The NFL season is a marathon; not a race. You hear me, 49ers fans? Another great list of games awaits us. PETER SCHRAGER looks at five thoughts on the league.
No longer in your NFL survivor squad? Me too! Your fantasy team sucks? Hey, mine too! Don’t give up, my friends. It’s only week 2.
The NFL season is a marathon; not a race. You hear me, 49ers fans? Another great list of games awaits us.
Let’s dig in with five thoughts on the league.
1. Have we all forgotten the Browns?
I did a little news on Monday when I went on ‘Good Morning Football’ and said the national media narrative had been so focused on Deshaun Watson over the past six months that tipsters had forgotten how much the Cleveland Browns were good at every other position.
Conversing with Watson – all of it – was difficult, and so, the most practical thing to do was just to assume that the team wouldn’t function without him on the pitch. Or, if you’re cynical about it, you’d say the media didn’t want to celebrate the Browns after the Watson trade (and the massive contract extension that followed), and so treated them as the fourth team of quite a crowded team. AFC North.
It’s awfully dismissive of a team with a perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender in Myles Garrett, for my dime, the NFL’s best running back duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and a cornerback duo young and dynamic former first-round pick that I would put against anyone.
Kevin Stefanski is a recent NFL Coach of the Year winner, and general manager Andrew Berry has proven himself to be a capable front office executive and talent evaluator.
On paper, with questions at quarterback or without, Cleveland has a solid roster — especially after making an upgrade to the No. 1 wide receiver tier with the Amari Cooper trade — and a core of young players and coaches who have shown they can win in the NFL. Universally, they were ranked fourth in the division.
The Browns beat the Panthers on Sunday, escaping a near-late collapse with a game-winning 58-yard kick from rookie kicker Cade York. For 60 minutes, the Browns dominated on both sides of the ball in the trenches, with a Panthers side that also pride themselves on physicality.
And that’s what’s scary about the Browns this season. They don’t necessarily need a dynamic game from a QB like Josh Allen or Justin Herbert. Jacoby Brissett has to be the best Jacoby Brissett can be, and the defensive, punishing style of football employed by Cleveland can handle the rest.
I blame myself for being one of the many pundits who kicked the Browns out of their playoff photos in August. I spoke to an opposing NFL head coach on Tuesday, and he told me the Browns are “getting off the bus, it’s scary.” What does it mean ? “When they get off the bus, they’re big, they’re strong, and they go up to 20 degrees like that. They have a team that wants to beat you in the trenches. Never easy to play against those teams.
The Eagles of the 90s – featuring Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Randall Cunningham, were “getting off the scary bus”. The 49ers teams of the early 2010s, with Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, were also in this category.
Watson returns at some point. Maybe Week 13. Or Brissett wins enough games and rolls the Browns, and Cleveland pushes the Watson era to 2023.
Either way, the Browns face the Jets at home on Sunday and could very well start the year 2-0. I would expect a lot more wins than that.
They are big, strong, well trained and, oh yes, they are neglected.
If you don’t want to “root” for the Browns, that’s fine. But they won’t be a bad football team.
2. Unpacking the Hackett Decision
It was a headache at the time, and a few days later it’s hard to justify the decision to let Brandon McManus kick the ball 64 yards rather than have Russell Wilson try to convert a fourth and a 5. But the Monday (or Tuesday in this case) morning QB stuff has already been done.
What I want to highlight is Broncos first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett’s ability to make the decision, raise his hand and say he would do it differently next time, and then guide the journalists in its reflection process. Remember, Denver hired Hackett for his offensive magic, but also because he’s a great communicator.
So there was Hackett, 16 hours after such a poor finish as we’ve seen in his debut as an NFL head coach in league history, and he approached the microphone with a salivating local media and made the decision.
But he also explained the thought. McManus, long one of the league’s top kickers, said he could make that left hash kick at the 46-yard line. As Hackett explained, if Javonte Williams had only gotten five or eight yards, and not the exact nine he did, the Broncos probably would have gone for fourth down.
McManus missed the kick, and although Hackett said he would probably do things differently next time, he took the time to explain his thinking and how he was convicted for doing what he did. do.
Analysis – depending on which model you use – universally says go for it. But it was not a 99% decision. It was usually between 55 and 45%. All the elements and McManus’ Big Foot aside, since 1960, NFL kickers attempting a field goal for 64 yards or more have gone just 4.8 percent of the time (2 for 42). Last season, however, teams that made it exactly fourth and fifth converted it 49% of the time (22 for 45).
So, kudos to the decision to kick it. Good. But congratulations on Hackett’s media session on Tuesday.
How about a huge boost, though, for the self-inflicted injuries that mired the Broncos throughout the game? 12 penalties? Two fumbles on the 1 meter line? Six points in four trips to the red zone? Weird clock management in the third and fourth quarters?
Denver didn’t lose that game on a field goal or a decision to kick one. When you put over 400 yards on offense your opponent doesn’t crack 300 and you lose, there’s a lot more than a missed kick gone wrong.
The Broncos have a quick turnaround and a feisty Texans team comes to town on Sunday. I would expect a much more polished home team and hopefully more mea culpas the next day.
3. The lottery winner cuts a good figure
The top-rated rookie defensive back on Pro Football Focus last week was an ungrafted free agent who I admittedly didn’t work much on during the build-up to the draft last April.
Kader Kohou’s name may not be familiar right now, but he was all over the court for the Dolphins in their Week 1 win over the Patriots. After the first slate of games, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus ranked Kohou No. 1 with a 91.9 rating on his rookie defensive performance slate.
Kohou played 18 defensive snaps, didn’t allow a single completion, had a tackle for a loss, a pass breakup and forced a key fumble.
That’s quite a debut in the NFL for a kid who played Texas A&M-Commerce less than a year ago. His story is even better than that of the typical small school kid who is part of the team and makes a difference in first grade. Kohou was 9 years old and living in Abidjan, Ivory Coast when his family won the lottery. Seriously. Not a figurative lottery. The real lottery.
With the newly found money, her parents moved the family to the United States. From there, Kohou learned the sport, followed a dream, and miraculously ended up making the Dolphins’ 53-man roster after a stellar preseason and injuries in that position.
That’s why we love the NFL.
4. Cam Akers
I got a million texts and tweets about Cam Akers after his no-show/no-use performance for the Rams last Thursday.
The truth is that Akers are as healthy as they have been in years, but it was a coach’s decision based on the game plan to go with Darrell Henderson and rookie Kyren Williams. , instead, in the loss to the Bills.
That plan fell through when Williams was injured in a special teams game in the first quarter. I would say Akers performance at three carries and 0 yards was an aberration. I think he’ll get a good dose of action this week against Atlanta (4:05 p.m. ET on FOX).
5. One more thing:
The position of the long snapper is often dismissed, ignored or completely forgotten.
Clark Harris, the Bengals’ 14-year veteran snapper, suffered an injury early in Sunday’s Week 1 game. Sure enough, the special teams crushed Cincinnati in the fourth quarter and overtime of a heartbreaking home loss to the rival Steelers.
Harris is 38, has been in the league for 14 years and has probably never sold a jersey with his name on the back. But Cincinnati missed him sorely on Sunday.
Hopefully he can return to the pitch next season. Harris is going to be a free agent, and coming from a ripped pec, there might not be a long line of teams looking to add him. They should. He’s a good guy and he has one of the best looks in the league.
Peter Schrager is an NFL writer for FOX Sports and a host of “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network.
-FOX Sports USA