Following on from Rob Grimwood’s fantastic post on the winners yesterday I’ve been tasked, quite suitably, with the pessimism, the misery, the teams who did sweet FA, or in the case of the Texans. Worse.
Texans get their pants pulled down by the Cardinals.
In one of the weirder trades of recent times the Arizona Cardinals acquired one of the best three receivers in the game for essentially a bag of chips, and not a nice bag of chips, those “baked” one’s by walkers. It’s another moves by GM/Head coach/Supreme Leader Bill O’Brien which has stymied the masses. Oh, and they then went and signed Randall Cobb on a 3 year deal to try and placate the masses. Weird.
Additionally they took on the FULL CONTRACT for David Johnson, the full $10.2m contract, for a back who has struggled with injury and form since breaking onto the scene a few years ago. That’s a lot of cash for a running back especially when you’ve got one of the better pass catching backs in the league on your roster already in the shape of Duke Johnson. For the record, I like DJ and I hope he can get back to form, but it’s still a lot of cash to spend on an RB.
David Njoku has some competition, and apparently he welcomes it.
After being drafted at 29 in the 2017 draft there were high hopes for the super-athletic tight end in Cleveland, but a series of niggling injuries and being unable to get together a decent run of games has hit his stock and led his team to bring in Austin Hooper on a big money deal from the Falcons. Neither of them are really blocking TEs, so it’s direct competition, and in those cases the more expensive man usually get the bulk of it all.
Bengals fall even further behind in the North.
It’d be remiss of me to dampen the spirits of my team and their fans even more. After being quoted by reporters as “being active in free agency” they once again sat and watched as players who’d have improved their roster immediately were picked up for decent deals, the likes of Jack Conklin to the Browns on a 3 year, 42m deal. Nick Kwiatowski to the Raiders for 13m a year both positions of need for the Bengals, and both strengthen AFC teams.
The Ravens have also made moves over the last week which further strengthen them, bringing in Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers to add even more to their defensive line, then getting a pick back for Hayden Hurst. They’re taking full advantage of having a rookie QB on a cheap deal.
And the Steelers will be welcoming back the 400lb man at QB which might make them better at that position for next year.
Josh Allen is digging it, but I’m not too sure.
The Bills paid a whole hell of a lot to Stefon Diggs, a 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th for Diggs and a 7th round pick… It’s a lot more than I thought the Vikings would get for someone who so clearly wanted out and bitched and cried about it publicly.
The Vikings get a ton of picks and him off their payroll. Diggs gets to join a team with an inaccurate QB and probably get further frustrated further down the road. Pairing the best route runner in the league with the least accurate QB is an interesting one, hopefully for them it’s a little chicken and egg and it bring Allen up.
However, I do get the trade, there’s blood in the water with the Pats possibly losing Brady and their offensive issues on the whole. So while it’s a big payout it could work out well for them.
They gave Jimmy Graham HOW MUCH?!
Why on earth would anyone be money on Jimmy Graham? I wasn’t sure he’d get picked up at all, let alone on a 2 year, $16m deal. But Matt Nagy and the Bears seem determined to keep on paying up at tight end. One of the more perplexing moves done yesterday.
They’re also still without a functional quarterback and supposedly interested in Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. The Bengals apparently want a 3rd for Dalton, the Jags reportedly want to keep Foles (They take a big dead cap hit if he leaves so may as well keep him) Both are upgrades on Trubisky, but still. It’s not an enviable situation.
The NFL season is over which means 2 things, 1 – it’s time to be sad for a few months until the NFL Draft and 2 – You now have a lot of time on your hands.
In this series of articles, we try and take care of number 2.
Today, it’s the turn of the Arizona Cardinals…
Entering the season
The Cardinals were seen as the wildcard in which everyone wanted to see them do well, but wouldn’t be overly vocal about it.
With more changes than you can shake a kaleidoscope at, the Cardinals not only got a new HC in Air raid specialist Kliff Kingsbury but also swiftly changed their franchise QB when they took Kyler Murray 1st overall and shipped 2018 1st round selection Josh Rosen off to Miami.
Whilst success wasn’t necessarily expected, forward progress was (well, unless the refs blew it dead first….).
During the season
The Cardinals expectedly had teething problems; Kyler Murray adjusting to the pace of the game and Kliff Kingsbury struggling to implement the offence meant that the Cardinals had to wait until week 5 for their first win against the Bengals.
Despite the improvements as the season wore on, they did not defeat a team with a winning record outside the division all season and only defeated the Seahawks in week 16, a game that meant very little to the Seahawks so it’s arguable at how far they have come since this time last year (NFC West is always a throw of the dice regardless of gap in quality of team), especially when you consider they only put up over 350 yards of total offence 8 times this season, though 3 of those instances came in the last 3 weeks of the season.
Kyler Murray ended up with a respectable rookie season and left the impression that he will be better for the run. Inhis rookie season he accounted for 4266 yards, with 544 coming on the ground, a 20:12 TD/INT ratio on a 64.4 pass completion %.
The Cardinals transitioned to Kenyan Drake at running back, effectively storing David Johnson in the closet but the backfield was a mess all season. At wide receiver, Christian Kirk (when healthy) built up a nice rapport with his quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald popped up every now and then.
On the defensive side, things didn’t improve all that much when Patrick Peterson returned from suspension, though Chandler Jones continues to rock the air guitar, doing so 19 times this season.
No-one was expecting the Cardinals to be legitimate playoff contenders this early on but maybe on the basis of their 2019 showing, a playoff berth may not be too far away if they continue on their upward trajectory. The division strength would be a concern though.
The Cardinals will look to address that porous defence and also give some more help to the offensive line which has been awful for a few years now. Whilst they wont have the #1 pick this year, they will be picking high up in the first round. They still have holes on the offensive line which will need a few darts thrown at it this year too.
In terms of current personnel, the Cardinals may want to try and find David Johnson a new home but his salary may be an issue. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald will no doubt be coaxed into staying for another season and it remains to be seen whether Larry has the appetite to keep it going when there is no chance of a Super Bowl in the near future (he may be tempted in trying to reach Jerry Rice’s receptions record which he is only x away from though).
The nucleus of the team is there with a lot of youth being brought in from the plethora of draft picks they’ve had, especially on offence so the offseason will be spent ensuring the chemistry and rapport continues to build.
The foundations are set, time to build the house.
Fun Fact – Arizona were 30th in terms of 3rd down conversions allowed in 2019 but 1st overall on 4th down conversion allowed on defence, whilst on offence they were 21st on 3rd down but 3rd on 4th down.
It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Depending on your outlook on such things, that’s good or bad.
In this series of articles, we take a look back over those 8 glorious weeks of pigskin action and also project how the 2nd half of the season will play out.
Kansas City Chiefs 5-3
Oakland Raiders 3-4
LA Chargers 3-5
Denver Broncos 2-6
Midseason Grade: B
How has it gone so far?
The offensive juggernaut picked up where they left off. Patrick Mahomes has spread the ball around with ease despite missing Tyreek Hill for most of the 1st half of the season. A trade on the eve of the season for LeSean McCoy had solidified the backfield and Travis Kelce remains the league’s best tight end.
However the achilies heel is once again the defence. In particular it has been the Chiefs inability to defend the run. Only the winless Bengals have given up more yards on the ground and teams have found a formula to beat the Chiefs.
Having tasted defeat in 3 of the past 4 contests the Chiefs will be anxious to get Mahomes back from injury to allow the offence the greatest opportunity to make up for the defensive deficiencies.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Chiefs are comfortable within the division and the 3 losses they have tasted were against quality opponents. They take care of business in the games that you would expect them to do so. They will not be concerned with regular season record however as they will be concentrating on what they want to achieve in January.
Fixing the run defence will have to be a top priority as the ground game becomes more of a factor as we get towards playoff time. The offence will continue to cause problems for anyone and outside of games with the Vikings and Patriots, the Chiefs will be big favourites in the other contests they have left to play.
Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 – Division Winners
How has it gone so far?
The team of hard knocks has very quickly moved on from Antonio Brown to post some decent performances in the first half of the season.
Losses to the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers and Texans are nothing to be ashamed of. Derek Carr has been very accurate, completing over 72% of his passes as he has found himself 2 new best friends. Darren Waller has been a revelation at tight end, he leads the team with 46 receptions,over twice the amount of the next leading receiver.
Josh Jacobs is arguably one of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year honours with 620 rushing yards from the 7 games played.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Winnable looking games against the Jets, Bengals and Chargers provide plenty of optimism for the Raiders in the second half of the season.
The impending move to Vegas should hopefully mean plenty of motivation to give the fans over in the Bay area a good send off.
Look out for the continued development of the 2 young playmakers mentioned as the Raiders may have stumbled across a nice young core to develop with.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9
How has it gone so far?
In the conversation for the most underwhelming team of the 2020 season, the Chargers have fallen off massively from where they were last year. The offensive line has been a problem throughout and what feels like the standard injury curse has once again struck. Melvin Gordon backed himself in a contract hold out in a move that appears to have backfired having been outperformed by Austin Ekeler during the campaign.
Mike Williams found the endzone on 10 occasions last campaign but has yet to find pay dirt this time around. In fact Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry are the only 2 skill positions outside of the running backs that have scored a touchdown for the Bolts so far.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Looking for consistency, the Chargers need to stop beating themselves. 2 games against the Chiefs along with difficult looking matchups against the Vikings and Packers make the road ahead look difficult. WIth 5 divisional games still ahead though, with a heavy fair wind the Chargers aren’t quite out of things just yet.
Getting Michael Badgeley back on the field will help also as even if the Chargers get into winning positions the find a way to lose.
Regular Season Record Prediction:7-9
Midseason Grade: D
How has it gone so far?
As you would expect a Joe Flacco led offence to look, a little pedestrian. Ranked just 28th in points scored at just 15.6 per game the defence is keeping the Broncos competitive. That unit ranks 8th in terms of points against so its clear to see where the issues are in Mile High. An 0-4 start has been followed by a 2-2 stretch for a team struggling to establish an identity.
Philip Lindsay is still the most valuable offensive piece but despite his superior production he is stuck in a timeshare with Royce Freeman. Von Miller is having a relatively quiet season with only 4 sacks so far on the campaign.
Rest of Season Outlook:
After criticizing the defensiveness of offensive play calling Joe Flacco has miraculously picked up an injury so Brandon Allen is in at QB. The schedule does not look kind with Vikings, Texans and Chiefs all still to come. The Broncos would have been hoping for more of a boost from Vic Fangio than they have received and this has a feeling of a 1 and done season.
Development of the young wide receiving core will be crucial as the Broncos will hope that Drew Lock will be able to take over this offence in the non to distant future.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 3-13
San Francisco 49ers – 7-0
Seattle Seahawks – 6-2
Los Angeles Rams – 5-3
Arizona Cardinals – 3-4-1
Midseason Grade: A
How has it gone so far?
Without doubt the surprise package of the season, the 49ers are not so much dark horses, but sparkly rainbow unicorns, with the only undefeated record in the NFC. How are they racking up the W’s?
A perfect blend of creative and consistent running and a tough tackling defense led by rookie Nick Bosa and wily veteran CB Richard Sherman. Jimmy Garoppolo has been upright all season and only sacked 11 times. He needs to cut down interceptions (7) but at a nearly 70% completion rate Garoppolo is just fine. The strong running game is led by a three-headed monster of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert who have combined for over 1000 ground yards already and 10 combined touchdowns.
The receiving unit has been a big letdown, with the exception of All-Pro TE George Kittle, so a mid-season trade for Emmanuel Sanders from Denver was a welcome boost.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The remaining part of the 49ers schedule is much harder than the first half. Two matchups against the Seahawks, plus the Ravens, Saints and Packers. The 49ers will not go 16-0 regardless of however hard they run or tackle.
The two Seahawks games will define the season, and will provide the difference between a division win and a wild-card. Emmanuel Sanders will need to strike up immediate rapport with Jimmy G, as ridiculously his nine touchdown passes this season have gone to nine different team-mates. The return of versatile FB Kyle Juszczyk in the final third of the season will be a big boost.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a wild card)
Midseason Grade: B+
How has it gone so far?
The Seahawks have not been convincing in 2019, winning their six games by a combined 32 points, including two one point wins. Regardless Russell Wilson is having a spectacular season, 2,127 yards, 17 touchdowns and just the one int in 8 full games.
Elsewhere the offence has been performing admirably, RB Chris Carson is on track for 1,200-1,300 yards and the mix of veteran WR Tyler Lockett and rookie WR DK Metcalf is providing a winning combination.
LBs Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright continue to play at a Pro-Bowl level and the addition of DE Jadeveon Clowney may not have yielded gaudy sack totals, but he leads the team in tackles for loss and forced fumbles.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Seahawks have the 49ers clearly in their line of sight, and the two games they face against each other will be box office television both times. It’s all NFC games for Seattle for the rest of the season and six more wins is a realistic target. Seattle and San Francisco should have safely punched their ticket to the post-season by Week 16, so the Seahawks hosting the 49ers in Week 17 will likely determine who wins the division.
CenturyLink Field is no longer a fortress for the Seahawks, but they will use the wet-weather to squeak a W17 win and with it a division title.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a division win)
Midseason Grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Rams so far, starting with a three game win streak, followed by a three game crash, before crushing two awful teams.
In the space of three weeks (2-4) L.A. put a beat down on the Saints, scraped past the Browns and then leaked 55 against Tampa. Jared Goff is on pace for 5,000 yards and WR Cooper Kupp is looking like an All-Pro. Kupp’s 220 yard outing at Wembley will take a long time to forget.
Todd Gurley has flattered to deceive, his 7 touchdowns hiding a rather unimpressive season so far. LBs Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews are on pace for double digit sacks. The biggest impact on defense is CB Jalen Ramsey who was traded in from the Jaguars in October. Ramsey is currently undefeated as a Rams star.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Super Bowl hangover is for real.
A tough run of games against Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco are sandwiched between two contests against the Cardinals. There have been five receiving yardage leaders on the team in eight games, and Todd Gurley has not had a single 100 yard rushing game this year.
Two home MNF games (Chicago and Seattle) will put the Rams in the spotlight, but they are not going to make the playoffs because their offensive line is their weak link, that will cost them dearly in the Winter months.
Regular season record prediction: 9-7
Midseason Grade: C+
How has it gone so far?
Three wins and a tie in half a season is above expectation for a Cardinals team expected to be near the foot of the conference whilst they let rookie QB Kyler Murray settle in to the team.
The three wins were against weak opponents by a combined 10 points. Murray has shown improvement from his first four games, but he has been let down by a poor running game, which now has former Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake moving to Arizona from Miami.
The immortal WR Larry Fitzgerald is still churning away, and with an upsurge in targets could get another 1,000 season under his belt. David Johnson is still underperforming and he has more touchdowns catching than he does rushing.
Rest of Season Outlook:
There are not a lot of winnable games left for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, ending in two tough road-trips to Seattle and L.A. Kyler Murray is going to see better days as the Cardinals move into a new era.
The youth movement will soon takeover throughout the roster, with WRs Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella making competition healthy of offense. Arizona still need help on the defense and offensive line, but another impactful draft could see them competitive as early as 2020.
One small shoutout to LB Terrell Suggs, coming up to his 38th birthday, as he is still performing at a high level – five sacks, four forced fumbles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Oh and he can act too if you have seen Ballers.
By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)
Week 4 is done and dusted! It goes so quick! Before you get ready for the waiver wires in fantasy and don your NFL shirt to go to the Wembley game, here are the main stories to take away from last weekend’s action!
The New Monsters of The Midway
We knew going into the game at Soldier Field on Sunday that the strength of both the Vikings and Bears lied on the defensive side of the field. We left the game without a doubt that one of those defences is far superior to the other and that defence belongs to the Chicago Bears.
The loss of Vic Fangio has not led to any drop off as Chuck Pagano is marshalling a defence that is the most loaded in the league. On pace for 32 takeaways, 2nd in the league for sacks and 2nd in the league for pts allowed per game this unit as awesome.
Khalil Mack is obviously the star but bear in mind they did this Sunday without Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks, the sky is literally the limit for these monsters.
He probably will not win it, but, Christian McCaffrey should be considered for MVP honours. Remember what MVP stands for? Is there any single player more valuable for their team than the Panthers running back?
Playing in a ridiculous 98.3% of the offensive snaps so far on the season, McCaffrey once again was the offence on Sunday. A career high of 37 touches produced 93 rushing yards on 27 carries and 86 further yards through the air on 10 catches. The all important touchdown was also produced inevitably by CMC as the Panthers improved to 2-0 without Cam Newton.
Carolina is proving it can survive without their grandma impersonating quarterback, they will keep everything crossed they don’t have to deal with life without #22.
Step Away From The Kliff Edge
Remember when we were excited to see what Kliff Kingsbury would bring to the NFL? A promise of an air raid offence, ran at speed that defences would have no clue of how to stop it.
Well that was the advert at least.
The reality? How do I put this politely? A bit of a snooze fest. Yes the Cardinals run a lot of plays, that is backed up by the fact Kyler Murray is averaging 42.5 pass attempts per contest so far in his short (no pun intended) NFL career. The problem is the lack of explosiveness, it’s all a bit too safe, a bit too dink and dunk.
Of course the problem for the Cardinals is that’s all well and good until you get behind on the scoreboard as was the case again this weekend. They are not built to play from behind and the supposed revolution is certainly yet to materialise.
Feed The Chubb
It took 4 weeks but the “real” Browns showed up in Baltimore. Powered behind a career day from Nick Chubb, Cleveland dominated the Ravens by a score of 40-25 to take the early lead in the AFC North.
Chubb gashed the Ravens for 165 yards and 3 scores on the ground and unsurprisingly with that level of production on the ground, Baker Mayfield looked the best has all season in this one. Jarvis Landry also has a career day with 167 yards receiving as the much talked about group finally produced.
All of a sudden things are looking up in NorthEast Ohio and the talk of Freddie Kitchens being in over his head and Baker Mayfield being overrated will be silenced for a week.
If the Browns continue with this formula they should be the team to beat in the division, as the saying goes “feed the Chubb and he will score”.
Vontaze- Far From Burfict
In quite possibly the shortest ever takeaway….. Goodbye and don’t ever come back! How on Earth this guy was made a team captain I will never know. His shot on Jack Doyle was disgusting and the league has rightfully acted by suspending him for the remainder of the season. Fingers crossed he never sees a field again!
Clever Trevor earns his Spurs
Staying with the Raiders, when the Green Bay Packers traded WR Trevor Davis to the Raiders after Week 2 the transaction barely made a ripple. Now it’s making a king size bar of Fruit and Nut.
In the first quarter of the Raiders Week 4 victory over the Colts Davis returned a punt one yard but remained on the field. Chucky must have been impressed by Davis’s running ability when he faced him in the 2019 pre-season, as he gave the former Cal star the handoff on first down. The result a spectacular 60 yard rushing touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Brought in as a return specialist Davis is no replacement for AB but he has an excellent opportunity to impress.
The development continues for Davis at Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground on Sunday against an opponent he will be very familiar with from his former NFC division. Davis may be a gadget player, but if he continues to make highlight package plays then we could see his role expand. Not a bad debut to make in Silver and Black.
Kerryon impressing please
Sid James, if he would have been a Detroit Lions fan, would have plenty of reasons to unleash his trademark cackle in years past at a moribund running game in the Motor City, but it’s all change now.
Once considered a laughing stock, and even cursed since the shock retirement of Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders, Detroit went a stupendous 70 games without a 100-yard game on the ground from an individual player. That was finally called to a halt in 2018 when Kerryon Johnson finally reached the century mark. Week 4 2019 saw Johnson have his third 100+ yard game in just 14 career contests.
If he remains injury free Johnson can establish himself as a top 10 NFL RB. 26 carries at almost five yards a carry against the Chiefs will be pleasing Coach Beardtricia. Johnson had been having a rough start to the season, failing to reach a ground-based half-century between weeks 1-3.
This game may not have resulted in a Lions win, but it shows Kerryon is reliable and on his way, if the climate controlled dome wind goes in his direction, for a 1,000 yard plus rushing season.
Somebody is melting away their window of opportunity
There is a QB who is second in the NFL in passing yards, has recorded four consecutive 300+ yard performances, is third in TD passes thrown and is completing over 70% of his passes. This is the same QB who leads the league in interceptions thrown and has managed a maximum of 24 points in four games to date. Stand up, or in the case of a rookie led offensive line, sit down on your backside Matt Ryan.
There is no denying Ryan is a savvy veteran passer who knows how to move the ball, is accurate, and calm in the face of pressure, but 1-3 is not what Falcons fans were expecting. Ryan was one period of greatness from a Super Bowl win just three years ago, and expectations were high coming into the 2019 season.
Ryan is being let down by a sub-par running game especially Devonta Freeman who is yet to find the end-zone through the ground or in the air, and is averaging a six-year career low 3.3 yards a carry. The Falcons have winnable games coming up, but they need the running game to mirror Ryan’s consistent output.
The irony of Matty Ice needing to warm up the rest of the team is not lost, but he needs to cut out the interceptions and quickly. When you have Julio Jones catching the ball you know there is a game-breaking threat available on any play.
The weapons are in place for a team to be performing better than the 1-3 record they currently boast at the quarter point, let’s just hope Ryan goes full Elsa in October.
More tanks than an aquatic superstore
The narrative before the season was that the Miami Dolphins would be tanking for Tua (Tagovailoa) and nothing has been done on the field to contradict that position. The only problem is there are three other teams vying for absolute dreadfulness and possibly a shot at the number one pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
The single most disastrous team in the NFC is the Washington Redskins, who gave their rookie QB Dwayne Haskins his first NFL regular season outing in Week 4. Poor Haskins looked out of place and frankly befuddled by a Giants defense that scares nobody. Three interceptions in relief of Case Keenum will be a hard debut game to forget for Haskins.
In the AFC the Bengals and the Broncos are also winless. At least Joe Flacco is helping Denver to be competitive. Devastating last second field-goal losses in Week 2 (v Chicago) and this past week against Jacksonville will be hard to cope with. In Ohio the Bengals are back bungling. The red rifle Andy Dalton has suffered 19 sacks in four contests and seems to be struggling making reads and avoiding pressure. Dare it be mentioned, but is it time to give fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley a shot in the stripy helmet before the mid-point of the season?
The Dolphins are still favourites to finish the season 0-16, but this is going to be a bizarre race to the finishing line with a Redskins team that will be matching Miami week by week for on-field inadequacy.
The fact they play each other in Week 6 will be entertaining, with the winner losing their grip on the keys to the tank.
Singing the praises of two superb secondaries
When you make Tom Brady look like a backup and hold a potential league MVP to no touchdowns then you need to be recognised for doing your job well.
Both the Buffalo Bills and the New Orleans Saints secondaries excelled in Week 4, one in a six-point loss and one in a two-point win. Perhaps the biggest single difference maker was the Saints third-year corner Marshon Lattimore who punished Cowboys number one WR Amari Cooper all day. Cooper caught a season low 62.5% of balls thrown his way, had his lowest yards per target (6) and was held under 10 yards a catch for the first time in 2019.
Often corners and safeties get recognised for big plays such as the Rams Marcus Peters who returned the pigskin to the house against the Buccs on Sunday just a few plays after being burnt alive by Mike Evans for a 60 plus yard score. However, it is the performance that might not show up on the individual’s defensive stat sheet, but is instead reflected in the game’s final outcome that is the true definition of excellence.
Between the Saints and the Bills secondaries we could be looking at a couple of All Pro’s and at least four Pro Bowl nods. When you hold Tom Brady under a 50% completion rate you deserve a cheer, and was it not for the injury to Josh Allen this could have been a week where secondaries clearly decided the fate of their team.
It’s no surprise the Bills and the Saints are both 3-1. This is a passing premium league, so if you can neutralise the primary threat you stand a good chance of being alive when it comes to January.
By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)
Hungry for more? We’ve got some more takeaways for you to digest looking back at week 2 in the NFL…
Week 2 saw two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks pitted against each other, as Kyler Murray faced the red hot Lamar Jackson.
There appears to be a pattern developing from both teams, with Baltimore dominating early and Arizona dominating late. The single biggest play of the game was not a touchdown or turnover, it was a frozen rope from L-Jax to rookie wide receiver Hollywood Brown, a 41 yard sideline streak on 3rd and 11 in the 4th quarter. That play alone dispels the myth that he has no touch on his passes. Murray was again let down by a non-existent running game in the desert, David Johnson was a pathetic 7 carries for 14 yards and 1 catch for 1 yard.
The Murray Show is a prime time viewing experience but without any resemblance of a running game it’s going to be an exhausting season with far more Sports Centre highlights than wins.
Gold – always believe
in your Jimmy G
The San Francisco 49ers are named and kitted out to remember the 1849 Gold Rush, when folks flocked to California in pursuit of something special, that was hidden amongst the rocks.
The 49ers are already starting to shine, after a quiet but highly efficient 2-0 start. 72 points and two road wins is a fantastic start against any opponent, and following that up with a home opener against a spluttering Steelers team this could be the most under the radar 3-0 team in the league.
Last season Jimmy G only lasted three games, now he is hoping for a post-season berth. Perhaps the biggest indicator of success is the fact Garropolo has only been sacked once all season, but the news that perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley is out for up to half the season is a huge blow. The Niners will need to find a replacement immediately to fill a huge hole.
Big call for Big Len
but Big bust
The Jaguars will face the Texans at Wembley in their divisional rematch, here’s hoping the game is a better matchup than this forgettable encounter in Week 2.
Well almost unforgettable, as this game came down to a botched two-point conversion when Leonard Fournette failed to take a handoff the required two yards for paydirt. Until that point the NFL’s new moustachioed maestro Gardner Minshew had been conducting the Jaguars orchestra to perfection. Then Doug Marrone decided to opt for the triangle player to play the tune, and he hit a bum note. Music to the Texans fans ears, who have now moved to 1-1.
The Jaguars are still failing to impress and this is frustrating the hell out of their star defensive player Jalen Ramsay who has been quoted this week to say he just wants to ‘f%&*king win’. No one blames him, and whilst Minshew is a media darling and a cult hero, he is not winning games and that is all that matters.
Buffaload of this!
Buffalo are now officially the front runners to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East;
Miami, well are Miami. New York just lost their star QB until further notice whilst the Bills are quietly going about their work.
Yes, they didn’t beat much in the form of the Giants and
their back-to-back “road games” were in the same stadium not far from home. But
all you can do is do your job and beat what is in front of you. No fuss, no hassle.
After their first drive ended in a punt, 3 straight touchdowns for the Bills
was enough to get the W. Josh Allen had a much cleaner game; No turnovers
(after 4 last week), over 8yds per attempt, completing passes to 8 different
They have a solid Defence and enough of offence (though we’ll
have to monitor Devin Singletary’s injury) to make it to the post season,
especially when the other likely middling teams such as the LA Chargers,
Pittsburgh, Cleveland are stuttering.
I’m not expecting a divisional challenge as such to the
Patriots, but they are certainly building towards being the team that will have
first dibs on divisional title aspirations when Belichick and co come back to
Steelers digging a
Pit for themselves
The roses are wilting in Pennsylvania and is Mike Tomlin a dead man walking in terms of head coaching tenure at the Steelers?
A deflating loss to the Seahawks which in a vacuum cant do too much in the way of wildcard hopes, but now at 0-2 they are staring down the barrel already with the injury fallout. Long road trip west next week to face the 49ers which is not too far from the crime scene of their shocking defeat last year against the Raiders.
You cannot overstate the importance of this game and a loss here for the Steelers and they are already done if they aren’t done already;
The back end of the schedule is not too difficult with matchups against Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Cardinals and Colts along with 2 divisional games vs the Bengals but if they are 2-4 going in to the week 7 bye, they may struggle to make the postseason. Add in to that the loss of Big Ben for the season with an elbow injury, James Conner is nicked up and the defence being even worse than the offence. I’m not saying the final nail is in the coffin yet because i think Mason Rudolph is serviceable, but the Steelers franchise landscape as we know it could be all change and Mike Tomlin may be about to throw in the terrible towel.
On a more positive note, Steelers #1 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster became the youngest player to reach 2,500 career receiving yards in NFL history, previously held by randy Moss (per NFL Research). Might take him a bit longer to get the next 2,500 though…
Even at this early stage, the Packers take a strong grip of
the NFC after their dominant 1st quarter performance vs divisional
rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.
TD throws the Jamaal Williams and Geronimo Allison
complimented with a TD run by Aaron Jones saw the Packers blow away the Vikings
D in the first home game for the Packers.
From that point on, the Packers always had the number of the
Vikings and just whittled down the time on the game clock.
It could however, have been a different story if Kirk
Cousins was not picked off late in the 4th at the Green Bay 8 yards
line on a pass intended for Diggs. The throw itself was very reckless; 1st
down, scrambling to the right, on the back foot and lofted in to double
coverage. Not a good decision.
This is another row to put into the table of “Times Kirk
Cousins didn’t show up in big games” database. Throw the ball away and dial up
another play. Redzone turnovers are brutal in this league.
With the win, the Packers now have not only a game cushion over their 2 fiercest division rivals, but also a win, meaning that at worst, they can only split the series with the Bears and the Vikings should Head to head come in to play at the end of the regular season. Judging by the performances of the 3 teams so far, it probably wont.
Injuries Are A Real Kicker
The LA Chargers would have been a popular Superbowl pick for many in the off season , 2 weeks in and that looks like a very optimistic prediction.
A team that feels as though it has to deal with more injuries than any other in the league has once again been struck with the dreaded curse and is missing key players in Derwin James, Hunter Henry, Russell Okung. Following the game against Detroit on Sunday we may be able to add Joey Bosa and Adrian Phillips to that unwanted list and I haven’t even mentioned Michael Badgley yet.
Why is the kicker significant? Well despite all of the injuries and a generally sloppy game the bolts still could have escaped Ford Field with a victory if they had a solid kicking performance but they left 6 points on the field with 2 missed field goals.
It would be harsh to criticise a punter stepping in whilst Badgley recovers but if the Chargers are serious about a deep playoff run then surely they should bring in a specialist!
Real Life Madden
“He scores when he wants,” the chant heard in many a UK football stadium should be aimed squarely at Patrick Mahomes.
278 yards and four touchdowns would be a decent stat line by the end of the game but that was what Mahomes delivered in the 2nd period as the Chiefs quickly erased a 10 point deficit with the most productive quarter of play delivered by a QB since Drew Brees way back in 2008. The last 5 passes that he attempted to close the quarter covered 42, 32, 43, 27 and 39 yards respectively with 3 of those bombs finding the endzone. Arguably his best pass was one thrown back across his body and was called back by penalty, had it stood he would have had over 300 yards in the quarter.
Last week it was Sammy Watkins lighting up the secondary, this week it was Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Moral of this story…. Mahomes is nothing short of incredible, whoever is lining up at wide receiver for the Chiefs he puts up video game numbers. A real treat for the fans in the coliseum, who witnessed the final game where the baseball dirt was present on the field. Small victories.
Why Draft A Top 10 Clipboard Holder?
Interceptions, poor play and regression. Unfortunately for fans of the Giants and the Dolphins, they are the 3 things that initially spring to mind when I think about Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Another disappointing Sunday saw more touchdowns thrown to their respective opponents as opposed to their own teams. The real frustration here though is that nobody is really surprised!
Every man and his dog has seen Eli get worse and worse over the past few years and as fun as the occasional flash of Fitzmagic is, it happens far too infrequently for a starting quarterback.
Look at the side-lines and the potential starting quarterbacks of the future are standing there holding clipboards. Josh Rosen was a top 10 pick a year ago and Daniel Jones was the Giants first rounder this year, finally it’s time for Jones to get on the field when it matters, surely it’s time for Rosen too?
ANYONE GOT CHANGE OF A DOLLAR?
Couple of teams need a Quarterback! Injury at the starting QB position is the most brutal and immediately scuppers your chances of winning a Super Bowl. They are called backups for a reason. Teddy Bridgewater, who turned down a chance to start in Miami and preferred to stay patient in New Orleans has finally got his chance after years of turmoil and seemingly made the right choice (and only choice; it would have done even if he never played for the Saints because you don’t want to be in South Florida at the moment).
Brees is expected to miss around 6 weeks with the thumb injury which is causing Brees to not even be able to grip a football. Yikes.
The 32nd pick in the 2014 draft out of Louisville has a 17-12 record as a starter, 57% completion percentage and a 29-23 TD:INT ratio thus far in his career. He now gets the chance to show everyone if he still has it and is more than just a backup.
The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and potentially the Carolina Panthers may have their secondary signal callers in action this weekend. The Fantasy waiver wires will be burning this week!
In a new weekly feature, here are our 10 top things we are most looking forward to this week in the NFL.
-Zeke and destroy-
Ezekiel Elliot, the newly $90m, 6 year contracted running back.
Will his offseason away from the team in Cabo turn in to rustiness and on field lack of rhythm and chemistry with Dak? Probably not, especially seeing as though Tanner Lee was flown out to Cabo for Zeke to get the requisite reps. That being said, it’s been far from ideal for the Dallas Cowboys with contract stories literally in every position group in their team. Dak and Amari Cooper will probably be dealt with next offseason now judging by the other contracts that were settled over the past few weeks but now it’s time for America’s Team to get on the field and put away the Giants.
If they can put all of it behind them, there is Super Bowl calibre team here. Regardless of how well they do this season, surely all eyes are on how Zeke slots back in to the operation of this offence.
-How Charged up is the LA running game-
L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has stuck a marker in the Californian sand with a refusal to negotiate RB Melvin Gordon’s contact until the season is complete. A bold move, but you don’t want such a big distraction as you start a season with QB Philip Rivers in the twilight of his Hall of Fame worthy career.
With Gordon still disgruntled and not reporting this means the powder-blue ball pounders will be Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Ekeler has proved to be a quality plug and play, but the real excitement lies with Jackson and his burst.
The Chargers are a balanced team that are pretty safe locks for a playoff spot, and if Ekeler and Jackson can find early rhythm then they will be saying “Melvin who?” by January.
-Chiefs grabbing Shady-
K.C. head coach Andy Reid helped LeSean McCoy to become a superstar in Philadelphia, and now the two are reunited. Grabbing McCoy, who was unceremoniously cut by the Buffalo Bills, is a move that will be making Chiefs fans scratch their heads.
For fantasy fans they will be doing more that scratching, they will be pulling clumps of hair out. RB Damien Williams proved he can manage the spotlight and is a quality ball-catcher. Darwin Thompson has shown too that he can pound the rock, but now you add in a veteran back who is on the downward spiral.
Reid will reignite McCoy’s career as will being in the same huddle as Patrick Mahomes. So tough to project his immediate impact, but stay tuned Week 1.
-I’ll take a Big Mack-
Khalil Mack was on his way to making Aaron Donald sweat for the Defensive Player of the Year, was it not for a small injury that slowed him down a tad.
Mack was the biggest news of the start of the 2018 season, and twelve months later he has a year of better appreciating his surroundings in Chicago. The Bears defense is the best unit in the NFL, and with tackling machine Roquan Smith by his side Mack is going to be gunning for 20 sacks in 2019.
I can see the Bears v Eagles in the NFC Championship, and pray to the spirit of George Halas that Mack’s outstanding play is not crippled by another double-doink.
-Pats Old Guard try to repeat the trick-
New England will start the defence of their Super Bowl crown with the visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, and will do so with the oldest roster in the NFL when young players have seemingly never been so valuable.
In todays salary cap age, the ability to keep cost controlled draft picks is seen as a vital way to remain competitive. However, the Patriots have seemed to eschew that school of thought recently. Arguably the only impactful players playing on their rookie deals are running back Sony Michel and guard Joe Thuney, although they will no doubt hope that this years class headlined by messrs Harry and Winovich and one of last years first rounders, tackle Isaiah Wynn, will make an impact following a rookie season curtailed by an Achilles injury sustained in camp.
It seems Bill Belichick is forever zigging while the rest of the league zags, the rest of the league looks to get quicker, stronger and more athletic he is relying on know-how and experience to take them back to the Super Bowl. Even today, surrounded by the electrifying technicolour highlights of Mahomes, Barkley etc few would bet against them doing just that.
-Kliff, Kyler and the air raid offence-
In Glendale on Sunday evening the Arizona Cardinals will try to take their franchises first baby steps back to viability as a contender when they welcome the similarly rebuilding Detroit Lions to the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Attention will certainly be focused on how rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury and no. 1 pick Kyler Murray perform in the first test of the pass-happy, hyperactive Air Raid offence. While its fair to say elements of the scheme have been a staple for many teams over the past few years, the Cards have made it clear they will ride or die with their youngsters for better or worse this year.
With a fresh receiving core including Christian Kirk and rookies Andy Isabella and Keesean Johnson, complemented by old reliable Larry Fitzgerald and star running back David Johnson, hopes are high in the desert that the road back to competitiveness starts here. And if not, it will certainly be fun to watch!
-Rams try to avoid Super Bowl hangover-
Sean McVay will try to pilot his teams path back to the Super Bowl beginning with a cross country trip to Charlotte to face Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers. While last years offence was, for large parts of the season unstoppable, they seemed to run out of steam as the season reached its most crucial phase.
Over the season the Rams were the second highest scoring offence in football, only behind the remarkable Chiefs led by MVP Patrick Mahomes, however over the last month of the regular season their PPG decreased by over 10 points capped off by the 3 point performance on the biggest stage at Super Bowl LIII.Young receiver Cooper Kupp went down with an season ending injury and when star running back Todd Gurley was hampered by a knee injury by the latter stages of the season, the Rams overall effectiveness on offence seemed to go with him.
Has the rest of the NFL caught up to Sean McVay’s scheme or will the Rams be back lighting up the scoreboard this year? Any team boasting the talents of reigning DPOY Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, Jared Goff, Robert Woods etc plus the hopefully back to full health Gurley and Kupp should be challenging in the very competitive NFC.
-OBJ = Odell’s Browns Jersey-
It really wasn’t a dream…..OBJ will be wearing orange and brown to kick of the 2019 NFL campaign.
The sensational trade that shook the NFL back in March has been the standout moment in a summer full of positive vibes out of North Eastern Ohio and at last we get to see the on field product on Sunday. OBJ has been wrapped in cotton wool throughout the offseason, practising sparingly and not seeing any preseason action so all eyes will be on how quickly he establishes a connection with Baker Mayfield.
The Browns host the Titans looking to win a season opener for the first time since 2004, here’s hoping!
-Ring that Bell!-
So Le’Veon Bell didn’t win any additional money from his contract holdout, but did he win by preserving his body?
The running back will see the field for the first time in over 18 months when the Jets open up against the Bills on Sunday in New York. Bell has always had a patient running style but would have been afforded superior line play during his time with the Steelers. Will he be able to transition this style to his new surroundings or will we see him bouncing to the outside more regularly?
Despite plenty of optimism of growth in the second season of Sam Darnold, the Jets may only go as far as Bell can carry them.
-Time for a new Colt hero?-
Jacoby Brissett, what an opportunity you have in front of you.
You may argue he had this chance in 2017 when as the full time starter for the year he led the Colts to a 4-12 record, but don’t underestimate how much better this overall Colts team is now. He will have arguably the best O-line in football in front of him with Quenton Nelson leading the group in his 2nd year. He has a nice array of options in the passing game to throw to and a committee approach at running back should see the Colts very competitive.
Once considered a potential heir to Tom Brady, I’m looking forward to seeing Brissett grasp his chance this time around.
At this point in the
season every head coach in the NFL is 0-0 for the 2019 season, full of optimism
and jam-packed with motivational speeches, outstanding PowerPoint content and a
team willing to run through a brick wall for you, unless your name is of course
Tim and I ranked our
coaches in terms of sleeping in a luxury king size bed, on the sofa, on someone
else’s sofa or sleeping in the car in a recent podcast, go and check it out.
Here are some of our disagreements and my side of the argument…
Sean McDermott – Buffalo
The Bills 22nd
head coach, McDermott boasts a 15-17 record in two seasons and a 0-1 playoff
record. The team drafted QB Josh Allen early in 2018, but this failed to yield
immediate results as the Bills slipped to 6-10 after a 2017 playoff berth.
McDermott comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, having worked his way up from
secondary coach in Philly to defensive coordinator, also serving as the DC in
Coached DBs for Eagles
in 2004 when they reached and lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, alongside Pat
Shurmur (QB coach), Brian Dawkins and Michal Lewis both starting safeties were
Pro Bowlers. Fired as defensive coordinator by Eagles Jan 15 2011. Reached
second Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Panthers – losing to the
In 2017 made the
massive error of benching Tyrod Taylor Week 10 following a huge loss to the
Saints, bringing in Nathan Peterman – yes that game where Peterman threw five
first half interceptions before being benched himself. Somehow steered the
Bills to 9-7 and their first playoff game in 18 years – the biggest drought in
the NFL. Bills lost that game 10-3 to Jaguars.
FUN FACT: McDermott
was a National prep champion wrestler in high school.
Since 2000 The Bills have had 10 head coaches – roughly one every two years. The last one to get into their third season was Chan Gailey (2010-2012). McDermott is a defensive guru and takes great pride in developing his defensive players but this is 2019 and you need to maintain possession of the ball and keep your defense fresh. A second sub .500 season for McDermott, and not enough progress from Josh Allen will see McDermott watching his back from around Week 12. Maybe not an in-season sacking, but this is someone who could be a Black Monday casualty.
Prediction: 7-9 and the Bills ownership lose patience.
Pat Shurmur – New York
Shurmur has a career
NFL head coaching record of 9-23, including two years with the not so good
Browns, and a 5-11 record with the Giants in 2018. Another disciple from the Andy
Reid coaching tree, Shurmur has spent most of his time as an offensive
coordinator – most recently helping the Vikings get one game away from a Super
Bowl in 2017-18. His son Kyle is a quarterback, and in 2019 he was an Undrafted
free agent pickup by the Chiefs.
Was Associated Press
Assistant coach of the year in 2017 when the Vikings went all the way to the
NFC Championship behind Case Keenum. His uncle Fritz Shurmur was a coach in the
70s – 90s. Coached Eagles quarterbacks in 2004 helping Donovan McNabb to a
Super Bowl – a loss to the Patriots – alongside Sean McDermott.
Shurmur has won 15 of
49 contests and made a huge splash in the 2019 draft taking Duke’s Daniel Jones
at pick 6. Pick 6 how ironic. 9 wins in two years in Cleveland, 1 win as
interim Eagles coach and 5 wins in NY last year, Shurmur has finished bottom of
his division in all three full seasons. The NY media will be scrutinising Shurmur’s
every move and another basement finish, whist hardly a surprise could signal a
premature end to this coach’s stint. This will be all about how Daniel Jones
develops and when he starts. Eli is untouchable, apart from the day he was
benched for Geno Smith, but this could be a messy final year. The Giants mess is
at WR– Corey Coleman won’t play on 2019, Golden Tate is suspended four games,
Sterling Shephard is injured, leaving tight end Evan Engram become a Pro Bowler,
but that means little. Barclay will shine, but it’s the weak Giants defense
that will again let down this offensive minded coach.
Prediction: 5-11 – Misery in the Big Apple as Shurmur is
hounded out by the media in the Big Apple.
Matt LeFleur – Green
LeFleur has spent most of his career serving Kyle Shanahan, at three different NFL team. This is his first head coaching gig. He played for the Omaha Beef in the Indoor Professional Football League in 2003 as a backup QB. In May 2019 LeFleur tore his Achilles playing basketball – an offseason injury for a coach.
Since 2003 has had 11
coaching jobs. This is his sixth coaching job in the NFL. Following on the
youth movement he is 39 – 40 in November. He was Redskins QB coach in 2012 when
they drafted RG3 and Cousins. In 2016 LeFleur was the Falcons quarterback coach
(reporting to Kyle Shanahan) and helped Matt Ryan to become league MVP and the
Falcons reached the Super Bowl, but they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead. He choked.
In 2018 he was the Titans offensive coordinator but Titans finished 25th
in offensive output. In addition, the Titans is a place where wide receivers go
Big pressure on LeFleur to get Aaron Rogers back to the promised land, he is an offensive guru. The Packers have plenty of talent and a bucket load of WR ready to break out and Aaron Jones has one of the best yards per carry in the NFL. The defense is where the Packers will need to step up and I’m not sure he is the man to help the Pack with that issue. Packers have brought in three new starters in FA – Preston Smith OLB from the Redskins, Zadarius Smith OLB from the Ravens and Adrian Amos S from the Bears. The Packers D is going to be the team’s downfall. LA Fleur is safe but his posterior is already warming up.
Prediction: 9-7 – winning record but no playoffs
Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh
Tomlin has a pretty
decent records in Pittsburgh, 125-66-1 in the regular season, but a
disappointing 8-7 in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl win, despite having
arguably the most talented roster for al lot more than just one season. In the
last six season he has finished first or second in his division.
Tomlin has never had a losing season in 12 years coaching the Steelers. Was Bucks
DB coach when they won Super Bowl and had three defensive return touchdowns.
Fined 100k for putting off Ravens Jacoby Jones on a kick return – look this up
on You Tube.
Steelers do not like
making changes at head coach, and considering Tomlin got a winning season
despite their star player not playing one down last year that is credit to his
leadership. The NFL does not have many jobs for life but Tomlin has lasted a
long time on just one Super Bowl win. With Helmet monster Brown gone this is
going to be a different looking Steelers team, with T.J. Watt looking after the
defence and Juju Smith-Schuster looking to go All-Pro. Tomlin and Big Ben are
the next best thing to The Sith Lord Belichick and Tom Brady, and was it not
for these two the Steelers would probably have had 2-3 Super Bowls in the last
Prediction: 10-6 – Wild card winner but divisional playoff
Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals
Another NFL head
coaching newbie, Kingsbury is the most fascinating of all the new coaches to
join in 2019 due to his offensive style, his brand new QB and his college
Kingsbury set a ton of
passing records playing at Texas Tech. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2003 –
6th round but went on I/R. He did get a Super Bowl ring, but was waived
Bumped around the NFL
and CFL on practice squads. Threw only two passes in the NFL in 2005 – 1 of 2 for 17 yards for the Jets in a 27-0
loss. He played in NFL Europe for the Cologne Centurions.
An offensive genius at
Texas Tech – he tutored Patrick Mahomes. He has averaged 550 yards offense and
42 points a game in college in past 7 years. This explosive output did not
however equate to wins as he went 35-40 in six season, winning just one bowl
game – Holiday Bowl in 2013. This is pure curiosity as Kingsbury has spent lots
of time in NFL locker rooms as a clipboard holder but never as a head coach. He
has the number one overall pick to work with, having dispensed of 2018 first
rounder Josh Rosen. He will be looking for big things from running back David
Johnson, and the veteran savvy of Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards have new wide
receivers in Isabella and Johnson, and Christian Kirk will be looking for a
1,000-yard season. It will be a wild ride ahead but again the defense will let
down the progress of the team.
Prediction: 4-12 – Keeps job as it’s the start of the
Zac Taylor –
Another head coach
cutting his teeth in the NFL in 2019. Taylor was a QB at three different colleges
including the Butler Community College Grizzlies. Two winning seasons at
Nebraska. Was not very mobile – ran for –MINUS 64 yards at Nebraska. Was signed
by Buccaneers in 2007 as quarterback but cut and was then 4th string
at the Winnipeg Blue bombers in the CFL. Taylor is married to the daughter of
former Packer head-coach Mike Sherman.
This move is relative
to waiting for a lovely Christmas present and thinking it’s something you
always wanted like a signed Sean Taylor shirt only to open it and its socks,
but not even nice M&S socks, pound shop novelty ones you won’t want to be
seen dead in after December 26th. He originally worked his way up to
offensive coordinator with the Dolphins.
Taylor was the
offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2016, before becoming the
Rams QB coach in 2018. He got Jared Goff to a Super Bowl and then got schooled
by the Dark Sith Lord Belichick.
Prediction: 6-10 – Anonymous season anonymous coach
Bill O’Brien – Houston
O’Brien has steered
the Texans to a 42-38 record in 5 years, including three division wins, but he
only has one playoff win. This is a coach who always looks intense, but maybe a
bit too intense for some.
O’Brien has been
coaching since 1993. Was offensive coordinator for Pats in Super Bowl 46 – a
loss to the Giants. Became the replacement for Legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State
and despite sanctions he became college coach of the year in 2012 – guiding
Penn State to 8-4. Could have become the Jaguars coach that same year. He
signed a four-year extension in 2018
Prediction: 11-5 another division win
Kyle Shanahan – San
Shanahan is 10-22 in
two full seasons and really needs a playoff run to keep his job. He is the son
of Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shannahan – who won two titles with John
Elway and the Broncos. Coached under his dad at the Redskins 2010-13. Was fired
alongside his father – debatable nepotism. He resigned from OC job with the Browns
in 2015 disagreeing about Johnny Manziel starting. He served under Jon ‘Chucky’
Gruden in 2004-5
Was the offensive
coordinator for the Falcons when they collapsed against the Patriots in the
Super Bowl. Shanahan’s QB coach then, Zac Taylor, is now head coach at the Bengals.
Shanahan’s head coaching tenure is in the hands of Jimmy Garropolo. Who was injured last season leaving the likes of Nick Mullens to take the helm for a team that has five Super Bowl wins. With new RB Tevin Coleman to be the feature back this is a team that many have as dark horses for a playoff push in 2019. I’m not as confident.
Prediction : I can see an 8-8 type performance.
Don’t forget to go and
check out our in depth podcast from Tuesday 27th August where myself
and Tim discuss all of these head coaches and their vulnerabilities ahead of
the 2019 season.
Every year a bunch of shiny new faces are selected by NFL teams to improve the fortunes of the franchise and replace aging veterans. Some have instant pay off (hello Baker Mayfield) whilst others take some time to come to fruition. Below I take a look at a number of players entering their 2nd season who are poised to make a significant leap from their performance levels of 12 months ago.
There is no doubt Saquon Barkley is a huge talent but make no mistake about it the New York Jets had a huge present fall right into their laps last April when the New York Giants passed on Sam Darnold. As a rookie, the No. 3 overall pick last year had plenty of ups and downs but flashed the kind of potential which had many draft analysts calling him the best prospect in last years draft. The Jets have done a nice job inn adding protection up front on the offensive line, and add into the equation running back Le’Veon Bell then all of a sudden this whole offence has potential. If Darnold and new offensive minded head coach Adam Gase mesh well, the Jets could surprise quite a few teams this year.
Arizona drafted Kirk in the second round out of Texas A&M last year, and he is primed to replace future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald as Arizona’s no. 1 option in 2019. There is a tremendous buzz about what Kliff Kingsbury is going to bring to the Cardinals, certainly from an offensive perspective and Kirk could be set to be the main beneficiary. Proof will be in the pudding of course but with rumoured desires to be running 90 plus offensive plays per game and many in 5 wide receiver sets then opportunity should be plenty for Kirk. He is familiar with Kingsbury’s Air Raid system from his college days at Texas A&M, which also improves the confidence rating behind this selection.
Somebody has to take the targets that usually went the way of Antonio Brown, and although JuJu Smith-Schuster will put up big numbers, look out for Washington to make a nice leap in year 2. A second-round pick in 2018, Washington was expected to put up better numbers in his rookie year. Slated to be the starter opposite the aforementioned JuJu he will certainly get the opportunity especially considering that Big Ben throws as often as any quarterback in the league. He’l have Donte Moncrief to beat out in camp and throughout the preseason, but considering 2 other teams have already given up on him, that shouldn’t too hard to do.
The Detroit Lions running back was putting together a nice rookie season with over 850 all purpose yards before a knee injury cost him the last 6 games of the season. Not only does Johnson have obvious ability himself, when you add in the fact that the Lions released Theo Riddick, it’s fair to assume that Johnson could see his role expand to a 3 down back giving him even more opportunities to shine. He has the opportunity to become the focal point of the Lions offence assuming he can steer clear of injury this campaign. For those that are worried about CJ Anderson pulling off a LeGarrette Blount, with the amount the Lions want to run this year, Kerryon will still be knocking on the door of RB1 territory.
Expectations were big for Tremaine Edmunds as a 20-year-old rookie drafted on the first round 16th overall by the Bills. Its fair to say he initially did not reach those expectations and got off to a slow start to the campaign. However, by the end of the season, the unbelievably athletic linebacker turned into the key cog in the Bills defence. He was named NFL defensive rookie of the month for December and If the former Virginia Tech star can keep improving, the Bills defense will be even better this season.
Nobody questions the talent of the Houston Texans front 7, all the questions are aimed at the back end of the defence. The Texans may have found a gem in the third round of the 2018 draft when they selected Justin Reid from Stanford. He quietly put together a nice rookie campaign with 88 tackles, 10 pass break ups and 3 interceptions from 12 starts. With the honey badger being signed by Kansas City look for the Texans to maximise Reid’s versatility and for him to transcend into a real playmaker on the back end during his second full season.
This is a classic example of a player benefitting from the addition of greater talent around him. Jaire Alexander began his NFL career with a strong rookie campaign. In 11 starts last season he made a significant impact for the Packers tallying 66 tackles, 1 interception, 11 passes defended, and 0.5 sacks. Green Bay added significant talent to its defence this offseason with 3 starters added via free agency and 2 first round selections booth on that side of the ball. That will benefit Alexander and the team’s secondary as a whole. The Packers finally seem to have realised that the defence needs to help out Aaron Rodgers and Alexander could well be the leading light on that side of the football.