Just when you think you have it all figured out as a football fan, the “Not For Long” NFL throws a curveball. Football fans got two on Sunday, with Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette being bumped from the field. For that reason, two of the brightest stars in football are among this week’s five disappointing rookie performers.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
The football gods can be cruel mistresses. The final fate of Deshaun Watson’s rookie season, a torn ACL suffered in practice, is all the proof you need. Watson was on a historic pace as a passer, coming off one of his most jawdropping performances of the season before his injury. Watson was poised to shatter the rookie touchdown record (projecting in the low to mid-40 TD range) and he was bringing life to an offense that was listless for years.
But now? The Texans stumbled through a game against the Indianapolis Colts without their prized rookie, who is now forced to watch the rest of the year from the bench. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s just plain depressing. Make no mistake, though: Watson will be back in 2018, likely with a vengeance. Get well soon, Deshaun, you made the NFL a more fun place on Sundays.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Watson’s absence was a twist of fate. Fournette’s absence in Week 9 was self-inflicted (but probably not warranted to begin with). The Jaguars and coach Doug Marrone have set the tone for any players planning on missing the team photo: Fournette was benched for the week for his actions, and unless there’s more under the surface than what has been let on, this is silly.
Regardless, one of the stars of the first half of the NFL season was left on the sideline, although the Jaguars pounced on a big win on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Fournette was banged up with an ankle injury, then spent a week recovering during the bye… and now this.
Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos
The Broncos had a rough go against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team largely struggled to get things going offensively. Rookie left tackle Garett Bolles certainly wasn’t the problem for the Broncos, but he must improve from his performance this week if he’s going to be part of the solution.
Don’t take anyone else’s word for it other than his. After several penalties, over-setting in the run game, and giving up negative plays to a very talented Philadelphia defensive line, Bolles candidly spoke with Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro of The Afternoon Drive to openly admit he didn’t play well and that some mental adjustments in preparation and focus were needed.
Bolles is a young, athletic, physical tackle. He should learn well from this experience and be better for it in the long run.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
It was great to see Corey Davis back on the field after lingering lower body injuries limited him throughout the first half of the season. However, the Corey Davis on the field against the Ravens is not the same Corey Davis who dominated the competition in college. For that reason, he was a disappointing performer.
Davis finished with two catches for 28 yards, but he was bested at the catch point by a fellow rookie — cornerback Marlon Humphrey — on one target. He largely seemed to be an afterthought in the offensive game plan.
With Davis so far behind schedule in relation to reps, learning the playbook and establishing chemistry and consistency with his teammates, this is likely an unfortunate omen for the coming weeks. Davis may eventually have a breakout game indicative of his talent, but I would expect that game will be later rather than sooner.
O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Howard’s game against the Saints produced a disappointing stat line: one catch for six yards and a fumble lost. Howard’s turnover wasn’t the deciding factor in the game; it was one of a number of miscues made by the Bucs to continue their slide to the bottom of the league (or top of the draft order, depending on your perspective).
Howard’s impact on the team has largely been the same as his impact in college: hit or miss. Howard exploded two weeks ago for almost 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but in the two games since has combined for three catches for 22 yards.
Howard’s athletic ability and receiving profile are undeniable, but the current instability of this Tampa Bay team is taking a toll on his weekly growth and development in 2017.