NFL News & Analysis

Checking in on preseason position battles: Trey Lance traded to Dallas Cowboys, Baker Mayfield named starter in Tampa Bay

2RHYCRK Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the New York Jets, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

• Baker gets another shot: Baker Mayfield wins the Buccaneers‘ starting job over Kyle Trask.

• A new era in San Francisco: QB Trey Lance was traded to the Dallas Cowboys as Sam Darnold wins the 49ers' backup job.

• Richardson has the reins: QB Anthony Richardson showed enough to earn the Indianapolis Colts’ starting job for Week 1.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The end of the NFL preseason also brings an end to the offseason position battles.

While some of these might change throughout the season, it’s time to check in on the biggest position battles of the summer, which ended with Trey Lance being traded to the Dallas Cowboys and the emergence of the New York Jets edge defenders.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting Quarterback: Baker Mayfield vs. Kyle Trask

Former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield won the job, producing an 89.0 PFF passing grade on 15 dropbacks this preseason and going 14-for-15 for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Former second-round draft pick Kyle Trask didn’t give a bad account of himself, either, earning a 71.9 passing grade from 78 dropbacks. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Trask get time as a starter later in the season, depending on the Buccaneers' position in the playoff hunt.

San Francisco 49ers Backup quarterback: Sam Darnold vs. Trey Lance

With Brock Purdy able to return to full health ahead of the season, the competition became about who would win the backup job. That was answered last week, with Sam Darnold named the team’s No. 2 signal-caller after he went 22-for-33 and earned a 79.1 passing grade this preseason.

Trey Lance, who produced a 74.8 PFF grade in the team's second preseason game against the Denver Broncos, was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2024 fourth-round draft pick.

Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback: Anthony Richardson vs. Gardner Minshew

Of all the highly drafted rookies, Richardson was the one who was expected to start the season on the bench. While there was some inconsistency in his passing this preseason, the fact that he produced three big-time throws on just 33 dropbacks and averaged 6.4 yards per carry on four attempts justifies the team’s decision to start him immediately.

Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver: Kadarius Toney vs. Skyy Moore vs. Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Rashee Rice

Skyy Moore is likely the team’s primary slot receiver, as 19 of his 31 snaps came from the slot this preseason.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney are almost certainly the top two receivers on the depth chart, but a featured role from the slot can be incredibly valuable in Kansas City — last season, Chiefs wide receivers combined to see 144 targets in the slot.

Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster are no longer with the team, and their combined 66 slot targets from a season ago are up for grabs. Moore could be in for a breakout campaign.

Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross will likely start the year in reserve roles, but both have enough talent to push for more playing time as the season progresses.

New York Jets offensive tackle: Mekhi Becton vs. Duane Brown vs. Max Mitchell vs. Billy Turner vs. Carter Warren

In a huge boost for Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, Mekhi Becton, the 11th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, was able to win the starting right tackle job.

All 28 of Becton's snaps in preseason Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came at right tackle, with the former Louisville Cardinal earning a 90.2 run-blocking grade and allowing no pressure on 19 pass-blocking snaps.

Baltimore Ravens left guard: John Simpson vs. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu

The Ravens signed John Simpson to the practice squad in mid-December last year, and he was a standout for the team this preseason, earning the starting spot at left guard to replace Ben Powers, who signed with the Broncos as a free agent.

Simpson earned an 82.7 overall grade, allowing zero pressures from 44 pass-blocking snaps. His competition, sixth-round pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, produced a grade of just 27.9 from 112 snaps.

New York Jets Edge Defender rotation

Another big win for the Jets this preseason is that they will likely have a rotation of very capable edge defenders.

While Carl Lawson’s status for the season opener is in doubt due to his back injury, the Jets will be really happy with what they saw from first-round draft picks Jermaine Johnson (2022) and Will McDonald IV (2023). Johnson registered six pressures, including two sacks, from 30 pass-rushing snaps this preseason. McDonald produced seven pressures from 47 snaps.

With John Franklin-Myers and Lawson healthy, this is a really strong group. Bryce Huff also had an impressive preseason and registered 10 pressures — with four sacks — on 59 pass-rushing snaps.

While this unit may lack an elite pass-rusher right now, it has plenty of potential and is one of the deepest rooms in the league. 



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