Taking stock of top performers in exciting Week 1 of NFL Preseason

Stock Up/Down from Week 1 of NFL Preseason
New York Jets’ Zach Wilson is taken off the field after an injury during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Every football week has players whose stock is increasing or those who struggled so much that their future could be doubtful. 

With week one of the NFL preseason now in the books, and with practices no longer holding fans, it’s time to take stock on who showed out, and who laid an egg throughout the last few days. 

Stock Up: Rookie QB Class

For a group of players that had only one first-round pick, and was touted as one of the worst quarterback classes in recent memory, week one of the preseason was a very strong case for all. 

Let’s start with the lone first-rounder. Kenny Pickett played almost the entire second half for the Steelers and completed a game-winning touchdown drive in the final seconds that Steelers Nation in a frenzy. Pickett completed 13 of 15 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns and showed off the heightened athleticism that made him an intriguing prospect at Pitt. In front of the hometown crowd, the 20th overall selection had Steeler fans thinking he might be further along than some thought. 

Then there was Malik Willis. The 3rd round selection out of Tennessee completed just over 50% of his passes but made an incredible touchdown run, and showed off the arm strength repeatedly in Tennessee’s 23-10 loss to Baltimore. Willis was touted as needing a year to develop, but he’s in the perfect system for him. The quarterback taken before Willis, Desmond Ridder, enjoyed a nice game himself for Atlanta. 

Ridder completed less than 50% of his passes but threw two touchdowns, and totaled over 150 yards both throwing and running. Like Willis, Ridder will need some time, but there’s certainly something there. 

Even Sam Howell looked great. The fifth-round selection out of Washington was 9/16 passing for 145 yards while running in for two scores. Washington may have taken the loss, but Howell looked very solid. 

The lone rookie who seemed to struggle as Matt Corral in Carolina, but he was also running for his own life. All-in-all, it was a highly successful week one for the rookie class of quarterbacks as a whole. 

Stock Down: Zach Wilson

It’s hard to judge a quarterback’s performance in the preseason without understanding the full context. Some coaches don’t want to show any scheme ideas at all and will choose to run a far more vanilla look than in the regular season.

Still, I don’t think there’s a player who had as bad a first preseason game as Wilson. The second overall pick in 2021 played in just a series and a half, threw a terrible pick on the first possession, then proceeded to try and cut upfield against two defenders, and ended up with a bone bruise along with surgery needed on his knee. 

None of Wilson’s decisions made sense on Friday against Philadelphia. The pick was a poor decision, and even Robert Saleh said after the game that his quarterback should’ve run out of bounds. 

Second-year quarterbacks need to show signs of improvement throughout the year, and one week in a preseason game isn’t going to tank Wilson’s entire stock, but it certainly didn’t help him. 

Stock Up: Jacksonville Jaguars

I won’t put the Colts on the list, but boy is their signs that Indianapolis won’t be as good this year as people think. With Tennessee trading away AJ Brown, the Jaguars could be in a position to take the AFC South by surprise. 

Jacksonville, a year removed from the disaster of the Urban Meyer era, looks like a well-balanced, smart football team with a tenacious defense and impressive young quarterback. The Jaguars took a 24-13 loss to Cleveland on Saturday, but Lawrence looked good, and the starting defense had Deshaun Watson totaling thrown off his game. 

As long as Indy continues to think that Matt Pryor is a solid left tackle starter, they’ll be much worse than people realize. 

It’s been a good couple of weeks to be a Jaguar fan. Time will tell if they can put it all together though, but their stock is increasing. 

Stock Down: Cleveland Browns players

The Cleveland Browns are an organization that were considered “lovable losers” for the last two decades. Even with Baker Mayfield, it seemed like there wasn’t anyone openly looking for Cleveland to fail outside of AFC North fans. 

Then the team traded for Deshaun Watson. The controversy of trading for a player with over 20 sexual assault allegations has seeped through the entire organization. 

Instead of recognizing that the Watson controversy is extremely important and blowback from other fans (like what happened Friday) should be expected, Browns players took a much different approach. 

Shockingly, Browns players are trying to spin this as a “woe is me” approach because it completely ignores the very serious problem that has been the main story of the off-season. The “Cleveland vs. the world” mentality doesn’t work when that means players don’t think they should be booed for having a teammate with over 20 sexual misconduct allegations. 

The entire team alone gets a stock down from this. 

Stock Up: Trey Lance

The Trey Lance era in San Francisco got off to an excellent start. The second-year quarterback went 4/5 for 92 yards and a deep touchdown pass. Lance showed off the massive arm strength he had in college, and also had a quick seven-yard run as well. 

It’s too early to tell if the 49ers made the right decision to have Lance start over JimmyG this season, but the gamble could pay off in a big way as well. 

Stocks in San Fran are running high on Monday. 

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