I haven’t had a chance to post much other than game thoughts lately. Things have been a bit hectic at work and though they show no signs of slowing down, I thought I’d try to get a post up on some NFL thoughts this week as Well 11 wraps up tonight.
- Jared Goff didn’t have a great game yesterday. But that’s understandable. He’s a rookie in his first start and yet he arguably out played Ryan Tannehill for most of the game yesterday against the Dolphins until a dramatic comeback in the last five minutes of the game stole it away from him..
Notably Goff has a (perhaps natural at this stage) tendency to panic under pressure. Whenever he even sensed that a blitz was coming he rushed the pass and it was usually inaccurate. He’s going to have to settle down and learn to keep calm in those situations.
I might add that Goff’s accuracy and ball placement were generally a disappointment this game. In fairness he saw a fair bit of pressure from the Dolphins defensive front and he was throwing on the move quite a bit. Though he’s certainly mobile, based upon what I saw, that is not his strength and he’s going to have to be given some time in the pocket if the Rams expect his to succeed.
Many were surprised when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided to promote first overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the starting lineup. Reports were that reports that Goff wouldn’t play until the Rams were mathematically eliminated. They’re still alive at 4-5, and if Goff gives the offense a spark they could end up in the mix for a playoff berth. But head coach Jeff Fisher has claimed that Goff is ready.
“It’s was just Jared’s progress, and the progression week, after week, after week,” Fisher said. “Preparing to be a two, preparing to be a play away from going in. When he got the reps over the last three or four weeks, they were right, they were good, they were good decisions. So it was time.”
That’s all nonsense, of course. Goff struggled notably in the preseason and there’s hardly much reason to believe he’s gotten significantly better with no playing time since.
The truth is that the Rams have little to lose at this point. The offense had, in fact, done very little under former starter Case Keenum. Keenum was not the reason the Rams have been so bad but he hasn’t helped. This season he’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 23 times and the Rams are 24th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.
Keenum’s interception percentage is 31st in the NFL and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns per game. In fact, the Rams have not scored more than one TD in each of the past three games.
Given that is the case, Fisher wisely figured that he might as well let the offense be just as bad while developing their quarterback of the future. As they have in all of their previous games, they will still rely on their defense to win.
The real question is whether the Rams even can develop Goff. Jeff Fisher is a defensive head coach and his Assistant Head Coach/Offense, Rob Boras is a former offensive line/tight ends coach. That means the person who has been primarily responsible for overseeing Goff’s development is quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke. Weinke has all of two years of NFL coaching experience – 2015 and half of 2016 with the Rams.
Goff is a wonderful talent. But at least as important is who is bring him along. The Rams have been a waste land for quarterback play since Kurt Warner left St. Louis in 2003. With Sam Bradford being its most recent and notable failure at the position. You have to wonder if Goff is about to get lost in those bad lands as well.
- Speaking of the Dolphins, more and more I’m coming to appreciate the play of Kiko Alonzo. He’s all over the field and he’s largely responsible for what has been an improved (though still flawed) run Dolphin defense.
- One more quick Dolphins-related thought. I was a bit disappointed when Dolphins center Anthony Steen, who played well in place of starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) today, decided to criticize Alabama head coach Nick Saban last week.
Steen told the Palm Beach Post that he now regrets waiting until the end of his senior season to have the shoulder surgery he needed, and he thinks Saban’s approach leaves Alabama players hurt.
“If you can work through pain, you can go. But at ‘Bama, that was the problem,” Steen said. “A lot of things you went through and you shouldn’t have. You should have stayed off of it. That’s why a lot of guys from ‘Bama are hurt.”
If Steen was actually hurt or had done permanent damage to his shoulder by playing, I agree would with him. But as far as I can tell he hasn’t. So I question whether Saban actually pushed him too far.
Indeed, it may well be Steen’s toughness and willingness to play hurt was one of the reasons he has made it to the NFL. One scout from the Bleacher Report before the 2014 NFL draft called Steen “Possibly the very definition of ‘toughness’ as it relates to OL scouting purposes.” CBS Sports said, “Steen’s technical consistency, toughness and instincts are exactly what NFL teams look for in the ideal guard prospect.” The statements are ironic given that the Dolphins chose highlight their 2016 draft class by trying to make them into something that they weren’t, characterizing them as “alpha personalities” despite zero independent evidence that scouts ever viewed them that way. Steen appears to the kind of guy they should have been touting all along if that’s what they wanted.
In any case, if you ask me Saban did Steen a favor. He pushed him to play and, while doing so, highlighted what was perhaps his greatest strength.
- Greg Hardy is gone but hardly forgotten.
Hardy infamously was arrest for domestic violence after assaulting an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her. Only the Dallas Cowboys and their win at all costs owner Jerry Jones dared to sign Hardy after he hit the street (One wonders what he told his granddaughter. “Don’t go dating an NFL player, now darlin’. Unless he can rush the passer. Heh, heh, heh.” [slaps her on the behind]). However, after a miserable season with the Cowboys in which he under-performed and was a locker room distraction, even Jones let him go. Hardy has been waiting for another team to sign him ever since.
Good luck with that. If he ever had a chance – and I doubt very much that he did – its got to be gone now after he was indicted on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance after a September 25 arrest. He allegedly had 0.7 grams of cocaine in his wallet, which police detected after pulling him over for turning without signaling.
Hardy was and is a blight on the National Football League, a product of a win at all costs mentality that results in animals like this getting rich off of fans who are forced to root for them against their better judgement. You honestly wonder under the circumstances how the league has the nerve to wear pink in October while keeping men like Hardy employed. Fortunately, we’ll almost certainly never have to deal with watching this particular hard case anymore. Let’s hope that its extended more and more to others whose behavior calls for sanction rather than adulation.
- I find the Green Bay Packers to be like a train wreck. I can’t look and yet I can’t look away. Some pundits were predicting that the Packers would be among the all-time best this year with the return of a healthy Jordy Nelson, who was supposed to be the major missing cog in the Packer wheel that caused the apparently decline of Aaron Rogers stats last season.
That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Among their notable deficiencies this year has been their problems at running back. The carousel of running backs in Green Bay this season has included Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis (acquired from Kansas City and released after two games), James Starks and Don Jackson (who was placed on injured reserve). Through it all, the most effective runners have been quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who’s averaging 6.3 yards per run and has three rushing touchdowns) and converted receiver Ty Montgomery (who was the team’s leading rusher in two different games this season).
The latest hope at running back for the team is Christine Michael, who they picked up from waivers after the Seahawks surprised the league by releasing him.
Michael had two different stints with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second round in 2013 (one spot after the Packers picked Lacy at No. 61 overall). As recently as this summer, he had earned praise from his teammates who said he was a different player than he was the first time around. Indeed, NFL pundits have marveled at Michael’s talent and production and it was thought that he was on his way to a fine season.
At least publicly the Seahawks have only praise for Michael. “He’s been busting his tail the whole time he’s been here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything we’ve said about him has been true and real, and he made a great comeback with us. He was the only guy there for a while, and we’re really grateful to the play that he gave us. He’s a good kid.”
But privately things may be a little different. Reports have indicated that Michael was too inconsistent for the Seahawks and that they couldn’t trust him to run within the offense. He struggled to hit the right hole or trust the design of the play. Those are vital elements of any run game but particularly for the Seahawks. The running back is the conductor of the offensive line. His patience, the number of steps he takes, all those details help a run succeed or fail.
Whether Michael will be better within the Green Bay offense is an open question. But they are so desperate to find answers at the position, they may rather have a reasonably productive back who free lances than the answers that they currently have on the roster. Such is the state of what was supposed to be a record breaking offense this year
- Of course, the other major problem is the play of Aaron Rogers, himself. Rogers at his best drops back, hits the last step in that drop and fires the ball immediately to the open receiver. But he hasn’t looked like that on a consistent basis for over a year now, preferring to hold the ball and play backyard football while trying to make a play. Pundits have blamed the fact that his receivers can’t get open for the problem and the return of Nelson this year was supposed to solve it.
For the first time in his career, perhaps ever, Rogers is taking significant criticism from former teammates and the press. And he apparently hasn’t liked it much. Even nice guy Tony Dungy has gotten into the act as both he and not so nice guy Rodney Harrison took off on Rogers on Thursday’s edition of Football Night in Carolina on NBC and NFL Network. Dungy and Harrison particularly addressed Rodgers‘ recent habit of publicly criticizing teammates and/or coaches during post-game press conferences following losses.
Dungy: “When you’re losing, you can’t make those kinds of comments. I remember my first year in Indianapolis when we lost a playoff game to the Jets 41-0. Mike Vanderjagt, our kicker, comes out after the game and says, ‘Tony Dungy doesn’t fire people up. He’s just an easy-going guy. We don’t need that.’ Well, that might have been true, but when you lose, it’s not the time to say that.”
Harrison: “I’m going to say this as nice as possible — shut up and play football. Every time that you mention something in the media, it creates a sense of divide in that locker room. Everything that they think about – say it in-house, and don’t bring the media and everyone outside of that locker room into it.”
Former Packer Jermichael Finley has also been among the latest to speak out with some particularly damaging comments.
“Aaron Rodgers is so scared of what guys are going to say that he doesn’t say nothing at all,” Finley said. “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s real self-centered.”
Finley isn’t the first teammate (former or otherwise) to take his shots at Rogers. Even when Rogers has apparently been playing well, other players have or are suspected to have done so and they haven’t lasted with the team. Former Packer and Dolphin guard Daryn College was one such player who called out Rogers in a team meeting for not admitting that he was holding the ball too long when the offensive line was taking heat some years ago in 2009. Current Bears guard Josh Sitton wasn’t known specifically for doing it but he was outspoken and he was known to have called out the coaching staff on at least one occasion last year. It would certainly not be surprising if criticism of Rogers miserable play last year came with that
Rogers isn’t just self-centered. He appears to be sensitive to criticism. If he continues to play like he is, he’d better get used to it because it won’t stop until he starts reading the defense, getting rid of the ball, playing within the offense and throwing more accurately.
- I know that it seems like it’s a long way away but the later we get in both the NFL and the college football season, the more it feels like NFL draft time. Indeed, site are already starting to speculate about what teams will need what and none will be more prominent than those who will be desperate for quarterback help. In that respect, I found this article on NFL.com to be quite interesting. In the column, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah looks at six teams who he thinks will be targeting the quarterback position. Most made sense – the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Cardinals. However, a couple were, in my opinion, questionable.
First off, the suggestion that the Jets will be looking to draft a quarterback and/or sign a veteran is popular right now and, I think, pretty suspect. The Jets drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015 and, though fourth rounders aren’t always slam dunk starters, I’m not sure they given up on him.
But Petty isn’t the reason I find this opinion questionable. You might argue about the Jets commitment to his future but there’s not denying that they are committed to 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg. Like Jeremiah, I don’t think Hackenberg is the answer for them. But the Jets have to believe otherwise. To draft Hackenberg in the second round and then not commit to him as your future starter would be ludicrous. They would be, and should be, a laughing stock.
No, I can’t imagine the Jets not giving Hackenberg the starting next year.
The other suspect team on the list was the Jaguars, who appeared to have an answer at the position with Blake Bortles. Bortles started well as a rookie but has regressed this season. His mechanics are a mess and during the bye week he even resorted to visiting QB guru Tom House, indicating that perhaps he wasn’t getting the help he needed from head coach Gus Bradley and his staff.
Bradley may be gone after this season but Bortles isn’t going anywhere. I have to believe that the Jaguars would rather spend the offseason trying to fix Bortles, who at least has showed potential for a couple years before regressing, than starting over by drafting a new quarterback.
- Before we jump too far ahead it should be mentioned that one or two of those teams listed above are going to go for a veteran replacement. Especially if you are a team who thinks that can win now, as in Arizona or Denver (not listed), the possibility of adding Tony Romo is going to be tempting.
In addition, another quarterback that Dolphins fans are pretty familiar with might be enticing for one of these teams. Tyrod Taylor entered the weekend needing to show that he could be the future in Buffalo badly. Time could be running out for Taylor in his quest to convince management to activate the next phase of his five-year, $90 million contract, which would cost them $27 million for next season alone if they decide to kick in the second year.
Buffalo beat the Bengals on Sunday but they did it with only an average effort from Taylor who went 19 for 27, 166 yards and a passer rating of 70.9. Hardly the stuff that characterizes a $90 million quarterback.
The bet here is that Taylors talent and mobility leads someone to sign him in the hope that he will be the future. We shall see if it comes true.