It’s no secret that defense was the strength of the 2018 class. So, it was no surprise that many of the offensive players weren’t able to hit the ground running in their first seasons. Fortunately, year 2 is right around the corner and many of those players are poised to progress. These 5 names stick out specifically.
5. Derrius Guice, Running Back, Washington Redskins
The Redskins hoped to have solved their running back quandary by selecting Derrius Guice in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign never went underway due to a torn ACL that he suffered in the pre-season.
Derrius Guice is a beast pic.twitter.com/vVC07yWf9c
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 10, 2018
Hopefully with a full season of recovery, Guice can get back 100%. Because If he can, I am expecting huge production. It’s no secret that the Redskins want to pound the ball and Guice can be the work hoarse that leads their rushing attack. His health is the only question mark.
4. D.J. Moore, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers wide receivers have not been talked about enough this off season. They have D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel as their slot/gadget guy, and whatever is left of Chris Hogan and Torrey Smith.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 30, 2018
That said, Moore is going to have to be “the guy” next season. He is the best true receiver out of this bunch and really the only reliable perimeter pass catcher Cam Newton has to work with. The opportunities should be there, its up to Moore to take advantage of them.
3. Kerryon Johnson, Running Back, Detroit Lions
The Lions went into last season with a New England type approach to their backfield. They brought in LeGarrette Blount to be the bruiser, used Theo Riddick as the receiver, and Kerryon Johnson as the hybrid type.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 30, 2018
That set up was quickly altered because Johnson showed that he was the superior back of the group. The Lions steadily gave him more of a feature role and their rushing attack greatly benefited from it. Sadly, Johnson’s season had to come to a halt because of a knee injury.
Luckily for him, he is now slated to be the “man” of the Lions backfield heading into this year. Meaning, he will get the majority of the carriers. We saw how special he could be last season, he just needs to stay healthy to put it all together.
2. Dante Pettis, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
-scored a touchdown once every eight targets as a rookie.
-19 of his 27 catches went for 1st downs
-broke a lot of ankles last year. pic.twitter.com/sztASIYXxr
— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) March 19, 2019
Dante Pettis finished his rookie campaign with a bang. Solidifying himself as the 49ers number 1 receiver. With an expanded role and the return of starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. I expect his production to sky rocket.
1. Sam Darnold, Quarterback, New York Jets
Sam Darnold's best throws from 2018. pic.twitter.com/TTefxqhHtH
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 29, 2019
The Jets threw Sam Darnold into quite the fire last season. He played behind a below average offensive line, had very little receiver talent to work with, and was being guided by an incompetent play caller.
Keeping that in mind, the Jets had their work cut out in front of them this off season to improve the infrastructure around their franchise quarterback. And well, it’s hard to say that they really did that.
The Adam Gase hire was uninspiring. He should be an upgrade as a play caller but it’s hard to trust him as a head coach after the decisions he made in Miami. In terms of the talent they added, Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and Kelechi Osemele are all good additions. But not enough to really change this offense.
They still have holes at right tackle and center, and they don’t really have a perimeter target that Darnold can consistently rely on. It’s not like they didn’t have the resources to address these positions either. It just seemed like they ignored them.
All in all, I thought they underachieved this off season. So, why am I so confident that Darnold will break out in 2019? Well there isn’t a clear cut answer because I am not as confident as I want to be.
Over the season's final three weeks – no QB graded higher than Sam Darnold last year. pic.twitter.com/JuFrppo5Qs
— PFF (@PFF) February 27, 2019
However, Darnold’s strong finish to last season is really what should give Jets fans hope. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’s top quarterback over the last 4 games, which was very encouraging given his shaky start. I believe that he should continue to trend upward as long as his supporting cast can give him a little more than they give him last year.