Preseason NFL games generally don’t move the enthusiasm meter for fans.
For a handful of quarterbacks with Utah ties, though, it’s a critical preseason this year, beginning with the first full slate of games this weekend.
Their reasons for making a strong impression during the preseason are different, but these four quarterbacks have something to prove before the regular season starts.
- New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson (BYU and Corner Canyon High), the highest BYU draft pick ever as the No. 2 overall selection in April, has the chance to get his feet wet as the Jets’ starter before games count.
- New Orleans Saints’ Taysom Hill (BYU) gets to make his case for being the Saints’ starter, over fellow veteran and former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston.
- Baltimore Ravens’ Tyler Huntley (Utah) is fighting for the backup spot to Lamar Jackson, along with Trace McSorley.
- Green Bay Packers’ Jordan Love (Utah State), a 2020 first-round selection, finally has the opportunity to show what he brings to the field. Like Huntley, he didn’t have a preseason last year due to COVID-19 and Love spent all of the 2020 season inactive on game day.
Five preseason games to watch this week
- Washington Football Team at New England Patriots, 5:30 p.m. MDT
TV: NFL Network
Wide receiver Dax Milne (BYU), a late seventh-round draft pick by Washington, is in a competition for a roster spot and the preseason could prove crucial in whether he makes the regular-season roster. He’s been getting more work with the Football Team’s first and second team in recent days, according to The Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala.
Rookie WR Dax Milne has been getting more work with the ones and twos.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 8, 2021
Milne was Zach Wilson's top receiver at BYU last year and was drafted by Washington in the 7th rd. (258).
- Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions, 5 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
This game could have matched up BYU and Utah’s all-time leading rushers, but Zack Moss (Utah) is reportedly day-to-day for Buffalo with a hamstring injury after having a standout training camp so far. Still, fans get the chance to see Jamaal Williams (BYU) in a new situation with Detroit after four seasons in Green Bay. Also, offensive tackle Penei Sewell (Desert Hills High) gets his first NFL action for the Lions after being selected seventh overall in the 2021 NFL draft.
- New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens, 5 p.m.
Hill and Huntley never played against each other during their college days, but they’ll be on opposite sidelines Saturday. Hill’s in the midst of his most important offseason of his career, trying to succeed future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. So far, both he and Winston have had their moments during training camp, and this will provide both the chance to prove themselves in a game situation.
While Huntley is fighting for a backup spot, it’s nonetheless important for the former Ute to shine as well. Huntley was called on last season when Jackson was hurt in the team’s playoff loss to Buffalo, but now he gets his first chance to play extended snaps in a preseason setting. Huntley and McSorley had the opportunity early in training camp to take more reps after Jackson missed time because of his second positive COVID-19 test.
Safety Chase Hansen (Utah and Lone Peak) is still trying to make an impression with the Saints while heading into his third NFL season. Wide receiver Siaosi Mariner (Utah State and Utah) signed with Baltimore earlier this week and could catch passes from old teammate Huntley, while running back Ty’Son Williams (BYU) is attempting to stick around with the Ravens for another year.
- New York Jets at New York Giants, 5:30 p.m.
Wilson is coming off a tough outing during a team scrimmage at MetLife Stadium last weekend, and the stakes will be higher when the team hits the field for an actual game. The rookie’s struggles in practice haven’t been discouraging to first-year head coach Robert Saleh.
“He doesn’t care about the noise, he doesn’t care about any of it,” Saleh told reporters regarding Wilson on Tuesday. “He’s focused on trying to get himself ready to be the best quarterback in the league and we’re all in love with his process.”
ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that Wilson looked sharper on Wednesday. “He looked more comfortable in the pocket and showed his arm strength with a couple of high-velocity intermediate throws,” Cimini wrote.
Cornerback Javelin Guidry (Utah) started two games last year for the Jets after going undrafted and will be in contention for more playing time this season.
- Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers, 6 p.m.
Love is expected to get extensive playing time during the Packers’ three preseason games because reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers will reportedly not likely play in the preseason, per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.
Love will get the start Saturday and reportedly play much of the game. This comes after he took first-team reps during offseason workouts when Rodgers sat out because of reported frustration with the organization.
Finally, Love will have his chance to prove he was worth the No. 26 overall pick Green Bay used on him in 2020.
“I’m super excited. This is the moment I’ve been preparing for even since last year not having preseason,” Love told Demovsky. “It’s almost like I’ve been training a year just for this first preseason game. I’m sure excited to get out there and get back to playing ball.”
Three other games of interest
- Seattle Seahawks at Las Vegas Raiders, 7 p.m.
Tight end Matt Bushman (BYU) is trying to make the regular-season roster for the Raiders as an undrafted rookie.
- Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams, 8 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
Second-year safety Terrell Burgess (Utah) missed half of its rookie season with an ankle injury and is now in contention for a starting spot. “I’m excited to get back out there and go with the team,” Burgess told reporters earlier this week.
- Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts, 11 a.m.
TV: NFL Network
There are several Utah ties involved in this game, including a trio of rookies from BYU trying to make an impression — offensive tackle Brady Christensen and receiver Micah Simon with Carolina, and linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi with Indianapolis.