With the 2018 regular season just weeks away, it’s time to take a look at some of the most disappointing situations that have unfolded this preseason.
Some players we included have just been downright bad, which is magnified all the more by the fact that they were high draft picks. Two rookies we’re highlighting struggled before being hit with minor injuries, which hinders their development all the more.
But we’ll go ahead and start with perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, which is that promising rookie Derrius Guice who won’t be able to play at all this season.
Derrius Guice, running back, Washington Redskins
Coaches and other high-ranking Washington executives couldn’t stop gushing about just how impressive Guice was throughout the offseason and during training camp. He was looking pretty good during the team’s first preseason game as well, and then as we all know he went down with what appeared at first to be a minor injury.
Unfortunately, that injury turned out to be of the season-ending variety. Even worse, since then Washington has been hit with a rash of injuries to other running backs, prompting the team to bring in a player many feel is washed up in Adrian Peterson.
It’s just a very disappointing situation, and we feel awful for Guice, who has been a total pro about it despite the difficult circumstances.
John Ross, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals shocked many when they used the No. 9 overall pick last year to select Ross out of Washington. The former Huskies star came into the league with serious red flags concerning health issues. Still, a guy with this much speed and talent as a route runner is easy to fall in love with, so we kind of get it.
That said, it wasn’t surprising whatsoever that his rookie season was pretty much a lost cause. Fast forward to this preseason and, while it’s encouraging that Ross is healthy, he remains unable to harness his potential to consistently perform at a high level on the field.
Ross was responsible for a pick-six in the first preseason game when he fell down on a route (watch here). Then in the second preseason game he misplayed a punt return, then dropped a pass that was almost picked off. In total, he has just two catches through two games, despite being targeted eight times in the passing game.
Terrell Edmunds, safety, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers received plenty of criticism for using their first-round pick this past April on Edmunds, who many saw as a Day 2 pick. So far, it appears the critics were on point.
The Steelers brought him in to be a cover specialist who can take on tight ends. But he is absolutely getting torched on plays where he’s attempting to do just that (here’s an example). Edmunds has the athletic potential to do big things in the NFL. Now it’s time for him to get his technique and mental preparation up to that same level. So far, it’s a work in progress, to say the least.
Paxton Lynch, quarterback, Denver Broncos
It’s safe to say that John Elway got this one wrong. The Broncos, if you remember, actually traded up to select Lynch No. 26 overall back in 2016. Heading into this summer, it was do-or-die time for the former Memphis star. Throughout camp, reporters hinted that he continued to struggle in a big way with the basic aspects of NFL quarterbacking.
Then came the first preseason game, and it was clear that Lynch is not going to live up to the hype any time soon. The Broncos demoted him, promoting Mr. Irrelevant from a year ago, Chad Kelly, to second string. Through two preseason games, Lynch has now completed just half his passes, has no touchdowns and one interception. Yeah, it’s not going great.
Rashaad Penny, running back, Seattle Seahawks
Following a common thread here, Penny is another player who was seen as a huge reach when the Seahawks picked him up in the first round this past April. He’s a good player and was fabulously productive in college. But given his pass-protection issues and the overall devaluation of the running back position, it was stunning that he was picked up in Round 1.
Throughout the offseason, it was reported that Penny would probably not start because Chris Carson was dominating in practice. That proved to be the case once camp opened up, and then Penny didn’t exactly shine in the first preseason game, either, averaging just two yards per carry. On top of it all, the rookie is now out with a broken finger, meaning he’s losing out on valuable reps with the start of the season drawing near.
Marcus Davenport, defensive end, New Orleans Saints
The Saints gave up the farm to move up from No. 27 overall to No. 14 this past April. When they did that, many assumed it was to select the heir apparent to Drew Brees. Instead, New Orleans shocked everyone by drafting Davenport, a small-school prospect who has tons of potential but who didn’t dominate in college.
Needless to say, Davenport entered the NFL with a heavy burden of expectations upon his shoulders. And to this point, he’s yet do prove a thing. First, he had to have surgery on his thumb, and since then a groin injury has kept him out of practices and preseason games. Talk about a letdown.
Davenport is expected to see his first action against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3.
Ronald Jones II, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
During the pre-draft process, Jones was hyped by many experts due to his explosiveness and speed. He racked up 3,921 yards and 42 touchdowns in three years at USC, oftentimes leaving defenders eating his dust en route to the end zone (like this).
Needless to say, Tampa Bay fans were ecstatic when their team landed Jones in the second round.
So far, he’s been disappointingly ineffective. Jones is averaging less than a yard per carry, and he’s dropped both passes that have come his way. It’s been a frustrating start for this promising rookie, who has a lot to learn still before he’ll be a constant threat for the Bucs.
Joe Williams, running back, San Francisco 49ers
When the 49ers used a fourth-round pick on the ultra-talented Joe Williams last year, they did so with the Kyle Shanahan stamp of approval. In fact, Shanahan’s vote of confidence in the young man, who has a checkered past, was the only reason he was selected in the first place.
Williams ended up missing his entire rookie season with an injury. The 49ers were excited to see what he could do this summer, and he had a chance to shine after both Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon suffered minor injuries. Unfortunately, Williams did not shine on the field, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry on 19 attempts this preseason before suffering a rib injury Saturday in Houston.
Now it appears Williams’ roster spot is in jeopardy, which is not what anyone in San Francisco wanted to see.
Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs paid Watkins an obscene amount of money to come over in free agency. The thinking was that he’s the perfect weapon for the strong-armed Patrick Mahomes.
But so far, according to ESPN’s Adam Teicher, Tyreek Hill has been targeted much more often in camp. Then, Watkins did not look great in the second preseason game. He was targeted three times against Atlanta but failed to catch a pass. Instead, he dropped one pass, while a second was intercepted (on a poor throw) and a third was nearly picked off as well.
Sure, it’s going to take time for chemistry to develop between Watkins and Mahomes. But so far, it’s looking like much more of an uphill climb than anyone anticipated.
Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Dallas Cowboys
In terms of athletic prowess, there aren’t many linebackers who can compare to Vander Esch, who has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.
That being said, he didn’t exactly show up well in his first preseason game, struggling to make an impact as he got swallowed up by blockers. Making matters worse, Vander Esch is dealing with a nagging groin injury that kept him out of the team’s second preseason game.
This talented linebacker came into the league with some concerns about being able to stay healthy. Unfortunately, those concerns appear to have been warranted.