Once upon a time, I liked pre-season football to study incoming rookies, veteran running back and aerial attacks that developed chemistry. Those days have gone by.
With Sean McVay leading the way with Rams head man, more and more coaches have chosen to withhold significant starters, favoring the risk of injury from September to August. The excellent news is that the NFL will start the 2019 season with a healthier superstar stable, a turnaround of years since a host of marquee players fell victim to a plague of injury in August and September. The bad news is that rookies might be the only surviving pre-season action attraction.
Look at the rookie field with that trend in mind, highlighting for each of the NFL’s 32 teams at least one promising first-year player. What is the opportunity to create or break Super Bowl hopes telling us about pre-season rookies?
AFC Baltimore Ravens: I lost track of the missed tackles forced by fourth-round running back Justice Hill, showing sharp jump-cuts behind the scrimmage line, elusivity on the open field and a nose for the end zone in last week’s game against Green Bay at the finish line. Even in a crowded backfield, he will force his way into a supporting role behind the free-agent acquisition by Mark Ingram.
Buffalo Bills: Christian Wade, a former rugby player in the English national team and presenting showpiece for the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, has created a few large gameplays. He’s almost definitely ticked for the practice squad of Buffalo, while Devin Singletary’s third-round tailback is pushing LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore for the touches of this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: NFL network analysts Kurt Warner and Brian Baldinger each highlighted Ryan Finley as the most remarkable rookie quarterback through two weeks of the pre-season. Last week, his first nine passes against the Redskins completed the fourth-round pick, showing a veteran’s touch, vision, and subtle pocket movement. If he’s not beating Jeff Driskel behind Andy Dalton for the No. 2 job, it’s going to be a large upset.
Cleveland Browns: Greedy Williams is already walking with the starters through the second-round cornerback, but it’s Mack Wilson, the fifth-round linebacker, who jumps off the screen in pre-season action. Wilson was again a backfield leader versus last week’s Colts after recording two interceptions, a touchdown and a couple of QB hurries in the opening win over the Redskins. He blended in a couple of missed tackles this time around with his stops and hurries. It remains to be determined whether this boom-or-bust rookie is going to see regular snaps in September.
Denver Broncos: The second-round guard of Dalton Risner walked directly into an overhauled offensive line, but it is the tight first-round end of Noah Fant that will get more notice in Joe Flacco’s aerial attack. Fant suffered a mild foot injury early on Monday night in the game, forfeiting an opportunity to prove his high-end athleticism on national television. Fant will join the season as long as the tight end featured and the Year’s Offensive Rookie’s dark horse are healthy.
Houston Texans: A 6-foot-2 and 213-pound physical cornerback with 4.39 speed in the 40-yard dash, the second-round pick from the practice of Lonnie Johnson was booted after a pair of Packers pass catchers lowered the boom. On his pre-season debut at Green Bay, he gave up a touchdown. If he could shorten his learning curve, the Kentucky product could be quickly introduced by a shaky cornerback corps of veterans Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby, and Aaron Colvin.
Indianapolis Colts: Parris Campbell, an offseason hype bunny, has disappeared over the previous three weeks with a hamstring injury, shifting focus to defense rookies. While Rock Ya-Sin and linebacker Bobby Okereke still need to differentiate themselves in the cornerback action of the pre-season, second-round edge rusher Ben Banogu shook off a hamstring strain in popular practice last week to disrupt Cleveland’s offense. He followed up on a promising show at his pre-season debut.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen addressed Gus https://etorol.com Edwards ‘ authority back with prototype size and length for a loss on the first snap of his career. He went a week later unblocked to hurt the Eagles rookie of QB Clayton Thorson. Since the camp was opened, Tae Hayes, who has displayed NFL-caliber ball abilities and instincts, keeps an eye on undrafted cornerback.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs added even more speed and explosiveness to the second-round recipient Mecole Hardman, who in back-to-back weeks flashed angle-beating speed on scoring plays, the NFL’s most dangerous big-play offense. Not to be outdone, a intriguing set of dual-threat abilities featured in Darwin Thompson’s sixth-round scatback that could just knock off veteran Carlos Hyde’s roster. Juan Thornhill, on the other side of the ball, was a camp feeling on his own right.
Los Angeles Chargers: Nasir Adderley’s second-round safety is under the microscope now that Derwin James has been out for several months, but with a hamstring strain he lost the first two matches. Monstrous defensive end Jerry Tillery, the draft general pick No. 28, was readily handed over to an amazing Saints QB Taysom Hill sack last week by veteran guard Nick Easton. Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network analyst, raves about Tillery’s uncommon size, quick hands and athletics blend.
Miami Dolphins: In the first-round defensive tackle, Christian Wilkins not only registered his first sack, but also divided the center and guarded the Buccaneers for another hit. Where was Charles Harris’s sack? Occupying three blockers to give a definite path to Harris to Blaine Gabbert. Saskatchewan’s former Roughrider Sam Eguavoen ran with the starters as veteran coach Kiko Alonso nurses an unidentified injury — and held his own.
New England Patriots: All eyes were on N’Keal Harry’s first-round selection and Jakobi Meyers ‘ camp’s undrafted feeling with the receiving body in flux. It’s time on the other side of the ball screaming off the brink to focus on the third-round selection. The former Michigan standout of Chase Winovich was an unblockable dervish by two pre-season outings that dominated overmatched backup tackles. Last week, he shut down a Titans offense in a second quarter stretch by attempting to look at fancy fresh QB Ryan Tannehill backup alone. In the center of the interview, when Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel was interviewed, I expected that he would relay his second priority half: constructing a moat before No. 50. Finally, on protection, often illegally, you’re blocking Winovich exhaling for a minute, and he’s chasing your kick coverage away. Twice. This was one of the pre-season’s greatest performances I’ve ever seen. How did the other 31 teams let the Super Bowl champions get their hands on this man?
New York Jets: Quinnen Williams ‘ first-round defensive tackling bulldozed veteran Jamon Brown in Matt Ryan’s lap, forcing a holding punishment as the Jets ‘ defensive front dominated the Falcons ‘ offensive line in Week 2. Jamal Adams and the new C.J. linebacker. Together with the safety of Pro Bowl. Mosley, Williams is Gregg Williams ‘ main player in defense.
Oakland Raiders: Josh Jacobs performed only six snaps in two pre-season tilts this month, already given starting therapy. His four 21-yard running against the Cardinals included a textbook cutback of eight-yard gain. Together with Clelin Ferrell edge rusher, Johnathan Abram safety, and potentially even Hunter Renfrow fifth-round receiver in the slot, Jacobs leads a loaded Oakland draft class that could feature as many as four Week 1 starters.