Deshaun Watson flashed brilliance in his preseason debut for the Houston Texans on Wednesday night against the Carolina Panthers. He looked poised in the pocket. And minus a couple overthrows, Watson showed the accuracy that defined his national championship career with the Clemson Tigers.
Mitch Trubisky took over for a pair of disastrous veterans in the form of Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez on Thursday night. He did so with his Chicago Bears down 10-0 late in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos. He proceeded to lead a two-minute touchdown scoring drive that culminated in this scoring strike to veteran Victory Cruz.
Then, later on Thursday, Cleveland Browns rookie second-round pick DeShone Kizer flashed signs of franchise quarterback capability. Taking over under center after both Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler struggled, the Notre Dame product led two touchdown scoring drives.
His best play came late in the fourth quarter with Cleveland down by a point to the New Orleans Saints. Kizer hit wide receiver Jordan Payton on a 45-yard touchdown strike with a pass that very few starting quarterbacks in the NFL can make.
To say that these three high-value rookies impressed in their preseason debuts would be an understatement. Each showed why they were selected early on in April’s draft.
But it’s really time to put the brakes on the overreactions and realize exactly what happened here. With an exception of Watson in Houston, we’re talking about two of the worst teams in the NFL with two of the worst quarterback situations. Giving their fan bases any hope of success at quarterback might be the prudent thing to do.
That’s only magnified in Chicago, where high-priced free agent signing Mike Glennon threw this horrible pick-six in his very first drive with the team (watch here).
Then, as it relates to the Browns, their fans got a glimpse of what Brock Osweiler did for the aforementioned Texans last season. Starting the game for Cleveland, Osweiler completed 6-of-14 passes for 42 yards with multiple inaccurate attempts along the way.
If these young quarterbacks are being compared to the Cody Kesslers, Mark Sanchezs and Brock Osweilers of the world, we hope that they would impress.
More to the point. Cleveland, Houston and Chicago made the conscious decisions to put these young signal callers in great opportunities to succeed.
Watson entered the earliest of the three, at the start of the second quarter against Carolina’s reserve defense. Meanwhile, Trubisky took snaps under center with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. As it relates to Kizer, he didn’t see action until the Saints had their third-string defense in.
Each and every one of these quarterbacks were considered potential first-round picks in April’s draft. Both Trubisky and Watson went in the top 12. Should we expect anything less than them dominating against reserve defenders, some of whom won’t make the 53-men rosters for their current teams? That has to be utilized as a tool in analyzing their performances early in the preseason.
Let’s say for a second Kizer struggled against what has been a disastrous Saints defense on Thursday. Wouldn’t that have said more about where he is as a potential starter in the NFL? That’s only magnified by the fact that most of the defenders he was going up against were either late-round picks or training camp fodder.
It’s the preseason. Expectations are meant to be high for the league’s 32 teams and the young players looking to make a career of this. We’re not here to rain on their parade. Though, we’re most definitely here to inch viewers and fans back to reality for a second.
“Round 1 went to Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers. The rematch with the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning will be in October, when it counts.”
That blurb was written by the Associated Press (h/t New York Times) after Leaf led his Chargers to a preseason win over Manning and the Colts in August of 1998. The two would meet up less than two months later, with Manning leading his Colts to a 17-12 win.
Ultimately, Leaf started 14 more games for the Chargers in his career. Manning? Well, we know the Canton-themed story behind his career.
A little earlier that summer, this one scribe (only a pup) had the pleasure of watching Leaf take on the San Francisco 49ers in San Diego. The now defunct stadium in California’s southernmost city was clad with fans of the Chargers donning Leaf jerseys. It was an exciting time for the fan base.
Leaf proceeded to defeat the 49ers by the score of 27-21 in a game that saw him dominate defenders that wouldn’t even be on San Francisco’s roster within a week.
The moral of the story? August football is much different than September football. Competition itself is much different. The game plans coaches utilize are different. Teams now have game film on young quarterbacks. Defenses are actually scheming against specific offenses. This isn’t what we see during August preseason football.
Watson completed 15-of-25 passes for 179 yards and added a rushing touchdown against Carolina on Wednesday. Trubisky went for 204 total yards and a score while completing 18-of-25 passes. Meanwhile, Kizer led the Browns to two touchdown-scoring drives.
That’s all great. It was fun to watch. And we’re most definitely rooting for these young quarterbacks to ascend to starter roles here soon. If nothing else, for fan bases that have had to deal with horrible quarterback situations in the past.
But let’s see these rookies perform at this level against starters on the other side of the ball. Heck, let’s hope their respective teams give them that opportunity moving forward this summer. And should they perform well in those situations, the brakes the surely come off and we’ll be ready to cruise down the highway at 100 praising the young men.
Until then, it’s time to pump the brakes on all this punch-drunk August optimism.