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The 2023 NFL preseason is officially here. Nine different NFL teams , including the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders. There are plenty of storylines worth discussing this week. Which players have shown up and who didn’t? Who is impressing early on?
Below, we will break down some takeaways through the early stages of mandatory minicamp as teams begin on-field work in preparation for the 2023 NFL season.
Expect the Cowboys offense to look different in 2023. Kellen Moore is now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, and head coach Mike McCarthy is taking over play-calling duties. McCarthy is enhancing the playbook with some West Coast elements, which led Dak Prescott to dub this offense “Texas Coast.”
“Funny, this is the ‘Texas Coast,'” Prescott said, via ESPN. “We just renamed that, the quarterbacks. It’s got definitely some West Coast principles, but has a little bit of what we’ve done in the past and just obviously marrying them together with a lot of detail and maybe in a sense, a system that’s not out there. So there you go.”
Along with this change in scheme, expect some change-of-pace in 2023 as well.
“When you can change your pace, you’re gonna catch [the defense] off-guard,” Prescott said, via the Cowboys’ official website. “You want as many at-bats so we’ll try to get as many plays as we can, as many chances to make big plays. Lastly, we want to be the aggressors. We want to attack these guys and push the tempo. We just want to make sure that we’re dictating the pace and being the aggressors so the team is on our pace and not theirs.”
The Raiders placed the franchise tag on star running back Josh Jacobs after his career campaign in 2022, but he has not signed it yet. With him technically not under contract, he is reportedly not present at mandatory minicamp. Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels doesn’t sound too worried about the situation at this point.
“The deadline [for a long-term deal] is not until July,” McDaniels said, via Pro Football Talk. “I respect everything about that process. This is not the first time that’s happened in terms of me being a part of that. Like I said, I stand by what I said before — love the kid, love the player, love the person. Look forward to when I see him.”
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ESPN reported last month that the NFL is investigating a second wave of potential gambling violations on the heels of five players being suspended for placing improper wagers. to light this week in Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers.
On Monday, Sports Handle reported that a Colts player was under investigation for “pervasive wagering activities.” There is reportedly evidence this player placed hundreds of wagers — including some bets on the Colts. Rodgers tweeted an apology on Monday night.
Teams are using this instance to further educate their own players on the league’s gambling policy. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke on the subject Wednesday.
“We take it really seriously,” Stefanski said,. “You could ask the players. We’ve talked a lot about it throughout this offseason. Just because you’re teaching off of things that are happening around our game and happening with other teams, and we don’t want to lose a guy for any reason. We don’t want them to get injured. We don’t want to lose a guy for breaking a rule of any sort. So you have to educate them on the rules because there is some things that are new, as you know, with sports gambling.”
Speaking of the Browns, quarterback Deshaun Watson is someone who is receiving attention. After serving an 11-game suspension last season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Watson went 3-3 as the starter while averaging a career-low 183.7 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Fans and teammates alike are expecting some big-time improvement in 2023.
During Tuesday’s practice session, Watson was “basically automatic,” per ESPN Cleveland. He was reportedly dominant on offense, and impressive in the red zone. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has taken notice.
“He looks in a bit of a better groove,” Cooper said, via Pro Football Talk. “Just having that long layoff, of course you’re going to lose some rhythm, some form of rhythm. But he looks like he’s really getting that back.”
Watson reportedly had a rough start to practice on Wednesday, but he’s clearly establishing a connection with new wideout Elijah Moore. The bottom line is Watson is becoming more comfortable in this offense, and beginning to look like the quarterback the Browns traded for.
Tyjae Spears learning ‘multiple spots’
Keep an eye on this rookie. Tennessee Titans running back Tyjae Spears stood out , and it’s clear he’s a candidate to play a major role on offense in 2023. The Titans are one of the few teams that would rather run the ball than throw, and Derrick Henry has been the main vehicle in Tennessee’s offense for years now. However, new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly is changing some things with tempo and in the passing game, which could open the door for Spears to shine.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters Spears has, “worked hard to learn multiple spots” early on, and it appears he will play a role as a receiver in 2023. He could be quite a complementary piece to Henry at running back.
For more minicamp highlights, click.