September 20, 2010
I'm parked in front of a television for about 10 hours every Sunday. I make observations, I take notes. Monday afternoon, we season to taste and serve them to you.
On one hand, I'm happy to see John Fox and the Panthers pull the plug on Matt Moore(notes). The quarterback looked dreadful in the preseason, he looked terrible in New Jersey, and he was awful in the home opener. Four picks, eight sacks, 41.8 QB rating, there's nowhere to hide with those numbers. He earned his benching.
I don't have a say in how the Panthers run things, but I'll be stunned if they don't circle the wagons and simplify the offense in the next few weeks. Look for a lot more DeAngelo Williams(notes), a lot more Jonathan Stewart(notes). I don't see an easy game waiting for them over the next five weeks (Bengals, Saints, Bears, bye, Niners); with that sort of schedule, it makes sense to put Clausen in a game-manager mode.
Steve Smith is probably the biggest loser in all this. For all of Moore's struggles this year, he did find a way to throw two touchdown passes to Smith, and that pair was in sync down the stretch last season. Now Smith has to get comfortable with a rookie quarterback, and remember we're talking about a project in Clausen, not an anointed star. This is not a Sam Bradford(notes) or even a Matthew Stafford(notes) blue-chip prospect here. Clausen is a wait-and-see guy, someone we can't expect much from right away.
Stewart, off tackle. Williams, around the end. Get used to it, amigos.
• Brett Favre(notes) looked about 100 years old in the loss to Miami; we can all see that. But the biggest problem in Minnesota right now is the dreadful play of the offensive line. Run blocking, forget it; it's miraculous that Adrian Peterson is still chewing up yardage despite a lack of running lanes. You generally can find ways to mask the weak pass blocking of a suspect line, especially when you have a veteran QB in the pocket, but the Vikings were abused Sunday by Miami's rush. Getting an impact receiver isn't going to magically fix this offense, be it Vincent Jackson(notes) through trade or Sidney Rice(notes) later in the year. And Favre, until further notice, is a backup fantasy quarterback.
• The Bengals are giving Jermaine Gresham(notes) some time as a receiver, which makes sense because he's completely lost as a blocker right now. But what has happened to Carson Palmer(notes)? I'm starting to think he'll never be an above-average quarterback again, no matter how many offensive skill players the Bengals wind up importing. Cincinnati's best chance to win in 2010 is just like it was last year; ugly the game up, stay conservative, and hope the first team to 17 points or so gets the victory.
• It's going to be a fun year to own the Pittsburgh defense, a unit that's completely different with Troy Polamalu(notes) back in the saddle. The Steelers proved themselves with physical victories over the Falcons and Titans, and now the schedule really opens up (Tampa, Baltimore, bye, Cleveland, Miami). Way to hold down the fort, Mike Tomlin.
• Andy Behrens was right – the best time to trade Brandon Jackson(notes) was probably last week. His 11-carry, 29-yard flop against Buffalo was eye-opening to say the least, and it won't surprise me if the Packers try to swing a trade before the window closes. As for the Green Bay passing game, don't sleep on James Jones(notes) (3-32, touchdown). He was getting a lot of red-zone looks against the Bills.
• I never thought I'd be saying this, but I found myself rooting for Michael Vick(notes) at Detroit, and I'll openly admit I'm disappointed he won't be starting next week. He's never going to be super-accurate or the best decision-maker in the pocket, but he was solid in those areas Sunday, and he has maintained most of his athleticism. If he ever gets the starting job in Philadelphia, he can emerge as an every-week, no-doubt fantasy starter.
• I want to buy into Jay Cutler(notes) and the Bears, I really do. The NFL is always more interesting when there's a Mike Martz offense making beautiful music. But I'm worried that the Bears won't be able to run block at all – forcing Martz to junk the running game prematurely in most weeks – and even though Cutler hung tough against the Dallas rush during Sunday's upset, there's no doubt he got the tar beaten out of him, too. Can this last for 16 games?
• Derek Anderson(notes) makes Nuke LaLoosh seem like Greg Maddux. Anderson has no idea where the ball is going, and worse yet, he has little idea of what he's seeing when he surveys the pocket. Mind you, Matt Leinart(notes) was no better.
• I didn't want to overreact to Matt Cassel's(notes) poor opener, given that it was in the rain. OK, he's a mess in the dry weather too. I had Dwayne Bowe(notes) as a top-20 receiver all summer but that looks like a clear mistake. And don't even get me started on Todd Haley and Jamaal Charles(notes), or I'll begin a rant that will never stop. The worst part of Haley Ball thus far: the team is 2-0, so nothing is going to change right away.
• Jerome Harrison's(notes) lost fumble was a poor call but it's hard to defend a guy who rushes 16 times on the Chiefs and comes out with just 33 yards. And it's obvious the Browns prefer Peyton Hillis(notes) for the short-yardage work.
• Give the Jets credit for realizing how they botched the opening-night loss to Baltimore; you can't have lofty goals in this league playing "Hide the Quarterback." Brian Schottenheimer took the wraps off Mark Sanchez(notes) against New England, and Sanchez was up to the assignment. Eventually this is going to help everyone on the offense, especially the backs; LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) found some nice running lanes against the Pats. And, yes, right now, Tomlinson is clearly this team's best back.
• Marcedes Lewis(notes) gave us a two-score game in Week 1, then a 70-yard game in Week 2. He's probably past the post-hype portion of his career, but we are talking about a mobile and rangy tight end who was a first-round draft pick in his class. It's not as if the Jaguars are overflowing with quality targets.
• Eli to Peyton: Boys to Men.
• If the Raiders can find consistent quarterback play, Louis Murphy(notes) might be worth starting just about every week. If I ran that club, I'd give Bruce Gradkowski(notes) a chance to take the starting job and run with it. I've never liked the decisions Jason Campbell(notes) makes in the pocket, and while Gradkowski has that Jeff Garcia(notes) hyperactivity in the pocket, he's got some playmaker in him as well.
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