On play after play in the 1 p.m. ET window on Sunday, in stadium after stadium, on offensive possession after offensive possession, the 2018 rookie class was making plays.
It hasn’t always been pretty for this group, with the record-tying five quarterbacks taken in the first round and some taking their lumps or having to wait and watch. Some running backs were stuck behind just-signed veteran free agents. Some receivers struggled a bit to make an adjustment as their coordinators gathered more information on how to use them. There were some natural transitions taking place, but in the final month of the season these first-round picks should be providing plenty of excitement, even for teams that don’t really have much to play for.
These are heady times for some of these young men, and I couldn’t help but notice a trend with these kids taking games over throughout Week 12 and, in some cases, turning seasons around in the process. Baker Mayfield would be my choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and if he keeps up his play since the Browns finally shed themselves of Hue Jackson, he’ll run away with it. Nick Chubb is proving to be a dominant force for Cleveland as well (okay, he’s a second-round pick, technically, but just barely).
Saquon Barkley was getting more of the ROY attention, and he manhandled the Eagles in the first half Sunday before seeing precious little of the ball in the second half for some reason, again a rare standout in another bitter Giants defeat. D.J. Moore was a non-factor for the Panthers until he faced the Ravens in Week 8, but he has shined since, and his huge plays early and late should have been enough for the Panthers to hold off Seattle. Josh Allen had his most impactful and passionate display thus far, running all over the Jags for a win in his first game back from a monthlong injury. Sony Michel has altered the scope of the New England offense when healthy, and he was huge in a tough win Sunday, and Lamar Jackson did more than enough to keep the Ravens starting job moving forward in pulling Baltimore out of a three-game losing funk with wins in each of his first two NFL starts.
Your head could spin trying to keep up with all of it. But you have to start in Cleveland (where the fourth-overall pick, corner Denzel Ward, is in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year as well). Mayfield is oozing confidence, playing hidden-ball tricks with an overwhelmed Bengals defense, passing the ball all over the field for nearly 250 yards in the first half alone, making tight window throws in the back of the end zone. Mayfield went 19-for-26 for 258 yards and four touchdowns, hitting eight receivers in the process. It was a tour de force from his first attempt to his last and, after snapping an 18-game losing slide dating back to last season when he came in cold in Week 3 for an injured Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield gave the Browns their first road win after 25 straight losses.
Since he has been removed from the stench of the Hue Jackson regime, with Jackson finally fired after Week 8, the Browns are 2-1 and with Freddie Kitchens taking over the offense in that span Mayfield is an eye-popping 65-for-88 (74 percent) for 771 yards (8.8 yards per attempt), with 9 touchdowns, 1 interception and a rating of 129.5. Part of the reason he doesn’t have to throw it quite as much is the emergence of Chubb, who took over as starter in Week 7 after Carlos Hyde was dealt to hapless Jacksonville. In his five starts Chubb has rushed 106 times for 490 yards (4.6 per carry) with four TDs (he’s scored in three-straight games), while also catching two touchdowns passes, including a ridiculous grab through a defender Sunday.
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Barkley, who can take over games with his powerful trunk and ability to get to the open field, was having another superior effort on Sunday against the Eagles. He did his part, running nine times for 94 yards and a score and catching six of seven passes for 37 yards and another score as the Giants seemed to be cruising. Somehow, with the lead, he touched the ball a total of five times in the second half as Philadelphia came back to win (Memo to the Giants: Start playing Kyle Lauletta; Eli Manning ran out of gas and his first-half-ending pick was brutal).
Michel has looked like a game-breaker as well, but has battled through injuries since before the season began. When he is on the field, he changes the way teams must defend the aging Patriots. He powered ahead fort a critical short-yardage touchdown Sunday to put the Jets away, after New England has failed repeatedly to get the ball over the line. Michel ran 21 times for 133 yards, keeping the heat off Tom Brady. The last time he was fully healthy, three weeks ago against the Chiefs, he ran 24 times for 106 yards (which came after breakout games of 98 and 112 yards). If the Patriots are to concoct another long playoff run, this rookie will have plenty to do with it. He may be the most vital player on that offense right now. Moore caught eight balls for 91 yards, several in critical junctures, a week after grabbing seven for 157, and he has reached 90 yards in three of his last five games after failing to reach 60 yards in any of his first six games.
Allen was making his first start in over a month, and while his accuracy remains an work in progress, he provided a lift to the entire team with his fiery display, willingness to take on defenders on the ground and his ability to jaw right back at the always-yapping, but rarely-winning, Jaguars. He has Shady McCoy going crazy and Bills defensive players backing him up all over the place. He completed a 75-yard bomb over Jalen Ramsey and took a draw over 20 yards for a hard-nosed score to key the victory and amassed 99 yards on 13 carries. It was ugly at times in the passing game, but Allen provided some hope to Bills fans who had to sit through Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley while Allen was hurt.
And Jackson, the final player taken in the first round, well, all he did is win again and set another record (192 yards rushing in his first two games), with the Ravens going out of their way – to a fault at times – to try to force the issue that he can throw the ball, too. He made a perfect throw on a bomb to Mark Andrews and had another gorgeous deep ball negated by penalty. He personally ran 11 times for 71 yards and Baltimore, which smartened up and went RPO-heavy in the second half, put up 242 yards on the ground after rolling for 256 yards a week ago.
His receivers could have helped him more on his two picks, and he made some throws he would want back, surely. But he also threw a vital third-down touchdown pass to change the tide of the game. He made a 39-yard sprint look easy – Jackson was kicking himself for not taking it to the house – and there is no way in hell John Harbaugh can even think about making a quarterback change in Week 13.
These kids are alright. And they provided some of the more exciting plays in a slate of games that didn’t exactly include a ton of scintillating match-ups.
A Jaguars housecleaning is in order
Tom Coughlin should go enjoy the beach and his grandkids and walk away from that mess in Jacksonville. It won’t be fixed easily, or anytime soon, and Blake Bortles shouldn’t be starting games in the NFL, period. If anything he is somehow finding a way to regress, and the Jags have a lack of discipline and professionalism that should make Coughlin sick. It’s the opposite of everything he espouses.
One sequence perfectly captured their lost season and punctuated what may have been their worst loss of the season (which is saying something because it was their seventh-straight defeat and eighth in the last nine games). A long pass appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. A melee ensued as two players tangled for the potential TD pass and Leonard Fournette became the latest Jaguar to do something stupid, getting tossed for trading punches on a day in which he was dominating and carrying the offense.
The ball was spotted at the Buffalo 1-yard line. Carlos Hyde – in for Fournette – lost a yard on first down. Then came a false start, and a touchdown pass that was nullified by a holding penalty. Bortles ran for one yard on second-and-goal from the 17. Then he managed to take an eight-yard sack. Then Josh Lambo missed a 42-yard field goal.
Welcome to the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars season in a series. It really is that bad. A housecleaning is in order.
More from Week 12
- Russell Wilson is the man. The Seahawks might be a 4-12 team without him, but with him they are again very much in the playoff hunt. Seattle’s game with Carolina felt like an NFC Championship Game, and somehow Wilson rallied them in the end. Since the start of October, he has at least two touchdown passes in all seven games, with 18 passing TDs and just two interceptions in that span. He is in line for an Aaron Rodgers contract extension this offseason to the tune of $36M/per year in new money. He is earning it week after week. … This has to be the year Marvin Lewis moves on as head coach of the Bengals. Maybe he just moves upstairs, but with each passing week it only gets worse. They are a total disaster and have been for about six weeks. Andy Dalton throws horrible picks, they can’t even snap the ball properly, now Dalton is hurt, and the defense is an abject failure no matter who runs it. They look like a team very content to play out the string and clean out their lockers, and owner Mike Brown won’t be able to keep his head in the sand about it …
- The 49ers look like a bigger mess each week. Their drafts have been suspect at best, by and large, the Reuben Foster situation is a blight, and they had best be the most improved team in the NFL in 2019, or else. … Things are getting a little tight in Carolina, too, where ownership has been angling for more analytics and a different bent, and where Ron Rivera’s unnecessary early-game gamble came back to bite him in another very difficult, close loss. The Panthers had been undefeated at home, that head-to-head loss to the Seahawks could be a dire wild-card tiebreaker and we’ll see how patient billionaire David Tepper is with a club that looked to among the NFL’s best in the first half of the season. … Jameis Winston quietly had a very nice performance Sunday, albeit against those lowly 49ers. He went 29-for-38 for for 312 yards with two touchdowns and, most importantly for him, no interceptions.
Source : https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-insider-notes-this-special-2018-rookie-class-is-taking-over-and-more-from-week-12/