Oh Yes! Oh No! What the??? Week 1 Review, So Far

We’re only one game into the season and I’ve already started to forge some opinions, which will no doubt show me to be wrong in a couple of weeks time. The truth is though that there are some aspects of the game I love that leave me scratching my head, some that make me want to pull my hair out and some that remind me why I keep coming back.

Let’s start with an issue that drives me crazy.

Anyone Remember Offensive Lines?

It is fairly common knowledge that this year’s draft was loaded with edge rushing talent. Even before the draft, it began to feel like the talent already in the league at defensive end out numbered the talent on the offensive line, which should have been abundantly obvious to the Texans, Giants and Seahawks, 3 teams that have top 5 talent at the position. So how is it possible that they don’t make suring up the offensive line a priority? For the Giants, Engram with the 1st round pick and spending money on Brandon Marshall were luxury picks. The Seahawks didn’t need Sheldon Richardson and in the draft traded out of the 1st round, picking up Ethan Pocic in the 2nd, who is yet to make a contribution. Then there’s the Texans. Yes Duane Brown is 32, but if you refuse to find other ways to improve the line, then really you have to give him the money, especially when you’re relying on Tom Savage under center.

The 2nd part of this plays into something I’ve believed for a while now, which is that there is some serious issues with coaching on the offensive line. This for me starts at college, but isn’t helped in the NFL. In terms of the Seahawks, they’ve managed to cover over gaps in the past, with the elusiveness and intelligence of Russell Wilson and the power of Marshawn Lynch. But now they need to do something about it or risk the long-term health of Russell Wilson (for evidence of this, see Andrew Luck). It’s time to step up and the “moving the deck chairs on the titanic” move they pulled in this off-season isn’t enough. With the Giants and Texans they need to learn from the Steelers and Mike Munchak (offensive line coach), The Titans and Mike Mularkey and the Patriots and Dante Scarnecchia, although the latter didn’t have a great week. The truth is with the speed of defensive lines ramping up every season, there’s no excuse for any team to not spend time, money and coaching on the offensive line, especially if your playoff window is wide open. The offensive line of the Eagles and Packers is why I have them making the NFC Championships. Led by 2 of the most elusive QBs in the league but still have 2 of the better offensive lines in the NFC.

I will offer up one excuse for these teams. There really is a lack of talent available. No teams are really willing to let offensive linemen hit the market and in the draft linemen tend to come in very raw. But this excuse is put to bed when you see what the Titans are doing and also what the Browns managed in free agency (which seems like it might take a little settle in, but still).  There is no excuses for not improving the offensive line any more.

Quarterbacks and Poor Decision Making

I have made it pretty clear about my thoughts on how there simply aren’t nearly enough good QB’s to go around in the NFL. This for me is mostly down to a lack of opportunity to settle in at their teams, before being thrust into talent poor offences, as well as a lack of preparation from coaches from college right through to the NFL. Whilst I actually believe the situation has improved and that we’re in the best situation for a number of years, we saw some truly awful decisions made by some poor QBs yesterday.

Whilst it’s fair to say that little was expected from Scott Tolzien, Tom Savage and Josh McCown, they managed to exceed expectation and combine bad QB play with terrible decision-making. We’ve already talked about poor offensive lines and how they upset the balance of a number of offences and QBs, including all of the ones mentioned so far. Regardless these are 3 quarterbacks that shouldn’t be on the field. With the Colts, they have the excuse of Andrew Luck not being fit to play. Although I still question this. If their QB suffers from injury issues (which the Colts can take their fair share of blame for), it’s up to Indianapolis to make sure, that with plenty of time before the season starts, you have a decent backup, not adding the Patriots 3rd string QB a week before the season starts. So heading into the season the Colts are relying on Scott Tolzien and a QB that’s had the playbook for a week. Needless to say it ended in disaster.

The Texans (sorry Houston fans, but this post features your team a lot and not in a great light), knew they needed a QB, so went and got one in the draft, something I don’t have any issues with. But with Watson you want to give him some time to settle in, which he simply won’t have, thanks to an insistence that Tom Savage is a starting NFL QB. With a lack of talent to go around in the NFL, I can’t be too harsh on the decisions at QB this season. My issue is more to do with the coaching that has seen a who’s who of potential talent come through Houston and disappear nearly as quickly. The likes of Mallett and Osweiller were brought in with the expectation that Bill O’Brien, who was brought in as something of a QB whisperer could turn them into starters in the NFL, the missing piece on an NFL team that is yet to have a franchise standard QB. Bill O’Brien has failed to turn any of these players into starters, which has left them in the unenviable situation they are today. The fact is Watson will almost certainly be starting next week, whether he’s ready or not. If he’s not a success, you have to think Bill O’Brien will pay the price.

As for the Jets,  I don’t want to lay into them too much, when we already know what they are. The foundations for a long-term, long overdue rebuild. I don’t believe that any team goes out there to lose games, but this isn’t a talent rich offence. The defence can cause some problems but they’ve got to get off the field.

The list of underperforming QB’s is far greater than the above 3. Carson Palmer looks about done, Eli seemed to struggle without OBJ and despite nearly leading a game winning drive, Mike Glennon had 44 yards for 3 quarters work, and the least said about Andy Dalton’s performance, the better. I could go on and on about poor decision-making on and off the field, but let’s move on to something a little more positive.

A Day For Defences

It’s symptomatic that if we’re seeing poor play on offence, we’re probably seeing some decent play on defence and only as the season goes on will we figure out whether a lot of performances were from defensive dominance or offensive failings.

When the season ends I honestly think defensive coordinators, go home and look at what particular offensive fad caused them problems, which is the reason we saw the wildcat be a prominent feature for just one year and the reason that players like RG3 and Colin Kaepernick struggled after making such a big impression on the league. Defensive coordinators simply refused to let it become a thing. Defensive football has become as schemed and intelligent as their offensive counterparts.

I found a number of performances impressive. Dallas exceeded expectation, with Rod Marinelli pretty much taking away the Giants run game. When you look at the names on the roster (or lack of), it becomes obvious that Marinelli is not a man to be underestimated and deserves credit despite the Giants woeful offensive line. The Eagles front 7 was as advertised and caused Kirk Cousins massive problems all game.

For me though there were 3 standout defensive performances. The Rams came into this season looking to shake the Jeff Fisher funk off and the defence did it in a big, bad way. Not only did they hold the Colts to just 225 offensive yards, but they scored points, with 2 pick 6’s and a safety. We’ve talked about coaching a lot in this post, but it’s evident that both Sean McVay and Wade Phillips have had a massive positive effect on an incredibly talented unit. Also next week the get Aaron Donald back…

The Ravens have always prided themselves on defensive talent and this years unit looks as good as ever. The Ravens defence were dominant and allowed 0 points from the Bengals and 0 wiggle room for a poor performance from Andy Dalton. The front 7 were stifling, with Mosley continued his fine form, with 8 tackles, a tackle for a loss and an endzone interception. Mosley performing to a high level is of no surprise, however the secondary looking like they’ve finally found their feet, might be. The Ravens have struggled in the secondary for a number of years, but last year’s addition of Eric Weddle and this years addition of both Tony Jefferson and a revitalised Brandon Carr, look to be the missing pieces. Weddle and Jefferson in particular look like they’ll cause problems. Finally  a quick shout out to Terrell Suggs, who refuses to age.

Lastly the Jags defence looked explosive. I have to be careful what I say here, as podcast listeners will know I have a history of cursing the Jags, by merely mentioning their potential prowess in future games, so I’ll make sure I keep this about what I saw, which was one of the finest defensive line performances of the day, particular nods to Ngakoue, Campbell and Fowler. A secondary that looked in complete control and an understated yet solid performance from Myles Jack. We’ll leave that there, before I get Jags fans on my lawn demanding I shut up.

Quick Takes

Rookie Watch: This year’s class lived up to expectation straight out of the gate with great performances from Tarik Cohen, Cooper Kupp, TJ Watt, Kenny Golladay, Leonard Fournette, Jabrill Peppers and of course Kareem Hunt, to name a few. Tonight a few on my radar play, so we’ll see if they can surpass their classmates, but all in all a good showing so far.

Matt Stafford is Worth Every Penny: Yes he had a poor start, there is no denying that this is another Stafford led victory. I think Stafford and Golladay just became best friends.

The Raiders Look Very Dangerous: This looks like last year’s Raiders team, but with a few extra options in Jared Cook and of course Marshawn Lynch. It appears rumours of Marshawn’s demise had been greatly exaggerated.

Injuries: Not good for a lot of teams. David Johnson seems to be the biggest name and will be a huge loss for a Cardinals team that is running out of options. Kevin White has only started 5 career NFL games. Now he’s out with another injury. An unfortunate career for the former 1st rounder. Allen Robinson goes out for the year with a knee injury as well, leaving the Jags with Marqise Lee as their no. 1 receiver. The Eagles new trade acquisition went down, Ronald Darby went down with a gruesome ankle dislocation. And in the opening game of the season the Chiefs lose Eric Berry for the remainder of the season. A lot of big names who look set to miss the year.

So that’s it. I will try to do this on a weekly basis, for more Gridiron Gentlemen goodness though, don’t forget to follow us on twitter and listen to the podcast, which during the season will be out every Thursday morning.