2022 NFL Rookies Who Have Disappointed in Training Camp, Preseason
The first week of the 2022 NFL preseason is finished, making this a perfect time to check how rookies around the league are faring.
While some have undoubtedly impressed early in their professional careers, other first-year talents are off to slow starts.
Several of these young players have had lofty expectations placed on them after coming off the draft board early. Right now they are failing to live up to those projections and need to turn things around quickly if they wish to contribute to their teams' successes right out of the gate.
With that in mind, here are five rookies—listed in alphabetical order—who have disappointed in training camp and the preseason.
Jake Camarda, P, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the controversial decision to use a fourth-round draft pick on a punter this year. After one preseason game, they may already want a redo on that choice.
Jake Camarda, the No. 133 overall pick, struggled in his preseason debut. The 23-year-old’s first punt went just 42 yards (and was returned for 13 yards) and his next went for 46 yards. Neither pinned the opposing Miami Dolphins inside their 20-yard line.
Camarda did show some promise in the second half when his third punt of the night pinned the ‘Phins on their 5-yard line. His fourth and final punt was the longest of the night, going 51 yards.
One of Camarda’s worst moments of the exhibition matchup was on a kickoff to open the second half. The ball went out of bounds, giving Miami great field position and raising further concerns about Tampa’s questionable usage of an early Day 3 selection.
While the Georgia product will get plenty of opportunity to show this performance was a fluke—he’s the only punter on the roster right now—the Bucs may eventually consider bringing in some competition to push Camarda for his starting job.
Camarda isn’t the first special teamer who the Buccaneers may have over-drafted in recent years. The club inexplicably used a second-round pick on Roberto Aguayo in 2016, a kicker who lasted just one miserable season with Tampa before his release.
If Camarda continues performing like he did in the preseason opener, this punter could join Aguayo on the list of the team's biggest draft busts ever.
Matt Corral, QB, Carolina Panthers
Although Matt Corral was never expected to contend for the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback job as a rookie, the Ole Miss product must show some drastic improvement to get in that discussion.
Corral’s NFL career got off to a miserable start on Saturday. The 23-year-old saw the field for 21 offensive snaps in Carolina’s preseason matchup with the Washington Commanders, but promising moments were few and far between.
The third-round pick’s first throw was an 11-yard completion to Keith Kirkwood, but it was a struggle from there. Corral wouldn’t notch another completion in the contest, going just 1-of-9 passing on the night.
One of Corral’s worst mistakes—losing a fumble on a sack late in the game—was erased by an illegal contact penalty, but the coaching staff should be concerned about the ball-security issue.
Corral is locked in as the QB3 behind both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold to start the season, but the Panthers should not feel comfortable right now if one of their veterans goes down and the rookie is forced to step into a bigger role.
Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants
The New York Giants drew praise for their selection of Evan Neal at No. 7. They landed a potential franchise offensive tackle—a prospect some believed could go as high as first overall—who filled a major need.
Unfortunately, Neal’s NFL career hasn’t gotten off to a hot start.
The Alabama product has had his struggles during training camp. Nick Falato of Big Blue View pointed out some of the more glaring issues, saying Neal’s “set-depth is inconsistent, he’s guessing too much, and he’s oversetting” in matchups on the edge.
Because of his ho-hum practice performances, it shouldn’t have come as much surprise that Neal struggled in the G-Men’s 2022 preseason opener against the New England Patriots.
Neal started and played 19 offensive snaps at right tackle, looking overmatched on several of them. At one point, the 21-year-old was tossed aside by New England Patriots edge-rusher Anfernee Jennings.
It wasn’t all bad for Neal—he pancaked his mark on the first play of the night and quickly got downfield on a screen—but there is a long way to go before the rookie evolves into a quality starter, let alone the perennial Pro Bowler many expect him to become.
Trevor Penning, OT, New Orleans Saints
One of the main knocks on Trevor Penning ahead of the 2022 draft was the offensive tackle’s tendency to play recklessly. The Northern Iowa product has a habit of toeing and crossing the line of acceptable behavior during competition, an issue already rearing its head in the pros.
The No. 19 overall pick was tossed from a New Orleans Saints practice after three consecutive days of starting fights with his new teammates.
While NFL teams often seek out offensive linemen with a nasty streak who play hard until the whistle is blown, Penning must learn to stop when he hears it and control his temper to avoid unnecessary flags and ejections when he's earning meaningful regular-season snaps.
According to ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, Penning prides himself on his finishing ability and said that it is “always going to be part of my game.”
The 23-year-old acknowledged he needed to improve his technique. That much was obvious during New Orleans’ preseason opener against the Houston Texans.
Veteran edge-rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo recorded a sack after beating Penning with an inside move—a tactic that Saints insider Luke Johnson claimed the rookie tackle has been susceptible to throughout training camp—and generally dominated the matchup throughout the evening.
Although PFF gave Penning a highly impressive 96.4 run-blocking grade in Week 1 of the preseason, his pass-blocking abilities need improvement and the Saints should not feel comfortable putting the young tackle ahead of James Hurst on the depth chart until then.
It’s clear that Penning can become a cornerstone offensive tackle in this league, but he must get more disciplined and controlled before he can enter a starting lineup.
Jalen Tolbert, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys receiving corps appeared thin before training camp even began this year. The unit took another blow when free-agent pickup James Washington suffered a foot injury in an early practice.
Despite the lack of available weapons, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones felt confident his team’s young talent—namely rookie Jalen Tolbert—could fill the void while Washington and Michael Gallup, who is still recovering from a late-season ACL tear, are sidelined.
After Dallas’ preseason opener, it would be hard to fault Jones for reneging on that statement and dipping into the free-agent pile or swinging a trade to acquire a proven veteran.
Tolbert has been struggling to live up to the immense hype surrounding him. Expectations are sky-high for the third-round pick, but it may take some time for him to get adjusted to the quality of competition in the NFL.
That much was obvious in Dallas’ exhibition matchup against the Denver Broncos. Tolbert was targeted seven times across his 40 offensive snaps, catching just two passes for 10 yards.
The South Alabama product’s worst moments came in the second quarter when he dropped a potential fourth-down conversion, and although the throw from quarterback Cooper Rush was tipped, it was still a catchable ball. He was then flagged for a false start two possessions later.
According to SI.com’s Zach Dimmitt, the 23-year-old called the game a “learning experience” and pledged to fix the issues in practice.
If Tolbert doesn’t show rapid improvement, the Cowboys and their injury-ravaged receiver's room could be in for a rough start to the 2022 season.