Happy Monday, everyone! It's your friend Tyler Sullivan ushering you into the new week and catching you up on everything that you may have missed with Week 1 of the NFL preseason kicking off over the last few days. On a broad note, how awesome was it to have football back? Yes, the preseason can get a bit stale at times, but there were a number of stars who suited up and plenty of storylines for us to cover, so let's not waste too much time and jump in.
Of course, this is the Pick Six newsletter and, as we get closer to the regular season, make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day so that you don't miss a second of NFL action.
Let's get to today's news:
1. Winners and losers from Week 1 of the preseason
The preseason got into full swing this weekend as we are coming off four straight days of exhibition games across the league. Naturally, teams handle the preseason in different ways. Some clubs decided to roll with backups throughout, while others gave the first-team offense a bit of a run throughout the first quarter. Our Cody Benjamin dove into all of the games that kicked off this weekend and came up with his list of winners and losers. Here's a small sample from his piece:
Winner: Justin Fields. The young Bears QB finally got reinforcements this offseason, but his brief work against the Titans, complete with the renovated offense, was even more promising than expected. Throwing just three passes, Fields finished with 129 yards and two scores, thanks to brilliant after-the-catch burst and vision from both D.J. Moore and Khalil Herbert. Obviously Fields will face different challenges in the real games, but talk about an encouraging first step into 2023. He didn't have nearly the help a year ago.
Loser: Instantly high first-round QB expectations. Growing pains were always inevitable, but most of the highest-drafted signal-callers had a bit of a rude awakening in their first exhibition work. Bryce Young got rid of the ball quickly for the Panthers, but managed just 21 yards behind an iffy line. The Texans' C.J. Stroud threw an ugly pick in two scoreless drives against the Patriots. The Colts' Anthony Richardson threw an even uglier one against the Bills and had a nice deep shot dropped. And Titans second-rounder Will Levis failed to outperform 2022 third-rounder Malik Willis, who suddenly looks like a safe bet to back up Ryan Tannehill going into the year.
To see all of Cody's winners and losers from the weekend,.
2. Jonathan Taylor expected back with Colts this week
A new chapter is being written in the saga between Jonathan Taylor and the Colts. Head coach Shane Steichen told told ESPN that the star running back "" after Taylor had been away from the team amid a trade request. Taylor, who is still on the physically unable to perform list, has been rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle at an out-of-state facility and does plan to return to practice when he is back to full strength. That said, this doesn't mean that the souring relationship between him and the team has smoothed over.
Taylor is entering the final year of his contract and Indianapolis has not entered long-term contract negotiations with him to this point. That is what led to the back's trade request, but owner Jim Irsay has noted publicly that he will not grant Taylor a trade. That has left the two sides at a standoff in that regard.
In the aftermath of this report from ESPN that says Taylor's return is imminent, Irsay posted this message on social media that may be related to this situation: "Most things I worry about ... never happen anyway."
3. NFL preseason Week 1 burning questions
Sometimes, preseason games can give answers to questions that have been stewing throughout the offseason and bring clarity to specific areas of a team. Of course, there are other occasions where those exhibitions bring with them even more questions heading into the final weeks of summer and the regular season. With the initial slate of preseason games in the books, Pick Six Podcast host Will Brinson cooked up a handful of burning questions that he has now that he's seen these teams hit the field.
Is Russell Wilson washed? Plenty of people will tell you Russell Wilson was "fine" during Week 1 of the preseason, his first live action in Sean Payton's offense. I am not one of those people. Russ was one of my MVP sleeper picks so this isn't confirmation bias: He didn't look the way I hoped he would in his first action with Payton calling plays. ... Russ looked like someone listening to a podcast at 0.5x speed while sitting in quicksand. I'm not sure he stepped into a single throw on Friday night.
Is this Lions' draft class legit? Fun is easy -- the answer is yes. The biggest issue for Detroit this year was shoring up weak spots -- defense mostly -- and closing out/winning games. It was very easy to pan the Lions' draft class after Day 1; their first-round picks were a running back and a linebacker. Long-term drafting those positions at a high price probably won't work out. But for 2023 the early returns are very promising. Jahmyr Gibbs is a snappier version of D'Andre Swift with the perfect skillset for this personnel group and this offensive scheme.
To see all of Brinson's burning questions,
4. Ranking the 14 rookie QB debuts from preseason Week 1
The 2023 NFL Draft saw over a baker's dozen of quarterbacks be taken at various points throughout the three-day spectacle, including a record 12 signal-callers within the first five rounds. Nearly all of them have now seen preseason action, which had Cody Benjamin wanting to stack each of them against one another to see where they rank with actual NFL action now under their belts.
While three quarterbacks were taken within the first four picks of the draft, it was a fifth-round quarterback from the Browns who has claimed the No. 1 spot on the rankings. Here is Benjamin's breakdown of why Cleveland's Dorian Thompson-Robinson was the most impressive rookie quarterback thus far:
Technically the UCLA product has two preseason games under his belt, debuting in the Hall of Fame Game before another appearance against the Commanders. It doesn't matter which stat line you take; he was impressive in both. After flashing his dual-threat skills in Canton, the fifth-rounder was back to it this week, going 9 of 10 for 102 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. With another strong showing, he could legitimately push Joshua Dobbs as Deshaun Watson's top backup.
To read Benjamin's entire rankings list,
5. Overreactions, reality checks from Week 1 of preseason
You have to be careful this time of year as things that occur during the preseason may or may not have meaning for the 2023 regular season. Luckily for us, we have Jeff Kerr combing through all of the noteworthy headlines from the first week of the preseason and determining whether we should buy into them as a reality check or if they're simply overreactions.
Trey Lance played his way out of the mix to be 49ers starting QB: Reality check. For a quarterback who gets opportunity after opportunity to win the starting quarterback job in San Francisco, Lance does very little to capitalize on those chances, whether due to injury or other reasons. The 49ers didn't score a point until Lance's fourth possession Sunday against the Raiders, as he looked indecisive about whether to throw to receivers or take off running. Lance wasn't helped by the 49ers offensive line, which was the second-team unit. Leading the 49ers to just one scoring drive on six possessions isn't inspiring, although Jake Moody missing a 40-yard field goal before the half also didn't help. While the box score looks good for Lance (10 of 15, 112 yards, TD, 111.0 rating), there's no reason why he should unseat Brock Purdy for the starting job.
Kenny Pickett will emerge as a top 10 QB in Year 2: Overreaction. The Steelers had plenty of reasons to be excited about Pickett's performance in Week 1 of the preseason, as he finished 6 of 7 for 70 yards and a touchdown in his lone series -- capped with a 33-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens. The game has certainly slowed down for Pickett, who is processing information faster and trusting his receivers on intermediate and deep passes. But it's not easy to make the top 10, and that will be a stretch for Pickett -- unless the Steelers make a deep playoff run. A top 15 quarterback in Year 2? That's certainly possible with the skill players Pickett has on offense.
To read Kerr's full list of overreactions and reality checks,.
6. Extra points: Damar Hamlin returns to the field
Oh, you wanted even more headlines to get you caught up with more news and notes around the league? Say no more: