It is early August which means NFL preseason football games have begun and so has the Hype Machine. It took just one play before the media went nuts for Saquon Barkley, and less than one full game combined for Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold to be deemed starters for their teams. I am not sure if it is because the NFL has had a relatively slow and quiet off-season and summer but the media is thirsting to push these group of rookies right to the upper echelon of NFL players.
Barkley’s professional debut did come with a bang, a 39-yard scamper on his first carry. He made a couple of nice quick cuts at the line of scrimmage, finding the right hole to run through. However he was not touched until he was already 35-yards down field. And on his next four carries in the game he had a grand total of four yards. So overall the numbers look great, five carries for 43 yards. But if you watched the game you will see a player that was ALWAYS looking to bust the big one and when defenses were able to bottle him up, he managed just one yard per carry. You can see all five of his carries in the video below.
But that didn’t stop the media from headlines such as:
- Giants saw “real deal” Saquon Barkley’s big moment coming
- Sights and Sounds: Saquon Makes Strong Debut
- Saquon Barkey makes immediate impact for Giants
The top overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft was quarterback Baker Mayfield. And whether or not you love him, the sports media was quick to hand him the keys to the NFL’s sad luck team the Cleveland Browns. Just like Barkley, Mayfield made some nice plays in his game (which just so happened to occur against the Giants in the same preseason game). Mayfield showed some good accuracy on a crossing pattern, which went for a 54-yard score, albeit thanks to a missed tackle. And he was able to move around well in and out of the pocket. But he also had several throws that were low or wide of open receivers; leading to his final tally of 11-of-20 passing. And in a league that is putting an emphasis on completions, a 55-percent completion percentage is not very upper echelon. Side note, the quarterback that no one is talking about and is the current Browns starter (Tyrod Taylor) was 5-for-5 for 99 yards and a score in his work against the Giants. See every Mayfield play against the Giants below.
Mayfield’s headlines including the following:
- BCast Reacts: Ready to Believe in Baker?
- Baker Mayfield shines in Cleveland Browns Debut
- Baker Mayfield certainly did not look like a rookie in his preseason debut
Keeping with the quarterback position the other rookie to garner preseason week one headlines was New York Jets’ Sam Darnold. Darnold, playing in the mecca of media, was no doubt going to receive attention. But after a 13-for-18 game he has quickly been crowned the savior of the franchise. While his completion percentage of 72-percent was much better than Mayfield, Darnold threw for just 96 total yards. In fact he only attempted five passes beyond 10-yards in the game, completing only two, with his longest completion being 14-yards. And in similar fashion to Mayfield, Darnold is “battling” a veteran for the starting position. Well the veteran Darnold went against (Teddy Bridgewater) was simply 7-of-8 passing for 85 yards and a score. You can see all of his plays below.
Yet Darnold’s dump down offense was enough to garner the following headlines:
- Sam Darnold of New York Jets makes case for starting quarterback
- Easier than college? Why Jets’ Sam Darnold thinks reading NFL defenses is simpler
- Sam Darnold giving Jets fans a real reason to dream
All three players may turn out to be stars in the league, or all three could be busts. The point is that every year we hear about players putting up great numbers in the preseason. But typically the media and fans do not overdo it because, well simply put, it is the preseason. Teams dumb down defenses and are playing players that will not typically play. But the media seems to have conveniently forgotten these facts, and the facts that in the two quarterbacks cases the players ahead of them on the depth chart actually had much better numbers than the rookies. So let’s not be so quick to prop these players up, how about they get through four games of actual NFL games and not just four quarters of preseason football before we dub them All-Pros.