The preseason may not count, but it does matter. The most important aspect of these four weeks will be the development of the young players on this team, particularly this year’s draft picks. Joe Malfa grades their performances against the Redskins.
1st Round Pick QB Sam Darnold — B-
It’s tough to put a grade on this performance from Darnold. He didn’t do anything flashy. The interception he threw wasn’t some ugly mistake. The offensive line didn’t do him any favors. He was just — fine.
Jeremy Bates didn’t seem like he asked much of Darnold in this one. No shots were taken down the field. I’m not sure whether that was by design or the Redskins had the deep routes covered — I’d have to go back and review the all-22 footage.
Darnold was an efficient 8/11 for 62 yards, but again — he didn’t take any shots. All of his completions were on either short or intermediate routes. His best throw came on 3rd and 4 when he zipped one Tre McBride over the middle to pick up the first down. He connected with McBride for a conversion on 3rd down again later in the drive, which turned into three points for the Jets.
On the interception, Darnold locked onto his target and tried forcing a pass into a non-existent window. He would deserve some criticism if he made that throw on 2nd or 3rd and short, but on 4th and 1 he had no choice. If he throws it into the 5th row, the result would have been the same — a turnover.
The most encouraging aspect of this start was the fact that Darnold continued to do things that don’t show up on the stat sheet very well. He seemed very alert in the pocket and moved around well to avoid a couple of sacks. He did take two sacks in this one. The first was simply a jailbreak as Daron Payne burst through the line. The second was a coverage sack. Perhaps he should have thrown the ball away, but they were well within field goal range so the sack did not cost them any points.
Nothing from this game should change the fact that Darnold is on track to start against the Lions in Week 1. He has one more dress rehearsal in the Snoopy Bowl next week, and it seems to be a safe bet that he will be the starter in that one as well.
3rd Round Pick DT Nathan Shepherd — A
In what was a rather mundane game all around, Shepherd was a bright spot. Like Darnold, he seems to have his starting role locked up.
‘Canadian Thanos’ was disruptive the whole evening. He ended up with two tackles and one QB hit, but he made his presence felt on nearly every snap. For the second week in a row, a running back tried to cut back inside only to end up getting walloped by Shepherd. The Jets’ defense was gashed for a couple of big gains, but the run defense was stout overall. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that Shepherd, Williams, and Pennel did a great job of winning at the point of attack and forcing the line back into the path of the running back.
I noticed he Shepherd a couple of double teams as this game wore on. The Redskins clearly realized they needed to pay more attention to him. With his size, strength and violent hands, there will not be many opposing offensive linemen who can keep him under wraps for the entire 60 minutes. This pick is looking great so far. If only Maccagnan could hit on an edge rusher the way he seems to have hit on this interior lineman.
6th Round Pick DT Folorunso Fatukasi — D+
Fatukasi flashed a couple of times last week with a pair of tackles and a sack. He was pretty quiet this time around. There was no noticeable penetration. He didn’t record a tackle. In short, he looked like the depth player that he is in this one.
4th Round Pick TE Chris Herndon, 6th Round Pick CB Parry Nickerson, 6th Round Pick RB Trenton Cannon — N/A
Cannon joined Herndon and Nickerson on the shelf this week. At least we got to see him last week, though. The battles at tight end and cornerback are the two most competitive battles in camp at the moment. Herndon and Nickerson need to worry about their health first and foremost, but they need to be on the field next week if at all possible. If not, they may find themselves a few notches below where they should be on the depth chart. Neither is in danger of failing to make the cut, but both were candidates to win starting roles. Now? Not as likely.