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2023/24 NFL Preseason: Five things we learned

With the 2023 NFL Preseason in the books, it's time for teams to turn their attention to the regular season.

But before moving on to the games that count, let's pick over the bones of what we saw and what we can learn from the prelude to the real action getting underway on September 7th.

What2023/24 NFL season
WhereVarious stadiums across USA
WhenThursday, September 7th, 2023 - Sunday, February 11th, 2024
How to watchCBS, ESPN/ABC, FOX, NBC, NFL Network, Paramount+
OddsKansas City Chiefs +600, Philadelphia Eagles +750, Buffalo Bills +900, San Francisco 49ers +1000, Cincinnati Bengals +1100, Dallas Cowboys +1400

Rookie QBs facing baptisms of fire

No one was expecting the three quarterbacks taken during the first round picks of the NFL Draft to be the finished product, but after so much hype, the preseason served as something of a reality check largely due to their supporting casts.

In Carolina, number one overall pick Bryce Young has gone from playing on a stacked Alabama team to a talent-poor Panthers outfit. 

The Panthers offensive line struggled to protect Young in the preseason and his receiving core looks thin after injuries to wideouts including DJ Chark and Terrace Marshall. 

Young still managed to be the pick of the bunch amongst the rookie quarterbacks, completing 14 of 24 pass attempts for 129 yards and a touchdown in preseason, but faces a tough first year.

Elsewhere, C.J. Stroud had similar issues as he found himself under duress consistently and let down by his wideouts. Stroud got off to a bad start, improved by Week 3 and ended up going 11-of-18 for 89 yards with one touchdown and an interception. 

Young and Stroud at least had better passing lines than Anthony Richardson, who completed less than 50 per-cent of his throws, but that was no surprise given his accuracy issues in college. 

Richardson was an impressive rusher at least - again to be expected - but his initial workload looks sizeable given the Indianapolis Colts will be without wantaway running-back Jonathan Taylor for the first four games. 

Without his top running-back, the Colts aren't putting such a raw talent like Richardson in the best position to succeed.

Packers may end up loving life after Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers are still nursing the heartache from the Aaron Rodgers split, but time is a great healer, as is a quarterback that looks ready to step into the spotlight at Lambeau in Jordan Love.

It's easy to get carried away by preseason performances but Love's 63.6 completion percentage and three touchdowns are tough to dismiss. 

Love has spent the past three years learning from Rodgers, a fine education, and showed excellent touch and composure in preseason, enough to suggest he'll be more than just a serviceable quarterback.

Howell and Lance could be NFC East X-factors

Trey Lance may go down as an all-time draft bust after being shipped out by the San Francisco 49ers just eight games into his NFL career. 

Lance, who cost the Niners three first-round picks, dealt with plenty of issues during his time in the Bay Area and now gets a fresh start at Dallas, where he may see the field given Dak Prescott's injury record.

Eight games and 71 pass attempts doesn't feel like a very big sample size to assess Lance, who flashed in preseason with the Niners before the trade, bouncing back from rough starts in each of his two outings and showing some promise.

 He could yet thrive on a talented Cowboys team.

Also showing some promise in the preseason was Washington's Sam Howell, who has been named the starter for the Commanders in his second year in the league. 

He's earned rave reviews for some of his performances, most notably against the Baltimore Ravens when completing 19-of-25 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. 

That was against the Ravens' backups and bigger tests lie ahead for Howell, but the early signs are good for a Washington team that's spent years searching for long-term answer to their quarterback issues.

Steelers may be sneaky good

Pittsburgh went 3-0 in the preseason, adding to the headache that is trying to workout who will be the best team in the AFC North. 

The Steelers are +475 outsiders to win the division and look to be more than just a lights out defence this time around.

Pittsburgh's defensive line remains monstrous and has been added to by drafting Nick Herbig, while there's plenty of talent behind T.J. Watt and co. 

The biggest development for the Steelers from last season appears to be the offense, with second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett posting a near-flawless stat line of 13-of-15 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. 

A more poised Pickett should be better protected this year and has a good collection of weapons to choose from with George Pickens and Jaylen Warren ready to step-up. 

The floor for this team should be preserving Mike Tomlin's record of never having a losing season as Steelers head coach. The ceiling could be a deep play-off run.

Chiefs poised to make new stars

A look at the Kansas City Chiefs's wide receivers might suggest the reigning Super Bowl champions are a little talent-poor entering the season.

Kadrius Toney is injured again, leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling as their top wideout, backed up by second year receiver Skyy Moore, who was eighth on the team in targets last year. 

But Moore is expected to see a sizeable bump in reps this year and if he can't make the step up, preseason showed the Chiefs have some interesting options behind him. 

Justin Watson, Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross all looked productive in preseason and with Patrick Mahomes throwing them the ball, Kansas City may have found a trio of players capable of contributing. 

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