One of the biggest frustrations I hear from people starting their careers is that companies want people with experience, but are unwilling to help people get that experience. It's the classic catch-22, and it is no different with the NFL. And going into this weekend's contest, the Falcons will be one of the many teams that will be fielding first time starters.
And with those new starters comes a tendency to panic, sometimes way too soon.
You may read things like:
"Good grief, son...Get it together or you'll be gone in a heartbeat."
"...he screwed up and he needs to go..."
"I think we need to look for some veterans..."
What's notable about those quotes is they all come from this site - TheFalcoholic. And they were all written in 2011, shortly after the debut of our sixth round draft pick, punter Matt Bosher. For those who remember, Bosher started off the season looking as green as split-pea soup and shortly thereafter, Falcons fans took up pitchforks demanding his head.
But something happened during the season - as Bosher got comfortable with the NFL game and what was needed from him, he settled down. He started punting the ball farther than 25 yards. He started looking like a legitimate NFL punter. Fast forward to present day, and you'll see that Bosher is a good punter with a big leg. In hindsight, sticking with the kid early was the right call, and has paid dividends down the road.
So, as we go into the 2013 season, let's keep our experience with Bosher at the front of our minds. Because here's a guarantee of what you will likely see during the season:
Desmond Trufant will get beat - probably many times - and several NFL receivers are going to score touchdowns on him.
Lamar Holmes will get beat - probably quite a few times as well - and Ryan will get pressured or sacked from his side.
Joplo Bartu will get beat - probably by a tight end - and he may not look all that great when it happens.
I say this with confidence, because there is only so much that practice and studying will do for a player (or any professional, for that matter). The biggest lessons for guys like Trufant, Holmes, Alford, Bartu and others are yet to be learned. They are learned through failure on the field, as painful as it is to watch. And it's incredibly likely that we may lose a game here or there because of some of those failures. At the least, you can expect that some games will be closer than they should be due to the lessons being learned.
And as fans, our natural instinct will be to panic - to demand that heads roll for letting new guys take snaps that "should have" gone to a veteran. We will quickly side with the companies who demand experience, but don't realize what it takes for someone to garner it. And if our success over the past five years is any indication, we will likely be wrong in our condemnation of the young guys who aren't cutting it just yet. And while it is entirely possible that some of these players will not work out in the long-term, there is simply no other way to know for sure than to put them on the field of battle.
So, no matter what the outcome of the game on Sunday - remember that these are the early days for guys who will hopefully have long and productive NFL careers. And while it may be painful to watch, just know that the experience they are garnering will make them veterans soon enough.