The NFL preseason is a chance for players to get back into the flow of the game. Veterans are usually spared from playing in the month leading up to the regular season, which creates opportunities for others.
Here are several players I'm personally excited to watch this preseason:
Dolphins RB Devon Achane
Achane ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds at the NFL Combine. He was a collegiate champion in both the 60-meter and 100-meter dashes. It came as little surprise when the Texas A&M product landed in a place that appreciates functional speed as much as anywhere: Miami. Head coach Mike McDaniel was creative in his usage of wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. In the past, Hill has taken to social media to publicly challenge others in a foot race. He no longer has to look far for a challenge.
Jets OT Mekhi Becton
The upcoming season will be important for Becton. The former No. 11 overall selection has played in just 15 of a possible 50 NFL regular season games. Becton lost his starting job at left tackle, found himself immersed in trade rumors and is now in competition for a starting job at either left or right tackle. The hope is that the mammoth lineman is able to get his career back on the right track.
Jaguars OTs Walker Little and Anton Harrison
Jacksonville's offseason plans were thrown for a loop when it was announced that Cam Robinson was being suspended for four games in violation of the of the league's policy against performance enhancing drugs. Little has started six games over two seasons but now has the chance to secure the starting left tackle job long-term. On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Anton Harrison, who was the No. 27 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, is replacing Jawaan Taylor, who departed in free agency.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is expected to be heavily utilized this season but may not see much playing time during the preseason.
The second-year wide receiver out of Alabama has made his return to the football field after a leukemia diagnosis cost him his rookie season. First, it will be good see Metchie back on the field pursuing his dream.
"I was blessed and very grateful to have one of the most curable forms of cancer. As y'all see, I didn't lose my hair and a lot of stuff like that. So, I was very grateful. I'm very blessed for that," Metchie told ESPN. "But at the very beginning of it, when you're diagnosed, a very tough part, it's the most critical part. You can only rely on your faith in those situations when you're faced with your own mortality."
Metchie will have a great chance to get targets in an offense that is now directed by rookie C.J. Stroud.
Broncos WR Marvin Mims and TE Greg Dulcich
There were reports of Denver trading a wide receiver all offseason, yet the first pick Sean Payton makes as head coach was Mims. Mims was a personal favorite during the pre-draft process because although he profiles as a slot receiver, he has shown an ability to work the boundary as well. The selection of Mims given the team's depth at the position suggests Payton really likes him.
The inclusion of Dulcich is simply because of Jimmy Graham's usage in New Orleans. Payton likes using those athletic, seam-busting tight ends, and Dulcich fits the mold.
Detroit running back Jahmyr Gibbs and and Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid nearly made the list for the same reason as Mims. Both organizations clearly targeted those players and are excited for their futures. However, the preseason is unlikely where the Lions and Bills will show how they plan to use their new offensive weapons.
Musgrave is an incredibly gifted pass-catcher with range. Injuries plagued him during his collegiate career, but his breakout season could come at the game's highest level. Musgrave was an under-appreciated run blocker who has three-down capabilities. His athleticism should allow him to make an impact as a blocker in Matt LaFleur's wide zone-based run scheme.
Quarterback Jordan Love's development will also be interesting to monitor, but Green Bay likely limits him during the preseason.
Ravens EDGE David Ojabo
Ojabo was a projected first-round pick prior to sustaining a torn Achilles at the Michigan Pro Day in 2022. He fell to the second round, where he re-joined his Michigan defensive coordinator, Mike MacDonald, in Baltimore. After playing in just two games as a rookie, Ojabo is expected to be cut loose this season. The Ravens need someone to step up in that arena, and Ojabo has the skillset to do it.
Patriots rookie defenders
New England's recent draft history leaves a lot to be desired, but the athletic profiles of players added this year could be the refresh Bill Belichick's team has needed. Keion White is an edge defender who wins with strength right now, but his athletic testing suggests he is capable of much more. The ability to hold the line of scrimmage is a non-negotiable for Belichick, so at least there is a strong foundation on which he can build off. The mentorship of Deatrich Wise Jr. should also be invaluable.
Sacramento State's Marte Mapu has been a revelation in training camp, playing a variety of positions. The versatility of Kyle Dugger and Mapu should allow the defense to be creative. The best versions of Belichick's defenses have featured a lengthy man coverage cornerback capable of locking down half the field. First-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez has the potential to occupy a role previously filled by the likes of J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore.
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The entire football world is eager to rush to judgment on the rookie quarterbacks: Carolina's Bryce Young, Tennessee's Will Levis, Houston's C.J. Stroud, Richardson, etc. Richardson is potentially the most intriguing, however, because the league has never seen an athletic profile like his at the quarterback position. At 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and vertically leaped 40.5 inches at the NFL Combine. The No. 4 overall selection has been getting the first-team repetitions in training camp. He also has the luxury of working with first-year head coach Shane Steichen, who has worked with young quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts.
Smith-Njigba has not played in a game since October of 2022 while dealing with a hamstring injury. The buzz surrounding the Texas native diminished because he was out of sight, out of mind, but the talent remains the same. Smith-Njigba is capable of putting defenders in a blender, and that opportunity should only be magnified alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. His skillset perfectly compliments what Seattle already has on the roster. While he may not be the flashiest pass-catcher, Smith-Njigba is capable of high-volume production.
Williams requested a trade this offseason after the surprising signing of Orlando Brown Jr. As time passed, Williams swallowed his pride and embraced reality: right tackle is his path to playing time in 2023. The former first-round pick has a firm grasp on the starting job in training camp. If Williams is able to provide stability in that role, Cincinnati could have its best offensive line in years.
The Bengals finished in the bottom five in sacks allowed in 2020 and 2021. They still ranked in the bottom half of the league this past season but showed improvement. The arrow is pointing up for the second consecutive season.
Jets QB Zach Wilson
Wilson made his preseason debut Thursday night against the Browns. He concluded the evening having completed 3 of 5 pass attempts for 65 yards, including a 57-yarder to Malik Taylor. The BYU talent proclaimed that he would make life hell for any veteran quarterback the team acquired this offseason, but -- and this is good news for Jets fans -- has been eerily quiet. Wilson has immense talent but needs to play within structure more often. Having a veteran presence like Aaron Rodgers around should be good for his career.
Wilson was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. A similar situation is playing out in San Francisco where the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trey Lance, is fighting for his career.