NFL News & Analysis

2023 NFL preseason Week 1 preview: Schedule, storylines and analysis for Friday's games

2RETK1E Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) prepares to run a drill during the NFL football team's training camp, Saturday, July 29, 2023, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz)

The 2023 NFL preseason has begun in earnest. All 32 teams are in action between Thursday and Sunday, giving us our first looks at many of the league's heralded — and unheralded — rookies. Set your DFS lineups, glean your fantasy football insights and prepare for the regular season.

Here is one thing we’re looking forward to seeing from each team in each game Friday.

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New York Giants at Detroit Lions (7 p.m. ET)

Giants focus: Tre Hawkins III

The Giants drafted Deonte Banks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, but it has been sixth-round selection Tre Hawkins III who has been drawing the attention on social media throughout training camp. He earned a 78.3 PFF grade in his final season at Old Dominion. It’s going to be interesting to see if he sees time with the starters tonight and if he can continue to generate buzz with another strong performance.

Lions focus: Offensive rookies

The Lions liked running back Jahmyr Gibbs enough to not only select him with the 12th overall selection in the draft but also to quickly trade away D'Andre Swift after that. We know that Gibbs is a tremendous athlete and someone who can take any touch of the ball the distance, and we’ll likely see the Lions get him involved in the passing game early on. Tight end Sam LaPorta has been praised for his practice performances this summer, and after he forced 20 missed tackles on 58 receptions at Iowa last year, it will be exciting to see him with the ball in his hands against an NFL defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7 p.m. ET)

Steelers focus: Nick Herbig

The expectation was that Steelers fourth-round draft pick Nick Herbig might need to move inside at the NFL, given his size. The former Wisconsin star racked up 80 total pressures from 542 pass-rushing snaps primarily as an edge defender over his three-year college career. The reports out of training camp, though, are that he has so far stuck on the edge. With T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith as starters, the Steelers don’t need more than a complementary role from Herbig this year, but he could flourish as part of that rotation. He missed practice earlier this week, so there is some uncertainty about whether we will see him in this game.

Buccaneers focus: Quarterback situation

Baker Mayfield is getting the start in this game, but Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles has already announced that Kyle Trask will start next week, proving that this quarterback competition is not yet close to being decided. Mayfield is coming off the lowest-graded season of his career, earning a 52.2 PFF passing grade with the Panthers and Rams. Trask has just nine dropbacks in his two-year career so far, going 3-for-9 and averaging 2.6 yards per attempt. He did have some nice moments in preseason last year, though, producing a big-time throw on 7.4% of his pass attempts.

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals (7 p.m. ET)

Packers focus: Youth on the defensive line

The 28th overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Devonte Wyatt flashed some as a rookie but played just 224 snaps in his first year in the league. There have been some positive reports out of training camp, but the Packers really need him to take that second-year leap in 2023. The Packers spent three draft picks on the defensive line this year, too, adding Lukas Van Ness in the first round and Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks on Day 3.

Bengals focus: Rookie receivers

While any discussion about Cincinnati's wide receivers has to start with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, the Bengals will be hoping to have struck gold with two 2023 draft picks who can be complementary pieces for the next few years. Fourth-round pick Charlie Jones dropped just three of the 113 catchable passes thrown his way in 2022 at Purdue, and he could be Tyler Boyd’s replacement in 2024. Andrei Iosivas is the real wildcard here, though. He has the size and speed combination that feels like it should have led to him coming off the board earlier than the sixth round. He was a star at Princeton and could force his way into a bigger-than-expected role with a solid preseason showing.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins (7 p.m. ET)

Falcons focus: Bijan Robinson

Is it the easy option? Probably, but even before Robinson was drafted it was exciting to think about him on an NFL field. He forced 104 missed tackles on 257 carries at Texas last year. Keep an eye on how the Falcons move him around the formation this August. We’ve seen the training camp clips of him putting linebackers on skates as a receiver, so perhaps Robinson sees some snaps in the slot or motions out of the backfield.

Dolphins focus: Cam Smith

The injury to Jalen Ramsey was a knock to the Dolphins before the season even begins, and while he is expected back at some point in 2023, it doesn’t look like it will be early in the year. That means the Dolphins need other players to step up, and getting something out of second-round pick Cam Smith would be a welcomed boost. He struggled in 2022 at South Carolina but earned an 89.7 PFF coverage grade back in 2021, when he recorded nine pass breakups. That ability to force incompletions has been seen from reports and clips out of training camp, too.

Washington Commanders at Cleveland Browns (7:30 p.m. ET)

Commanders focus: Emmanuel Forbes

Forbes was one of the best defenders in all of college football last season when it came to making plays on the ball. Over the past three seasons, he has combined to record 31 interceptions and pass breakups, playing more aggressively than his slight frame would suggest. He looks certain to be a day-one starter, so it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets in the preseason.

Browns focus: Deshaun Watson

Seeing established quarterbacks in the preseason is something that generally feels like it doesn’t matter much, but there’s plenty to look for with Deshaun Watson. He did not play well when he returned to the field in 2022 following an 11-game suspension, producing just three big-time throws compared with nine turnover-worthy plays. The Browns have a talented roster, but it won’t be enough to overcome poor quarterback play if Watson plays like he did a year ago.

Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals (10 p.m. ET)

Broncos focus: Marvin Mims

One of Sam Monson’s bold predictions for the Denver Broncos in 2023 was that rookie Marvin Mims would lead the team in receiving. Given that Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are already on the roster, that is indeed bold. But Mims has the athleticism to be a major factor right away in the NFL. He ranked third in the FBS last season with 602 receiving yards on receptions 20-plus yards downfield and, as Sam points out, could remind Wilson of Tyler Lockett from his days with the Seattle Seahawks.

Cardinals focus: Michael Wilson

Another rookie wide receiver worth keeping an eye on, it seems like Michael Wilson might be on track to force his way into the starting lineup for the Cardinals possibly as early as the start of the 2023 season. Wilson saw just 40 targets last season at Stanford but has the size to complement Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore with DeAndre Hopkins no longer in Arizona. An extended run this preseason and plenty of targets could push Wilson’s stock even higher.


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