Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 15 in the NFL

Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

– It’s ironic really. Three weeks ago every NFL talking head said that if the Packers could get past the Lions in Detroit and the Giants in New York that they’d probably go undefeated. And after Green Bay mopped the floor with Oakland last Sunday, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Pack would finish 16-0. Then the Chiefs, led by a chewed up and spit out Kyle Orton, go out and pull off the upset of the year by knocking off Green Bay, 19-14. Everyone will analyze this game to death but there’s not much to dissect. The strength of Kansas City, its defense, once again stepped up and played incredibly well. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, did not as the usually explosive Green Bay offense fizzled for the first time all year. Romeo Crennel didn’t pan out as a head coach but there’s no doubt the man knows how to run a defense. He put together a scheme today that will be studied, picked apart and emulated by every defensive coordinator that may face the Packers down the road. To hold Rodgers and Green Bay to just 14 points is truly remarkable.

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2011 NFL Week 7 Primer

Denver Broncos reserve quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates his fourth quarter 12-yard touchdown run against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2011 in Denver. Despite a comeback effort from Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, the Chargers held on for a 29-24 win. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Broncos @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
Tim Tebow said that the Denver coaching staff didn’t change the team’s offensive scheme to fit the quarterback’s skill set during the bye week. That makes sense. I mean why would any coaching staff want to try and play to their quarterback’s strengths? Bill Belichick doesn’t do that with Tom Brady. Mike McCarthy doesn’t do that with Aaron Rodgers. Both of those teams largely keep the ball on the ground and let Brady and Rodgers be the game managers they are. (I hate that I even have to write this but I know some people will misconstrue things: I’m being sarcastic.) While I like Tebow’s chances of succeeding this weekend in Miami no matter what the scheme is, I think the Broncos should have styled their offense around what he does best (i.e. being creative in both the run and the pass). But what do I know? I’m a doctor, not an offensive coordinator.

Falcons @ Lions, 1:00PM ET
It’s all well and good that the Falcons want to get back to Michael Turner and their ball-control ways, but at some point OC Mike Mularkey better figure out how to beat teams through the air. Matt Ryan is the only quarterback in the NFC South who has yet to throw for over 300 yards in a game this season and he ranks 17th in the league in overall passing yards. With Julio Jones (hamstring) expected to miss another week, it would be wise for the Falcons to keep the ball on the ground against the Lions’ suspect run defense. But again, at some point Mularkey has to do his job and figure out a way to let Ryan soar. The most obvious solution is to put him in the no-huddle full-time, but Mularkey and Mike Smith’s conservative ways just won’t allow it.

Texans @ Titans, 1:00PM ET
Hey Matt Schaub, it’s go time buddy. The AFC South is yours for the taking and while I understand that you lost your best playmaker and your defense is now without its best weapon, it’s high time you raise your game. Arian Foster is seeing eight man fronts so there’s no reason for you not to exploit defenses with your arm – Andre Johnson or no Andre Johnson. Tennessee’s pass rush is one of the weakest in the league, so figure it out and get your team a win, Matt.

Chargers @ Jets, 1:00PM ET
“The more we get comfortable, we start playing pitch and catch and I’m doing my thing out there, the offense is going to go through the roof,” said Plaxico Burress in regards to Mark Sanchez and the Jet offense. Right, because naturally Plax is the key to whether or not New York’s offense is going to eventually get out of its funk. I think the Jets have it right in giving Shonn Greene an increased workload. The only way they’re going to really get their offense going is relying on the ground game to open things up for Sanchez. Burress is probably right when he suggests that he and Sanchez need to develop more chemistry, but the key to this offense is Greene and the ground attack.

Redskins @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
Mike Shanahan is in a mess of his own making. Everyone knew going into the season that Rex Grossman is fine in small doses, but over the course of a season he’s going to hurt you. Thus, now that Shanahan has switched things up and is starting John Beck on Sunday, he better win. The Panthers are better than their 1-5 record would indicate but this is a game the Redskins have to win if they want to keep pace with the Giants in the NFC East.

Seahawks @ Browns, 1:00PM ET
Peyton Hillis has an injured hamstring and won’t practice on Thursday. His agent has advised him not to play in this game, or the next 12. If a case of the sniffles is equal to missing one game, then an injured hamstring must be equal to 13 missed games. Hillis and his agent just can’t be too careful when it comes to the King of Fumbles’ health.

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Quick-Hits: Observations about Week 1 in preseason of the NFL

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws a pass to Laurent Robinson for a touchdown during the second half of their NFL football game in St. Louis, Missouri, December 26, 2010. Bradford set an NFL record for completions in a rookie season. REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

There’s still one game left on the Week 1 preseason schedule (Jets vs. Texans tonight), but I’ve let these thoughts marinate for long enough. Here are some quick-hit observations from Week 1’s NFL preseason games.

Jake Locker turned in the best performance of any rookie quarterback in Week 1. Locker was solid in the Titans’ preseason win over the Vikings on Saturday, completing 7-of-10 passes for 89 yards and a 45-yard touchdown to Yamon Figurs. Granted, he did fumble once and took a sack, but the key is that he looked poised and confident in the pocket. The Titans aren’t paying Matt Hasselbeck $7 million to sit the bench, so don’t count on Locker unseating the veteran this season. But the rook looks good early.

Speaking of rookies, Julio Jones looks like the real deal. It’s way too early to know if the Falcons will receive a good return on their big investment from the 2011 draft, but Jones looks fantastic thus far. In his preseason debut against the Dolphins, both of his receptions went for 20-plus yards and he added one rush for 12 yards on an end-around. He basically affirmed what everyone has been saying: that he doesn’t look like a rookie. Again, it’s early, but the Falcons have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen.

The Bears still have issues on their offensive line. Simply put, GM Jerry Angelo has not done a good enough job building his offensive line over the years. He has missed in the draft (Chris Williams), he has missed in free agency (Orlando Pace), and now he better hope that guys like J’Marcus Webb and Greg Carimi can settle in to their respective positions before quarterback Jay Cutler gets killed. The Bears gave up nine sacks in their win over the Bills on Saturday night, including four by the first-team unit. Granted, Caleb Hanie held onto the ball too long on multi occasions, which contributed to a couple of the sacks. But the bottom line is that Chicago’s offensive line looks poised to hold the Bears back in 2011.

Shawne Merriman could be ready to resurrect his career in Buffalo. Of the nine sacks that the Bills recorded against the Bears on Saturday night, three of them came from Merriman. He absolutely abused J’Marcus Webb on a consistent basis, using the combination of speed, power and technique that made him popular in San Diego early in his career. He has always been a motivated player, so if he’s completely healthy he could be one of the few stars in Buffalo this season.

The Panthers clearly want Cam Newton to start. Jimmy Clausen started Saturday night against the Giants, but Newton entered the game in the second quarter and played into the fourth. Ron Rivera hasn’t made the announcement yet, but Newton figures to start the Panthers’ second preseason game. As long as he looks respectable and isn’t a complete disaster, I think we’ll be seeing Newton as the starter come Week 1 against the Cardinals.

Colt McCoy looks like a perfect fit for Pat Shurmur’s offense. Because they have an entirely new coaching staff and there’s so little time for the players to get up to speed before the regular season starts, the Browns could be one of those teams that is drastically affected by the lockout. Then again, if McCoy plays as well in the regular season as he did in his first preseason game, the Browns may actually be more competitive than people think. McCoy completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown versus Green Bay and while the game was meaningless in the standings, it was hard not to be impressed with the second-year QB’s play. He looked like he had been running Shurmur’s offense for two years – not two months. He’s a perfect fit for the West Coast scheme and thus far, Cleveland fans have to be cautiously excited about his development.

It looks like Ted Thompson has struck draft gold again. Rookie Randall Cobb caught three passes for 60 yards in the Packers’ preseason opener on Saturday. He also racked up 58 yards on two kick returns, impressing the team with his speed and quickness. Aaron Rodgers could have yet another weapon in his passing arsenal this season.

It wasn’t surprising to see the Vikings’ offense struggle as much as it did in Week 1. Minnesota fans seem eager about the potential that this unit has, which is understandable. With guys like Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and now Donovan McNabb on that side of the ball, the Vikes’ O has the chance to be explosive this season. But it will take some time before everyone is on the same page with new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Plus, while McNabb may be familiar with the West Coast Offense, it’ll take time before he gels with his receivers in this offense. Both of his series on Saturday ended in punts and his average pass didn’t travel past four yards. Fans might see more of that this preseason as McNabb and the rest of the Vikings’ offense gets acquainted with Musgrave’s system.

It’ll take time before Sam Bradford is comfortable in Josh McDaniels’ system. Bradford was a little shaky in the Rams’ preseason opener on Saturday, completing 7-of-12 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He had great chemistry with tight end Lance Kendricks, but it was clear that Bradford will need a couple of games to play with confidence in McDaniels’ system.

Donovan McNabb is not a robot!

Washington Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Donovan McNabb seems thrilled to be free of the Shanahans in Washington.

“Some coaches say ‘Hey, it’s my way or no way,’ ” McNabb said via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “You become robotic. That’s when you pull away from your style of play and the way of things that got you successful. If things don’t go as well as you’d like them to, you find out what the mistake was, you correct it and you go right back and get it done.”

Mike Shanahan is a control freak. His son Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator in Washington, seems to be even worse. They personify a disturbing trend where coaches try to do too much, and they don’t let their players play. I think if you make football too scripted, you lose the ability to let your players improvise.

I admire teams like the Steelers that put players like Big Ben in a position where he can improvise and make great plays. Of course all of this is a balancing act, but the Shanahans seems to represent the extreme.

I have no idea how McNabb will do in Minnesota. He has some great weapons, but he’s also near the end of the line. That said, he’s a veteran, and it makes sense to let him play the game.

Will John Beck be the Redskins’ starting quarterback in 2011?

Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck warms up for the game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on January 2, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

Rotoworld has two interesting tidbits today on the quarterback situation in Washington:

John Beck is expected to enter training camp as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“It will be his job to lose,” said Schefter, who is tight with coach Mike Shanahan after the two collaborated on a book in the late ’90s. Per Schefter, the Redskins bypassed QBs in the draft because they believe Beck is better than most of the group that was available in the middle of the first round. Beck doesn’t have a touchdown to show for his four NFL starts. He completed 27-of-48 passes (56.2 percent) for 300 yards (6.2 YPA) with a 2:2 TD-to-INT ratio against backups in last year’s preseason. Former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron has given up on Beck twice now, which leaves Shanahan as the 30-year-old’s lone backer.

And:

Free agent Rex Grossman appeared on ESPN 980 Radio Wednesday and said he is under the assumption that he will re-sign with the Redskins.

“I’m assuming that’s what’s going to happen,” he said. Grossman added that OC Kyle Shanahan and QBs coach Matt LaFleur personally asked him to throw with the Redskins’ receivers during the lockout. For now, we consider Grossman likely to be back in Washington to compete with John Beck. Most reporters covering the situation believe Beck will be ahead on the depth chart.

Am I the only one flabbergasted that people believe John Beck will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback next season? I get that this is all just speculation at this point, but I can’t be the only one who is raising an eyebrow to Mike Shanahan’s (potenital) madness here, right?

Beck isn’t without talent, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Miami and I’m wondering what Shanahan sees in him to make him believe that he can start in Washington. I figured that Grossman, who Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb for last season, would be the favorite heading into training camp when the lockout lifts in the summer of 2032 – not Beck. (Assuming Grossman re-signs with the team, of course.)

But hey, what to do I know? Maybe Beck is the best fit for Shanahan’s offense and he just needed to find the right situation to succeed. Clearly the Redskins believe in him or else they would have drafted a signal caller in April, although they still could sign a veteran free agent like Vince Young when/if he becomes available later this summer.

Still, does anyone else envision Shanahan throwing a whole bunch of mediocre talent into a mixing bowl and just going week-by-week in terms of whom he starts at quarterback next year? Because I sure can…

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