NFL Dress Rehearsal Week
The new faces are getting all the attention.
We’ve reached the “dress rehearsal” week of the 2019 NFL preseason and what’s dominating the football conversation? It’s Baker, it’s Darnold, it’s Josh Allen and it’s Lamar. Each crop of freshmen quarterbacks brings excitement and predictions of future Hall of Fame inductions.
That’s all well and good.
However, I’m more concerned about an old face. A face that once upon a time had people already reserving a spot for his bust in Canton. A face that is the center of a hilarious parody Twitter account.
Andrew Luck … are you back?
People seem to forget what this man did right out of college. He took a moribund franchise reeling from the departure of Peyton Manning in 2012 and reached the playoffs with an 11-5 record. He threw 40 touchdown passes in 2014 and piloted the Indy offense all the way to the AFC title game.
Suddenly, he was swept away by a series of horrific injuries made worse by some bad decisions and terrible offensive line play. As a result, we haven’t seen him throw a pass in an NFL regular season game since 2016.
And people have forgotten his greatness. You can tell just by scanning remarks from random people on Twitter.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
“ … please take him off any top list he is garbage!”
There are even Andrew Luck truthers out there:
“So what was the real TRUTH about Andrew Luck during his lengthy recovery?”
And while those comments are obviously ridiculous, there are reasons for concern. How will his arm actually hold up over 16 games? What I saw from him in preseason action on Monday night wasn’t all that great. While his arm wasn’t in Chad Pennington territory, he only made safe throws.
Actually, what was most encouraging was seeing him take a sack from the Ravens’ Terrell Suggs and hop back to his feet.
“I’m sort of happy to get sacked by Suggs, a legit sack,” Luck said to NFL.com. “I didn’t feel anything. Didn’t give it a second thought. That’s a big deal for me, being able to lose that thought bubble.”
Amen. NFL players often say a big source of anxiety after recovering from an injury is taking that first hit and seeing how your body reacts. If Luck feels good, then I feel good. Because it’s about time we got him back where he belongs, which is in uniform and continuing what was once a promising career.
AND NOW … THE YOUNGSTERS
There’s a reason why there’s so much excitement in the air. There’s nothing sexier (so to speak) than a rookie quarterback. So, here’s a progress report of the NFL’s new gunslingers, in the order they were drafted.
Baker Mayfield: He has the most pressure to live up to the hype, especially since it was such a surprise that he went at the top of the draft. And so far, I like what I see. He’s confident, in control and even has some acting chops, based on his impression of Browns GM John Dorsey. What’s disappointing is we won’t get a chance to see him run the first-team offense this week. However, coach Hue Jackson’s decision makes sense since he’s made it clear that Tyrod Taylor will start the season under center. And while that means we have to wait, we’ve at least seen enough to feel confident that we’re not looking at a JaMarcus-level bust here.
Sam Darnold: At this time last week, I was ready to gush over Sam. Then preseason game No. 2 happened, with the three sacks and bad interception on fourth down and like everyone else, I slowed down. Judging from the chatter, it seems he has a good chance to win the starting job for Week 1. Here is what I can tell you after watching every snap he played at USC: Around 3-5 times per game, he will make throws that will make you marvel at his ability to improvise and keep the chains moving. And he will also throw interceptions that will make you scream “WTF!” However, Darnold doesn’t allow himself to get rattled and neither should you. My only prayer is his shoddy offensive line doesn’t kill his confidence before he reaches his potential.
Josh Allen: I feel sorry for the Bills receivers. Did you see the zip on his passes? Good lord, he has a cannon and not only that, it seems the Buffalo coaching staff has really tightened up his release. I’m rooting the hardest for Allen to succeed because he was the butt of jokes coming out the draft. “Oh, he’s a bust … oh, he’s a project … oh, he shouldn’t have gone before Josh Rosen and blah, blah, blah.”
“I think we’ve all been through some of those moments where people have said some things, doubted us along our careers, and if you handle those things the right way, it can be a strength down the road,” Bills coach Sean McDermott told Rochesterfirst.com.
Allen will get a chance to show his progress and he’s already been named the starting QB for Sunday’s dress rehearsal game vs. the Bengals. If he does well and presumptive starter A.J. McCarron can’t get his injured shoulder right, we could see Josh taking snaps in Week 1. And I, for one, would be thrilled for him.
Josh Rosen: How is that a young kid with injury problems in college gets drafted by a team that has the poster child for quarterback injuries in Sam Bradford? Weird stuff …
Anyway, after a shaky first preseason, Rosen looked scintillating last week. He played 27 snaps against the Saints, and led three scoring drives, including a touchdown pass. He completed all six of this throws for 61 yards and a 109.0 passer rating. What’s more, according to Pro Football Focus, he leads all the first-round QBs this preseason with 3 “big time throws.” What is a big time throw? PFF describes it as “a pas with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field an/or into a tighter window.” Nice. Now, it doesn’t matter if Rosen begins the season as the starter because with Bradford in front of him, it’s just a matter of time before he sees the field.
Lamar Jackson: This is a Baltimore sports website, so I’ll leave the evaluation to the experts. However, his 41.9 completion percentage obviously isn’t going to get it done. And it doesn’t matter anyway, as the team has made it clear that Joe Flacco is the starter going forward. So, for now, the Ravens can throw him out there and let him get some experience under his belt for the next two weeks. There’s no rush.
Helmet mania: People are freaking out and foaming at the mouth over the NFL’s new helmet rule. Coaches are frustrated, fans are livid and the media can’t tweet its displeasure fast enough. You know who isn’t soiling himself?
It shouldn’t be a surprise.
“It’s not a change for us, for our coaching staff. We’ve never taught tackling with the crown of your helmet, putting your head down, leaning your body forward in that type of position. I don’t think fundamentally that’s a good position to be in. It’s not effective.”
Yes, that’s Bill Belichick speaking to a Boston radio show. The Patriots will benefit from this at some point. I can already envision it: It’s the playoffs and Tom Brady is facing a fourth-and 12 with time running out. It’s make or break time. He drops back and finds Julian Edelman, but he’s stopped four yards short of the first down! But wait …. there’s a flag on the field! Some dumb defensive back led his helmet while bringing Edelman to the ground! First down, Patriots! A few plays later, Brady finds Gronk in the end zone for the win!
You know that’s going to happen.
Tom’s new top: Speaking of the Patriots, did you notice Tom Brady is wearing one of those newfangled helmets this season. I have a suspicion he and his wife Gisele reached an agreement: If he’s going to keep playing into his 40s, he needs to take extra precaution to protect his brain. I approve.
Adrian Peterson, really?: The Redskins have a new running back. Ugh, why? Adrian, please give it up. This is getting sad.
Aaron Donald: As a Rams fan, I’d really feel a lot better if the reigning defensive player of the year was rewarded with a fat contract. I understand this is a business, but I can’t imagine the front office put together all this talent to let their best player stay home. That’s just asinine.
Hard Knocks: I’m ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t watched an episode yet this season. I hear Todd Haley is a barrel of laughs!
Teddy Bridgewater: Welcome back, sir! Glad to see you looking sharp and slinging the ball. You deserve to be a starter somewhere.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.