When the Atlanta Falcons announced Jalen Mayfield as the teams’ starting left guard, Arthur Smith and Jalen talked to the media about what it would be like for him to go against one of the best in the league—Fletcher Cox.
"“Everybody’s gotta get baptized at some point.”"
It was a short, but perfect analysis of how his first week would go, he got more than baptized in his first game.
It was one of the worst games by an offensive guard ever, but despite that fact, Arthur Smith went forward with him and the improvements have been evident. Mayfield deserves a ton of credit for what he has done so far this year, it would have been easy for him to give up but instead, he has risen to the challenge of improving.
The Falcons guard has taken huge leaps in the first three games of his career.
The best way to show how the Atlanta Falcon’s rookie left guards year has gone so far is by looking at his Pro Football Focus grades.
In week one against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mayfield had to play one of the best defensive tackles of the past decade in Fletcher Cox. It was not the ideal game for a rookie to make his first start in and it showed as he posted a 1.4 pass-blocking grade, 60 run-blocking grade, and a 28.8 overall grade.
Keep in mind these scores cap out at 100, meaning he got a 1.4 out of 100 in his ability to pass-block in that game, one of the worst scores in Pro Football Focus history.
He allowed a stunning eight pressures, four hurries, two hits, and two sacks. He was much of the reason for Matt Ryan’s ineffectiveness in that game.
Moving onto week two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he had to block two more excellent defensive tackles—Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea. It was another less-than-ideal game for him.
While Jalen Mayfield’s overall grade may have dropped slightly from 28.8 to 28.5 overall, it was his pass-blocking that everyone wanted to see improvement and he did just that. He went from a horrendous 1.4 grade to a still bad—but much better—31.8 grade as a pass-blocker.
To explain his overall grade dropping just slightly, it came from his run-blocking grade dropping from 60 to 33. This was not as big of an issue—as he had shown decent ability to run block—but we all just needed to see him make a jump protecting Matt Ryan.
Now, this is when it gets good, Jalen Mayfield took one of the biggest jumps possible from week two to week three.
Against the New York Giants, Jalen posted a 69.2 run-blocking grade, 74.7 pass-blocking grade, and 73.2 overall grade. There are no words to magnify his incredible jump in play, this is who the real Jalen Mayfield is, not the guy who started the first two games but instead the one who started in the third game.
Here is a quick comparison from Jalen Mayfield’s grades in his three weeks, thanks to Pro Football Focus:
- Week 1: 28.8 overall grade | 60.0 run-blocking grade | 1.4 pass-blocking grade
- Week 2: 28.5 overall grade | 33.0 run-blocking grade | 31.8 pass-blocking grade
- Week 3: 73.2 overall grade | 69.2 run-blocking grade | 74.7 pass-blocking grade
And here are the totals for sacks, hits, hurries, and pressures he has given up this year, also courtesy of Pro Football Focus:
- Week 1: 2 sacks | 2 hits | 4 hurries | 8 pressures
- Week 2: 0 sacks | 2 hits | 1 hurry | 3 pressures
- Week 3: 1 sack | 1 hit | 0 hurries | 2 pressures
Two people deserve huge credit for this—Arthur Smith and Jalen Mayfield.
Arthur Smith decided to stick with him, to believe in him, and to teach him how to play the position, and Jalen Mayfield for being able to stick with it and not give up, to improve his play to the level that he showed against the Giants. Mayfield has a bright future.
If there is one question mark, however, it is the fact that New York does not have a defensive line that is comparable to the Eagles or Buccaneers. They basically have Leonard Willaims and everyone else. But this should not take away from the rookie’s improvements, he is still young and learning to play a new position.
Jalen Mayfield has shown that he can learn quickly, he is only going to get better throughout the season. The Atlanta Falcons might just have something at their left guard spot.