32 Things to Watch in Preseason Week 3

Aug 24th 2023

Sosa Kremenjas

Week 3 of the preseason starts tonight with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons, and Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles kicking off the festivities.

Let's dive into one player, positional battle, or storyline to follow on all 32 NFL teams heading into the final week of the preseason.


Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons

PIT: Continued growth of QB Kenny Pickett

  • While he's only dropped back 11 times this preseason, Pickett has looked.... great. There is no denying the second-year quarterback looks to have taken a big step in his development and appears to be much more comfortable operating as the team's starting signal-caller.

ATL: The trio

  • Who? Yup, RB Bijan Robinson, WR Drake London, and TE Kyle Pitts. The "trio" finally suited up together last week, with all three players flashing some of the world-class potential they possess. The Falcons have invested a lot into these players and it'll be fun to see them taking the field together, even if just for a few snaps.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Philadelphia Eagles

IND: Does Josh Downs start in the slot?

  • Rookie WR Josh Downs has been the team's most targeted receiver through the preseason. The rookie pulled in five receptions for 60 yards and four first downs on his six targets. If Downs continues this type of play, he might become a cemented starter in the slot over veteran Isaiah McKenzie. Can he win that job on Thursday?

PHI: Dreaded RBBC

  • We thought there might be some clarity on the backfield after preseason Week 2 but the situation is no clearer. Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott both played after having sat Week 1, Rashaad Penny handled two rushing attempts, and D'Andre Swift didn't play at all. Good luck deciphering this one!


Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers

DET: Nothing, really

  • The Lions played it safe in Week 2 having sat nearly all important potential contributors and appear to be on track to do the same this week. Smart of head coach Dan Campbell to make that decision. Get this team healthy and into the regular season.

CAR: Wide receiver situation

  • What was once an intriguing position with a lot of potential is now one littered with question marks. D.J. Chark Jr., Terrace Marshall Jr., and Laviska Shenault Jr. are all currently dealing with injuries to varying extents. That leaves just veteran Adam Thielen and rookie Jonathan Mingo as the team's current top two options. Does someone else step up as the No. 3 wide receiver in the meantime?

New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans

NE: Do we finally get to see Ezekiel Elliott?

  • Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard the Patriots signed Zeke Elliott to serve as an option behind Rhamondre Stevenson. The question now becomes, will we see any of Zeke before the regular season? Do we have any idea how the Patriots plan to utilize the duo of Stevenson and Zeke? Some clarity this week would be ideal.

TEN: Will Levis... please.

  • Rookie QB Will Levis continues to deal with some sort of upper leg injury but appears to be nearing a potential return to the field. There is definitely some gray area in terms of whether or not Levis will play, but head coach Mike Vrabel wasn't conclusive in either direction when asked if the rookie would suit up. Getting our first look at what could end up being Ryan Tannehill's replacement one day would be sweet.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers

LAC: Can John Hightower climb?

  • Per reports, Hightower has been a standout throughout training camp. The veteran receiver was targeted five times this past week but was able to reel in just one reception for 10 yards. As it stands, the Chargers likely have their top four receivers sorted, but Hightower could win himself a spot on the 53-man roster with a strong performance in Week 3.

SF: QB carousel

  • Sam Darnold has officially won the backup quarterback job while Trey Lance will occupy the No. 3 role for the time being. As of now, the 49ers may be showing off Lance in an attempt to recoup as much trade value as they can with the situation headed toward an awkward and weird place. There's a good chance Lance is given a ton of playing time in this one, whether that results in a roster spot with the team that once saw him as their future or as a showcase for his new employer.


Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears

BUF: The passing offense

  • Do any of the receiving options sort themselves out this week? We got a look at rookie TE Dalton Kincaid, who appeared extremely explosive and tough to cover coming out of the slot last week. In addition, the Bills still have yet to solve their No. 3 receiver role, with Deonte Harty, Khalil Shakir, and Trent Sherfield all vying for playing time.

CHI: D'Onta Foreman vs. Roschon Johnson

  • As of yesterday, the Bears' running back coach came out and said Khalil Herbert would be the team's lead back in their committee approach. That shouldn't come as a surprise, though the initial backup spot appears to still be up for grabs. Both Foreman and Johnson have been playing throughout the preseason with the rookie getting more burn but also looking impressive. Could Johnson carve out a legitimate role, or even more so, win the backup job with continued impressive performances?

Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers

SEA: How do the Seahawks replace Jaxon Smith-Njigba?

  • Unfortunately, the Seahawks will be without JSN for the next few weeks as he suffered a wrist/hand injury after reeling in an impressive catch in preseason Week 2. In addition, while they can use him now, Seattle will also be without Dee Eskridge, who's suspended for six games, and Dareke Young, who is dealing with an injury issue of his own. Does someone step up in the meantime to seize the No. 3 receiver job? Some of the names to look out for include Cade Johnson, Cody Thompson, Jake Bobo, and Easop Winston Jr.

GB: Rookie TE Luke Musgrave

  • There's been a ton of hype surrounding Musgrave all offseason. The rookie tight end has reeled in three receptions for just 21 yards on six targets but is clearly marked for a major role in the Packers' offense this season.

Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs

CLE: Starting QB Deshaun Watson

  • Watson will make his preseason debut this week. He's the cemented starter and there aren't really any questions in that regard. But, it'll be interesting to see if Watson is any more comfortable in the offense this season after a rocky 2022 campaign. Also, how many starters play alongside Watson?

KC: The receiver room

  • Outside of the top two or three options, there isn't much clarity in the Chiefs' receiver room. Rashee Rice led the way with a striking nine targets last week, while Ihmir Smith-Marsette flashed, and Justyn Ross appeared to be fully healthy and reminiscent of the healthy talent he once was.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Minnesota Vikings

ARI: How do they use their receivers?

  • There's a good chance most of the Cardinals' receivers find a way into playing time, but the question is: what are their roles? Marquise Brown is a cemented starter while Michael Wilson is certain to play an important role. Where do Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch fit in? Who ultimately plays more snaps? And who occupies most of the slot reps?

MIN: Backup QB job

  • As of now, there is no reason to believe Nick Mullens won't be Kirk Cousins' immediate backup this season. But, could rookie Jaren Hall close the gap with a strong performance?

New York Jets vs. New York Giants

NYJ: QB Aaron Rodgers

  • There isn't really much more to say here. If Rodgers is playing, some select starters — if not all — will be suited up alongside. Hopefully, we get more than a few snaps to see what this new Jets offense looks like.

NYG: Litany of wide receivers

  • There may not be a bigger logjam in the NFL right now than the Giants' receiver room. Last week, we saw Jalin Hyatt, Jamison Crowder, Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard all contribute to some extent. The slot receiver battle is going to be an intriguing one to focus on, specifically.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Washington Commanders

CIN: Chase Brown vs. Chris Evans

  • With Trayveon Williams sidelined for the time being, the backup running back job appears to be available. Last week, Brown led the way with 10 carries while Evans chipped in with seven. Evans added two receptions for 20 yards while Brown was able to reel one in, too. Both players are likely to get more run this week.


  • Slice it any way you want but QB Sam Howell has looked impressive in the preseason. Hopefully, he gets a bit more run this week after an impressive two-touchdown performance last week. Terry McLaurin's injury may cause head coach Ron Rivera to be more cautious, and he should be, but Howell could use all the playing time he could get.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

BAL: Rookie WR Zay Flowers

  • This was an easy one, right?

TB: Rookie RB Sean Tucker

  • The rookie popped off for 5.3 yards per pop last week on seven rushing attempts. He was able to force three missed tackles on those attempts. The Bucs don't necessarily have any established players behind starter Rachaad White, leaving Tucker in a spot where he could carve himself out a legitimate role come the regular season.

Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

MIA: Show us the RBs

  • Miami's backfield is a situation we're all monitoring closely, there's no denying it. Last week, nearly every player touched the rock, including Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achance, Salvon Ahmed, and Chris Brooks. Jeff Wilson Jr. didn't play because of injury. Oddly enough, it was Ahmed who showed out, scooping up 99 rushing yards and 32 receiving yards in addition to a touchdown. Some clarity in this rotation would be great, though it doesn't look like we'll get any.

JAX: Tank Bigsby and D'Ernest Johnson

  • There isn't much here by way of roster or positional battles, but both Bigsby and Johnson continue to impress with their stints on the field. The Jaguars' backfield appears to be loaded with talent at this point in time and Bigsby and Johnson are part of that rotation.

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys

LV: Rookie TE Michael Mayer

  • The rookie tight end was touted as a potential first-round pick during the 2023 NFL Draft but ended up going a bit later. Mayer played last week but reeled in just one reception for three yards on two targets. The Raiders would be wise to get Mayer, who is expected to be a legitimate contributor this season, more involved.

DAL: WR Jalen Tolbert

  • Tolbert looks much more comfortable with the NFL game as he enters his second year in the league. He's coming off a great performance in which he pulled in four of his six targets for 66 receiving yards. If Tolbert continues to make plays as he has throughout training camp, he could carve himself out a role at the expense of veterans Michael Gallup and/or Brandin Cooks, though Tolbert's skillset aligns more so with Gallup's.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Denver Broncos

LAR: Rookie RB Zach Evans

  • Can Evans do anything this week to not only earn himself a roster spot but to maybe find some playing time as an early-down back in the regular season? Evans appears to be behind Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, and maybe even Ronnie Rivers on the depth chart right now. Perhaps a strong performance can adjust the No. 3 and 4 spots on the depth chart.

DEN: Smoother operation from the starters

  • If the Broncos elect to start QB Russell Wilson again, a smoother operation would be ideal to see. Wilson dropped back eight times and attempted six passes, completing just three for 24 yards last week. Maybe a few more snaps to allow Wilson and his weapons to get in a groove would help. Also, playing a backup unit for the Rams should allow for a quick and fairly seamless operation that should allow the Broncos to ride the momentum into the regular season.


Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints

HOU: Does Tank Dell suit up?

  • Despite not playing in Week 2, Dell still leads the Texans in targets (nine), receptions (six), and receiving yards (75). Dell returned to practice to some extent this week after suffering a minor injury a few weeks ago and now has a chance to suit up in the final preseason game. Another strong showing may buy him a more pertinent role in the Texans' receiver room.

NO: More Kendre Miller

  • The Saints have a solidified one-two punch at running back between Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams. But, Miller could play a big role during Kamara's suspension which spans the first three weeks of the season. The rookie had 11 rushing attempts this past week and even found pay dirt.