The New York Jets announced to the world that the future was now when they traded away quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and named rookie Sam Darnold their starter for Week 1 in Detroit. The first-round draft pick was being hyped as the next great NFL quarterback long before the Jets took him with the third overall pick in April.
After an impressive preseason, the hype for Darnold only seems to be growing. CBS Local Sports caught up with former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason who says New York is comparing their rookie to a certain talented Eagles QB. Speaking of Philadelphia, Boomer explains why Eagles fans have more to worry about besides the team’s poor preseason.
The NFL Today and Inside The NFL analyst also weighed in on what the Khalil Mack trade means for the Chicago Bears and if it makes them one of his “under the radar” teams to watch this season.
Esiason, along with Ray Lewis, Phil Simms, and James Brown break down this and other NFL storylines all season long each Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime’s Inside The NFL.
CBS Local Sports: Which rookie QB has impressed the most during the preseason?
Boomer Esiason: There’s no question Sam Darnold has, and that’s why he is starting for the New York Jets. He’s been better than advertised. I think that his acceleration and growth over the last two months has been nothing short of pretty amazing, actually, and I think the Jets are visualizing him the same way that the Eagles visualized Carson Wentz when they first handed the reigns to him to start as a rookie.
CBS Local Sports: Which team or teams do you think might be under the radar for a Super Bowl run?
Boomer Esiason: I think the Bengals are under the radar. I think the Ravens are under the radar. Over in the NFC, the NFC is loaded, and it’s really hard to say who’s going to come out of there. But I like the Falcons or the Saints, even though they’re not under-the-radar teams.
They’re teams that are loaded, that got better in the offseason, and I think that’s going to be quite the fight in that division down there in the South.
CBS Local Sports: What do you make of the Khalil Mack trade and what it means for the Bears?
Boomer Esiason: Well, I think’s awesome for the Bears in the short term. And when you add him to the other linebackers that they’ve been drafting over the last couple of years, they’re going to have some speed on that field, and they’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on opposing teams. I know if I were a quarterback in that division, Matthew Stafford and [Aaron] Rodgers or Kirk Cousins, I’d be thinking ‘man, why didn’t my team get Khalil Mack?’
But I think it’s great for the Bears. I think the Bears are really trying to spend money and hiring a new coach and (Bears defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio getting another linebacker, they could be an under-the-radar team too. The problem is they play in one of the toughest divisions in all of football.
CBS Local Sports: How concerned should Eagles fans be with their preseason?
Boomer Esiason: You know, it looks like they’re hung over, right? But I still believe that they have the best combination of offensive line and defensive line in the NFL. They are the number-one team when it comes to controlling the line of scrimmage. Their statistics all point to all that.
It’s one of the reasons why they were able to support a backup quarterback, who really had a great championship game and Super Bowl. But this is a new year. They’re going to be playing the Falcons Week 1, and that is not going to be an easy game, because the Falcons are retooled, and they are loaded as well. So I would be worried. And I think the Giants have gotten significantly better, and I think the Cowboys will be better. So it’s not going to be a cakewalk for them in their own division.
By the way, I don’t think a team has won back-to-back division titles in the NFC East since 2005, so good luck busting that trend.