Training camp is winding down to a close, so let’s just jump right into the observations.
Sam Darnold had a great day of practice. He was able to find success and move the ball downfield consistently despite the receivers he had to work with. Except for on this one play. Darnold looked to find Jehu Chesson on a post route, but Chesson instead broke to the outside. Which left Ashtyn Davis there to cleanly snatch the pick and run it back the other way.
With Marcus Maye getting the day off, Davis got a lot more run with the ones and he looked like belonged there. On the pick, Davis had perfect coverage and as Chesson broke to the outside Davis had already realized the throw was going over the middle. Davis didn’t hesitate, he made the correct read, attacked the ball and immediately took off the other way. That was the highlight, but the rest of the day was really solid as well. The speed and range this kid has is impressive. He’s had a really good camp, has really come on strong as of late and it’s easy to understand why Joe Douglas drafted him.
Le’Veon Bell ran a 10-yard out-route to the sidelines, the ball thrown just behind him. Bell twisted his body, extended his arms out as he was falling down. Plucked the ball out of the air with just his fingertips and somehow had the strength to complete the catch as he fell to the ground. Bell got a lot of work today and he has gotten a lot of work as a receiver lately.
“I feel like we can find better ways to get him the ball to help him create more explosive plays,” Adam Gase said after practice. “We can get him in space better than what we did last year. I think there was a lot of good that came out what he did in the pass game last year. But I don’t think we ever really gave him enough space to work, because that’s his game. If he gets space to work, he’s going to make guys miss.”
Gase is absolutely correct. Bell caught 66 passes last year which is a lot. But the problem is most of those were check-downs, emergency bailout check-downs that didn’t leave Bell with anywhere to go. Bell has not lost a step, he just needs room to work with. This offensive line isn’t going to give him much room in the run game so it’ll be important for Gase to draw up some routes to create the space for him.
As more guys return to practice, more guys leave practice. I’m certainly not shy about my criticisms of Gase, I just don’t know how much blame he deserves for these injuries. It’s absolutely fair to point out that injuries have been a problem every year he has been a head coach. This isn’t up for debate, it’s factual. You should never place the blame on a coach for injuries when talking about a one-year sample size, but when we’re talking about a four-year sample size, yeah that’s fair game.
So if these injuries continue to be a huge problem during the season then by all means, roast him. Hell, I promise I’ll join you. But right now, between the longer layoff before training camp, the obvious need for a ramp-up period, other teams dealing with an unusually high amount of injuries. It’s difficult for me to place this squarely at Gase’s feet. And it becomes impossible when factoring in the extra precautions they are taking to be careful, sit guys out for longer than they probably need to just to be safe.
Obviously it would be great to get players back to prepare for the season. But it could be a disaster if they get back, then have a set-back and have to miss even more time.
And honestly the biggest problem isn’t the amount of injuries on the team. It’s the amount of injuries to the receiver group. A receiver group that had serious depth issues before any injuries.