First Round, First Impressions
And, perhaps more so, it means we get our first look at some of the guys who left college last year and are now embarking on careers in the NFL. Players viewed as saviors, destined to right the wrongs of why their team isn’t as good as it can be.
Well you get can incredibly detailed grades and stats on each player with a 365 day PFF premium subscription (available here and including data going all the way back to 2007 on any players to lace up). But here’s a snippet of what we’ve got to offer with some instant analysis on all of the first rounders and what they did this week.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans, OLB
Analysis: So it begins. There was the ‘very good’ as he earned positive marks for his bullrush of Jared Veldheer, even if he didn’t get a pressure for it. There was also the ‘bad’, though, as he was exposed in coverage for a touchdown that was called back for a penalty. And then the ‘fierce’ as he destroyed Darren Fells to pick up a tackle for a loss. Mouthwatering.
2. Greg Robinson, St. Louis Rams, OG
Analysis: Flipped between left guard with the starters (13 snaps) and left tackle with the second string (21 snaps) in an uneven premiere. Touted as a punishing blocker we really didn’t see, or perhaps get a chance to see, that on display, instead seeing a couple of broken plays where miscommunication amongst linemen saw him looking a little lost. You do wonder if switching positions is the best thing for him in the short term, though it may pay off down the line.
3. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, QB
Analysis: Blake what are you doing? Aren’t you meant to be managing expectations down in Jacksonville? Instead he’s having fans wondering if he should be starting over Chad Henne. Of course, 26 largely positive preseason snaps is no amount to judge, and the Jaguars have a plan they intend to stick to, so why whip ourselves into a frenzy. Probably best that Bortles throws a few picks Thursday night to calm everyone down and get us all on the same page.
4. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, WR
Analysis: Across two games Watkins hasn’t really delivered on the immense offseason hype his practice performances have generated. That’s not his own fault, though, with 4-of-6 targets under 10 yards in the air and his only deep shot overthrown. When the sample size increases we’ll see if he’s the real deal.
5. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders, OLB
Analysis: Raiders fans hoping to see the next Von Miller and not the next Aaron Curry were disappointed with a lackluster debut that suggests we shouldn’t expect Mack to storm the league. Failed to generate a pressure on his six pass rushes and didn’t register much of an impression on the Vikings’ offense.
6. Jake Matthews, Atlanta Falcons, OT
Analysis: That really wasn’t pretty. The stat line of two penalties and a hit given up don’t look great, but they flatter Matthews who had the roughest start of all rookies. He was taken to task every which way, with his early whiff on Randy Starks as bad as it got, but also throwing in some edge pressure, a failed cut block and some other less-than-stellar blocking. You learn more from your losses and Matthews should have learned a lot from this.
7. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WR
Analysis: Operated on the outside in three-WR sets and failed to make any impression. Two targets yielded no catches and one interception. As with a number of receivers, he’ll need more playing time to show what he’s got.
8. Justin Gilbert, Cleveland Browns, CB
Analysis: Late to sign his contract and late to make his debut. Gilbert sat out the preseason opener because of a groin injury.
9. Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings, OLB
Analysis: No doubt the team and fans will be happy that he brought a quarterback down for a sack, but come the regular season he’ll likely not get too many one-on-one match ups with Jamize Olawale. Outside of that, a very quiet debut where he was beat for a first down and made little difference against the run.
10. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, TE
Analysis: Got just two snaps with the first team before playing some catch with Dan Orlovsky. Unfortunately, saw just three targets and was able to haul in just one of them for 2 yards. Preseason is not an environment that you would think will get the best out of Ebron.
11. Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans, OT
Analysis: Had the luxury of playing against the Packers’ second- and third-stringers and really made it look easy. Didn’t do an awful lot in the run game but stood out in pass protection, recording a perfect day. One we’d like to see against better competition.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, WR
Analysis: No playing time so far as he is nursed back to full health.
13. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams, DT
Analysis: Saw a lot of action without you feeling like he was on the field that much. Did pick up two hurries but drew a blank in the run game. That’s not to say he was terrible — he wasn’t blown away against double teams and kept the blockers very busy with him.
14. Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears, CB
Analysis: Got the start and spent all bar two of his snaps lined up at left cornerback. Targeted twice, allowing one completion that he would stop short of the markers on third down, and hit Jordan Matthews on the other to force an incompletion. Just the start the doctor ordered.
15. Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh Steelers, LB
Analysis: Sat out hurt but will be hoping to return to action this week.
16. Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys, OL
Analysis: Firmly entrenched as the starting right guard already, the team didn’t want to risk anything happen to Martin in Week 1. Still showed off his skills with a couple of nice blocks on Kendall Reyes early on and did nothing to grab unwanted attention.
Flip the page for Rookies 17 to 32
17. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens, LB
Analysis: Action-packed cameo as 25 snaps was enough to let you know Mosley was on the field. Walked away with a sack and hurry on just four pass rushers, though was badly beaten for a first down that might suggest he will do better coming downhill than back peddling up it.
18. Calvin Pryor, New York Jets, S
Analysis: Has missed a lot of practice time and as such missed Week 1, but now in line for an outing against the Bengals.
19. Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins, OT
Analysis: It didn’t go well in the run game against the Falcons fearsome front, with Kroy Biermann and Tyler Starr beating him for a tackle for a loss and a tackle for no gain, respectively. In pass protection it went much better with 16 snaps yielded no pressure. Not too bad at all.
20. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints, WR
Analysis: Made the biggest impression of the first round rookie receivers with his five catches (on eight targets) for 55 yards and a score. Particularly impressed on his touchdown grab while he made life hard for Lamarcus Joyner elsewhere (including drawing a penalty for holding). Nothing to suggest he won’t be a big part of what the Saints are doing.
21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers, S
Analysis: Made some plays and showed he’ll bring some real aggression to a secondary that at times has seemed too placid. Highlight reel play for him was his pass breakup on a ball to Taylor Thompson, but let’s not forget he was initially badly beaten off the line.
22. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns, QB
Analysis: It was good enough that he’s put more pressure on Brian Hoyer, and working with a second team offensive line what more could he do? Perhaps a little more to allay fears that his style will get him physically crushed, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
23. Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs, OLB
Analysis: Ford saw an awful lot of action with the Chiefs second team as he entered the game on the final snap of the first quarter and didn’t miss one for the remainder. That saw him really have his way with Chandler Burden who was too slow off the snap to contain the former Auburn Tiger. It was certainly exciting from that perspective to see him notch two hits and three hurries, but we’d like to see how he handles some better competition.
24. Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati Bengals, CB
Analysis: A rough start for Dennard who is a rookie who seems destined to back up Leon Hall this year. Operated in the slot in nickel with a further eight snaps as an outside corner in the teams base 4-3 package. Highlight reel play was his sack blitzing off the edge unblocked, but two missed tackles and being out of position some in coverage dropped his grade down.
25. Jason Verrett, San Diego Chargers, CB
Analysis: Another who sat out the preseason opener as a precautionary measure.
26. Marcus Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, OLB
Analysis: Quiet day rushing the passer as his 20 pass rushes brought one pressure (that was more a failing on the part of Dennis Roland) and one batted pass. This with the second-stringers, but he did make a number of plays in the run game, ending with two defensive stops.
27. Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals, S
Analysis: A very quiet debut outside of missing a tackle when Jonathan Grimes proved a little bit too much for him. Spent more time in the slot which will be interesting to monitor going forward.
28. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, WR
Analysis: He didn’t do much but what he did do was haul in a special grab as he adjusted to an underthrown Derek Anderson ball, getting across Stephon Gilmore to score six. All whispers have suggested he’ll be more quality than quantity so we shouldn’t be surprised.
29. Dominique Easley, New England Patriots, DT
Analysis: His time will come.
30. Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers, DB
Analysis: If this was an indication as to how he’ll be used in the regular season then we can classify Ward a slot cornerback. 22 of his snaps were lined up in a slot coverage position and while he was flagged on special teams, he earned a passing mark on his initial outing. Even if he did let Jacoby Jones pick up a first down on him.
31. Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos, CB
Analysis: There was some good and there was some bad. Forced a fumble, which we liked. Missed a tackle, which we did not. In more coverage related activities he was targeted four times with four completions for 37 yards. That is far from ideal as he had some issues with Paul Richardson.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings, QB
Analysis: While Matt Cassel looked efficient, Bridgewater looked a bit nervy after a strong start. Grade came about less because of his passing which was generally efficient and more because of his decision making as he lost a fumble and was charged with a sack. Backwards step taken.