PFF broke down the numbers immediately after every NFL preseason Week 1 game, including scores, rookie standouts, offensive line performances and more.
Jump to a game:
Offensive spotlight: Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton made the play of the game late in the first quarter with a well-timed leap to snatch the ball out of the air down the left sideline with Jalen Pitre closing on him, picking up 27 yards on the throw from quarterback Bailey Zappe. The 2022 second-round pick has reportedly been somewhat underwhelming in training camp thus far, so it was good to see him make a splash play in his first preseason action of 2023.
Defensive spotlight: Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud was promptly welcomed to the NFL in his first preseason outing, taking a 15-yard sack (Daniel Ekuale) and then throwing an interception to Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills on just his second passing attempt in the first series of the game.
Stroud saw rookie wide receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell create a mile of separation and then start to work back toward the line of scrimmage, but didn’t see Mills break on the ball leading to an ugly interception. Dell was running free for much of the night, though a lot of his work was just beyond the line of scrimmage. The third-rounder bobbled a perfect back-shoulder throw from Davis Mills in the front left corner of the end zone but displayed impressive concentration to corral the touchdown.
Offensive spotlight: Vikings backup running back Ty Chandler ran hard to kick off the game, with five carries for 27 yards to go along with two receptions for 12 yards. Chandler finished the first half with 41 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards, touching the ball on seemingly every snap for Minnesota. He was decisive and frequently made sharp cuts upfield in a hurry, and his overall stat line did not reflect his effectiveness after turning would-be losses into small gains and would-be small gains into bigger gains. Chandler could carve out a role behind Alexander Mattison as the Vikings pivot to a committee approach in the backfield after releasing Dalvin Cook earlier this offseason.
Defensive spotlight: Seahawks sophomore cornerback Coby Bryant brought a serious edge to the first week of the preseason, making several key tackles in the first half, including a big hit on Jalen Reagor over the middle that drew a penalty flag. Vikings edge defender Luiji Vilain registered the lone sack of the first half, taking down quarterback Drew Lock and adding another pressure on just six total first-half pass rush snaps.
Offensive spotlight: The Steelers ran it back with their 2022 trio of quarterbacks, handing Kenny Pickett (seven dropbacks), Mitch Trubisky (four) and Mason Rudolph (15) snaps — in addition to rookie Tanner Morgan (nine) — in this Week 1 affair. And Pickett proved to be the most effective, similar to last year.
The second-year signal-caller completed six of his seven attempts for 70 yards and a score to earn an 85.0-plus passing grade on first review. Rudolph made two big-time throws on his larger workload.
Defensive spotlight: All of the hype surrounding Nick Herbig is warranted, at least for now. The rookie played only eight pass-rushing snaps and still managed two sacks. Pending final reviews, he was the highest-graded defender in this game.
Got him ???? @nickherbig_
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 12, 2023
Offensive spotlight: If you enjoy ground-and-pound, running back-centric football, this game was for you. Miami and Atlanta combined for 270 rushing yards on 52 carries.
Godwin Igwebuike was the Falcons' top back, forcing a missed tackle and gaining 33 of his 70 yards after contact, pending review. Myles Gaskin featured for Miami and racked up seven missed tackles as a runner.
Defensive spotlight: Dolphins edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah played the first quarter and was efficient on his 11 snaps. He earned an 87.6 PFF grade on first review after winning two of his seven pass-rush reps en route to a quarterback hit.
Offensive spotlight: Jordan Love had looked cautious during joint practice with the Bengals during the week, but he wasted no time in taking a deep shot in this preseason game, coming very close to hitting Christian Watson down the left sideline. It was one of just three incompletions for Love, who completed seven of 10 attempts for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Love’s arm strength was clear to see, and the majority of his passes leaned heavily on that zip, but the touchdown to Romeo Doubs showed some nice touch, as well.
Defensive spotlight: One of the biggest questions for a well-settled roster this season is how second-year defensive back Dax Hill will perform stepping in for Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, each of whom departed in the offseason.
Hill made one of the plays of the game, breaking up the deep shot from Jordan Love to save a touchdown as he came over from the middle of the field. Hill showed outstanding range and was able to get in front of Christian Watson, who had gotten behind rookie DJ Turner and was open for a big play. Hill looked good outside of that flash play and will help the Bengals feel good about their succession plan in the secondary.
Offensive spotlight: The Detroit Lions would have been expecting big things from Jameson Williams heading into his second season before he landed a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. That suspension doesn’t kick in until the regular season, though, so the Lions got him as much work as they could in this game. Williams played 25 snaps and didn’t cover himself in glory. He dropped a deep pass when he had managed to get a step on the defender and the ball was well delivered. Overall, he caught just two passes for 18 yards but went some way toward redeeming himself with a nice one-handed snag on a two-point conversion.
Defensive spotlight: Lions rookie safety Brian Branch picked up in NFL preseason where he left off in college, looking like one of the best defenders on the field. Branch’s best play was tracking Cole Beasley across the field and burying him with a big hit just after the ball arrived, dropping the receiver for a loss on the play on first down. Branch played 16 snaps, 12 of which were in coverage, lining up in the slot and performing much the same role as he had in college.
Offensive spotlight: Quarterback Sam Howell started and led three offensive drives into the second quarter with the rest of the Washington starters. Howell picked up a third-and-6 with his legs on the first drive, showing off his scrambling ability just that once in this game. He went on to throw for 77 yards on 9 for-12 passing, which included a 26-yard touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who made a nice adjustment on a high throw to reel the pass in, make two Browns’ defenders miss and walk into the end zone.
Defensive spotlight: Jim Schwartz’s first game as the Browns’ defensive coordinator was without Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and Grant Delpit. The defense got off to a strong start through the first two drives with new defensive end Za’Darius Smith drawing an offensive holding penalty in the end zone that led to a safety, which ended up being the Browns' only score of the first half.
Offensive spotlight: The Broncos played its first-team offense well into the second quarter as they struggled to find their footing early led by Russell Wilson under center going up against a number of Cardinals’ second and third-teamers. Finally, the fourth offensive drive with Wilson and company led to a Jerry Jeudy 21-yard touchdown, one play after he had a key drop on third down. Wilson finished this game with just a 53.8% completion rate and 93 yards through most of the first half.
Russell Wilson ➡️ Jerry Jeudy
— PFF (@PFF) August 12, 2023
Defensive spotlight: The Cardinals have been experimenting with two former first-round defenders, Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons, in new positions this offseason, and this was the first game action where we go to see how that looked. Collins played every defensive snap through the first two drives exclusively on the edge, performing well with a QB hit and a nice unblocked tackle for no gain on the backside of a run play. Simmons played three defensive drives and played 93% of those snaps as a true safety, which he only spent 6% of his snaps doing last season.
Offensive spotlight: Roschon Johnson handled 12 carries en route to 44 rushing yards. The Bears rookie earned an 80.0-plus rushing grade on PFF's first review of the film thanks to three forced missed tackles and 47 yards after contact — three more yards than his final game total.
Defensive spotlight: A hefty workload for Bears second-round rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson yielded mixed results. The Miami (FL) product played 31 coverage snaps and gave up six catches on eight targets, albeit for only 50 yards. He had good coverage on a dropped interception of Will Levis.
Offensive spotlight: Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir was the highest-graded player on offense from either team, earning an initial 90.4 overall grade with an 87.5 receiving grade — all pending review. He finished the game with two catches on four targets for 25 yards, with one being an explosive play that was also a catch in traffic. But he did have a frustrating drop later in the game, which was emblematic of some highs and lows for him thus far in training camp.
Defensive spotlight: Damar Hamlin suited up for his first game since suffering cardiac arrest late last season in a game against the Bengals. He came up with a few key tackles, including a fourth-down stop that ended a Colts drive. In total, Hamlin played 15 snaps and made three tackles, earning an initial 73.4 overall grade with an initial 72.4 grade in run defense. Hamlin looked comfortable and confident — which is good on its own, and incredible given the circumstances.
Offensive spotlight: Third-year quarterback Zach Wilson looked in control against the Panthers – which signals much-needed progress from his early days as a starter. Wilson played the entire first half, going 14-for-20 with 123 passing yards and one passing touchdown.
D-LINE DOMINATING ????
It's @WILL_JUN1OR's turn for a sack!
— New York Jets (@nyjets) August 12, 2023
Wilson appears to be more calculated in his approach to facilitating the ball. He posted 6.2 yards per attempt, but that wasn’t a bad thing. He may not have recorded a big-time throw, but he also did not record a turnover-worthy play. The Panthers were constantly pressuring the pocket, and he was taking his check-down throws appropriately.
Defensive spotlight: There were a handful of defensive players who could have been the spotlight here, but Panthers interior defensive lineman Derrick Brown gets the shoutout for what he was able to do in the first few series of the game. Brown, who played 12 total snaps, recorded a 77.9 initial overall grade with a game-high 76.5 run defense grade.
On the Jets' side of things, their entire first- and second-team pass-rushers were putting on a show. Jermaine Johnson, Will McDonald, Quinton Jefferson, Solomon Thomas and Bryce Huff all recorded at least one pressure in the first half. As a team, the Jets recorded 10 pressures on the day. New York looks to boast one of the deepest and more talented defensive lines in the league this season.
Offensive spotlight: Tight end Jake Ferguson may make Cowboys fans quickly forget Dalton Schultz, as he showcased impressive receiving skills during his allocated snaps in the first half. As a rookie, Ferguson proved to be an effective short-to-intermediate receiving option; however, he was able to stretch the seam a bit Saturday, making an acrobatic 26-yard reception in the first quarter while sustaining a thunderous hit that tacked on an extra 15 yards. In totality, Ferguson recorded three receptions (from three targets) for 38 yards and two first downs, finishing 2-for-2 on his contested-catch opportunities in the process.
Defensive spotlight: Cowboys linebacker Damone Clark was all over the field during the first half, making multiple positive plays for the Dallas defense against the run and pass. With his first full offseason, Clark finally appeared to play to his athletic potential, as he made quick decisions that enabled his physical gifts to put him in position to make plays. Clark finished with five total tackles and two stops Saturday evening.
Offensive spotlight: Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley had a strong showing against the Eagles. Huntley finished the game 8-for-11 passing with 88 passing yards and one passing touchdown. He also added 13 yards on the ground on two carries.
Huntley started four games last season, going 2-2 to close out the regular season. The Ravens also have NFL journeyman Josh Johnson on their roster, so the QB2 battle in Baltimore is heating up, as Johnson finished this game 8-for-12 with 45 passing yards and a passing touchdown.
Defensive spotlight: Jalen Carter’s scouting report was a complex one due to off-the-field concerns, but one area that was never a question mark was what he was capable of on the football field. It took exactly one play in an NFL uniform to remind us of that.
Jalen Carter’s first snap in the NFL went well ????
— PFF (@PFF) August 12, 2023
Carter only played a handful of snaps against the Ravens, but in doing so earned a 90.8 initial overall grade with an 86.5 pass-rush grade, including that pressure and QB hit shown above.
Offensive spotlight: Quarterback Easton Stick started for the Chargers and played the entire first half. Stick targeted rookie first-round pick Quentin Johnston heavily throughout the half, including on a deep pass down the sideline about 45 yards through the air that went right through the hands of the TCU product. Fortunately, the next time the duo connected on a pass, it went for an eight-yard touchdown near the end of the half.
Defensive spotlight: The Rams’ defensive line lacks established starters, which leaves plenty of opportunities for depth players to earn a spot on the main roster with strong play this preseason. Edge rusher Keir Thomas stood out with 1.5 sacks, both in the second half to go along with five total tackles on the day. Thomas posted 10 sacks in his final college season at Florida State, so the Rams should be happy to see him deliver some much-needed production for their defensive line this preseason.
Offensive spotlight: Justyn Ross is back in the spotlight. The former Clemson star went undrafted in 2022 due to his injury history and missed his rookie season after undergoing foot surgery, but he justified the training camp buzz surrounding him on Sunday. Ross caught two of his five targets, one for a score, in his first NFL game action. It wasn't a flashy performance, but it was a reminder of everything Ross proved capable of as one of the best receivers in college football back in 2018 and 2019.
Defensive spotlight: Although he played only 13 snaps, linebacker Leo Chenal recorded two run stops and allowed two receiving yards on two targets into his coverage. It was a solid day for the second-year man in all facets, and he finished initial reviews as the Chiefs' highest-graded defender.
Offensive spotlight: Trey Lance got the first taste of action between him and Darnold, and it was a rather shaky showing. On the surface, he recorded one touchdown pass. PFF, however, heavily downgraded Lance for, well, this turnover-worthy … score.
Just like Trey Lance drew it up ????pic.twitter.com/rcORd7sjxH
— PFF (@PFF) August 13, 2023
Lance did make one big-time throw to boost his grade, but it will likely end up as a sub-60.0 mark after final reviews.
Defensive spotlight: A former top-five pick of the Raiders, Clelin Ferrell showed out against his former squad. On just five pass-rushing snaps, he managed a sack and another rep where he beat his blocker. Ferrell also made a run stop in the revenge game before his day ended.