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2022 NFL Preseason: Week 1 Expert Analysis & Takeaways

Quarterback Battles

Football is finally back with all 32 teams in action during the first week of the preseason. Here are some key takeaways from the first week of the preseason, from the staff at The 33rd Team.

Quarterbacks at the Forefront as Preseason Play Begins

QB Battles the Main Preseason Attraction

"It’s going to be so much fun watching all the QB battles around the league this preseason. Pittsburgh has really caught my attention, especially because of fan favorite Kenny Pickett. He showed great command of the huddle and poise to recover from a fourth down sack and find Tyler Vaughns for the game-winning score. There’s a lot to love about his performance as a rookie, but we have to temper our feelings. Pickett took what the defense gave him, and Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph also played well. I’m looking forward to seeing how Pickett looks in the coming weeks when things begin to speed up and defenses throw more at him." – Chuck Pagano

Keystone State QBs Looking Good so Far

"It seems pretty obvious now: The Pittsburgh Steelers “hit” on first-rounder Kenny Pickett. He is talented, a quick decision-maker, accurate, understands timing and displayed a lot of instincts and a feel for the game. It appears he is just better in games than in practice (based on reports from practice), and that’s a good quality that bodes well for future production. Kenny just needs to be adamant about making corrections and have a mentality to get better at something every day, and good things will happen for him." – Marty Mornhinweg

"In Philadelphia, I think Jalen Hurts can lead the Eagles far this season. He’s in his second season as the starter and has the continuity of working in the same system. That continuity and the team and personnel that surround him with the Eagles should lead to win after win. It’s an exciting time for Eagles fans." – Marty Mornhinweg

"Kenny Pickett looked the best of the rookie QBs this weekend. When the bright lights came on the stage was not to big for him. His game-winning drive showed why most people thought he was the most ready NFL QB coming out of this year's draft. He made plays both with his arm and legs. It was also an advantage for him seeing his first NFL game action in the comforts of his home stadium in college. It is only Week 1 of the preseason but the future looks bright—if he can continue to progress." — Rick Spielman

Dual-Threat Rookies Showing Tools in Debuts

"Malik Willis really impressed me this weekend. He made some big-time plays as a passer and as a runner. Some thought he could potentially be a first-round pick before the draft. Willis could be a steal for Tennessee. The Falcons’ Desmond Ridder had some growing pains, but overall he did some really good things. He is a sneaky athlete with very good feet in the pocket." – T.J. McCreight

"I watched the tape on Malik Willis’s debut. He has a ways to go to develop into an NFL starting QB. Like most rookies, when they see their first live action, they revert back to what is comfortable for them. In Malik’s case, it is using his legs to make plays. He felt the rush way too early in the pocket and did not get through his progressions even though he had time. If the first WR was not open, he took off and ran. He also has to learn that the windows are tight in the NFL, and WRs are not going to be as open as they were at Liberty. This takes time, and I don’t see him being ready to play this year. Hopefully, he will learn from this week and take a step forward in Week 2 of the preseason." — Rick Spielman

"Desmond Ridder also had a game-winning drive vs Detroit to give Atlanta a Week 1 win. Although some of the inaccurate throws showed up this game—a concern coming out of college—he made enough plays for them to win. That's very similar to what he was able to do in college. I'm excited to see how he progresses through the preseason as well, although I don’t see him ready to dethrone Mariota yet as the starter." — Rick Spielman

"I was impressed by how sharp this year’s group of rookie quarterbacks looked on their opening possessions." – Mike Zimmer

Love Needs to Improve, Watson has Time

"I wouldn’t be concerned with Deshaun Watson’s performance against Jacksonville. He hasn’t played a game in well over a year, and there’s some rust that needs to be knocked off. Jordan Love though needs to be showing what he can do not just for Green Bay, but for the rest of the league, too. He has to rebound and play well next week, even if not all of those picks were his fault." – T.J. McCreight

Individual Showcases 

"Jack Sanborn has really taken advantage of his first opportunity in the preseason. Undrafted rookies have to open eyes with their effort, intelligence and the plays they make on the field. Linebackers can get noticed the most because they can make plays against the run, in pass coverage, and on special teams. He is going to be fun to watch the next few weeks."– T.J. McCreight

"The Cleveland Browns’ running back room is an interesting battle. You have two top-level backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. D’Ernest Johnson is also very talented. This draft, they added Jerome Ford in the fifth round, and he had a big game against Jacksonville as both a runner and receiver. How many backs can they keep?"– T.J. McCreight

"The Bengals’ Evan McPherson can be a Pro Bowl kicker for years to come. He has just really impressed me. He made 58- and 56-yarders against the Cardinals, and has shown he is strong, accurate and very clutch. Just a great pick by Duke Tobin and the Bengals’ staff."– T.J. McCreight

"We got big-time play from the Rams’ undrafted rookie Lance McCutcheon. He showed outstanding body control, ball skills and balance in just one play. He made a lot of big plays at Montana State during his college career. I would be watching other players on tape, and he would always show up."– T.J. McCreight

"Kansas City’s George Karlaftis is playing exactly like he did at Purdue. He shows a non-stop motor and never quits on a play. This is a savvy player who understands leverage and how to use his hands." – T.J. McCreight

Fantasy Implications

"There are rumors that Romeo Doubs is going as high as the ninth round in high stakes leagues currently. The Green Bay Packers wide receiver room is ambiguous, and we should be targeting these types of situations—especially when they are supported by Hall of Fame quarterback play. How high is too high for a fourth-round rookie like Dobbs?" — Ryan Reynolds

"Offensive starters rarely see run in the Hall of Fame game like Raiders' running back Josh Jacobs did. His ADP has plummeted as a result, where he’s routinely going in the seventh round in Underdog drafts. Are you buying the dip?" — Ryan Reynolds

Still Room for Improvement

New Year, Same Mistakes from Dallas

"There was a lot of talk this offseason about the lack of discipline shown by the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. They were the most-penalized team in football, and you would expect them to work and try to address that during OTAs and camp. Instead, it hasn’t changed in Dallas. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot, with 17 penalties in their preseason opener against Denver.

"Yes, you will get some calls as a byproduct of playing an aggressive, hard-nosed brand of football. But we saw false starts, neutral zone infractions and penalties that come from a lack of proper fundamentals and technique. One call even gave Denver a chance to re-take a missed field goal before the half, and they made the second one. "– Chuck Pagano

Special-Teamers Need Some Work

"One thing that surprised me was the number of big kick and punt returns we saw. A lot of the players who were in action this weekend will be on special teams. I think we see fewer big returns moving forward in the preseason, as these guys can be coached off the tape from this week and get some more live reps." – Mike Zimmer

Illegal Contact Will Challenge Younger DBs

"Illegal contact is going to be a point of emphasis by the officials this year.

"So many younger and rookie defensive backs struggle with pass interference because of how differently it is officiated in the NFL compared to college. There’s a huge learning curve there. "– Chuck Pagano

Things are Looking up in Florida

"Under new head coach Doug Pederson, the Jaguars look more organized and ready to play. I liked their effort, and they certainly looked prepared. Last year, they looked a bit more out of sync."– T.J. McCreight