NFL News & Analysis

Most impressive backups from NFL preseason Week 1: Eagles CB Eli Ricks dazzles

2RH95C2 Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eli Ricks (39) in action during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

• Undrafted Eli Ricks was stout in coverage: The only rookie on this list, Ricks finished Week 1 with a pick-six and another pass breakup.

• Bengals' Tycen Anderson comes away with two picks: The second-year safety also made a nice tackle on special teams.

• Guard Netane Muti shines as a run blocker: The fourth-year man out of Fresno State earned a positive grade on seven of his 16 run-blocking snaps.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

NFL longshots relish any offseason game reps to prove they are worthy of roster spots, and a handful more than took advantage in Week 1 of the 2023 preseason.

After every preseason week, we will look at players who made the most of their opportunities and highlight standout performances from players who are not projected to be starters.

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WR Dezmon Patmon, Buffalo Bills – 92.3 PFF grade

Prior to the Bills signing him in January, Patmon played in just 10 games across his first three years in the NFL and had just four receptions with the Colts. While he was on the field only for 20 snaps in Week 1, Patmon almost had four receptions Saturday against the Colts alone.

Going up against his former team, he ran a route on eight plays and saw three targets, all of which came on the same drive. He caught all three of the passes going his way for 35 receiving yards, including a contested reception made with the defender draped over him. Finally, he capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown on a corner route that essentially put the game out of reach.

G Netane Muti, Las Vegas Raiders – 94.0 PFF grade

The Fresno State product is about to enter his fourth NFL season but his first full campaign with the Raiders. Muti was known for his power and his run blocking coming out of college, and it showed against the 49ers. He earned a positive grade on seven of his 16 run-blocking snaps while being downgraded on just one run play.

Muti was especially effective as part of some double-team blocks that moved defensive linemen a couple of yards off the line of scrimmage. He also made the key block on Sincere McCormick’s third-quarter touchdown run. Furthermore, the former Denver Bronco impressed in pass protection, as he did not allow a single pressure on 12 pass-blocking snaps.

LB Grant Stuard, Indianapolis Colts – 90.9 PFF grade

The 2021 NFL Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant has been a key player on special teams over his first two NFL seasons, but he has played only 26 snaps on defense in the regular season — all coming with the Buccaneers in 2021. Against the Bills on Saturday, Stuard played 43 snaps on defense and was all over the field making play in all facets of the game.

Stuard's biggest play of the game came in the first minute of the fourth quarter when he forced a fumble at the end of a would-be third-down conversion and got the ball back for Indianapolis. In addition, he allowed just one catch on the day, making the tackle after three yards. Stuard also impressed against the run, picking up a positive grade on five of his 19 run-defense snaps and using a combination of quickness and power to defeat blocks.

S Tycen Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals – 97.3 PFF grade

The second-year safety out of Toledo entered the game in the second quarter, logged 44 defensive snaps and was a thorn in the Packers' side. He made a tackle inside the 10-yard line on a kickoff return but was more impressive on defense. There, he recorded two interceptions in the second quarter and returned one for a touchdown. On the first play, he was playing the robber role in Cover 1 and did well to anticipate quarterback Sean Clifford‘s throw, undercutting a crossing route and returning the pass for a pick-six.

Later in the quarter, while playing zone coverage, Anderson contested a pass at the catch point and outmuscled tight end Tucker Kraft for his second interception.

CB Eli Ricks, Philadelphia Eagles – 96.7 PFF grade

Ricks is the only rookie on this list, and while the former LSU and Alabama cornerback played only in the fourth quarter, he still made a big impact against the Ravens. He allowed only one reception — and it was one that he nearly broke up — on 11 coverage snaps for seven yards.

Ricks also got his hands on two passes. On his very first play in the game, he read an out route well, broke on it and was able to bat down the pass as it got to the receiver. Later in the fourth quarter, he saw the same route and anticipated it even better, undercutting it for an interception that he returned for a touchdown to give the Eagles an opportunity to tie the game in the fourth quarter.


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