The preseason may not give us the football we’re waiting for, but for many organizations and players, it can be one of the most important parts of the season. There’s always work to be done before the real games get underway, and because of that, we’re always left with winners and losers in the month of August. After three games, here’s who came out on the top and bottom of the preseason.
Also, check out our Preseason Power Rankings, starting with the AFC East!
The potential of Pittsburgh’s offence was on full display in the preseason, largely in thanks to the play of Kenny Pickett. The second-year quarterback was quick to dismiss the early hype, but we can’t ignore the small sample size of work he put in. On 15 total passing attempts, Pickett completed 13 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Steelers to a touchdown on every drive he took the field for and averaged 13.2 yards per attempt while doing so.
Over the last few seasons, quarterback has been the main question mark in Pittsburgh. If Pickett can take the step this year and you look at who else this team still has around him, it’s easy to see that the Steelers could be a problem in the AFC once again. Diontae Johnson is an elite route runner that should get 8+ targets a game. George Pickens is a downfield threat that makes better contested catches than maybe anyone in the league. Najee Harris is a young, powerful running back that can run you over just as easily as he can jump right over you. If Pickett is legit this year, then so is Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t just sophomore signal callers getting the love this year in the preseason, as all three top-5 picks were named as starters for Week 1. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson all lead their teams to battle to start the season, and although none have been incredible in their limited showings, they all get the chance to prove why they were selected so early in the draft. Unfortunately, if you were a top pick QB, the situation you’re taking over may not be ideal. That’s the case for all three of these guys, as the Panthers, Texans and Colts all have their fair share of issues and questions.
In Carolina, the offensive line may not be strong enough to protect a smaller Bryce Young as well as the team would like. For Houston, Stroud’s supporting cast won’t offer a ton of support if he struggles. In Indy, everything surrounding Jonathan Taylor has thrown a large shadow on the offence and team in general. At the end of the day, though, if these guys are the real deal, we’ll see it at some point this season.
The San Francisco era of Trey Lance’s career has come to an end, and although we could look back on this as a major win for the QB, it isn’t right now. Lance was traded to Dallas after losing the backup spot in San Francisco to veteran Sam Darnold, who is set to play behind Brock Purdy. For Lance, it ends a tumultuous stint with the 49ers that saw him never really get the chance to prove himself to the team that selected him 3rd overall. It’s an especially tough look for the 9ers because they traded three 1st round picks to select him where they did. Now, he’s in Dallas with the return being a 4th round pick.
Lance still has tons of time to develop behind Dak Prescott, but he isn’t in control of his own destiny anymore. For the time being, the only way Lance plays meaningful football is if Prescott goes down to injury. In a few years, he could overtake Dak, but the career trajectory sure hasn’t looked the way many people thought it would just a few short seasons ago.
Grabbing the starting job may have been a win for Richardson, but that may be the only win that came out of Indianapolis in the preseason. It’s never good to have players holding out and demanding more money that you refuse to pay, but when it’s your best player, things go from bad to worse. With Jonathan Taylor missing the first four games of the season on the PUP list, Indy’s roster doesn’t have the look of a team that can compete with many other squads in the NFL right now. With Richardson, there will certainly be growing pains, and while that happens, the losses will inevitably stack up for the Colts.
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