For the last few years, the weekly rookie reports were as extensive as the draft classes they covered. The 2017 and 2018 classes each had 11 drafted players and at least one undrafted free agent play in the regular season. The majority of those classes not only made the team, but were notable contributors during their rookie years.
2019 has not started the same for this crop of rookies.
Sure, injuries are plaguing a handful of draft picks, especially their first-round pick Jonah Williams, but the draft picks who are playing are not making much of an impact. This week against the 49ers, Germaine Pratt watched the defense get torn apart limb by limb from the sidelines and didn’t take a single snap. It didn’t matter that starters Preston Brown and Nick Vigil were getting sonned the entire game, Pratt was just an innocent special teamer.
With Renell Wren being inactive, that porous defensive effort was all veterans (and only two of them weren’t on last year’s team). But this draft class was centered around the offense, and the three rookies featured in that unit played enough for us to really talk about them.
Michael Jordan’s bad day gets worse
It’s tough for offensive lineman to start as rookies, especially ones who lasted until the fourth round of the draft for good reason. Jordan has struggled, plain and simple, and the issues aren’t hard to identify. Essentially, he’s a wild horse playing guard, and the more erratic he plays, the easier it is for him to get beat.
These three plays came from just the first quarter.
The reasons for Jordan’s struggles are the opposite reasons why Williams would succeed so early in his career. There’s minimal control in Jordan’s game, whether it’s hand placement, pad level or recovery, if Jordan loses off of the snap, it’s tough for him to fight back.
Seattle and San Francisco took advantage of this, and Jordan has allowed eight pressures, two sacks and amassed a run blocking grade of 39.1 per Pro Football Focus in his first 129 snaps.
Jordan would’ve played 144 snaps if he didn’t miss the final 15 this past Sunday. Right after the start of the fourth quarter, Jordan and his former college teammate Nick Bosa collided in the left B-gap, with Jordan’s left leg being the primary casualty. He ended up being carted off the field, but head coach Zac Taylor said he won’t miss more than a week.
In Jordan’s absence, Billy Price figures to start at left guard, unless they move Price to center and kick Trey Hopkins out to left guard. With how Hopkins is playing at center, it’d be best to just try Price at left guard and find out if he’d be an upgrade. But based on Sunday, it looks like left guard is just a problem they can’t solve for right now.
Drew Sample gets involved, Damion Willis inches away from pay dirt
Was Sample in the dog house last week? He only played two snaps on offense after he was penalized for holding on his first snap. Due to how the offense had to adjust towards a pass-heavy game plan, the answer is probably no. Yet, Sample was on the field for 19 snaps, with 15 of them being in the passing game, and he only blocked on three of them.
On those 12 snaps where he acted as a receiver, he hauled in two of his three targets for 25 yards. 21 of those yards came on his first career catch.
The one target Sample couldn’t haul in may’ve been a touchdown if he somehow caught it. He was so tightly covered and the ball was overthrown by about 3 yards that he basically had no shot.
Willis, on the other hand, did have a chance to grab his first regular season score long before Sample became a part of the game. Unfortunately, he’s not quite Odell Beckham Jr.
The one catch Willis did complete went for six yards. The preseason stud is still finding himself within the first-team offense, and for an undrafted free agent, that’s fine. Tyler Boyd and John Ross III are doing just fine without much help from Willis, but it’d be nice for him to pop off in one game before A.J. Green returns.