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2023 NFL Preseason, Week 2: One thing to watch on each of the 32 teams

Eric Edholm provides 32 thoughts -- one for every club -- ahead of each preseason Week 2 game.

*NFL+ subscribers can watch live out-of-market NFL preseason games across devices. Blackout restrictions apply.


  • WHERE: FedExField (Landover, Md.)
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, NFL+*)

RAVENS: J.K. Dobbins coming off PUP is great news for the Ravens as they work through their offensive issues while adjusting to a new system under coordinator Todd Monken. But it also potentially sets up a preseason battle for the final RB spot on the roster, with multiple candidates vying for it. My guess is that the final spot could come down to veteran Melvin Gordon vs. undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell. It’s also possible that neither are kept. Both were corralled in second-half work against the Eagles, running behind poor blocking. Gordon has received positive feedback this August after a nightmarish 2022 season in Denver, but Mitchell’s speed and return ability offer the Ravens more of a counterpoint to their more established backs, such as Dobbins and Gus Edwards. If Mitchell stands out vs. Washington, it would improve his chances to make it.

COMMANDERS: If there’s one preseason battle we’re hoping for this week, it’s two rookies squaring off: Ravens WR Zay Flowers against Commanders CB Emmanuel Forbes. Both have been the talk of their respective camps, with Forbes apparently having an eventful Day 1 of joint practices between the teams on Tuesday. First, Flowers beat him deep on one rep. Then Forbes knocked away a deep ball intended for Odell Beckham Jr. Finally, Forbes and Ravens WR Tylan Wallace got into a fight. The Commanders know the spindly Forbes is going to lose some battles this season, but they also have to love his scrappiness, in addition to his rare ball-hawking skills. If there’s a higher power, we’ll get some Flowers-Forbes matchups in Monday’s game to see which 2023 first-rounder can come out on top.


  • WHERE: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 7:05 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

SAINTS: The Saints already know they’ll be without Alvin Kamara for the first three regular-season games, so the news that rookie RB Kendre Miller suffered a knee injury against the Chiefs didn’t come at the best time. Miller’s injury isn’t believed to be major, so that’s the silver lining. But it likely will leave New Orleans a bit shorthanded for the final two preseason games, starting Sunday against the Chargers. Jamaal Williams is the starter, but ideally, the Saints wouldn’t use the veteran much before the regular season kicks off. Converted WR Kirk Merritt is also banged up, so he’s a question mark, leaving undrafted rookie Ellis Merriweather and recently signed Darrel Williams as the slack picker-uppers. Merriweather looked good against the Chiefs and might be closer to making the opening roster than many realize.

CHARGERS: What do we make of first-rounder Quentin Johnston’s drops? He had two passes slip through his hands against the Rams last weekend, atoning with a pretty TD grab that could foreshadow some red-zone work in the regular season. But he also hasn’t consistently caught the ball in camp practices, according to reports. If Johnston’s drops continue, would he earn the trust of QB Justin Herbert and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore? After all, Johnston was credited with eight drops on 97 targets last season with TCU, per Pro Football Focus, and he had a few big ones at his pro day, suggesting an issue that has yet to be rectified. All eyes will be on Johnston -- and his hands -- Sunday against the Saints to see if that worry continues. 

  • WHERE: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 9 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

RAIDERS: Can rookie Aidan O’Connell close the gap on Brian Hoyer and possibly win the backup QB job to Jimmy Garoppolo? After one preseason game, O’Connell definitely has a chance. The fifth-round pick has mostly run third in the practice pecking order this summer, but he earned the start last week against the 49ers and made the most of his opportunity, going 15-of-18 passing for 141 yards and a TD while playing with the second-team offense. Hoyer is the vet and might still have the lead, but O’Connell could make this far more interesting if he backs up that performance with another big outing against the Rams this weekend. The QB2 battle is a critical one. After all, the injury-riddled Garoppolo last played a full season in 2019, so I won’t be shocked if the Raiders have to start multiple QBs this season.

RAMS: The Rams’ defensive front must be better than what we saw last week against the Chargers. There were caveats galore -- it’s preseason, Aaron Donald wasn’t out there, it’s a very young group overall, and on and on. But still: It wasn’t great. The Rams had zero first-half sacks (one called back on a penalty by rookie Byron Young) and very few early pressures, and they were mostly gashed by the run. The focus of this group will be incremental improvement, starting with Saturday’s game against the Raiders. Will L.A. roll back its starting trio (Bobby Brown III, Earnest Brown IV and Marquise Copeland) or try some new bodies? Sorting through this group likely will take every minute of the next three weeks as the Rams try to find an identity on defense.

  • WHERE: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

BRONCOS: When Sean Payton sent his starting offense back onto the field for a fourth series last Friday night in Arizona, following three scoreless possessions, it sent a pretty clear message: This isn’t good enough. Russell Wilson and the Broncos responded with a touchdown drive, with Jerry Jeudy atoning for a third-down drop with a fourth-down TD. The entire situation felt like a complete departure from the path former Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett took last preseason, when Wilson didn't take a single snap. Will the boot-camp reps continue Saturday in Santa Clara? We’ll see, but it certainly wouldn’t be stunning. Payton wants to be fast and efficient, and the Broncos can’t do that if they can’t face pressure like they did against a shockingly blitz-heavy Cardinals defense. 

49ERS: Does Trey Lance have a future with the 49ers? Is he even favored to be Brock Purdy’s backup when the season starts? Everything feels up in the air for Lance, not just in San Francisco but also as a possible project elsewhere. Projecting the 49ers to move on from Lance could be premature at the moment, but they likely need to see something from him against Denver if he wants to keep his footing on the roster and keep pace in the backup race with Sam Darnold, who reportedly has been better to date. The 49ers’ offensive line didn’t do Lance many favors last week, but his passing line (10-of-15 for 112 yards) was far more impressive than his actual play. It’s preseason, yes, but this feels like a critical juncture in Lance’s young (but wayward) career.

  • WHERE: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

CHIEFS: Kansas City doesn’t have too many easy regular-season games, and the schedule is replete with quality NFL quarterbacks. So whatever the panic level about the Chiefs’ pass rush was coming into the preseason -- with Chris Jones still holding out -- it likely bumped up a notch following the loss to the Saints. The starting D-line of George Karlaftis, Derrick Nnadi, Daniel Wise and Charles Omenihu played a combined 65 snaps last Sunday, combining for four tackles (one for loss) and one QB hit, giving Saints quarterbacks ample time to operate. The only time there was pressure was when the Chiefs blitzed. All eyes will be on that defensive front in Saturday’s matchup at Arizona, with the hope that someone can generate a rush.

CARDINALS: In the good-news department, the Cardinals exited their opener vs. Denver relatively healthy and likely will return a series of players to action this week, perhaps even some in time for Saturday’s game. Among the more intriguing re-additions: second-rounder BJ Ojulari, who was activated from PUP, and Myjai Sanders, who has been out with a hand injury. Both could help a soft pass rush. The Cardinals also are working back in RB Keaontay Ingram and TEs Zach Ertz and Trey McBride, who also didn’t suit up last week. The more these key pieces can get back to full speed, the better things will be for first-time head coach Jonathan Gannon.

  • WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

TITANS: We have not seen Ryan Tannehill in the preseason, and based on his August usage in recent years, we might not see him dress for either remaining tune-up game. But that could mean more reps for Malik Willis and Will Levis as they battle for QB2 honors. Willis started and led an early TD drive against the Bears, looking far more confident and comfortable than he did last regular season. Levis must put better touch on the ball and cut down on his turnover-worthy throws, but he’s had a mostly encouraging camp from reports. The battle is expected to continue throughout the preseason, starting with Saturday’s outing against a Vikings team looking to sort out a lot of positions on defense. One area Willis and Levis also can improve in this game: taking fewer sacks. Each was taken down four times last week.

VIKINGS: There was some surprise that the Vikings used their first-round pick on an offensive player this past April, considering how poorly the defense performed in 2022. But this doesn’t appear to be just any offensive player. Jordan Addison might not have got off to the best start in the NFL, suffering a springtime injury and later being pulled over for excessive speeding, but the first-round pick has been terrific since then, shining in his preseason debut at Seattle with two great catches, one that was (incorrectly) called out of bounds. Nonetheless, he’s done enough to project as a possible -- if not likely -- rookie starter, which is a big role in this offense, helping to draw coverage from Justin Jefferson. The secret might be out about Addison if he stands out against the Titans. 

  • WHERE: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
  • WHEN: 8 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

PATRIOTS: For a team that needs to generate offense any way it can, undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham hovers as a fascinating possibility to make the opening 53-man roster. The former Louisville quarterback has been working as both a WR and QB in camp and has impressed. Cunningham was one of the few offensive players who stood out for the Patriots against the Texans, so it will be fascinating to see how much he does against the Packers -- both in the joint practices this week and in Saturday’s game. If he plays on special teams, perhaps that’s a sign he could make it. But Patriots fans right now might be envisioning something different on game days: Perhaps Cunningham can earn a series or two at QB as a run-pass threat. It wouldn’t be the wildest idea ever.

PACKERS: The Packers received the full Sean Clifford experience in the preseason opener, something Penn State fans know all too well. With that experience came some bad (a pick-six, plus multiple other poor throws), but also some very good. The gutsy Clifford battled his way back after two INTs and made several highlight throws -- including two to Samori Toure and one to Jayden Reed. In a perfect world, the Packers make it through this season with Jordan Love healthy for 17 games (or more), but there’s a scenario where Clifford is not only QB2 but possibly the only other active-roster quarterback. That means he and Love both need the preseason reps. Love will see time either this week or next, but Clifford should get plenty of reps in both remaining games -- and if his debut is any indication, those snaps could be as must-watch as they get in the preseason.

  • WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

BUCCANEERS: Baker Mayfield took a big step forward in his quest to be the Week 1 starter in the preseason opener vs. Pittsburgh, outplaying his competition in Kyle Trask, who was shaky to start out. And if we see similar results in Saturday night’s game against the Jets, you might be able to call this race early. Still, I think the Buccaneers are likely to keep two QBs on the active roster, perhaps gambling that they can re-sign John Wolford to the practice squad as QB3. I suspect another WR spot could open up if the Bucs take that route, making this a potentially big outing for borderline candidates such as Rakim Jarrett (a camp standout who missed the preseason opener), David Moore, Deven Thompkins and the recently signed Cephus Johnson. Unfortunately, Tampa lost one of its top wideouts in Russell Gage, who suffered a serious knee injury in practice on Wednesday, further sharpening the focus on positional depth.

JETS: Well, the RB room has changed, hasn’t it? We always knew Breece Hall would be part of that picture, but his return to practice means he could be ramped up for real action in a few weeks. But the Dalvin Cook signing wasn’t over till it was over. So now that the Jets have a full-house backfield, how will it all work? The preseason will only give us so many clues, as Hall isn’t likely to play, and Cook just arrived. But suddenly, the roster looks pretty tight. Would the Jets keep five backs and a fullback? If not, that might mean that one of the Michael Carter-Zonovan Knight-Israel Abanikanda trio might not make the opening roster. It will be fascinating to watch those three battle it out, starting Saturday against the Bucs.

  • WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

BEARS: The Bears are expecting a better defensive line in 2023 after arguably fielding one of the league’s worst units there last year. They’ve certainly upgraded the starting group, but it also appears that the depth is far, far better, especially on the edges. It’s to the point where there might be actual battles for reserve spots, as the Yannick Ngakoue signing seemingly pushed Rasheem Green into the third edge spot. Terrell Lewis has opened some eyes and potentially nudged holdover Trevis Gipson to the side for a job. Gipson responded last week with a sack against the Titans, but Lewis also stood out. Both Gipson and Lewis will have magnifying glasses on them when the Bears face the Colts this weekend following a few days of joint practices.

COLTS: With the news that Anthony Richardson will start Week 1 and that Jonathan Taylor is on pace to return to practice, some early-camp glumness has started to dissipate. Richardson’s debut against the Bills opened with a poor interception (even if Isaiah McKenzie might have been partially to blame for it) but leveled out with some more promising returns. Plus, the Colts' play-calling in the opener was quite bland -- on purpose, I presume. Richardson did truck a Bills DB but otherwise kept his scrambling ability mostly sheathed. Will we see a looser version of the No. 4 overall pick against the Bears? The plan might still be reserved, but there’s a great chance we get a little more flash, even against a Chicago secondary that looks markedly improved.

  • WHERE: Acrisure Stadium (Pittsburgh)
  • WHEN: 6:30 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

BILLS: Dalton Kincaid played five snaps in the preseason opener while fellow tight end Dawson Knox logged four, so we didn’t get a glimpse of the new 12-personnel packages we’ve heard about all spring and summer. But that treatment was an indication that Kincaid has locked up a starter’s role -- or something darned close to it. Saturday’s preseason game against the Steelers could open the aperture a bit more on this philosophical switch on offense, even if the Bills could opt to keep a lid on their plans prior to Week 1. That might put more weight on how much WRs Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty, Andy Isabella and rookie Justin Shorter play. Isabella, a former second-round pick of the Cardinals, figures to be seriously fighting for a job at this point.

STEELERS: There might not be an outsized amount of mystery when the Steelers cut their roster to 53, but there are still battles to be won. Two players, in particular, could be vying for roles, starting with Saturday’s game: OL Kendrick Green and OLB Nick Herbig. Green falling from rookie starter at center in 2021 to game-day inactive last season was stunning, and he’s not at all guaranteed a roster spot. But he’s actually working at fullback (and even touching the ball in practice) while also working at multiple OL spots, so we'll see if Green can show out as a jack of all trades. Herbig made his 12 snaps last week count with 1.5 sacks and appears to be close to locking up a spot following a strong camp. One more showcase effort vs. Buffalo could finish the job.

  • WHERE: NRG Stadium (Houston)
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

DOLPHINS: For weeks, it looked like Dalvin Cook could end up in Miami. But the Dolphins appeared to cool on his services, seemingly unbothered by his interest in the division-rival Jets, who scooped up the running back on Monday. Why'd the Dolphins pass on the former Florida State star? Contractual concerns? Just a working theory here, but is it possible the Fins felt good enough about rookie RB De'Von Achane to stand pat? Achane’s work in practices has earned praise, and his preseason debut was highlighted by a 38-yard kickoff and some nice work as a receiver against the Falcons. But some of his inside runs were stuffed, so I'll be dialed in on Achane’s usage this week against the Texans, trying to determine how much it might mean for his regular-season role. 

TEXANS: Texans fans were introduced to their top two picks, QB C.J. Stroud and DE Will Anderson Jr., in the preseason opener against the Patriots. Neither did much to change their narratives in brief outings -- 12 snaps for Stroud, nine for Anderson. But, boy, it was a different story for rookie WR Tank Dell. The diminutive darling opened some eyes with five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, gaining easy separation against New England's secondary. Dell has also been cooking corners in camp. His next chance on the big stage will come Saturday against the Dolphins. “He's going to be an explosive playmaker for us, and we look forward to him continuing to make some of those plays,” head coach DeMeco Ryans said after the Patriots game. 

  • WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

JAGUARS: It was an important and strong opener for rookie OT Anton Harrison last week against the Cowboys. He didn’t end up playing more snaps than the starters, as head coach Doug Pederson suggested was possible, but perhaps the Jaguars had already seen enough to pull him. Jacksonville is thin at tackle -- especially early in the season, with Cam Robinson serving a four-game suspension. It’s likely Walker Little and Robinson are the Week 1 starting tackles, so you’d like to see them (and potential OT backups Josh Wells and Cole Van Lanen) turn in a strong performance this weekend against a good Lions front.

LIONS: The Lions knew Jameson Williams would be missing the first six games of the regular season, but the plan had been at least to get him a chunk of preseason reps. That seems doubtful now that the wideout is likely to miss the rest of the preseason due to a hamstring injury. Williams' role this year might still be a question, but the silver lining of the Lions' current situation is that they can now spend the final two preseason games, starting Saturday versus the Jags, determining which receivers will make the opening 53. Detroit has some locks and semi-locks to make the roster atop the WR depth chart, with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Marvin Jones Jr. and Josh Reynolds -- but Denzel Mims and Dylan Drummond are vying for roster spots, too. How many receivers will the Lions keep? How they play in August could help determine that number.

  • WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET (NFL+*)

BENGALS: I think when quarterback Joe Burrow worked out on the field before last week’s preseason game, he knew exactly what he was doing. Bengals fans probably needed that, as good as Burrow has been for them -- and as shaky as the other QB options have looked thus far. Neither Jake Browning nor Trevor Siemian played well against the Packers, who fielded mostly backups on defense. Burrow’s workout felt like a strong indication he’ll be ready for Week 1, but yeah, don't expect to see him in the preseason. When the Bengals face the Falcons on Friday, you can bet Zac Taylor will expect better quarterbacking -- with Siemian apparently in line to start this one -- or Cincy's head coach might have to consider outside options to back up Burrow.

FALCONS: Friday’s game against the Bengals will give us a snapshot of the starting offense, with several key members who sat out last week -- QB Desmond Ridder, RB Bijan Robinson, WR Drake London, TE Kyle Pitts and others -- expected to play. We knew Atlanta could run the ball even prior to Robinson’s arrival, but it will be fun seeing the No. 8 overall pick in action. What I’ll be watching for is how the Falcons use Ridder -- similar to my questions with Jordan Love and the Packers in this space last week -- and what else Robinson does besides receive handoffs. It might be a short outing, but it could be somewhat revealing. 

  • WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

PANTHERS: With the season opener less than a month away, Carolina’s offensive line might need to improve in a hurry. The unit appeared to be relatively solid entering camp, but that notion was undone in the preseason opener vs. the Jets, who racked up five sacks and eight QB hits. Perhaps it was a one-game hiccup, but the players’ and coaches’ reactions to the performance lead me to believe they know there’s work to do. QB Bryce Young entered the NFL with durability questions, given his size; though he’s unquestionably tough, he can’t be subjected to the frequency of hits he took last week. If the OL performance doesn’t step up in Friday’s game against the Giants, it might be time to sound alarm bells.

GIANTS: There were some anxious moments when first-round CB Deonte Banks started slowly early in training camp, but that anxiety appears to have chilled a bit, with Banks earning first-team reps and stepping up his play. No matter how you spin it, the Giants’ cornerbacks will be a question mark heading into the season. Considering how well sixth-rounder Tre Hawkins III has played to date, there’s a chance two rookies will start this season alongside Adoree’ Jackson. Darnay Holmes and 2022 third-rounder Cor'Dale Flott also are vying for reps, and Aaron Robinson could once he’s off PUP. But Banks and Hawkins are two ascending players who have another good chance to secure roles with strong outings Friday vs. Carolina.

  • WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

BROWNS: After a promising opening drive last week from Deshaun Watson and the starting offense against the Commanders, the Browns will give fifth-round QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson another chance to impress after a strong training camp and preseason, with the rookie reportedly ticketed to start. But Cleveland has a lot to sort out elsewhere. On offense, the Browns are shorthanded at running back (with Jerome Ford battling a calf issue) and receiver (with Elijah Moore banged up and Marquise Goodwin out with blood clots). The OL depth also has been put to the test in joint-practice battles against the Eagles’ great defensive front. There are a lot of reserve jobs up for grabs heading into Thursday’s game in Philly.

EAGLES: The Eagles don’t have a ton of starting jobs open, but safety remained fluid heading into this week’s joint practices against the Browns. Reed Blankenship has built on his work from last season and appears to have one of the starting gigs sewn up. The other spot looks to be up for grabs. Terrell Edmunds, who started for the Steelers last season, has yet to claim it. He’s been pushed most of camp by special-teams standout K'Von Wallace, plus lately by rookie Sydney Brown. The third-rounder from Illinois made nine tackles in 41 defensive snaps against the Ravens and was highly active. Can he overtake Edmunds and Wallace? Or might the Eagles look for outside help at safety? The next two preseason games will weigh heavily.

  • WHERE: Lumen Field (Seattle)
  • WHEN: 10 p.m. ET (NFL Network, NFL+*)

COWBOYS: Damone Clark has been a bit washed away amid other Cowboys training-camp stories, but the second-year linebacker has apparently taken a big step forward and figures to have a prominent role in what should be a very strong Dallas defense. As a rookie, Clark missed all of camp and last season’s first eight games while rehabbing a serious neck injury. He received regular snaps on defense down the stretch, but made very few big plays and received zero defensive snaps in two postseason games. But in this year's camp and last week’s preseason opener, Clark has been a first-team stalwart, appearing much more comfortable and aggressive in his approach. Against the Jaguars last Saturday, he had five tackles in 23 snaps. So I'll be tuning into this Saturday nightcap to see whether he can stack impressive performances. 

SEAHAWKS: Two rookie receivers stood out to me in last week’s game against the Vikings. The first was first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba, which is what you’d hope happens. He wasn’t in there long, but even on three short catches, JSN showed a sliver of what he might display this season as Seattle’s likely primary slot weapon. The other eye-opener came from undrafted signee Jake Bobo, who had productive seasons at Duke and UCLA. Bobo’s 6-foot-4 frame makes him an attractive red-zone possibility, but he also showed excellent separation and route-running skill on a 19-yard TD pass from Drew Lock. If Bobo can keep this up Saturday against Dallas, his chances of making the team and cracking a deep WR group will go up more than they already have via a standout camp.

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