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

2RFAB71 Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) throws a pass as quarterback Will Levis (8) looks on during an NFL football training camp practice Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

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.

Saturday’s preseason slate is headlined by our first look at three high-profile rookie quarterbacks in Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. While that’s the main story, there is plenty of intrigue to be found elsewhere as we head toward the end of the first week of preseason.

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Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears (1 p.m. ET)

Titans focus: Will Levis and Malik Willis

The Titans will go as far as Ryan Tannehill can take them in 2023, but the real story for the future is whether 2022 third-round draft pick Malik Willis or 2023 second-round draft pick Will Levis can make a name for themselves. Willis didn’t have a game with a PFF passing grade above 60.0 in three preseason outings last year but did rank third in the league with 159 rushing yards. Levis fell to the second round of the draft this year, although his 90.6 PFF grade in 2021 highlights his raw potential.

Bears focus: Darnell Wright

The Bears made Darnell Wright a top-10 pick in April’s draft, coming off a season in which he posted a career-high 80.2 PFF pass-blocking grade. He wasn’t consistently good in college, but the flashes, paired with his size and athleticism, are what give him the chance to be a top tackle in the NFL. Given his inconsistency in college, don’t be shocked if he struggles some as a rookie, especially in the preseason. However, he should put impressive pass-blocking reps on film along the way.

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET)

Colts focus: Anthony Richardson

Reports from training camp have Anthony Richardson getting some time with the first team, so the door appears to be firmly open for him to start in Week 1. He’s likely going to see plenty of time this preseason, and that’s a scary prospect for opposing defenses. First-team linebackers often struggle with the bind that elite athletes at quarterback can put them in, so if second- and third-stringers have to deal with Richardson, who earned an 84.8 PFF rushing grade at Florida in 2022, they might not get a hand on him.

Bills focus: Dalton Kincaid’s usage

Kincaid earned a 91.8 PFF receiving grade in 2022 at Utah and dropped just two of the 72 catchable passes thrown his way. He split his time between an in-line tight end role (376 snaps), the slot (257) and out wide (49). With Dawson Knox already in Buffalo, the slot may be Kincaid's best path to serious snaps in 2023, so we shall see how he is deployed tonight.

New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (4 p.m. ET)

Jets focus: Will McDonald IV

The 15th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Will McDonald IV saw 33 snaps in his preseason debut last Thursday against the Browns in the Hall of Fame Game. It wasn’t a great debut, with the former Iowa State standout earning a 45.5 PFF grade. He won just 6.3% of his pass-rushing reps in that outing but finished 2022 with an 84.2 PFF pass-rushing grade. How much development we see from last week to this week could be key to McDonald being a key contributor for the Jets this season.

Panthers focus: Bryce Young

If your primary focus for the Panthers in this game isn’t the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, I’m not sure why. Young was elite at the college level for Alabama, earning PFF passing grades above 90.0 in both 2021 and 2022. His height was viewed as his biggest pre-draft concern, so seeing him navigate a game at the NFL level will provide some immediate clarity on if that will be an issue.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys (5 p.m. ET)

Jaguars focus: Travon Walker’s development

Despite holding the title of the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Travon Walker didn’t dominate as a rookie. But that shouldn’t have come as much of a shock. He was always going to need time to develop in the NFL, and how he does so after a rookie season that saw him earn a 58.0 PFF grade will draw plenty of attention. With a full NFL offseason under his belt, how much will he have improved heading into his second season?

Cowboys focus: Deuce Vaughn

Tony Pollard looks set to be the lead back for the Cowboys in 2023, but Deuce Vaughn has the opportunity to carve out a role for himself with an impressive preseason. He earned an 84.0-plus PFF rushing grade in all three of his seasons at Kansas State and fumbled just twice on 646 carries. While he wasn’t elite at moving defenders on contact, averaging just 2.35 yards after contact per carry in 2022, he did force 57 missed tackles on 291 carries last year. It would be ideal for the Cowboys to give him a heavy workload this August to see how he handles NFL defenders.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens (7 p.m. ET)

Eagles focus: Georgia rookies

The Eagles drafted three defensive players from the national champion Georgia Bulldogs back in April’s NFL draft. That started with defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who earned a 92.3 PFF grade on just 392 snaps last season. His partnership with Jordan Davis will go a long way toward determining if the latest edition of the defensive interior in Philadelphia will live up to the legacy left by prior iterations.

The team used its second first-round selection on edge defender Nolan Smith, who might be undersized but offers sub-4.4 speed and earned PFF grades above 80.0 in both of his final seasons at Georgia. Kelee Ringo went off the board in the fourth round after a 2022 season in which he allowed just one touchdown from 545 snaps in coverage.

Ravens focus: Left guard battle

The Ravens' left guard battle appears to be down to John Simpson and rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. Simpson has played 1,622 snaps over three seasons since being drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders out of Clemson in 2020 but has yet to record a PFF season-long grade above 60.0. Aumavae-Laulu is a more intriguing fit. The sixth-round draft pick played right tackle for Oregon last year, earning a 76.1 PFF run-blocking grade and a 77.8 PFF pass-blocking grade. He’s still raw as a player, but it feels like be brings a higher ceiling than Simpson.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams (9 p.m. ET)

Chargers focus: Day 2 defenders

Much of the focus this offseason for the Chargers has been on how the offense will look under new coordinator Kellen Moore. But for the preseason, the more intriguing storyline is a pair of rookie defensive players who shined in PFF's eyes in 2022. Linebacker Daiyan Henley was a standout at Nevada before moving to Washington State, earning PFF coverage grades of 85.5 and 68.7 in his final two college seasons. Defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu hasn’t even turned 21 years old yet and racked up 56 total pressures on 404 pass-rushing snaps last year.

Rams focus: Unproven defenders

If you look at the Rams' defensive depth chart and don't recognize many names, you are forgiven. Six players on the team's current starting defense have played fewer than 500 snaps in the NFL. Third-round rookie Byron Young could feature in a big role on defense, coming off a season in which he earned a 67.6 PFF pass-rushing grade. If the Rams are going to be better than expected in 2023, they are going to need players like Young to step up in a big way.


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