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2023 NFL Preseason, Week 1: One thing to watch for on each of the 32 teams

Preseason is back in full swing, baby.

Last week's Hall of Fame Game was merely the appetizer, but the real meal starts on Thursday night, kicking off 16 games of action over four days. Ten of those contests will be broadcast live on NFL Network, including the 49ers-Raiders bout on Sunday (4 p.m. ET) to wrap up the week.

Many starters will sit, but some are fighting for jobs. Also, several exciting rookies will make their professional debuts. Here's a full preview, offering you one thing to watch for on each of the 32 teams in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.

*NFL+ subscribers can watch live out-of-market NFL preseason games across devices. Blackout restrictions apply.


  • WHERE: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

TEXANS: C.J. Stroud is starting and should have his first mini-script and game-feel prep. We all know he can throw the football, but it will be fun to see him moving around in his new offense. First-time OC Bobby Slowik is likely to keep things vanilla, not wanting to tip his hand or overload the rookie, even in a short outing. But I'm looking for what elements of the Kyle Shanahan offense -- especially how much Stroud leaves the pocket -- will translate. It's also the head-coaching debut of DeMeco Ryans, facing the master, Bill Belichick, who had already coached the Patriots for six years (and won three Super Bowls) when Ryans' NFL playing career started. Crazy.

PATRIOTS: What am I watching for here? Something -- really anything -- offensively impressive. Expectations are low heading into Thursday's game against the Texans because, well, 1) There likely won't be a whole lot of game-planning, and 2) The Patriots often keep us guessing when it comes to how they'll handle preseason reps. It would be nice if they could take a shred of optimism out of the game. The offensive line has come under fire of late, so that's a big one. And they still could stand to identify some playmakers to assist QB Mac Jones, so let's see if camp standout WR Demario Douglas can put on a little show.

  • WHERE: Lumen Field (Seattle)
  • WHEN: 10 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

VIKINGS: After a disastrous defensive season in 2022, the Vikings are pumping good vibes out of Eagan with the arrival of coordinator Brian Flores, who might be auditioning for his second head-coaching opportunity this season. What we'll see Thursday in Seattle will be a sliver of what to expect from Flores, who has a treasure trove of man-pressure packages that won't be fully unleashed in the preseason. But let's see what this unit looks like, with third-round CB Mekhi Blackmon and undrafted LB Ivan Pace Jr. making some camp noise. I wasn't a huge fan of the Blackmon pick (mostly due to age and injury history, not his ability), but I hope he proves me wrong.

SEAHAWKS: Between the Dee Eskridge suspension and a slew of injuries, the Seahawks have taken a few "thing to watch" candidates away from us. Kenneth Walker III and impressive rookies Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh have been banged up, significantly thinning out the RB options for Thursday. That could mean it's a DeeJay Dallas kind of night. Dallas has long been a personal favorite, and he's just found a way to keep hanging around and making himself useful, with a workload that includes special teams and wildcat duty. He had a big preseason last year, with TDs running and receiving and 241 yards from scrimmage. Honestly, I just want to see my guy get a little more run.

  • WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

GIANTS: I can't imagine Darren Waller will get too much run in Friday's game against the Lions, so let's pivot to highlighting some of the young receivers. This includes third-round speed merchant Jalin Hyatt, of course. He has already said he wants to be Offensive Rookie of the Year, so the confidence part comes pretty naturally. But it's not just Hyatt we'll be watching. Collin Johnson has been around a few years and clearly has talent. Bryce Ford-Wheaton is another interesting rookie. It doesn't seem like Wan'Dale Robinson (torn ACL last November) is going to play, but the Giants have a lot of sorting out to do in the receiving corps.

LIONS: The Lions have a ton of storylines entering their most anticipated season in memory. But I'm really jacked (Dan Campbell voice) to watch TE Sam LaPorta in his pro debut. Preseason predictions are often laughably wrong, but I have a sneaky suspicion he'll wow the Ford Field crowd at least once Friday night. And though rookie tight ends have been pretty irregular producers as pass catchers, I could see LaPorta ending up with solid volume this season -- maybe even sniffing the number of targets he had at Iowa in 2022 (90, per PFF).

  • WHERE: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Fla.)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

STEELERS: Mike Tomlin's first preseason depth chart didn't have any rookies listed on the first team. This isn't shocking from a veteran-deference standpoint, but it won't be surprising if multiple rookies -- namely the team's first four draft picks in April -- eventually hit the starting lineup this season. Broderick Jones will get every opportunity to unseat Dan Moore at left tackle. Joey Porter Jr. could man a starting CB spot eventually. Keeanu Benton has an excellent chance to be the Week 1 nose tackle. And Darnell Washington, a camp standout since the pads went on, figures to carve out some kind of role at tight end. These rookies will all be on our radar Friday in Tampa.

BUCCANEERS: It's QB watch time. The Buccaneers have an actual battle at the game's most important position, which didn't seem like it'd be the case heading into camp. At that point, it felt like Baker Mayfield's job to lose. Though he has reportedly had some standout moments in camp, the former No. 1 overall pick's high turnover rate in practice has caused some concern. Concurrently, 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask -- remember him? -- has played some of his best ball of late, taking better care of the football in practice than Mayfield. Though he's not as flashy a thrower as his veteran counterpart, Trask might be considered the more favorable option for a ball-control team. On Wednesday, Bucs coach Todd Bowles announced that Mayfield will start on Friday night, while Trask will get the opening nod next week against the Jets.

  • WHERE: Paycor Stadium (Cincinnati)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

PACKERS: Green Bay's incredibly young receiving corps really fascinates me. We saw how much Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs grew in the span of a season, and they figure to be the lead dogs in 2023. But they could be joined in the starting lineup by prospective slot receiver Jayden Reed, the No. 50 overall pick in April's draft. The second-rounder didn't meet the typical WR benchmarks Packers scouts seem to seek, but that's less of a concern in the slot. Reed has flashed his quickness, playmaking ability and punt-return prowess so far in camp. Along with second-round tight end Luke Musgrave, Reed could help reshape this skill-position group quickly. Let's see how the youngsters fare in the debut at Cincinnati.

BENGALS: The Bengals drafted a pass rusher in Round 1, but Myles Murphy's adjustment to the NFL has been gradual. When they drafted Murphy, the Bengals' plan was to bring him along slowly; they could afford that with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard entrenched as starters. But another layer of insurance has developed, and it's via 2021 third-rounder Joseph Ossai. Ossai missed his entire rookie campaign following a preseason meniscus injury, and his second season was marred by a late, costly penalty in Cincinnati's loss to Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, but the defensive end had earned enough trust to grow into an important role by then. He's carrying it forward with a strong camp and could be one to watch Friday against a Packers team still trying to iron out its offensive line.

  • WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET ( NFL+*)

FALCONS: No. 8 overall pick Bijan Robinson has put on a show in training camp, and now the preseason-watching nation has a chance to enjoy the well-rounded back in real game action. One of the points I kept hammering home while watching him in college was how woefully underused Robinson was as a receiver at Texas. I doubt the Falcons will make the same mistake, not after seeing Robinson dust LB Troy Andersen on an early-camp catch. But really, we'll take whatever Bijan highlights -- running, catching, returning kicks -- we can get. The Falcons should reward Tyler Allgeier for his inspired work last season, but Robinson is going to be a beast immediately.

DOLPHINS: Miami appears to have three-fifths of its offensive line locked down, leaving left guard and right tackle unsolved to this point. Mike McDaniel recently cautioned not to read too deeply into the first official depth chart, noting that "preseason depth charts are my nemesis." Even still, with Isaiah Wynn being listed at guard (though McDaniel suggested Wynn could play multiple spots), it suggests that former first-rounder Austin Jackson has done enough to give him a clear lane to win the RT job. That could leave Wynn to compete with former second-rounder Liam Eichenberg at left guard. These battles will be on display Friday against the Falcons' revamped D-line.

  • WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland)
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET ( NFL+*)

COMMANDERS: Most Washington observers believe Sam Howell will eventually be named starting quarterback, but it hasn't happened yet. Reports from Commanders camp suggest that the offense has had a tough go of it on the whole -- creating some drama around new coordinator Eric Bieniemy -- but that's not surprising considering they're running a new offense and are facing a darned-good defensive unit. Perhaps we'll see things open up for Howell and Jacoby Brissett in Bieniemy's first game as Washington OC. Bieniemy isn't likely to throw the kitchen sink at the Browns on Friday night, but I won't be shocked if he looks to have a little fun with his QBs as a way of ramping up the competition.

BROWNS: As much as I want to see Elijah Moore, his night might not be very long. He's one of three receivers believed to be in the Browns' WR Circle Of Trust, along with Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. But with Marquise Goodwin sidelined by blood clots, the remaining jobs are up for grabs. Third-rounders Cedric Tillman (2023) and David Bell (2022) figure to have great chances to earn the fourth spot. But if the Browns want to replace Goodwin's speed, that battle could come down to Anthony Schwartz vs. Jaelon Darden, who opened eyes in camp before a recent injury. Jakeem Grant Sr. is also in that mix, coming back from an Achilles injury. Friday night could provide some clarity here.

  • WHERE: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
  • WHEN: 10 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

BRONCOS: All the attention has been on Russell Wilson since Sean Payton took over, but it's been a little quiet lately on the Jarrett Stidham front. At the time of his signing (for pretty good backup money), Payton opened some eyes when he said Stidham was trending in the direction of a QB who "can become an NFL starter in our league." This was coming off a season where Wilson struggled like he hadn't before -- and where Stidham turned in a late-season banger against an elite 49ers defense. He might be an afterthought now, but what if Wilson's struggles continue? That's why I want to see how Stidham looks in Arizona.

CARDINALS: Arizona's quarterback situation has been discussed extensively, but with Kyler Murray's injury status still foggy, the Cardinals feel likely to keep three quarterbacks to start, regardless of when Murray might come off the PUP list. So every preseason game, starting with Friday's nightcap against the Broncos, is critical for fifth-round QB Clayton Tune. The rookie is fighting for a spot alongside soon-to-be 37-year-old Colt McCoy, as well as frequent-flier QBs Jeff Driskel and David Blough. Don't count out Tune, who was a three-time captain at the University of Houston, starting 44 games and throwing for nearly 12,000 yards. He also is a better athlete than many realize, readily able to pick up first downs as a scrambler.

  • WHERE: Soldier Field (Chicago)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

TITANS: There are player-related items I'll be watching for, including how QBs Malik Willis and rookie Will Levis fare. But Mike Vrabel deserves props for naming DL coach/assistant head coach Terrell Williams the acting head coach for this game. It's an excellent gesture for a hard-working, under-the-radar assistant such as Williams, who spent 14 years coaching at six colleges before getting the NFL call-up in 2012. Vrabel gave Williams a promotion this offseason, and this could help him receive head-coaching interviews eventually. I watched Jim Nagy do something similar earlier this year with the Senior Bowl coaching staffs and loved the idea. Maybe other NFL coaches will follow suit to help shine more light on talented assistants.

BEARS: DJ Moore, Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney are making the team. Their snaps Saturday against the Titans could be fun ... but also might not amount to much. The rest of the WR room needs sorting out, however, and this game will be another step in that process. 2022 third-rounder Velus Jones Jr. could stand to open some eyes in this game, either as a pass catcher or returner. That special teams value (assuming Jones has improved at fielding punts) gives him an edge toward securing a role on this team, and he has gained receiving ground on Dante Pettis, who hasn't practiced while remaining on the NFI list. Rookie Tyler Scott is also one to watch here.

  • WHERE: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

COLTS: The running backs who will play Saturday (long live Jake Funk!) against the Bills certainly figure to be buzzworthy material, given Jonathan Taylor's trade request. But how do you not go with Anthony Richardson here? Gardner Minshew has the experience in Shane Steichen's offense and would be the safe choice as the Week 1 starter. Plus, if the Colts go with Richardson from the outset, would they consider benching him if he struggles? That's all part of the discussion here. But Richardson can change the narrative by bringing his camp "wow" moments to the preseason field. (UPDATE: Colts head coach Shane Steichen announced on Thursday that Anthony Richardson will start Saturday's preseason opener.)

BILLS: Much of Buffalo's highly ranked 2022 defense returns for this season, but that doesn't mean all roles are completely ironed out. The CB2 spot opposite Tre'Davious White remains wide open, with three possible candidates rotating in during camp. It feels like the Bills have begged for 2022 first-rounder Kaiir Elam to win the job, but that hasn't happened yet. Christian Benford, a sixth-rounder in the same draft class, was discussed as a potential safety convert in March, but he's been receiving first-team reps at corner, along with incumbent starter Dane Jackson. Who starts Saturday against Indianapolis (and whether any of them are playing in garbage time) will be interesting though not fully revealing with two more preseason games to follow.

  • WHERE: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

JETS: With all signs pointing toward Aaron Rodgers sitting out Saturday's game against the Panthers, our attention shifts to the defensive side of the ball. The Jets gave us a brief preview of their deep well of pass rushers in the Hall Of Fame Game, but we could see even more in Charlotte. Jermaine Johnson II, Bryce Huff, Micheal Clemons and 2023 first-rounder Will McDonald IV all could see snaps against No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, who is a creator against the rush. Also keep an eye peeled for 25-year-old undrafted DE Deslin Alexandre, who is a real grinder.

PANTHERS: Bryce Young is making his NFL debut on NFL Network against the Jets. So far, the rookie QB has been tremendously accurate in camp and has kept the mental mistakes to a minimum. The Panthers crowd should be fairly lathered up for this one, honestly. Young might not have been a prototypical No. 1 overall pick, given his small stature, but the signs are there that he could be a special one. Whether his camp accuracy translates from the practice field to Bank of America Stadium will be one thing to watch, but I want to see if Young can create when plays break down. That's where I thought he was special in college, but the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner must speed up the play clock in his head for the NFL.

  • WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
  • WHEN: 5 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

JAGUARS: Rookie RB Tank Bigsby will be a popular player for Jaguars fans to watch Saturday afternoon in Arlington. He led Auburn in rushing for three straight years, but was held back at times by the Tigers' OL woes and lasted until the 88th pick in April's draft. Given the way Bigsby has performed in Jaguars camp, though, he figures to share some of the rushing load with Travis Etienne this season. Bigsby is considered a big back and can run effectively inside, but it's his speed that sometimes goes overlooked. Fantasy folks will want to reserve a spot on the couch for this one. Bigsby absolutely should be on your radars.

COWBOYS: There's a theme for this particular game on Saturday, and it's rookie running backs. Yes, Tony Pollard is still the lead dog for the Cowboys, but the depth feels a bit shaky -- especially with Pollard possibly due to set career workload highs despite being fresh off a broken leg. Dallas must decide on keeping three or four backs on the initial 53-man roster, which means one of the Rico Dowdle-Malik Davis-Deuce Vaughn trio could be fighting for a job. Vaughn's draft-day story in April was so good, and I think the 5-7 back will stick because of his joystick-like shiftiness and incredible heart as a player. I'd love to see him make a strong opening preseason statement here.

  • WHERE: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

EAGLES: First-round DT Jalen Carter has been one of the stars of camp, and he figures to see action in this one alongside his nearly-as-impressive college teammate, fellow first-rounder Nolan Smith. Both have received first-team reps in recent weeks. If there's one concern about this Philadelphia defense, it's up the gut. The Eagles lost DTs Javon Hargrave and Linval Joseph, plus both starting linebackers and safeties this offseason. So that places a high value on Carter's role: helping to shut the front door before opponents can exploit it. He'll square off against a Ravens team likely to rotate a lot of guards on Saturday night in Philly.

RAVENS: Last week, I speculated that the Ravens' Pro Bowl jack of all trades Patrick Ricard could be in danger of losing his role on offense (at least how we've come to know it over the past few years as a hybrid fullback/tight end). When I wrote that, Ricard was still working back from injury. Upon returning, Ricard lined up with the offensive linemen. When life hands you lemons and all that ... Would the Ravens actually use Ricard there in Saturday's game against the Eagles? Well, for a player they love and want to keep around despite a $4 million cap number, it's not that crazy a premise. If it happens, it truly would put Ricard in the running for the NFL's most versatile man -- if he's not that already.

  • WHERE: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 9 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

CHARGERS: The Chargers won't leave the state of California in the preseason, which is nice, starting with Saturday night's "road" game vs. the Rams. One player who has generated legitimate buzz has been second-year safety JT Woods, who left college with the reputation as a ballhawk (eight INTs his final two seasons at Baylor) and an athletic wonder (4.36 40-yard dash, 10-foot-8 broad jump and 39.5-inch vertical leap at 6-2/195 pounds). But he played only 31 defensive snaps as a rookie and was inactive for the playoff game. Now standing out in camp and vying for a starting job -- which could help free up Derwin James for more of a "joker" role -- Woods comes squarely into our crosshairs in this game.

RAMS: In Sean McVay's first preseason in 2017, the new Rams coach was questioned for only giving Jared Goff and the starting offense seven series of preseason work -- and that was back when it was four preseason games, not three. It worked then, as the Rams flourished offensively, so McVay has generally stuck with limiting his projected starters' preseason reps. But McVay has said we should expect that to change this year with a Rams team in transition. We still might have to wait to see Matthew Stafford and a few others in action, but this is a very young roster full of question marks, so it stands to reason that a lot of prospective starters will see plenty of playing time Saturday night against the crosstown rival Chargers.

  • WHERE: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

CHIEFS: Winning the Super Bowl last season required surprisingly significant contributions from lesser-known Chiefs. There might be fewer opportunities for those types of candidates this time around, but that doesn't mean a player such as second-year WR Justyn Ross can't fill that role if he keeps up what he's shown in an impressive training camp. Ross was on a potential first-round track at Clemson before a significant neck injury left him undrafted, and his first Chiefs camp ended before it started when he landed on IR last July. Now healthy, Ross is once again flashing top-tier talent and could crack the roster. You just know Andy Reid would love to dial up a few shots to the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout, playing his first football game in 21 months Sunday at the Superdome.

SAINTS: Derek Carr is expected to make his Saints debut Sunday when he starts against his old divisional rivals. He'll be without emerging WR Rashid Shaheed, who suffered a multi-week groin injury, which is a bummer. But most of the offensive starters should see some time with Carr, and that could include Michael Thomas, who remains a mystery until he can prove he's capable of remaining healthy. But the drama won't subside once Carr puts on a baseball cap. There appears to be a real battle for QB2 honors, with Jameis Winston and impressive fourth-rounder Jake Haener possibly in a battle for one roster spot. The Saints have thrown mid-round darts on quarterbacks for years, with few working out, but Haener could be a keeper.

  • WHERE: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

49ERS: With Brock Purdy unlikely to play in the preseason opener Sunday at Vegas, it opens the door for the other three quarterbacks -- Trey Lance, Sam Darnold and Brandon Allen -- to make their mark. All three are jockeying to back up Purdy, who appears to be the unquestioned QB1 barring any setbacks with his surgically repaired elbow. Lance has the most to play for as the ousted starter and former No. 3 overall pick. Do the Niners still believe in the athletic signal-caller? Or could he be showcased for a potential trade? Darnold's ball security has been marvelous in camp -- quite noteworthy for a man who has 55 INTs and 56 career games. Gotta admit, it's a pretty riveting QB battle considering it doesn't involve a starting job.

RAIDERS: With Nate Hobbs moving inside to nickel, the Raiders could open the season with two new starting corners outside. One is expected to be recent signee Marcus Peters, who went from his couch to first-team reps in about a 48-hour span. But fourth-round rookie Jakorian Bennett is reportedly making a strong push for the other job. There's deep competition there with a slew of candidates (Brandon Facyson, Duke Shelley, Amik Robertson, Tyler Hall and David Long Jr.), so every preseason game matters. On offense, 2022 fourth-round RB Zamir White figures to be featured a lot in the preseason opener against the Niners after receiving a carry or two per game behind Josh Jacobs last year.

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