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Believe Hype on Pickett, Pickens … and Other Week 1 Expert Insights

George Pickens OROY

Training camp and the preseason is vital for NFL rookies. They have to battle for their position on a team, prove they were worth the high draft pick, and at the same time manage NFL life. NFL rookies have a lot on their plates, so it is fair to expect a mix of good and bad.

The 33rd Team’s staff of NFL contributors and talent have combed through all the performances so far. From that, they have some takeaways on the rookies from the 2022 NFL Draft class and how they performed during preseason Week 1.

Steelers ‘hit’ on Kenny Pickett

Week 1: 13 of 15, 92 passing yards, 2 TDs

“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

“Kenny Pickett looked like the best of the rookie quarterbacks this weekend. When the bright lights came on, the stage was not too big for him. His game-winning drive showed why most people thought he was the most-ready quarterback 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 QBs Showing Tools

Tennessee’s Malik Willis, Week 1 vs Baltimore: 6 of 11, 107 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, 1 TD

Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder, Week 1 vs. Detroit: 10 of 22, 103 passing yards, 59 rushing yards, 2 TDs

Washington’s Sam Howell, Week 1 vs Carolina: 9 of 15, 145 passing yards, 2 rushing TDs

“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 quarterback. 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 wide receivers 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

“[Howell] just played well. He played with his legs. He had two touchdown runs, and he had command of that offense.” – Matt Cassel

Texans RB Dameon Pierce Making Impact

Week 1 vs. New Orleans: 5 attempts, 49 yards 

“When I watched the game he played he looks like an outstanding back. The running game was pitiful they were last in the league last year and they need an offensive line. When we had Earl Campbell we were toward last in running but we led the league the next year he was there. A running back makes a big difference. This kid looked really good in the game.” – Wade Phillips

George Pickens Looks Like a Steal for Steelers

Week 1 vs Seattle: 3 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD

“Pickens went 52nd overall in the draft, but this guy, at the receiver position, is explosive. He’s got great athleticism. He’s a great route runner. He had a 26-yard touchdown reception from Mason Rudolph, so this is a guy who went to the perfect situation on the perfect team, and I think he’ll have a big impact for the Steelers this year.” – Matt Cassel

Seattle’s Charles Cross an impressive OT

“He’s a guy coming out I think that was the most fundamentally sound in terms of technique in pass protection, and that showed up on film. Yes, (Steelers pass rusher) T.J. Watt wasn’t in there, and it might be a different story if he was, but I did like the way he performed, and I know the Seahawks have to be impressed with how he played in this first preseason game.”  – Matt Cassel

Good Start for Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson

Week 1  vs. Atlanta: 2 tackles, 1 TFL

“Watching him, his versatility, his physicality he lived up to the hype. He lined up at left end, lined up at right end and he even lined up at three-technique in the interior part of the defense. He got off the ball. He used his hands and had a tackle for loss. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player. The Detroit Lions have to be happy with him.” – Matt Cassel

Bears UDFA LB Jack Sanborn Takes Advantage

Week 1 vs. Kansas City: 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass deflection

“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

LB Chad Muma’s Speed Shows up for Jags

Week 1 vs. Cleveland: 3 tackles, 1 TFL

“He popped. He’s a sideline-to-sideline guy. He can really run. One play he looked like he was shot out of a cannon, and he chased a running back down and made a great play.” – Chuck Pagano

Coby Bryant, the Next Star Seahawks Corner?

“It sounds like they are spending a lot of time getting him up to speed real early to fit into that Seattle defense. [Pete Carroll] found a guy that fits what he wants to do be able to press and play the three-deep zone stuff. That’s a guy you need to come on fast because they are looking for him to fill a void.” – Marvin Lewis

Safety Jaquan Brisker ‘Popped’ For Bears

Week 1 vs. Kansas City: 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass breakup

“He really flashed, and he popped and jumped off the tape to me. He’s a very good athlete. He plays down in the box. He’s really physical, good tackler. They can blitz him, and he’s got good instincts to play in coverage. One play they dropped him in there, I think as a robber, and he kinda set the quarterback up, read his eyes and made a great pass breakup, almost an interception. He was all over the place. He really popped to me.”  – Chuck Pagano