When Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said “everybody’s gotta get baptized at some point” in reference to Jalen Mayfield’s debut, we all laughed. Well, we weren’t laughing after Week 1.
The prospect of facing Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrove, and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles’ interior defensive line is an intimidating prospect for any guard. For a college right tackle transitioning to a new position, surviving unscathed would take a miracle. Unfortunately for Mayfield, fortune wasn’t favoring him.
Jalen Mayfield looked completely out of his depth in Week 1
The former Michigan Wolverine had possibly the worst debut performance in Atlanta Falcons history. Per Pro Football Focus, Mayfield had an overall grade of 28.8. His run blocking grade was 60, which is perfectly respectable, but his pass blocking was almost non-existent. In fact, his 1.4 pass-blocking grade was the worst in the league and one of the worst since the analytics site began grading games.
It’s important to note that PFF isn’t infallible, but the eye test wasn’t much better for Mayfield. He was consistently beaten by pass rushers and it was a miracle that Matt Ryan wasn’t injured. Unfortunately, the play from him, center Matt Hennessy, and right tackle Kaleb McGary meant that Ryan was rarely given the time to progress through reads, let alone get a pass out on time.
With the pressure rising and the pitchforks out, Jalen Mayfield looked much more like the player Falcons fans were hoping they would get in Week 2. There were still issues and there will still be growing pains to come. His relationship and understanding with Hennessey needs some work, as there are plays when they don’t look to be on the same page.
Jalen Mayfield improved in pass protection against the Bucs
After looking like a liability against the Eagles, though, there was a clear improvement in the loss to the Buccaneers. Mayfield’s pass-blocking grade increased from 1.4 to 31.8. The defensive tackle pairing of Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh will cause problems for every interior offensive lineman in the league. Holding his own, if only for a small percentage of plays, is encouraging.
His overall grade dropped from 28.8 to 28.5, but that was due to a worse run-blocking performance. While run blocking shouldn’t be devalued, the team’s first priority has to be giving their franchise quarterback time in the pocket and Mayfield did a better job at that, even if it was still poor.
The Falcons will want to see further progress, but it isn’t a high bar. If Jalen Mayfield can be comparable to James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, or even what we expected from Josh Andrews, then that’s a successful rookie season. His debut will have planted him firmly in fans’ crosshairs, but he has the opportunity to put it right.