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The Chiefs’ defense is bad and 5 other takeaways from the 2018 NFL preseason

As the preseason comes to a close, retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz checks in with the rookie QBs and the new helmet rule.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

We’re almost there. The sun is about to set on the 2018 preseason with just 16 games left on Thursday night before the rosters get trimmed to 53 and the Falcons travel to Philadelphia to kick off the season. There are plenty of storylines as we approach the preseason finish line, so let me lay them out for you.

Congratulations to Odell Beckham Jr. on his monster contract extension

I’m generally anti-paying wide receivers the Brinks truck for various reasons. However, there are a few wide receivers who deserve it, and Odell is one of them.

In 2016, Odell won the Baltimore and Dallas game with a short throw and a long run for a touchdown. In 2017, we saw what that offense was without Odell. He’s also a fantastic teammate and works his ass off in the facility. Those catches on Sunday are a product of what he does in practice. Now, it’s resulted in the highest contract in NFL history for a wide receiver.

Rookie quarterbacks getting their first real taste of the NFL

The speed of the game picks up with the ones and twos; rookie quarterbacks figured that out this past week. Baker Mayfield was able to grab some valuable reps with the ones when Tyrod Taylor went down briefly with a hand injury. While Mayfield has done some excellent things in the pocket, especially on third down, he looked a tad bit tentative with the ones. And no, it’s not a knock on Mayfield.

Playing with the ones is a big step up from the twos. With the first unit, there’s often more pressure in your face and the pocket isn’t as comfortable. The defense is bringing more precise pressures and the windows for completions has dwindled. The Browns should have given Mayfield more opportunities with that first unit before the Tyrod injury, but this is the Browns.

Josh Allen got beaten and battered against the Bengals. That hindered any true evaluation with the ones, but I believe there are a few takeaways anyway. As often happens with quarterbacks, once they get hit early and often, they lose their confidence. Allen would drop back in the pocket, look at his first read and then just stand there until he was sacked. He looked slow to process what was happening. Again, there was pressure in his face, but that doesn’t excuse not even looking at his second read. He could still get the start against the Ravens’ talented defense in Week 1. Hopefully his line can hold up better.

Sam Darnold looks the part. His numbers don’t blow you away, but when you watch him play he looks smooth and completely under control. I’m excited to see him progress as the season moves along.

Unfortunately, Josh Rosen was out with a thumb injury against the Cowboys, so it’s been tough to evaluate him.

Lamar Jackson has all the athletic talent we saw in college, and he’s been making spectacular plays with his legs. While Lamar should open the season as the second- or third-string quarterback, he’s showed improvement through the first preseason games of his rookie season.

Can the Chiefs’ defense keep up with the offense?

I’m a Chiefs fan. That’s no surprise to anyone who’s followed me. The Chiefs’ defense was embarrassing on Saturday against the Bears. The Bears sat their starters, so common sense said the Chiefs should have dominated the game. That wasn’t close to the case. The pass rush barely touched Bears QB Chase Daniel all afternoon and the secondary got beat often. It was a poor showing for a unit with some question marks.

Pat Mahomes is legit when he stays in the pocket. I tweeted out two of my favorite passes from Saturday where Mahomes showed his arm strength and ability to stay in the pocket with pressure in his face.

As is common with quarterbacks who have exceptional arm talent and can move, they often escape backward and then to one side to escape pressure. It puts unnecessary strain on accuracy of throws. Luckily for Mahomes, he’s still young and has the arm strength and mobility to make some of those throws. I’d just like to see him climb the pocket more often.

Is there a shifting tide in the NFL regarding player reps in the preseason?

Week 3 of the preseason has typically been the dress rehearsal game for the regular season. Teams game plan and play their starters for at least a half. This past weekend, we saw two young coaches, Sean McVay of the Rams and Matt Nagy of the Bears, hold out their starters.

With the Rams, both starting tackles were out, so Jared Goff was out. That’s a general rule of the preseason: no starting left tackle, no starting quarterback. We saw it in Dallas with Dak Prescott as well. I don’t see this as the wave of the future because far more younger head coaches believe in these dress rehearsals, including Doug Peterson and Kyle Shanahan, who played their starters most or all of the first half.

Offensive line injuries

Two teams that I’m high on have major injury issue on the offensive line. The Panthers entered camp with an above-average offensive line, but it’s taken a major hit. Both tackles are out at the moment. Matt Kalil could possibly be back in time to play the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. Two of the guys fighting for the open spot at left guard are also out right now. The Panthers could have a potent offense with all their weapons on the edge, but they need their offensive line to be healthy.

Carolina’s Week 1 opponent is dealing with injuries and absences upfront too. The Cowboys lost their starting center, Travis Frederick, indefinitely to an auto immune disease. Zack Martin has a bum knee, but could be back for that contest. Tyron Smith’s back and knees are always a concern. Right tackle La’el Collins has a bum ankle. Couple that with rookie Conner Williams struggling, and what was a strength for the Cowboys could now be a major liability.

About the helmet rule ...

Oh look, the officials have drastically reduced the number of helmet rule flags, just like I said they would. There were 51 in the first two weeks and only nine last week.

There are two reasons for that. First, the NFL had a call with the officials last week where they discussed this rule and how it’s being officiated. Second, the starters played most of these games and they’re better tacklers. They have been adjusting to rule changes throughout their careers and are doing it again.

Sure, there were some blown calls, but in general the officials and players have done a great job of adjusting.