How JaMarr Chase, Micah Parsons and other 2020 opt-outs are adjusting as NFL rookies

As the NFL preseason draws to a close, several first-round draft picks who chose to opt out of their final collegiate seasons are struggling to stand out on the field. 

The first few weeks of preseason games yielded promising results for Micah Parsons, Jaycee Horn, Rashawn Slater, Gregory Rousseau and Joe Tyron-Shoyinka. They each made a lasting impression in their NFL preseason debuts, and will likely remain in the spotlight going into Week 1.

On the other hand, Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, Caleb Farley and Rashod Bateman are enduring some challenges adjusting to the league. Breaking down the triumphs and losses so far, there are a handful of rookies who still have a long way to go. 

Ja’Marr Chase (5th pick, Bengals)

Through the Bengals’ first couple of preseason games, Chase recorded just one reception for 16 yards. Although he connects well with his former LSU teammate Joe Burrow, he has consistently dropped passes at training camp. During the Bengals’ 17-13 loss to Washington, Chase botched all of his targets and totaled three drops.

Penei Sewell (7th pick, Lions)

Evident from his performance in the Lions’ 26-20 loss to the Steelers, Sewell is still adjusting to playing at right tackle. He has been beaten by his defender six times on 27 preseason pass-blocking snaps, including three resulting in pressures.   

Jaycee Horn (8th pick, Panthers)

Earning a reputation for having an “alpha mentality,” Horn has been the center of the spotlight throughout the Panthers’ preseason. He’s already intercepted three passes and assisted on a fourth during training camp. He was also caught in a couple of scraps before their game against the Colts, and got involved in a shouting match with Ravens’ cornerback Marcus Peters.

Micah Parsons (12th pick, Cowboys)

Finishing his preseason debut with three tackles and a fumble recovery, Parsons made an early impression on the Cowboys. According to Pro Football Focus, Parsons is the highest-graded run defender among all linebackers in the preseason. 

Rashawn Slater (13th pick, Chargers)

Slater had the highest pass-blocking grade among all rookie offensive linemen during week one of the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. He totaled 12 pass-blocking snaps and shined during his NFL debut against the Rams. 

Caleb Farley (22nd pick, Titans)

Farley took the field for the first time in two years against the Buccaneers, and participated in 16 plays on defense and one on special teams. He made a few notable plays during joint practices, but after Farley suffered a series of back injuries and procedures throughout 2020, the Titans are cautiously keeping him on a pitch count. 

Rashod Batemen (27th pick, Ravens)

Bateman was sidelined with a non-contact injury during practice in early August, and recently underwent core-muscle surgery. He is now cleared to run routes, and is expected to return to the Ravens within six to eight weeks. 

Gregory Rousseau (30th pick, Bills)

Rousseau tallied 18 pass-rushing snaps, six pressures and ranks first among rookies with a 33 percent pressure percentage through his first two preseason games. He also beat Penei Sewell for a sack, and added three rushes during his NFL debut.

Joe Tyron-Shoyinka (32nd pick, Buccaneers)

Already referred to as a “beast” and a “monster,” Tyron is proving to be essential to the Buccaneers defense. He finished his second preseason game against the Titans with three tackles, one solo and two assists, and a sack — and applied consistent quarterback pressure. 

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