2022 NFL Preseason: Week 3 Expert Analysis & Takeaways

Malik WIllis

Here are some key takeaways from the third week of the preseason from the former NFL coaches, players, executives and scouts at The 33rd Team.

Player Discipline and Joint Practice

“I struggle with the fact that the league will fine clubs and coaches for having too much contact in OTAs. However, not act swiftly and decisively to eliminate fighting in all practices.  At an absolute bare minimum, the use of a weapon like a helmet can not ever be tolerated.  A joint practice is a lot closer to a game than an unpadded team drill in the spring, and this is an easy and important opportunity to reinforce that player safety, at all times, is truly a top priority.” — Eric Mangini

I’m all for the teams continuing to ‘police’ themselves during joint practices and keeping the league office out of this process…BUT…when helmets are being swung, conversation about the NFL being able to dole out punishment will be discussed, and that talk should occur. Emotions run high in a collision sport like football, and fights will sometimes take place… but swinging helmets is BEYOND dangerous, and there’s simply no place for it. There is a responsibility that goes with being an NFL player to protect yourself, your teammates, AND your opponents by doing things the right way. I predict that joint practices will continue as there is great value in them (especially the competition for the front-line players as they work one-vs-one). Still, I suspect that there are more than a few NFL coaches that have made notes about how they will want to interact differently with other teams for joint practices next year. Most likely less 11 on 11, full team periods, as that’s when the bulk of the big dust-ups seem to have occurred. ” — Charles Davis

“Although almost everyone would agree that Aaron Donald is the best defensive player on the planet, there is absolutely no room in football at any level for swinging a helmet as a weapon!  This is not only extremely dangerous but sends a horrible message to all the younger players who look up to him.” — Dirk Koetter

Roster Cuts

“Player cuts were always a hectic time. Fans are waiting to see if their team can pick the right ones. Mistakes are made. I was with the Oilers when we cut Steve Largent. We did keep fifteenth-round draft pick Billy ”White Shoes” Johnson. My best keep was a free agent WR from Missouri Southern who is now the Broncos’ all-time leading receiver—Rod Smith. Coaches don’t mind people thinking they are dumb. We just don’t want to prove it!” —Wade Phillips

“This is a big next few days for NFL pro scouting departments. They will try to improve the bottom of the roster with waiver claims and also fill out their practice squads. I would pay attention to rookies offered a practice squad spot from the team they had been with since May but chose to move on to another team’s practice squad.  That would be an alert to me, and I would want to know why. I once asked a player—a few years later—why he changed teams. He told me it was because he never felt like his position coach would give him a fair chance.” —TJ McCreight

“In regard to players on the bubble, I go back to the fall of 2015 when I was the OC in Tampa.  Adam Humphries started off fall camp as the 14th WR out of 14 on the roster after being undrafted out of Clemson.  He made the team and was the opening day starter and punt returner.  He went on to have 27, 55, 61, and 76 catches over the next 4 seasons….glad we kept him!” — Dirk Koetter

“Also in 2015, we cut TE Cam Brate on the final cutdown and the Saints scooped him up on their practice squad.  We just happened to play at New Orleans in Week 1, and it was hard to see him standing on the other sideline, especially since he knew all of our signals and code words.  We had an injury to another TE in that game and the Offensive coaches pleaded with coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht to bring Cam back to Tampa.  They did and is now going into his 8th season with 253 career catches.” — Dirk Koetter

“The last week is both the best and the worst week of the season. You’re simultaneously telling guys that they can and can not play football! So, while it’s a realization of some dreams, it is brutal truth to others! I think most decisions are made prior to the last pre-season game. But, invariably guys stand out and earn their roles.” — Ronde Barber

Building a Winning Culture 

“The Ravens’ 23-game pre-season winning streak is remarkable. Most will say it doesn’t mean anything, but it does add up to me. The culture in Baltimore starts at the top with owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh. They focus on the ‘little things’ and take the time to develop young players. Even players at the bottom of the roster—the undrafted rookie—are on the 80-man roster because they  ‘play like a Raven.’ They will not bring in just anyone to compete for a spot- they bring in players that battle in the 4th quarter of a meaningless August game. It’s contagious. I saw firsthand how it started…and it goes way back to some guy who wore #52.” —TJ McCreight

“I have been impressed by the young players from the Jets who battle and compete. Those young players, many of whom will not make the club, did good things late in each game, and it shows with their 3-0 record in August. The GM of the Jets?  It’s former Raven Joe Douglas.” —TJ McCreight

“I was eager to get to Pittsburgh Sunday and watch the darlings of the summer, the Detroit ‘Hard Knocks’ Lions, take on Pittsburgh. I wanted to see how the Steelers’ race for QB1 to open the season concludes. It appears that former #2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky will begin the season as the guy, but 2022 first-round pick, and hometown darling, Kenny Pickett, has been very impressive in the two preseason games to date. I’m looking forward to asking him in what ways, specifically his decision to remain at [the University of Pittsburgh] for an additional season helped him become the first QB selected in the NFL Draft this year. The jump in positive numbers was stunning, and he led his team to an ACC Title, as well.” —Charles Davis

Players to Keep an Eye On

“Cleveland Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz has had at least 6 dropped passes in the three pre-season games in 2022. The 3rd round pick in 2021 runs fast but needs to become a more consistent player.” —TJ McCreight

“I think Desmond Ridder showed why he can be the quarterback of the future for the Atlanta Falcons.”  —Chuck Pagano

“I came to the conclusion last week that I had the story wrong in Tennessee when the Titans drafted QB Malik Willis out of Liberty in the third round. His addition immediately opened up speculation about starting QB Ryan Tannehill’s grip on the position. Turns out, Tannehill (after some initial bumpiness) is fine. He remains the unquestioned starter on the 2020/2021 AFC South Champs. Backup QB Logan Woodside was the one most affected, and that has been seen in his play this summer as he has struggled throughout camp/games and is in real danger of losing his job as ‘QB2’ to the rookie flash, who made his third straight start against Arizona Saturday night.” —Charles Davis

“Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella caught five passes for 115 yards against the Titans. Isabella, who is on the bubble to make the club, is pushing to stay on the roster, especially with DeAndre Hopkins set to miss the first six games of the season. If released by Arizona, he could be a waiver claim by a team with wide receiver needs.” —TJ McCreight

General Notes and Reactions

Matt Cassel is Impressed with Tom Brady’s Return

Buffalo’s Offense has some Inconsistencies

“Another thing that stands out in pre-season games is how incredibly inconsistent teams can be from week to week. Case in point the Bills led all teams in 3 games scoring with 87 points scored and looked unstoppable in week 2 against the Broncos with 6 straight TD drives to start the game. The Bills’ offense followed that up one week later with a Goose Egg vs the Panthers. That’s why we hear all NFL coaches preach the one-week-at-a-time sermon.” — Dirk Koetter

Quarterback Observations

“Geno Smith stays ahead of Drew Lock. Mitch Trubisky did nothing to lose the job to Pickett & Rudolph. Baker was always going to be better than Sam Darnold, even without the injury. And Justin Fields looks a lot more like a starter in the NFL than he did at any point in his rookie season.” — Ronde Barber

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