NFL preseason 2018: The Saquon Barkley hype train and more overreactionsAugust 10, 2018
WEEK 1 NFL PRESEASON OVEREACTION TIME!
Unlike a Sunday in the regular season, where I’m in front of multiple TVs and watching as much football as possible, on Thursday night I was on the radio and watching on my iPad. But I saw the important stuff. I was able to catch all of Baker Mayfield’s reps, Saquon Barkley’s five carries and Patrick Mahomes’ first two drives.
Here are my thoughts on what I saw.
The Baker Mayfield hype train is full speed ahead!
He was 11-for-20 with 212 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 125.4 against what was mostly the Giants’ backup defense. Not to throw a wet blanket on his performance, but it came against players who won’t see the field this season. Now, with that disclaimer, let’s get into the positives.
What impressed me most about Mayfield last night was his pocket presence. He looked like a seasoned veteran, and I didn’t expect that. Mayfield stood tall in the pocket and made subtle movements to avoid pressure that you see from the best, like Drew Brees or Tom Brady. He was able to roll his shoulder away from potential contact and then slide away, always keeping his eyes down the field. Mayfield looked to run only after nothing was open.
His accuracy was impressive, but that’s not surprising since his ability to throw accurately wasn’t a concern out of college. I thought the Browns constructed a game plan, however small for game one, around making sure Mayfield had plenty of opportunities for success in the play action game.
Couple more takeaways from the Browns. They are loaded on offense with talent. Jarvis Landry looked every bit as expected and David Njoku might be the next breakout star at tight end. Figuring out left tackle since Joe Thomas retired — it might be Joel Bitonio — will be important moving forward. Tyrod Taylor looked good as well, but the Browns must start playing Baker Mayfield with the ones to see everything he’s got.
On the other sidelines last night, we got the full Saquon Barkley experience.
An amazing 39-yard run on his first handoff and then 4 yards on three carries to finish out his workload for the night. Barkley too often tries to get outside, which is exactly what he did in college. That isn’t going to work in the NFL as often and he will need to continue to work on running into tight lanes up front. It didn’t help that the offensive line, which looked much improved from last season, had some individual breakdowns on a couple of his shorter runs.
Speaking of the Giants offensive line, Eli Manning looked comfortable in the pocket which is something we haven’t seen in a few years.
On defense, the Giants run stuffing unit performed as expected. They got fooled in a no-huddle situation and allowed a play action touchdown where their linebackers looked lost. Otherwise, defense as advertised.
There is no reason to worry about Pat Mahomes.
I watched the first two drives of the Chiefs game to see Mahomes under center as the starting quarterback. What we saw last night from him should ease the fears of fans who have heard all through camp about the amount of interceptions he’s thrown. Interceptions aren’t a concern because they are often a product of aggressive play and, as a younger quarterback, having a mix up on route concepts.
On Thursday night, Mahomes seemed under control and didn’t force the action. He checked down to a back on third down and took a sack instead of forcing a deep pass. He showed off his rocket arm on a few missiles to tight end Travis Kelce in the middle of the field. I’m excited to see Mahomes get more reps as the preseason continues.
What were your overreactions and takeaways from Thursday night’s preseason action? Let me know in the comments or Twitter.