jerry Jeudy: 3
    Samaje Perine: 1
    Courtland Sutton: 5
    Adam Trautman: 3

  • Jerry Jeudy caught Wilson’s touchdown, hauling in two passes in total for 40 yards. Courtland Sutton (3-35) was slightly less productive, but saw two more targets, including a deep shot that fell incomplete. I’m a fan of Jeudy this year, but I have to admit that the performance we saw from Denver’s offensive line has me worried.

  • Javonte Williams was predictably sidelined, so Samaje Perine started. Perine looked good, dashing for 26 yards on six carries. With Williams’ knee being a big concern, Perine is a quality mid-round fantasy option.

  • Moving on to the Cardinals, we saw one drive out of Colt McCoy. He completed all four of his passes, but for only 17 yards. Clayton Tune stepped in and played a ton after that. Tune went 13-of-23 for 135 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He fired some very sketchy throws, though the interception wasn’t his fault because Rondale Moore slipped on Arizona’s icy surface.

  • There’s been some hype with Cardinals rookie receiver Michael Wilson. He didn’t have much of a debut, catching two passes for eight yards.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: We had the pleasure of hearing legendary Cardinals announcer Ron Wolfley, who gave us these gems:



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    Steelers 27, Buccaneers 17

  • Kenny Pickett played in only one drive against the Buccaneers, but he put on a clinic. The second-year pro looked so much better than he did last season. He made several impressive passes, all of which were perfectly precise. He had just one incompletion, but that was thrown away because of pressure. Pickett went 6-of-7 for 70 yards and a touchdown, which was delivered on a strike to George Pickens on a slant.

    Here were Pickett’s targets:

    Pat Freiermuth: 1
    Najee Harris: 1
    Diontae Johnson: 3
    George Pickens: 1
    Jaylen Warren: 1

  • Najee Harris started in the preseason opener and caught a pass right away. Jaylen Warren then entered the game. I thought Harris would be done, but he saw snaps after Warren received some touches. This is a very troubling development for all Harris fantasy owners because it appears as though the Steelers might utilize an even split between the two backs. In fact, Warren was even more impressive versus Tampa Bay. Warren rumbled for 13 yards on three carries, including one 9-yard burst where he resembled a tank.

  • Calvin Austin may have put himself in a better position to win the No. 3 receiving job in Pittsburgh. He had two early runs on back-to-back plays where he displayed his tremendous speed. His best play was a 68-yard touchdown bomb on a throw from Mason Rudolph.

  • Tampa Bay had an ugly offensive start in this game, going: run, run, run, false start while going for it on fourth down. However, Baker Mayfield was able to lead the offense on a scoring drive, albeit against Pittsburgh backups. Mayfield had a nice throw to Trey Palmer for the score, though it seemed as though Palmer’s second foot was out of bounds. Mayfield finished 8-of-9 for 63 yards and the score. Mayfield wasn’t as good as those numbers indicate, but he was decent. He was also much better than Kyle Trask (6-of-10, 99 yards, INT), who fired a pick on a late throw.

    Here were Mayfield’s targets:

    Chase Edmonds: 2
    Kaylon Geiger: 3
    Rakim Jarrett: 1
    Trey Palmer: 3
    Deven Thompkins: 2

  • I’d like to give you a report on how Tampa Bay’s skill position players performed, but despite Mayfield starting, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rachaad White all sat out. Mayfield spent his entire evening throwing to scrubs like Kaylon Geiger and Trey Palmer.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I’m probably the only one who cares about this, but the Buccaneers’ TV network had such a cool graphic for the score in past preseason games where the Buccaneer swords would swing whenever something happened. That graphic is now gone, and it’s been replaced by a generic one. This was a big disappointment.

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    Packers 36, Bengals 19

  • The Bengals sat all their starters, but the Packers took the opposite approach. They wanted to get “No Cookie” Jordan Love some reps, and understandably so.

    It was a tale of two drives for Love in this game. His first possession didn’t go very well. After some short tosses, he put too much air under the ball on a deep shot to Christian Watson, allowing safety Dax Hill to break up the ball. Love then missed rookie tight end Luke Musgrave badly on the next throw. However, Love’s second drive was much better, as he put nice touch on his pass on a touchdown to Romeo Doubs. Love finished 7-of-10 for 46 yards and the score.

    Here were Love’s targets:

    Romeo Doubs: 2
    Aaron Jones: 1
    Luke Musgrave: 3
    Jayden Reed: 1
    Christian Watson: 3

  • Packers rookie receiver Jayden Reed has seemingly already won the starting slot receiver job. He looked good in his preseason debut. He made a nice catch over a defender for a considerable gain. He also drew an interference flag at the goal line. He finished with two catches for 20 yards.

  • Another Packers rookie receiver, fifth-rounder Dontayvion Wicks, had a strong performance. He caught a slant and burned past the Cincinnati defense for a 47-yard gain. This was part of his three-catch, 68-yard outing. Wicks is way down the depth chart right now, so I wouldn’t draft him in regular leagues, but he’s someone to remember if the Packers suffer injuries at the position.

  • Cincinnati’s primary offensive skill-position player is running back Chase Brown. Unfortunately for Brown, he had a lackluster showing in his preseason debut, at least as a runner. Brown mustered only 12 yards on eight carries. He was out-performed by Chris Evans, who broke free on a long run. Evans dashed for 49 yards on seven carries. Then again, Brown picked up a first down on a short-yardage opportunity and caught three passes for 33 yards, so it wasn’t a completely poor night.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The play-by-play guy was a bit too excited when the Bengals forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. “FUMBLE! FUMBLE! BENGALS RECOVER! BENGALS RECOVER!” The problem? The Bengals were down 17 with four minutes remaining!

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    Seahawks 24, Vikings 13

  • The veteran starters on both teams sat in this game, so there’s not much to discuss. Luckily, two first-round rookie receivers took the field and played for most of the first half.

    Jordan Addison made two terrific catches in his preseason debut. The box score says otherwise – one catch, 22 yards – but an impressive sideline reception of his was nullified by official error. The Vikings could have challenged and easily won, but the coaching staff decided not to do so, likely because they wanted the game to end as quickly as possible. Addison shook it off and made a sliding 22-yard reception on an underthrown pass from Nick Mullens. Addison didn’t do anything after that, but he still looked great in this small sample size.

    Jaxon Smith-Njigba, meanwhile, caught three passes for 25 yards. His longest catch, a 15-yarder, came when he caught a short toss and then zoomed forward for his nice gain. He should have caught a fourth pass, but the throw from Drew Lock was way too high.

  • The two receivers weren’t the only significant rookies to play, as second-round running back Zach Charbonnet was on the field in the second quarter. Charbonnet rushed for 15 yards on four carries to go along with two catches for 14 receiving yards. Charbonnet crashed into Minnesota’s first-round pick from last year, Lewis Cine, on a couple of occasions.

  • Another rookie, Jaren Hall, had a very rough debut. The fifth-rounder went 6-of-14 for 37 yards in the second half. Hall looked frazzled and confused in the pocket. Even the homer Viking announcers criticized him.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: One of the Seahawks announcers described the run defense as one of the team’s “Achilles’ heels.” Apparently, Achilles had two problematic heels instead of one.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Texans 20, Patriots 9

  • The NFL Network broadcast teased us by saying that we would be able to see how Mac Jones has evolved in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Jones, however, didn’t suit up for this game, as Bailey Zappe started and played into the third quarter for New England. Thankfully, we were able to watch one starting quarterback, and that was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, C.J. Stroud.

    Stroud played a couple of drives in this game and was disappointing. Following a routine completion, Stroud was pressured heavily from the interior and took a 15-yard loss on a sack. He once again saw great pressure on the very next snap, but was able to scramble for a 4-yard gain. Things only got worse from there, as Stroud stared down his receiver on the next possession, allowing Jalen Mills to come away with an easy interception.

    Stroud finished 2-of-4 for 13 yards and a pick. He wasn’t able to do much because of the overwhelming pressure. Houston is missing its right tackle, but that wouldn’t explain the immense pressure it allowed in the interior.

    Here were Stroud’s targets:

    Nico Collins: 1
    Tank Dell: 1
    Dare Ogunbowale: 1
    Steven Sims: 1
    Devin Singletary: 1

  • Tank Dell had a great NFL preseason debut. He caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. He showed some lightning-fast speed on a 24-yard reception in the second quarter. The score – a bobbled reception on a back-shoulder throw – came from Davis Mills, but Dell started and saw a target from C.J. Stroud. The Texans are desperate for someone to establish themselves as a No. 1 receiver, and Dell, who showed great chemistry with Stroud during the pre-draft process, could be that player.

  • Dameon Pierce didn’t play. Devin Singletary started instead and rushed for 14 yards on five carries. He made a nice cut to pick up an early third-and-1.

  • There’s not much to say about the Patriots’ starting offense, save for a ridiculous, leaping catch made by Tyquan Thornton for a gain of 27 yards. Bailey Zappe completed most of his passes – 12-of-14 – but he checked the ball down frequently, throwing for only 79 yards. Otherwise, the Patriots used nothing but backups in this game.

  • Rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham had a brilliant drive in the fourth quarter. He completed three of his four passes for 19 yards, with the sole misfire being a nice throw into the end zone. Cunningham was more dangerous as a runner, scrambling five times for 34 yards and a touchdown.

  • As for the New England defense, the unit put tons of pressure on Stroud. A key part of that was second-round rookie Keion White, who hounded the Houston quarterback.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Patriots broadcasts are notorious for their tendency to get analysis from furniture salesmen. They once again went to their Bob’s Discount Furniture studio, where some old guy had this to say about Keion White:

    “He’s gonna be impressive in the airpoits.”

    That’s not an accidental misspelling. That’s exactly how the furniture salesman said the word.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Browns 21, Jets 16

  • If you didn’t get to watch the annual Hall of Fame Game this year, you didn’t miss much. None of the starters were in uniform. In fact, some second-string players rested as well.

    One second-stringer who played was Zach Wilson. The former No. 2 overall pick was on the field for a pair of drives. He failed to pick up a first down while scrambling because he slipped, but he made up for it with a beautiful deep pass to Malik Taylor for a gain of 57 yards. That was the only positive during the evening for Wilson, who finished 3-of-5 for 65 yards.

  • The Browns didn’t have quality quarterback play to start, as Kellen Mond heaved an ugly interception. However, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson had some terrific moments in the second half. He began poorly by getting a tight end killed when he threw behind his target, but made up for it by moving the chains while throwing the ball in a tight window. He then made a great block to spring running back Demetric Felton for a touchdown, capping off an 11-play, 94-yard scoring drive.

    Thompson-Robinson wasn’t done after that, as he threw a touchdown on the ensuing drive. He hit Austin Watkins with an accurate slant to take a 21-16 lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. Thompson-Robinson finished 8-of-11 for 82 yards and a touchdown to go along with six scrambles for 36 rushing yards. At this rate, he’ll beat out Mond for the No. 3 quarterback job behind Deshaun Watson and Joshua Dobbs.

  • Another Browns rookie, Cedric Tillman, caught a couple of early passes for 35 yards. He made a nice play to get open to convert a third-and-13.

  • An offensive Jets rookie, running back Israel Abanikanda drew the start with the veteran running backs resting. Abanikanda scored an early touchdown and caught a 5-yard pass, but he was stuffed on a third-and-1 attempt in the opening half. Abanikanda rushed for 27 yards and the score on nine carries.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

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