NFL Notes: Week 3

What looked like a “meh” week of football ended up being the opposite. Games we thought were locks were far from it, and we finally got to see Baker Mayfield. On top of that, there were SO MANY bad decisions made. The roughing the passer penalty still sucks.

Here’s a look at a weird week of storylines.

Personal Foul, Touching the Passer

This has become a recurring theme, but there’s still something new to add on to it every week. Clay Matthews was flagged again. That isn’t new. What is new is the increased injury risk to pass rushers making attempts to decrease injury risk to quarterbacks. That was a weird sentence.

Miami Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes suffered a torn ACL while trying to avoid putting his body weight on Derek Carr. Hopefully the league sees this and realizes the new rules benefit nobody, and pose risks much greater than a 15 yard penalty.

The Bills beat the Vikings. Yes, really.

It wasn’t some lucky bounce last-second win either. Buffalo dominated the Vikings all day en route to a 27-6 victory. Minnesota didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter.  It was a pretty embarrassing performance.

Meanwhile, Josh Allen, who had been nothing short of abysmal threw for nearly 200 yards with a touchdown an no picks. He tacked on another two touchdowns on the ground, AND he hurdled a guy.

The Patriots lost to the Lions. Yes, really.

The newly acquired Josh Gordon was inactive on Sunday night.

Quick side note — Why was this the Sunday night game? I know it was Matt Patricia vs. Bill Belichick, but who thought this was the best game of Week 3?

Anyway, the Patriots might have wanted Gordon to suit up. Instead, they relied their run game, which was not great.

Perhaps more concerning was the predictability of the Patriot offense. Rookie running back Sony Michel played a season-high 23 offensive snaps, just under half of New England’s total. He touched the ball on 65 percent of those snaps, totaling 49 yards from scrimmage. The Lions might be bad, but the Patriots made it easy for them. This seems like poor game planning, but the Patriots don’t do that. Until now, I guess.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it is not time to panic. Tom Brady is still their quarterback.

Houston, you have a problem

If you remember, I picked Bill O’brien to win Coach of the Year. I didn’t expect him to really do any of the work, though. I just though the Texans would be good and he’d win. Think of Jason Garrett in 2016. He didn’t do anything, but the turnaround earned him the award.

Bill O’brien might be doing too much. A team with as much talent as the Texans should not start 0-3. Blaine Gabbert and Eli Manning, handed them two of those losses, with the latter being a home game. Most of their problems can be traced to O’brien. It’s been a season of poor planning for crappy offenses and not letting Deshaun Watson play to his potential.

Raiders can’t hang

Soon after Jon Gruden said a good pass-rusher was hard to find (yikes), the Raiders blew their third second half lead in as many games. They have yet to score points in the fourth quarter. They came close on Sunday, with a chance to take a lead late in the game. Alas, they did not and Carr threw an interception in the red zone. A few plays later, Albert Wilson iced the game with a long touchdown reception.

You’re in, rookie

Going into Week 3, the only quarterbacks drafted in the first round not to see regular season action were Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen. Both of them played this week, but the situations were very different.

Mayfield came in mid-way through the second quarter on Thursday night when Tyrod Taylor left the game, and led the Browns to a comeback win over the Jets. It was pretty fun to watch.

The Cardinals were down two with four minutes left, and THAT’S when they decided to put Rosen in the game. I’m all for rookies gaining experience, but making his debut on a potential game winning drive seems like a poor choice. Rosen proceeded to throw an interception, and the Cardinals lost. It wasn’t that fun to watch.

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When will the Five 2018 First Round quarterbacks Play?

The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens all drafted a quarterback in the first round. They all have also signed or traded for at least one other new quarterback this offseason.

With each of these teams having other options at quarterback, when will the new draftees be given their time on the field in 2018? Will they at all?

Cleveland Browns

In recent years, it has been expected that quarterbacks chosen with the number one overall pick start opening week. Five of the last six have since 2009, the only hold out being Jared Goff in 2016 for the Los Angeles Rams.

With the 2018 first overall pick, Cleveland chose former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Prior to the draft though, the Browns made a deal to bring in Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo, a quarterback who started 15 games including one during the playoffs in 2017.

Generally, with Taylor the Browns know what they will get.

Taylor is a disciplined and athletic player without a particularly strong arm. Last year, he threw the ball 420 times, only four of which were interceptions. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes. But, Taylor ranked at just 25 in the NFL in touchdowns, and has hovered around .500 as a starter in his career at 23-20.Close

Mayfield, fresh off of winning the Heisman, has a much stronger arm and similar athleticism. His bigger personality could also spark some swagger in a team that has seemed depleted in recent years. He has the potential of being a star for the Browns, something they have not had at quarterback since returning to the league in 1999.

With that, he also has bust potential as all young quarterbacks do. His lack of size and his attitude could send him down a path similar to other Browns busts like their last first round quarterback Johnny Manziel.

But the possible reward is worth the risk for an organization looking for someone to lean on. If Mayfield does not appear ready, then they have a guy in Tyrod Taylor to throw out there to hold down the fort until the reigning Heisman gets more instruction.

Week one starter: Baker Mayfield

New York Jets

Within a week of signing former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the New York Jets traded up in the draft to select at number three. With that pick, they selected Sam Darnold out of USC, a player with a rocket arm who was fifth in the NCAA in passing yards in 2017.

The Jets’ moves give Head Coach Todd Bowles three options to start week one. Bridgewater and Darnold will also battle Josh McCown, who started 13 games for New York in 2017 and

threw 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

Due to McCown’s familiarity with the system and the fact that in 2017 he was effective, we should see him come out of the preseason with the starting job. The Jets will certainly transition to Darnold, but when might be up to McCown’s play.

The former USC quarterback displayed lots of skills in college, but his glaring weakness was turning the ball over. Spending the offseason with professional coaches and sitting behind a quarterback who has over a decade of experience could help shape him into a more disciplined quarterback.

Darnold will debut once McCown fails to lead the Jets to wins. The former USC quarterback would also come in once Bowles feels like the rookie has shown that he is ready in practice and wants to put him out for early experience.

It shouldn’t take Darnold a whole season to get ready, perhaps around weeks five or six he will have enough instruction to get into the game.

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Photo via @nyjets

Teddy Bridgewater, 25, is a wild card. The Jets have their veteran place holder and hopeful future face of the franchise, but where does that leave Bridgewater, who, prior to a knee injury in 2016, was a playoff quarterback in Minnesota?

With the direction the Jets are going, Bridgewater is an odd fit for this roster. If he comes into camp looking like his 2015 self, then perhaps he could challenge McCown for the week one starter spot.

This team will be led by Darnold soon, so whoever he replaces is irrelevant for the future of the franchise. McCown is the safer bet at backup due to his healthy history and experience with many types of offenses.

Week one starter: Josh McCown

Buffalo Bills

The Bills ended the longest active NFL playoff drought last season by squeaking their way into the Wild Card round.

Their quarterback was Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills were not high on. Buffalo benched him midway through the season for one half before Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions against the Chargers, forcing Coach Sean McDermott to put Taylor back in.

Taylor has since been traded, and the Bills in another deal acquired former Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

McCarron has been rumored to get traded to a team needing a quarterback since he received starts in 2015 after Andy Dalton suffered an injury. He performed well in four starts and almost won a playoff game before a defensive collapse buried the Bengals against Pittsburgh.

With just Peterman on the roster, it appeared McCarron would be handed the starter’s job. That was until Buffalo traded up in the draft to seven, where they selected Wyoming QB Josh Allen.

Allen has a great arm, one that allows him to make throws that other quarterbacks cannot.

But, he has had accuracy issues throughout college, and his offense looked flat against their two toughest opponents last year (Wyoming only put up 26 total points in their two losses to Iowa and Oregon).

Regardless, Allen has the build and arm to make big plays in the NFL. But for a team that just made it to the playoffs, perhaps turning things over to the raw talented rookie isn’t in their best interest if they want to get back to the postseason.

McCarron should start week one, and if he plays like he did in 2015, he should stay the starter this season. Allen’s talent could use some molding, so having him backup in 2018 seems like a logical decision. If McCarron fails to keep Buffalo in the playoff race though, then Allen’s time should come sooner rather than later.

Week one starter: A.J. McCarron

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Arizona Cardinals

There are three new quarterbacks in the desert.

After Carson Palmer’s retirement, The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford, despite injury holding him out in 2017. Mike Glennon was brought in after the Bears released their 16-million-dollar backup. And like the Jets and Bills, the Cards traded up to get their quarterback of the future, Josh Rosen out of UCLA.

Arizona will treat Bradford with caution in camp considering his latest injury. With the reps off Bradford will be getting, Rosen will have a chance to gain more with the first team. That extra work and exposure, if Rosen performs well, could show Head Coach Steve Wilkes that the rookie is ready to go week one.

Rosen’s biggest question has never been skill. His passer efficiency rating over three college seasons was over 140 and he threw for over nine thousand yards.

His issue has been maturity and ability to lead. He was difficult to coach at UCLA according to NFL.com scouting reports, and on the field, he took unnecessary risks leading to 10 interceptions in 11 games last year. The Bruins were just 18-20 with him as quarterback.

But, Bradford has yet to lead a team to the playoffs since he entered the league in 2008, as the first pick for St. Louis. Bradford is a consistently accurate quarterback, but he doesn’t throw down the field well and has never been able to elevate a team in the pros.

Week one starter: Josh Rosen

Baltimore Ravens

2008 was the last time Baltimore drafted a quarterback in round one of the NFL draft. Their draftee, Joe Flacco, has been the starting quarterback ever since. The Ravens made it to the playoffs from 2008 through the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl.

Then, Flacco was made the richest quarterback in history at the time, and the Ravens have made it to the postseason once in the past five years.

Over the past two seasons, the Ravens were one play away from the playoffs.

On Christmas day in 2016, during week 16, Antonio Brown of the Steelers reached the ball over the goal line for the game winning touchdown with nine seconds left. That game ended Baltimore’s season.

In week 17 of 2017, a 53-yards touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-13 in the final minute knocked the Ravens out of the wild card spot.

Flacco’s performance in those two seasons have gone similarly. Average to poor play prior to the bye week. Following their bye weeks, he has looked like a quarterback worthy of his pay check.

Last season, before the bye, Flacco had a quarterback rating of 73.6 while throwing eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions. After their bye, his rating shot up to 89.5, and he threw 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

But, with his early season struggles, the Ravens over the last couple of seasons have lost games in the opening weeks to teams that received a top ten draft pick. If the Ravens had won those games, they would have almost certainly made it to the playoffs in 2016 and 2017.

With the disappointments of the last few seasons, Ozzie Newsome’s last first round pick before retirement was selecting Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner from Louisville.

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Photo via @Lj_era8

Jackson led the Cardinals to three straight winning seasons. He threw for 9,043 yards and ran for another 4,132. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick with his ability to make plays with his legs.

With his speed, Jackson will need to learn to throw more accurately on rollouts and on the run. That could take some time to work on, therefore sitting behind a quarterback who had the sixth most completions last year could help Jackson’s accuracy development.

Flacco has been the guy in Baltimore for a decade. They have gotten him new weapons for 2018 in hopes of improving the production of the passing attack. Flacco will more than likely be the Ravens’ starter for this season, but another disappointing finish outside of the playoffs and Lamar Jackson will be the starter come 2019.

Week one starter: Joe Flacco

Mock Draft 3.0

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts made things interesting this week by swapping first round picks. Teams don’t typically move up like this unless they really want a player (see: 2017 Bears).

1. Cleveland Browns — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St.

Barkley was already slated to be a top pick, but his impressive Combine performance sends him to the top of the board. Any team would be lucky to have an athlete like Barkley at any position.

2. New York Giants —Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The consensus top quarterback in the class is still on the board, and the Giants still kinda need one. New York gets their man with the second pick.

3. New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

After losing out on Kirk Cousins, the Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal and then swapped picks with the Colts. Signs indicate that the Jets really want Rosen. He’s a skilled player who will thrive in the New York market. Why else would they trade up when a good selection of players would be available at six?

Unless they really want someone else. That would make that take look pretty bad.

4. Cleveland Browns — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

After trading for Tyrod Taylor, the Browns take a defensive playmaker instead of a quarterback. It’s not the most exciting pick, but a practical one that acquires an elite talent.

5. Denver Broncos — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Denver GM John Elway already had an eye on Allen, and after having one of the better quarterback performances at the Combine, the Broncos are one step closer to pulling the trigger on him. Barring a shocker (the Browns are shopping their picks), he’ll be there for Denver to take.

6. Indianapolis Colts — Quentin Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Jim Irsay is confident that Andrew Luck is the Colts’ quarterback. It’s time to protect him. The Indianapolis offensive line has been more or less a sieve the past few seasons. Drafting Nelson addresses that issue.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

A team desperately in need of a defensive back now has a chance to take the best one in the draft. Fitzpatrick at number seven is a steal for the Bucs.

8. Chicago Bears — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Bears are committed to Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Now they need someone for him to throw the ball to. Ridley can fill the role of WR1, creating a potentially scary QB-WR duo.

9. San Francisco 49ers — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

The Niners have their quarterback now. It’s time for them to address their 25th-ranked defense with the best corner in the Draft.

10. Oakland Raiders — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Another incredible athlete, Smith can propel the Raiders’ defense to the next level. Imagine blocking Khalil Mack only to have Smith follow him. If this becomes a reality, expect great things from that tandem.

11. Miami Dolphins — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield is an intriguing player, and the Dolphins need to make an intriguing pick. Drafting to address needs hasn’t been doing the job for Miami. It’s time to take a risk on a talented guy. Coach Adam Gase says Ryan Tannehill is the starter, but Mayfield is a winner, and with some work, has the potential to become a reliable starter.

Mayfield commented #GetMeToMiami on fellow Sooner Kenny Stills’ Instagram live video.

12. Cincinnati Bengals — Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame

The Bengals can’t rely on AJ Green on every snap, but their run game is subpar. Adding McGlinchey will hopefully help Cincy improve on its 3.6 yards per carry.

13. Washington Redskins — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Not only is he a talented linebacker that suits Washington’s needs, Edmunds is also a Virginia native. It’s a good fit on both ends.

14. Green Bay Packers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

It’s strange seeing the Packers hold a top 15 pick, isn’t it? What was normal in Green bay last year was the ball flying all over the defensive backfield. Jackson will help stop that.

15. Arizona Cardinals — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville 

LAMAR JACKSON IS AN NFL QUARTERBACK! Understood?

After signing Sam Bradford to a one year deal, you might wonder if the Cardinals will still take a quarterback. You should also ask yourself if Sam Bradford is a long term solution. Jackson has a lot of potential, and giving him a year to learn while Bradford starts can set him up to perform well. Bradford is also injury prone, so Jackson could see the field sooner than later.

Draft Overview: New York Giants

The New York Giants finished the 2017 with a 3-13 and have the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. What will they do with it?

Coaching played a big role in the Giants’ terrible season, and they have lots of talent, so this draft gives them a chance to add to that.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley will almost definitely be available. He would give the Giants a much needed improvement in a backfield led by Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for 751 yards and five touchdowns in 2017.

The Giants’ offensive line also struggled last year, and now they risk losing Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, who were both ranked in the top five of free agent offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.

Tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson, both from Notre Dame, are considered the best in this draft class. If Pugh and Richburg both depart, the Giants might be forced to draft an offensive lineman.

But is any offensive lineman in this class worth the number two pick in the draft?

Maybe, but probably not.

If the Giants do decide to draft an offensive lineman, look for them to trade back a few picks. Someone will be willing to give up something for that number two pick, which could set the Giants up to potentially win in 2018, and definitely improve their roster going forward.

Something new the Giants face this offseason is addressing their quarterback situation.

Eli Manning is 37 years old and has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out and test free agency this offseason, though that looks unlikely.

Manning is above average at best, but he can still play. Ben McAdoo was an idiot for benching him. He will also have the ability to throw the ball to his top four wideouts next year. All of them missed significant time in 2017 due to injuries.

Unless they have loads of faith in Cal product and 2017 third rounder Davis Webb, the Giants should (and likely will) consider drafting a quarterback.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen is widely considered the second best quarterback in the draft, and we know he likes the attention he’s sure to garner in the New York market. However, some personality concerns surround Rosen. Would he be okay with sitting out a year, or maybe even two, behind Manning?

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UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen

The Kansas City Chiefs took a similar approach in drafting Patrick Mahomes in 2017. They ended up trading Alex Smith to the Redskins with one year on his contract because they believe Mahomes is ready.

The Giants could certainly do the same thing, but if Manning has a season like 2017, teams might hesitate to trade for the aging quarterback.

As of today, Rosen or Barkley look like the best options for the Giants. Of course that can all change once the new league year starts next month.

I’d like to take this time to acknowledge the Giants’ 2003 first round selection, William Joseph. The 11th overall selection out of Miami, he started only 17 of 60 games played and recorded 60 tackles in four seasons with New York. After the Giants cut him in 2008, he appeared in only nine more games, making the total for his career … wait for it … 69.

Nice.

Draft Overview: Cleveland Browns

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After an abysmal 0-16 campaign, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Coach Hue Jackson will return next season after not winning a single game in 2017, but they will be under the leadership of new general manager John Dorsey, who took over after Sashi Brown was dismissed in December.

This is the second straight year the Browns will have the first overall pick. Last year, they selected defensive tackle Myles Garrett. They also hold the fourth overall pick, which they acquired from Houston.

Cleveland took a shot on Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, who became the starter. He was benched in Week Five but soon returned after Kevin Hogan failed to impress. Kizer threw for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 15 starts.

Despite being young and not that bad, Kizer is not the guy for the Browns. They are in desperate need of a quarterback. Well they are in desperate need of a lot of other things, too, but quarterbacks are important.

Lucky for Cleveland, they can pick any quarterback they want with the first pick.

USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are often called the best quarterbacks in the class, but rumor that Rosen dissed Cleveland creates some concern. Look for them to go with Darnold or Josh Allen out of Wyoming.

The free agent market for quarterbacks is not bad this year, and the Browns have been rumored to be interested in some, but signing a guy like Kirk Cousins is a long shot.

The fourth pick is the more intriguing of the two, because we most likely know what they’ll do with the first. Cleveland has several options regarding what to do with it.

Only two more players will be off the board by this time, so the Browns can snag the best available player in a deep class.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great addition to play opposite Jabrill Peppers. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley could also still be there for the Browns to pick.

Their other option is to trade the pick. Teams will be antsy to move up to take their man, just look at the Bears last year. If Cleveland is as committed as they seem to a long term rebuild, they have the chance to land a good haul of top picks for the next few seasons.

Anyway, do you remember Trent Richardson?