NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 1 of the 2023 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Carr one-and-done in strong NO debut. Derek Carr's performance Sunday had all of the elements that the Saints wanted to see in his first game action with the team. After a couple years of inconsistent quarterback play since Drew Brees retired, Carr's arrival was supposed to signal a new era of Saints football. Judging by his play versus the Chiefs, the QB has already adjusted to life in the Big Easy. Carr looked comfortable moving around in the pocket, was able to connect with multiple players on pass plays and efficiently moved his offense down the field toward a touchdown, finishing the opening series 6-of-8 for 70 yards and the TD. There were glimpses of his connection with key players, including a 16-yard toss to Michael Thomas in the receiver's highly anticipated return from nagging injuries, plus multiple passes to both running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Juwan Johnson, spreading the wealth around the offense. Carr's clear comfort in orchestrating the scoring drive was evidently satisfactory for coach Dennis Allen, and the first-stringers' day ended after the one series. This was a limited sample size, as are most appearances by starters in August, but so far the good times seem to be rolling with Carr under center.
- New Chiefs come up big. With Patrick Mahomes and the majority of the established starters only participating in one drive on Sunday, there came opportunities for other Chiefs players to make an impact through the rest of the game, and some new faces made themselves seen. Wide receiver Richie James, who came over this offseason from the Giants, got the offense jump-started after multiple fruitless drives for K.C. to start the game. James was on the receiving end of two big plays from backup QB Blaine Gabbert, reeling in a 43-yard catch and then a one-yard TD reception on the same drive to put the team's first points on the board. He also added a kick return for 31 yards. 2023 second-round pick Rashee Rice also got some time through the middle of the game, making three catches for 30 yards, though he also recorded a false start penalty. And Justyn Ross, who spent all of last year on injured reserve after being signed as an undrafted free agent, finally took the field for the Chiefs and made his time count with three catches, including a 15-yard TD.
- Raiders' D-line depth shines. With players like Maxx Crosby, Jerry Tillery and Chandler Jones sitting this one out, the battle of the backups in the trenches and on the edge soundly went Las Vegas' way. The Raiders' defense was disruptive throughout, but especially early in the game when the unit allowed San Francisco just a single yard of offense in the first quarter. The pass rush tallied four sacks, split between Amari Burney, John Jenkins, Adam Butler and a shared takedown between Isaac Rochell and Jordan Willis, who helped lead the way with five QB pressures. The line also swallowed up a pair of failed fourth-and-short attempts by the Niners. Some of the heat waned as players farther down the depth chart rotated in, but the defense still dominated to deliver a second-half shutout. All signs point toward vastly improved depth here, something the Raiders sorely need after Crosby and Jones accounted for 17 of the team's 27 sacks in 2022 -- with no other defender exceeding two.
- Lance shaky in return to action. There was a sprinkling of good, with a bigger splash of bad in Trey Lance's first preseason outing of the year. Playing behind an offensive line filled out entirely by backups, Lance failed to even deliver a first down until his fourth possession. However, the fault for the Niners' ineffectiveness cannot be placed squarely on his shoulders. Although at least one of the four sacks he took on the night came due to double clutching when players were open, the third-year quarterback constantly found himself under duress. He did show moxie in continuing to plug away, benefitting from some play calls that smartly moved the pocket during a 61-yard scoring drive, but his touchdown throw was an ill-advised toss back across the middle of the end zone that miraculously caromed off Raiders cornerback Duke Shelley's chest and hands into the diving arms of tight end Ross Dwelley. Lance also got away with another throw directly to rookie linebacker Amari Burney during his final drive. Regardless of how his 111.0 passer rating looks on the page, it was far from a performance that would have fans clamoring for Lance to supplant Brock Purdy.
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