It’s a new year in the NFL. A time for players and fans to fill their hopes with dreams of the Super Bowl. As we all know, this will only be the reality for one team (sorry Jets, not this year). To prepare for the regular season, here is a quick recap of the NFL’s top stories this past offseason.
NFL Rule Changes
The biggest story this offseason was the rules changes recently enacted by the NFL to promote and ensure player safety. Among these rule changes is the controversial “Helmet Rule”. The rule, as stated in the 2018 NFL Rulebook Section 12-2-8, says: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against another player.”
— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) May 22, 2018
The rule is broad and ambiguous. The rule applies mainly to safeties and middle linebackers, who are usually taught to lower their shoulder when going in to make a tackle. Through the NFL’s first 33 preseason games, the helmet rule was called 51 times. Of those 51 penalties, 29 were called on defensive backs and 9 were called on linebackers.
The rule isn’t only new to players and coaches, but to referees as well. The NFL has called the preseason a learning process for players and officials alike. The NFL has faced a lot of backlash throughout the preseason from players and coaches about the ambiguity of when the penalty is called, but the NFL has stood with its rule change, announcing that there “will be no changes to the rule as approved by clubs this spring.”
Some other rule changes the NFL made this offseason include an adjustment to the definition of a catch as well as changes to the kickoff. A detailed explanation of all the NFL’s rule changes can be found here.
At the NFL’s annual draft, five quarterbacks were taken in the first round. The Browns took Baker Mayfield first overall. The Jets took Sam Darnold third overall. The Bills took Josh Allen at seventh overall. The Cardinals took Josh Rosen tenth overall. The Ravens took Lamar Jackson 32ndoverall.
There was a lot of quarterback drama on draft night, the first being who the Browns were going to take first overall. The Browns did a good job of keeping their top pick secret, with most believing they would take Darnold first overall. But on draft night, the Browns surprisingly took Mayfield, even though Darnold is seen as the more NFL ready quarterback.
The second bit of drama came with Josh Rosen. Before the draft, a number of Rosen’s tweets from 2012 and 2013 surfaced in which he repeatedly uses racial slurs. Obviously, this is a red flag. Rosen, who many believed to be a better prospect than Mayfield and Allen, fell to the Cardinals at tenth overall. During a press conference after the draft, Rosen said that there were “nine mistakes made ahead of [him].”
The last of the drama came late in the draft. Lamar Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville, dropped to the very back of the first round when the Ravens traded up to draft him at 32ndoverall. Many believe Jackson isn’t fit to be a quarterback due to his high mobility and poor pocket presence. Jackson was even asked to work out as a wide receiver at the NFL combine, but Jackson refused. The Ravens have said they only plan to use Jackson as a quarterback but must learn to sit in the pocket and pass rather than run with the ball.
Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round, only two are expected to get starting jobs at the season’s start; Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. The Browns plan on starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor over Mayfield. The Cardinals plan on starting Sam Bradford over Rosen. The Ravens plan on starting Joe Flacco over Lamar Jackson.
Jalen Ramsey’s QB Criticism
The Jaguar’s defensive back, Jalen Ramsey, drew a lot of attention this offseason when he did an interview with GQ criticizing the majority of quarterbacks in the NFL. He made claims that Matt Ryan is overrated, Joe Flacco sucks, and that Josh Allen is trash. He also said that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the league’s greatest quarterbacks, “don’t suck”.
While Ramsey’s judgments seem rash and biased, he does make some educated points. When talking about Matt Ryan (the league’s MVP a few years ago), Ramsey mentions the loss of Falcon’s offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers. After Shanahan left, Ryan’s performance went downhill while Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers new quarterback, had a breakout season. Ramsey contributes Ryan’s major success to good coaching.
GQ’s full interview with Ramsey can be found here.
The NFL regular season starts on Thursday, September 6th, with the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons.