Skip to main content

2023 NFL preseason, Week 1: What We Learned from Saturday's games breaks down what you need to know from Week 1 of the 2023 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:


Coral Smith's takeaways:

  1. Fields and Co. show out early. Saturday marked the first opportunity for Bears fans to get a glimpse at the revamped offensive unit Chicago put together this offseason, making high-profile moves to surround quarterback Justin Fields with viable receiving options -- something he largely lacked in 2022. Though the first-team offense was only on the field for two drives, Fields took full advantage of his short outing to show off. There has been much anticipation for the pairing of Fields and DJ Moore after Chicago traded away the No. 1 pick for a package that included the veteran wide receiver, and it took only three plays before they connected for the first time for a 62-yard touchdown pass in an immediate manifestation of the budding chemistry between the new teammates. And the offense wasn't done making splash plays, as Fields tossed a short pass to running back Khalil Herbert, who weaved his way down the field, breaking tackles for a 56-yard score on the next drive. Fields finished his outing with a perfect 158.3 passer rating, having completed all three of his throws for 129 yards and the two scores. It was only a small taste of the Bears' offensive possibilities, with other weapons not even entering the equation, but it bodes well for the potential of the passing game in the team's 2023 campaign.
  2. Titans QBs inconsistent in opener. With Malik Willis and Will Levis alternating drives during Saturday's contest, the two young QBs were presented with the opportunity for one to pull away in the battle for the No. 2 QB spot. But neither made the statement plays needed to set himself apart, and both showed the hiccups typical of young quarterbacks in the preseason. Each had their moments with solid passes at different levels but also struggled in the pocket at other points. It didn't help to be constantly under pressure, as the Bears defensive front got into the backfield on a consistent basis to sack each quarterback four times. Levis finished his night 9-for-14 passing for 85 yards, while Willis had significantly more attempts, going 16 of 25 for 189 yards and adding a rushing TD, but he also tallied a red-zone interception early on after rookie Josh Whyle let the ball bounce off his hands. And with the opportunity to lead the Titans down the field in the fourth quarter on a potential game-winning drive, Willis couldn't convert, overthrowing his receiver in the end zone on fourth down. Levis got the ball back with 31 seconds to go, but with limited time, he threw an interception to end the game. Both had high points and struggles over the course of the afternoon and will benefit from more snaps throughout the rest of the preseason before the Titans make their depth chart official.
  1. Damar Hamlin continues comeback. One of the best stories in the NFL took another step forward following last year's on-field cardiac arrest. Hamlin participated in Buffalo's first preseason game, making his debut in coverage on the kickoff team. The Bills' safety played 20 defensive reps and four on special teams. Hamlin showed no signs of fear, sticking his nose in the pile to make a fourth-down stuff of Colts running back Evan Hull in the first quarter. The 25-year-old made three tackles on the afternoon. It was awesome to see Hamlin on the field, and even better that there was no hesitation in the moment of collisions for the safety. It's a fantastic stride forward for Hamlin, given the scene on the field in Cincinnati seven months ago.
  2. Anthony Richardson settles into action after first-drive INT. The Colts rookie got off to an inauspicious start, tossing a wayward interception on the game's opening drive. There appeared to be miscommunication on the play, and Richardson, under pressure, looked indecisive sailing a pass that was picked. From there, the No. 4 pick calmed down. Richardson flashed a big arm, the ability to escape the pocket, and tossed a beautiful deep shot that receiver Alec Pierce should have grabbed. Richardson's footwork must be cleaned up, but that comes with reps. He missed passes high and wide. Richardson entered the NFL a raw product with big-time upside -- that was all on display Saturday in Buffalo. Gardner Minshew showed the ability to move the offense with timing and deft pocket movement but doesn't have the same explosive ability as Richardson. If it were me -- it's not -- I'd continue to give Richardson first-team reps to aid his growth ahead of the regular season. There might be growing pains, but his upside is too high to saddle to the bench early this season.
  1. Jets D-line deep and dominant. New York sat its starters and still overwhelmed a Panthers offensive line with four first-teamers. Gang Green overpowered Carolina, generating 20 QB pressures, eight QB hits and five total sacks. Rookie Will McDonald IV turned in one sack and five pressures. Last year's first-round pick Jermaine Johnson II earned two pressures and split a sack with professional disruptor Bryce Huff (four pressures). Quinton Jefferson added a sack up the gut. The Jets boast the ability to engulf opponents with waves of pressure. Robert Saleh's defense is at its best when the D-line discombobulates the operation. We saw it in San Francisco and at times last season. It's only preseason, but this group owns the depth -- with youngsters showing out -- that should make it a dominant crew throughout the 2023 season.
  2. Offensive line questions linger for Panthers. Maybe it was simply the anomaly of facing a fierce Jets front, but Charlotte might have concerns about its blocking. Carolina had four projected starters in the lineup Saturday -- Ikem Ekwonu, Brady Christensen, Bradley Bozeman and Taylor Moton -- yet still struggled against Gang Green backups. The quartet played all 11 snaps with rookie QB Bryce Young, but the first-round pick got pummeled in his brief appearance. The blocking made the evaluation of the first-round pick moot. Young was hit three times, pressured relatedly, and sacked to end his day after three drives (one first down). The Carolina starting group couldn't generate any holes in the ground game either. The right guard spot is an issue with Austin Corbett currently on the physically unable to perform list. Things didn't improve as the game went on. Michael Jordan, who played guard and tackle, gave up a couple of sacks, including a strip from new Jet Bruce Hector. The good news: Carolina has time to figure things out -- and it won't face this Jets front again.
  1. The talented Mr. Ridley has returned. Calvin Ridley hadn't played in a ball game since Oct. 24, 2021, with the Falcons. After a whirlwind couple of years that saw him leave the Falcons to focus on his mental wellbeing, suspended for betting on NFL games and traded to the Jaguars, Ridley suited up on Saturday. There's no reason to overhype a preseason performance that saw two catches for 21 yards, but Ridley got back on the field in what amounts to a notable career milepost, looked solid enough in 11 snaps and certainly has whet Duval fans' appetite for what lies ahead. Trevor Lawrence targeted Ridley twice, just as he did Christian Kirk, who caught a touchdown. There's reason for excitement in Jacksonville, and a good deal of it comes with a healthy return of Ridley.
  2. Dallas' little big man delivers. Five feet and five inches of excitement hit the ground running on Saturday. Highlighted by a 4-yard touchdown run, the ballyhooed preseason debut of diminutive rookie running back Deuce Vaughn was a promising one. At game's end, he had 50 yards on eight carries, three receptions for 9 yards and a nice 30-yard kick return. Vaughn has gone from a feel-good draft story to a training camp favorite, disappearing behind his blockers and reappearing with chunk gains. Vaughn's versatility and big-play potential should make him a contributor. However, the Cowboys still have issues in the RB room. Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis did not inspire confidence, and Tony Pollard is still a question mark as he comes back from a broken leg. Ezekiel Elliott's best seasons as a runner were way behind him, but he was still of major value in pass protection. Dazzling as Vaughn appeared at times, Dallas could be best served kicking the tires on adding a veteran back. Vaughn wasn't the only rookie who provided cause for anticipation. Rookie third-rounder DeMarvion Overshown, a safety turned 'backer, posted six tackles in 37 defensive snaps, showing a nose for the ball and a propensity to bring the wood. He's one to watch, as well.


Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Justice Hill top RB option until J.K. Dobbins returns? We didn't learn much about the Ravens' new offense under Todd Monken with Lamar Jackson and most of the starters on the sidelines. But there were hints about how the running back situation could shake out until Dobbins, seeking a new contract and on the physically unable to perform list, returns. Hill got the start Saturday, which saw the Ravens win their NFL-record 24th straight preseason tilt, and offered the most explosive ability. On his second carry, Hill cut away from a plugged hole and sped his way for a 37-yard run that gave life to a milquetoast offense. His other two carries went for 6 and 5 yards. Hill's pass-catching and explosive potential could give him a leg up in the backup competition (or starter as long as Dobbins is out). Gus Edwards was the second back against the Eagles and bussed his way for 21 yards on four totes (5.3 YPC). Melvin Gordon didn't see the field until the third-quarter, indicating his uphill climb to be a factor. The 30-year-old back was OK-or-bust going for 2 yards, 9 yards, zero yards, 8 yards, zero yards, and -1 yards for a 2.7 YPC average on six attempts. That's not going to keep him on the 53-man roster.
  2. D'Andre Swift makes most of short preseason stint. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has insisted all offseason he'll use a committee approach. Kenneth Gainwell didn't play, an early indicator that he's taken a leg up on the competition. Veteran Boston Scott also sat. Saturday, Swift made his case for a significant role. The former Lions running back got the start and played the first six snaps. His first carry went for 2 yards. Three plays later, Swift popped a dynamic 22-yard jaunt off a nice cut. His day was done. The play exemplified the type of upside Swift owns if he can stay healthy. Rashaad Penny entered the game and played the next 27 snaps, compiling 34 yards on nine carries. Penny looked slightly slowed -- semi-expected after coming off a season-ending broken leg -- but displayed patience behind backup blockers and was able to gash for a few decent gains. For a spell, it looked like coaches were looking for Penny to break one before giving him a rest. He finally popped a patient 9-yard gash to end his day. The amount of reps he took suggests the Eagles staff needed to see more from the low-cost RB. Trey Sermon took over the rest of the second and third quarters, netting eight carries for 16 yards and burrowing his way for a 2-yard TD. Kennedy Brooks cleaned up in the fourth quarter.


Brenna White's takeaways:

  1. Derius Davis makes great first impression. If you didn't know the name of the Chargers' new kick returner Derius Davis, you will now. The rookie, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, had fans up from their seats Saturday at SoFi Stadium. Early in the second quarter, the TCU product took off on a punt return, scoring an 81-yard touchdown in which he patiently surveyed the field, weaved through would-be tacklers and turned on the jets to outrun every Ram. The Chargers haven't had a punt return TD since Week 5 of the 2019 season, and since Brandon Staley took over as HC in 2021, they're tied for 24th in the NFL in punt return yards, per NFL Research. Davis could instantly change that this season. The speedy return man wasn't the only TCU rookie to impress on Saturday, either. As evidenced by losing Keenan Allen for seven games due to a hamstring injury and Mike Williams for four games due to an ankle injury, the Chargers were not so lucky at the receiver position in 2022. Injuries piled up, so the Chargers added some depth during the offseason by using the No. 21 overall pick to get Quentin Johnston, who the Bolts hoped would offer another target for quarterback Justin Herbert. Johnston recovered from some early drops to record three catches for 10 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown. With an infusion of young game-breakers, the possibilities could be endless for the Chargers.
  2. After rough start, Stetson Bennett settles in. Saturday's matchup gave everyone a glimpse at who might be the backup to 15-year veteran Matthew Stafford. Brett Rypien got the start, but Bennett showed promise after early struggles. Playing in front of an offensive line that often had more holes than Swiss cheese, Bennett started his preseason debut by nearly throwing three interceptions. After he got the wild passes out of his system and let the first-game nerves subside, the Georgia product grew in confidence, seemingly with each throw. Bennett was back making plays at SoFi Stadium, a feeling the former Georgia Bulldog is very familiar with after winning the 2023 National Championship on the same field just eight months ago. After 16 plays, Bennett led the Rams' first scoring drive of the game with an 11-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Puka Nacua. Bennett, who finished 17 of 29 for 191 yards, showed flashes of potential that could have him in the lead for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Want to follow these storylines and more? NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch live out-of-market preseason games, daily coverage on NFL Network, the best NFL programming on-demand and much more! Plus, NFL RedZone is now part of NFL+ Premium! Learn more about NFL+.

Related Content