NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 3 of the 2023 NFL preseason. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Kansas City Chiefs 33, Cleveland Browns 32
- Arizona Cardinals 18, Minnesota Vikings 17
- Green Bay Packers 19, Seattle Seahawks 15
- Buffalo Bills 24, Chicago Bears 21
- Washington Commanders 21, Cincinnati Bengals 19
- New York Jets 32, New York Giants 24
- Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Miami Dolphins 18
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Baltimore Ravens 20
- Dallas Cowboys 31, Las Vegas Raiders 16
- Denver Broncos 41, Los Angeles Rams 0
- Chiefs QB, WR battles see possible conclusions. The competition for the Chiefs' primary backup quarterback job has been competitive to say the least, but Blaine Gabbert might have just edged it out over Shane Buechele on Saturday. Buechele, who started the game against the Browns' first-team defense, threw an ugly pick-six on his sixth attempt of the game and had another interception three plays into the Chiefs' next drive. Buechele's second INT was off a deflection and he'd eventually find a touchdown throw in the red zone, but going 8-for-17 (89 yards; 43.1 rating) passing with one TD and two picks was a line that paled in comparison to Gabbert. The veteran completed 10 of 18 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and an INT (pick-six that came off a deflected pass) and the Chiefs offense was clearly running at a healthier pace with Gabbert under center. At the wide receiver position, Justyn Ross might have separated himself in a crowded room by climbing the ladder on a jump ball to score a TD, and it was an example that makes the rookie an intriguing red-zone option for Patrick Mahomes. Rashee Rice was a rookie WR who didn't have such a great outing after dropping multiple balls, including a would-be TD from Gabbert on a wide-open play that went through his arms. The depth chart certainly got clearer following Saturday's preseason finale as Kansas City now looks to defend its Super Bowl title.
- Browns endure plenty of mistakes, injuries in preseason finale. It was a hairy start for Cleveland as Jakeem Grant was carted off the field after the opening kickoff and Deshaun Watson fumbled away a handoff on the ensuing possession. Watson, who nearly fumbled another handoff on the Browns' second possession, would soon find David Njoku for a touchdown thanks to a Kansas City turnover, but after kicker Cade York came up gimpy on the extra point, things were looking very bleak for Kevin Stefanski's squad. Despite it all, Cleveland still put up points with Juan Thornhill and Caleb Biggers scoring TDs off interceptions in the first half. However, the scorefest would end at halftime for a Browns team that had little to no semblance of an effective rushing attack. Watson's 96 yards passing (5 of 10) on the day were largely gained on a 53-yard connection to Amari Cooper on a broken play and he was taken out after a quarter of play. York (right shin) ended up returning to the game -- nailing two PATs and a field goal before he was blocked on a potential game-winning kick -- but Grant's knee injury appeared to be serious and presents a glaring need for Cleveland ahead of Week 1 with its primary kick and punt returner likely gone. Cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion), linebackers Jordan Kunaszyk (knee) and Tony Fields (concussion) and defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (hip) also left the game with injuries.
- Cardinals' quarterback plan remains a mystery. With Kyler Murray still injured, how the Cards plan to populate the QB room this season remains to be seen after the acquisition of Joshua Dobbs via trade this week. Colt McCoy and Dobbs didn't play Saturday against the Vikings, leaving fifth-rounder Clayton Tune and David Blough to ride out the preseason. Tune started and was up and down, taking an opening-drive sack and losing a fumble at his 5-yard line. Tune did lead a strong field-goal drive before Blough took over, completing an up-and-down preseason. At one point, Tune appeared to be a candidate to start early in place of Murray, and though he should still have a role in Arizona, he's shown that he's not entirely game-ready just yet.
- Jaren Hall very good in preseason start. The Vikings rested most of their veterans Saturday against Arizona and gave the start to QB Jaren Hall, who played the entire game. Hall finished the first half 10-for-16 passing for 127 yards with a TD pass, plus 20 yards rushing, having led three scoring drives (two TDs and a field goal). It was a nice showing for the fifth-round pick trying to make the roster in what could be Kirk Cousins' final season in Minnesota. Hall got hot early in the two-minute drive before the half, hitting five straight passes, before misfiring twice and taking a sack (one of three in the first half) at the Arizona 5-yard line. It was a slightly disappointing end to an otherwise strong half, showing Hall has work to do but also some promise.
- Jordan Love gives Green Bay an intriguing preview. Whether Love was sending the ball to one of his many receivers or running it himself, the Packers quarterback made his preseason time count. The 24-year-old was calm, cool and collected, leading the Packers offense on a 15-play, 80-yard march in his final drive of the preseason, punctuating it with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Christian Watson. Love marched down the field on the opening possession, too, with an 11-play, 44-yard drive that ended in a field goal, but it was the TD drive that had Lambeau buzzing in the first half. Watson is making his case to be one of Love's main targets this in 2023, though he won't be the only viable option. Rookie Malik Heath had four receptions for 35 yards and was one of Love's more favorable targets on the day. Love finished completing 9 of 16 passes for 63 yards and a TD and looked to be in full control of the offense throughout. As the Packers end their preseason with a win and a QB who makes plays happen, the possibilities are seemingly wide open in Green Bay.
- Hello, Jake Bobo. The Seahawks offense had a shaky start, but everything eventually settled in for quarterback Drew Lock with a big-time play from an undrafted rookie wideout. On third-and-3 with less than four minutes to go in the second quarter, Lock had all the time in the world as he launched a rocket to Bobo, who picked up his speed to beat a defender and and made a wonderful 18-yard catch in the end zone. The UCLA product ended the day with two receptions for 27 yards and the score, which showed off his potential in the final dress rehearsal. Lock also demonstrated his own capabilities as the backup QB to Geno Smith, completing 16 of 25 passes for 150 yards and a TD. With cutdown day looming on Tuesday, Bobo did not clown around in the preseason finale.
- Josh Allen and the Bills' first-team offense needed that. After last week's egg laying at Pittsburgh, Buffalo's starting offense was given a chance to atone Saturday at Chicago -- and it delivered. The opening 12-play drive had a little of everything: three third-down conversions, catches by three different receivers, four James Cook runs and a Damien Harris touchdown. The Bills were helped by a Bears holding penalty and Allen's pass protection was a little spotty, but it was far better than last week. That was enough for Sean McDermott, as Kyle Allen and the reserves took over after one drive. The opening series wasn't perfect, but it had to make the Bills feel better heading into the massive Week 1 opener at the Jets in prime time.
- No dropped pick this time for Bears rookie CB. Tyrique Stevenson has been one of the Bears' preseason standouts in 2023 as he vies for a starting role, but his last outing against the Colts was marred by a dropped interception (that went for a TD pass) and a flag for unnecessary roughness that showed where the second-rounder can still tighten some of his game up. We saw a far better version in the first half Saturday against the Bills, stepping in front of a Kyle Allen pass for an interception. It wasn't the best-thrown pass, but Stevenson used his body to shield off Gabe Davis and stay inbounds -- impressive stuff. He's likely to face some highs and lows this season, but Stevenson showed he can respond to coaching challenges with his fine play.
- RB3 caps off quality preseason. After coming into training camp as a sixth-round pick out of Kentucky, Commanders rookie Chris Rodriguez Jr. has likely worked his way into a solid position on the depth chart, having shown consistent success through the three preseason games. Between the first two contests Rodriguez had 10 attempts for a combined 70 yards. To cap things off, Rodriguez exploded for a 25-yard run in the second quarter of Saturday's game, part of a 52-yard showing to close out August. Washington's rushing attack was No. 12 in the league in 2022 with the duo of Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson in charge, but behind them there are some available snaps, opening things up for a player like Rodriguez to establish himself as a quality backup. Depth at an injury-prone position like running back is never a bad thing, and Rodriguez has proved himself to be a dependable third option with a solid preseason showing.
- Backup QB battle comes to conclusion. There's still no clear indication that Joe Burrow will be available for the Bengals by Week 1 as he works through a calf strain suffered a few weeks ago. But in the event that a backup option is needed in Cincinnati at some point in the season, Jake Browning and Trevor Siemian each had a final chance on Saturday to make their case for why they should be the one called upon. Browning got the start and was perfect in a short outing, going 6 for 6 for 42 yards in two drives, including finding rookie Andre Iosivas for a 7-yard touchdown to open up the scoring. Siemian took over from that point, and had a more inconsistent showing before he was replaced by Reid Sinnett. While Siemian had some strong, precise throws, almost as many hit the ground, and a promising two-minute drill at the end of the second quarter was overshadowed by an interception at the goal line off a tipped ball. Siemian finished 14 for 23 for 133 yards with the INT. The Bengals will look at the full scope of the preseason and practices to make a final decision, but Saturday's outing definitely looked better for Browning.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Did DeVito do enough? Saturday night saw nearly all reserves in action for the Giants against the Jets -- a final chance for roster hopefuls to make a push. We expected to watch two of the Giants' most highly touted undrafted free agents this summer, but one of them, wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, was ruled out with a knee injury. He's been on Giants fans' minds because of his physical gifts but also because general manager Joe Schoen recently name-checked Ford-Wheaton’s special-teams prowess. Has he done enough to make the roster? The same could be asked for quarterback Tommy DeVito, a summer surprise who has worked his way into the QB3 discussion. DeVito did play and threw an early pick-six and misfired on some makeable passes but led three long scoring drives -- 14, eight and 10 plays -- before the half, using his athleticism to scramble a few times on the second of two field-goal drives. The Giants seem to like the guy. It wouldn't shock me if he makes the team.
- Rookie making the most of his chances. While Aaron Rodgers was the main attraction Saturday night at MetLife, another new Jet continued making his presence felt. Sixth-round linebacker Zaire Barnes has been a standout in camp with his closing speed, and he might end up leading the NFL in preseason tackles. Barnes started the previous two games, making his impact felt in those, and he didn't wait too long against the Giants, stoning RB James Robinson on a 3rd-and-1 run for no gain. Later, Barnes couldn't get enough depth on his zone drop to stop a 23-yard pass to David Sills, but Barnes punished him with a big hit after the catch. Barnes' role, assuming he makes the team, is likely as a backup and special-teams performer. But the Jets might have struck gold with the 184th pick in the draft out of Western Michigan. Barnes has looked like a keeper this summer.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Tank refuels after early fumble. The Jaguars were rolling offensively against the Dolphins Saturday night, flashing their array of weapons, when rookie running back Tank Bigsby coughed up his first fumble of the preseason at the Miami 1-yard line. It was a tough turn of events for the third-rounder who had taken training camp by storm. But if there was any question about whether the fumble might give head coach Doug Pederson doubt about giving Bigsby the kind of role people are expecting, that was answered quickly. Pederson fed Bigsby twice on the subsequent drive, and the rookie delivered with 8- and 14-yard runs, and in the latter Bigsby ran through two Dolphins tackle attempts. He finished the game with six rushes for 37 yards, closing out the preseason averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The fumble -- especially the location -- was unfortunate, but Bigsby has earned a role as the complement to Travis Etienne this season.
- Do the Dolphins have a QB2 question? With Mike White still sidelined in the concussion protocol, Skylar Thompson was given most of the snaps in Saturday night's game against the Jaguars after Tua Tagvaoiloa came out after the first quarter. Thompson was coming off a three-TD performance against the Texans but was far less effective in this game. He was picked twice on his first three throws, the first on an overthrow and the second when Thompson failed to see Jaguars linebacker Yasir Abdullah dropping to the flat in zone. Thompson has been more good than bad this preseason, but with Tagovailoa's health worries and White's unknown status, it's possible that Thompson could be the QB2 in Week 1. The worry is consistency. He made the team as a camp feel-good story a year ago but struggled in two of his three starts as a rookie. There's still some trust lacking despite Thompson looking like a better football player than he was a year ago.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- New Bucs OC plays to team's strengths. First-year offensive coordinator and play-caller Dave Canales found a groove with his unit as Baker Mayfield orchestrated a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive on the second possession that ended with a beautiful 11-yard touchdown throw to Chris Godwin. It was a series that all but confirmed the Buccaneers' decision to name Mayfield the starter was the correct one. Mayfield was pulled after he went a perfect 6-for-6 passing (43 yards) in two series. But the Bucs continued to march down the field with their backup under center as Kyle Trask proceeded to end a 12-play, 94-yard drive with a TD throw to tight end David Wells. Tampa's offense continued to gain yards with Canales' sly play-calling, schemes and efficient running attack, but failed to find the end zone the rest of the way as bubble players got their playing time. Kicker Chase McLaughlin cleaned those TD-free drives up by converting all four of his field goal attempts (47, 27, 38, 48) on the evening, also making both extra points. Yes, it was only the preseason, but it was essential for Canales to construct some successful drives with the season opener approaching.
- Ravens bubble players make their final case. Baltimore's remarkable preseason win streak might be over, but bubble players were still giving their all as they looked to make the final roster. Ravens QB Josh Johnson got the start and rattled off four straight completions, including a 24-yard TD throw to Laquon Treadwell, to quickly try to rekindle the team's fiery preseason attitude. Johnson's preseason competition, Anthony Brown, played most of the game but failed to find the end zone through the air and lost a fumble, which was a mistake that could be the deciding factor in the battle. Running back Owen Wright might've earned himself a roster spot with 89 yards and a TD run off just 12 carries, and on defense Trey Botts found the team's only sack of the evening. The film will soon be reviewed and the roster decisions made come Tuesday, but the only conclusion to land on from Saturday night is the Ravens will have to wait a year for an opportunity to end a two-game preseason losing streak.
Coral Smith's takeaways:
- Dak-coached offense piles on the points. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott added a new title to his resume in Saturday's matchup with the Raiders, taking on play-calling duties for the entirety of the game. He directed a touchdown drive with Cowboys backups right off the bat, capped by QB Will Grier rolling out and going for the corner of the end zone to score. Later in the half, Dak proved himself to be a risk-taker when calling plays, having the offense go for it in a fourth-and-1 situation. The run play via Hunter Luepke was enough for a first down, and nine plays later the Cowboys punched it in for another score on a catch by rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker. The Cowboys kept it going, totaling 457 net yards and 31 points by the end of the night. We'll see Dak take off the headset, hand over the play-calling duties to head coach Mike McCarthy and put back on his helmet in a couple weeks for Week 1, but in his first effort at play-calling, Prescott had himself a day.
- O'Connell-Wilkerson connection remains prolific. Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell put himself on the map this preseason with one of the stronger overall performances by a rookie in his three appearances. In the Raiders' first two games, he was 16 of 36 for 304 yards and three touchdowns combined, and continued to find success Saturday, going 17 for 26 for 178 yards. O'Connell developed a notable chemistry with receiver Kristian Wilkerson, a second-year receiver out of Southeast Missouri State. Wilkerson hauled in seven catches on 10 targets -- no other receiver had more than three targets -- for 83 yards with O'Connell at QB on Saturday, accounting for almost half his yardage. Wilkerson finished the game with a total of 122 receiving yards. Wilkerson is a player who could be on the bubble with roster cutdowns coming on Tuesday, but he helped lead the offensive charge in Saturday's preseason finale.
- Denver WRs explode for monster showing. The Broncos entered their final preseason game with questions surrounding the wide receiver position after injuries to multiple starters. Jerry Jeudy suffered a moderate hamstring injury in practice this week, the latest injury news after Tim Patrick tore his Achilles and KJ Hamler was diagnosed with a mild heart disorder. Despite worries over who would replace this production for however long it takes to get a healthy WR corps back together, the Broncos exploded in the first half of Saturday's contest. They racked up 27 points and 325 total yards, 236 yards off the arm of Jarrett Stidham. Second-round pick Marvin Mims, expected to take on a larger role due to the injuries, had a 50-yard reception, and anticipated second-stringer Brandon Johnson had two catches, one of which was for 49 yards. Three other players had at least four receptions, indicating that the Broncos could have workable options besides the usual starters.
- Rams finish preseason with shutout loss. While the Broncos offense piled on the points, the Rams' backups could not get anywhere near as much going. Rookie Stetson Bennett had his worst performance of the preseason, throwing two interceptions before being pulled in the second quarter, finishing with just four completions for 14 yards. It was a dismal performance for the rookie, who has been expected to take the backup role ahead of veteran journeyman Brett Rypien. Rypien also didn't put any points on the board, but looked marginally better statistically, going 7 for 13 for 67 yards. He led a promising nine-play, 56-yard drive down the field in the third quarter before a 39-yard field goal attempt by Tanner Brown missed wide left, keeping the shutout going. The Rams will hope to leave this energy behind when the starters finally take the field in Week 1.
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