AROUND THE NFL

The first game on Monday night had an awfully good finish.

 

Houston took over, down seven, with 50 seconds left.  And scored with too much time on the clock.  Danny Heifetz of The Ringer:

 

Saints fans showed up to the Superdome dressed as referees. Blind referees, to be specific. The last game that happened in New Orleans, the NFC championship game, is best remembered for the missed pass-interference call that led to a citywide meltdown and the league’s mea culpa of making pass interference reviewable. But while fans and the media latched onto that play, the fact that the Saints had a chance to win the game in overtime before a Drew Brees interception got lost in the subsequent discussion.

 

On Monday night against the Texans, the Saints nearly lost again because of a penalty, and unlike that NFC championship game it was a good call. New Orleans overcame a 14-3 first-half deficit to storm back and take a 27-21 lead with less than a minute remaining. But Houston responded with a lightning-quick, two-play, 75-yard drive that took just 13 seconds and was capped by a 37-yard pass to new arrival Kenny Stills.

 

The touchdown tied the game at 27, and all the Texans needed to do to take the lead was kick the extra point. But Ka’imi Fairbairn missed, keeping the game tied and setting up yet another overtime in the Superdome. But then—unlike the NFC championship game—a flag came in (and this one was not not a trick of the light from the broadcast). Also unlike the NFC championship game, the refs were right. The Saints were guilty of roughing the kicker, and the Texans were given another chance, which Fairbairn hit to give his team a 28-27 lead.

 

Brees got the ball back with 37 seconds left and was surgical on the ensuing drive. Ted Ginn for 15 yards to the New Orleans 40. Spike. Michael Thomas for 11 yards into Texans territory. Spike. Then, with six seconds left, Brees found Ginn for 9 yards putting them at the Houston 40.

 

@SharpFootball

Rush two, drop nine, WTH O’Brien?!

 

There are six seconds left & these guys are backpedaling like Brees is gonna actually reach the end zone on a Hail Mary to end the game.

 

New Orleans called a timeout with two seconds left to set up a Wil Lutz 58-yard field goal attempt. Lutz’s career long was 57 yards. He nailed the kick, which looked like it would’ve been good from 60.

 

As cathartic as the win was for New Orleans, it was crushing for Houston—especially their quarterback. Nine days ago, the Texans mortgaged their future to protect Deshaun Watson by sending their next two first-round picks to the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. It didn’t work. Watson was sacked six times on Monday, the most in the league through Week 1. The sixth sack was given up by Tunsil. It doesn’t get more facepalm than that. Watson was brilliant on Monday, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. But the repeated sacks showed that the team can’t protect him. On Monday the juxtaposition between his talents and the team’s failure to keep him upright was never clearer than on his final throw of the game, when he threw the game-tying touchdown to Stills, the other part of the Miami trade, as the quarterback was crushed by Saints safety Vonn Bell, who came around Tunsil’s side of the line unblocked. The Miami trade giveth, the Miami trade taketh away (and taketh away, and taketh away).

 

Protecting their franchise quarterback isn’t just the Texans’ biggest problem. It was also their first problem. Their first franchise quarterback, David Carr, was protected by an expansion-caliber offensive line that was overwhelmed at the pro level back in their inaugural 2002 season. Carr was sacked an NFL-record 76 times in his rookie year and then sacked 68 times in his fourth year, good for the third-most sacks in a season. He led the league in sacks in three of his first four years; the lone exception was when he missed time due to injury. Carr’s career was suffocated underneath the deluge of defenders, and he left Houston after five seasons, making just four starts for the rest of his career.

 

Despite attempts to improve the offensive line this offseason—in addition to the Tunsil trade, the Texans drafted two linemen in the first two rounds in April—2019 already looks similar to last year, when Watson was sacked 62 times (the ninth NFL player to be sacked 60 or more times). With Watson taking six sacks in Week 1, he is on pace for 96 this year. It doesn’t help that Watson isn’t the best at protecting himself, whether he’s in the pocket for sacks or laying out for touchdowns. But forcing Watson to put himself on the line is how Houston plays, for better and worse.

 

While the Texans offense forced fans to hold their breath on every Watson dropback, the Saints offense was taking their fans’ breath away. Running back Alvin Kamara had a mini–Marshawn Lynch Beastquake in the second half.

 

Quarterback Taysom Hill, Drew Brees’s stunt double, leveled Houston’s Whitney Mercilus on a cut block …

 

… crumpled a cornerback on a read-option …

 

… and then caught the touchdown that cut the Texans’ lead to 21-17.

 

Hill may already be the most fun player in the league. But it was New Orleans’s other quarterback who was vindicated on Monday. In January, Brees had the chance to overcome a bad call and faltered. On Monday he overcame a good call with an impeccable performance. Perhaps it was enough to inspire Saints fans to wear Saints gear instead of referee uniforms. Or maybe not. Next week the Saints travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams.

 

The DB would note that in the course of Monday’s theatrics, QB TAYSOM HILL became the 67th player to catch a TD pass from DREW BREES.

 

And if you thought J.J. WATT wasn’t a factor, you were right.  This from NFL Research:

 

@NFLResearch

In tonight’s loss to the Saints, J.J. Watt failed to record at least 1 tackle or 1 QB hit for the first time in 105 career games.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

At the moment, QB AARON RODGERS seems all in with Coach Matt LaFleur.  Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:

 

Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers have heard others pick their relationship apart for eight months, so there was a moment in the delirium of the Packers locker room post-season-opening win that others in there took note of, a moment that came after the new Green Bay coach had delivered what was a relatively boiler-plate address to his team following a 10-3 win in Chicago.

 

Hold on, hold on, hold on, Aaron Rodgers shouted. Defense should probably be giving him this, but it’s not every day you get your first win as a head coach.

 

The 35-year-old quarterback then buried the game ball in his 39-year coach’s chest.

 

“It meant a lot,” LaFleur said from his office on Saturday afternoon. “He obviously didn’t have to do that. I definitely wasn’t expecting it. And you know I’m so appreciative of all those guys. And for him to do that, because he was voted captain by his teammates, and to get it from one of the captains, and specifically him, somebody I work with so closely on a daily basis, it meant everything to me.”

– – –

There was an even better example later. Before the game, Rodgers and LaFleur had discussed what they would do if they were backed up against their goal line—and the coach was a little worried about some of the protections they had in, if they wanted to go downfield in that kind of spot. He suggested a play that the Packers hadn’t run in practice last week. Rodgers was amenable.

 

On second-and-9 from Packers 6, with 11:07 left, LaFleur called it. Hard play fake. Deep drop. Rodgers planted his foot in the end zone and found Trevor Davis sitting in a hole in the Bears zone, 20 or so yards downfield. The play went for 28, and became the catalyst that ended in a field goal and took 6:28 off the fourth-quarter clock. Even more impressive, the call and throw came with Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling out.

 

“That was a good moment for us in terms of him trusting the fact that, hey, here’s a play that we may not have repped, but he went out there and you trusted that it was the right call and executed,” LaFleur said. “It really helped us out because that was the only other drive we scored points on.”

 

So in that regard, this was a good start. And that’s really what LaFleur is concerned with. As for all the digging into where he and Rodgers stand?

 

“I’m numb to it, man,” he said, laughing, then bringing up the previous Tuesday’s press conference, where some thought he was upset over being questioned about the relationship.

 

“I was just joking around, I wasn’t really pissed off or anything like that,” LaFleur says. “Yeah, it’s just noise to me, it’s total noise. I don’t give it two seconds of thought.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic thinks Mike Zimmer has the offense he wants:

 

Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison both are explosive and powerful running backs with the Vikings, with great instincts. Mike Zimmer finally has an offense that complements his coaching style and defense. His offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is a rising star in the coaching world. The Vikings won with just 10 throws from Kirk Cousins, which tells me they don’t care how they win, as long as they do win.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Except when talking about the Patriots and Vikings, Michael Lombardi of The Athletic is in a sour mood.  He spars nothing with the Giants:

 

The Cowboys destroyed the Giants’ defense. I am reserving judgment on how good the Boys can be offensively until they play a better team. The Giants are bad on offense except for Saquon Barkley, and they’re bad on defense. They are a lousy football team. While the loss was not Eli Manning’s fault specifically, and while there are plenty of holes with the Giants that go beyond just the quarterback, I still have no idea what the Giants see in Manning to believe he can still win games. His record after the first eight games of the season in 2017 and ’18 is a combined 2-14. Again, the Giants have plenty of holes, but franchise quarterbacks need to do better than that. Manning had a 300-yard day passing, but all those yards came after the game was already decided. He was 13-19 for 102 yards in the first half.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

DT MALIK JACKSON is a casualty of the opening win over Washington.  Tim McManus of ESPN:

 

Eagles defensive tackle Malik Jackson suffered a “significant” foot injury in Sunday’s opener against the Washington Redskins, coach Doug Pederson said.

 

Jackson will undergo further testing to see if surgery is required and determine if it’s a season-ending injury. Either way, Jackson is expected to be out for a while. The Eagles may make a roster move Tuesday to account for his absence, Pederson said.

 

Jackson was injured late in the game during a pass rush. He left on a cart and exited the stadium in a walking boot.

 

The Eagles signed Jackson to a three-year, $30 million deal this offseason. In pairing Jackson with Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia was slated to have one of the top defensive tackle duos in the NFL. Tim Jernigan will step into a starting role while Jackson is out.

 

Jackson posted 32.5 sacks in seven seasons with the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars. He earned a Pro Bowl bid in after racking up eight sacks for Jacksonville in 2017. His signing was expected to partially offset the departures of Chris Long and Michael Bennett, two of the top pass-rushers for Philadelphia in 2017.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Atlanta’s crummy opener started when it couldn’t block Minnesota.  Albert Breer:

 

The scary thing for Atlanta wasn’t in the score in Minnesota, though that wasn’t good. It was that the offensive line, after massive offseason investments there, wasn’t better. Matt Ryan was sacked four times. And if you take away two 12-yard Ryan scrambles, the Falcons rushed for just 49 yards on 15 carries. Which obviously isn’t good enough.

 

 

CAROLINA

Something to keep an eye on with a short week.  From David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who showed up Monday on the Panthers’ practice report with a back injury, is not practicing Tuesday. OLB Brice Irvin (hamstring) also out.

 

Irvin did not play Sunday against the Rams, Olsen did.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic with some shots at the Bucs and their GM:

 

The Tampa Bay Bucs’ offensive line is terrible — which then brings out the worst in quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston turned the ball over three more times against the 49ers, who only had two interceptions all of last year.

 

Tampa Bay — General Manager Jason Licht received an extension this offseason. Not sure how when looking at this roster.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Vic Fangio was supposed to take the Denver pass rush to new heights.  Instead, the rush was as flat as Eastern Colorado on Monday night.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Derek Carr left Monday night’s 24-16 tilt versus the Denver Broncos without a scratch. In fact, the Oakland Raiders’ quarterback didn’t have so much as a dirt smudge on his fender.

 

The Broncos’ pass rush entered 2019 with fearsome expectations led by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who were expected to be Bash Brothers in Vic Fangio’s system, annihilating opponents’ game plans.

 

Instead, Denver’s D got worked over by the Raiders’ offensive line.

 

The Broncos barely laid a fingernail on Carr, earning a goose egg in the stats columns: Zero sacks. Zero QB hits.

 

“My job is to sack the quarterback and I didn’t get to him once, not even a quarterback hit,” Miller said after the tilt. “Disappointed in myself on an individual level. They were throwing the ball quick, but we have to find a way to get there.”

 

It was the first time the Broncos failed to record a sack in a game since Week 16, 2017.

 

But it wasn’t just that Denver couldn’t take Carr down, it’s that they barely even sniffed him.

 

According to Next Gen Stats, the Broncos generated pressure on 15.4 percent of dropbacks. Last year’s Denver squad earned pressure on 28.0 percent of dropbacks.

 

It’s true that Carr got rid of the ball quickly, negating some of the pressure, but that caveat doesn’t come close to telling the story of how the Raiders offensive line steamrolled the Denver D.

 

Offensive tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown were fantastic, stonewalling Chubb, Miller and any other takers. The line opened up gaping holes for rookie running back Josh Jacobs to dart through. They thoroughly dominated after entering the season with question marks.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

CB GAREON CONLEY left Monday’s game on a cart.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley was carted off the field on a stretcher in the third quarter of Monday night’s 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos.

 

The team quickly ruled him out for the remainder of the game with a neck injury.

 

Conley was attempting a tackle on Broncos running back Royce Freeman along the sideline when Raiders teammate Johnathan Abram attempted a tackle on the RB. Abram hit Freeman with his helmet, but the safety’s leg inadvertently hit Conley right on the top of his helmet as the CB was on the ground. Conley laid on the field for around 10 minutes, as trainers attended to him. He left the field on a backboard and gave a thumbs up to the crowd upon departing.

 

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said following the game that Conley’s injury is not as serious as it looked.

 

“I got good word on him that he is going to be OK,” Gruden told reporters. “I don’t know his status for the next game but, most importantly, the kid is alright. That was a scary hit that he took, but all the reports that I have are very, very positive.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com is among those praising QB LAMAR JACKSON:

 

Maybe we shouldn’t treat Lamar Jackson as a curiosity anymore. Maybe we shouldn’t see his implementation as an NFL quarterback as some sort of experiment. Maybe we should look at him in the context of Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the guys drafted with him, rather than reaching back for the Robert Griffins and Tim Tebows of the world.

 

And my impetus for thinking about that is this: Jackson’s two long touchdowns to Ravens first-round pick Hollywood Brown, both in the first quarter of yesterday’s opener in Miami, weren’t pulled from some bag of tricks that offensive coordinator Greg Roman brought with him for the Dolphins. Nor were they part of the so-called revolution that the Ravens were supposed to lead this fall to accommodate Jackson’s different skill set.

 

“Actually, we had those plays in,” Jackson told me from the locker room postgame. “The guy is just fast. He beat the coverage. Got open. I just had to deliver a good ball for him to score on, and that’s what he did.”

 

Not new plays, you say?

 

“Those were not new plays,” Jackson said. “We had been running those.”

 

I’m not going to overreact too much to what we saw yesterday, and that was a pretty bad Dolphins team that the Ravens happened to shred, too.

 

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in action against the Dolphins.

Mark Brown/Getty Images

But there’s significance in what Jackson is saying. For months now we’ve heard that Roman and the Baltimore staff were going to turn the league on its ear by leveraging Jackson’s road-runner-level legs. The implication was that the 22-year-old, at this point in his development, needed it to be that way.

 

So when it turns out that he didn’t? I think that means something.

 

Those two touchdowns from Jackson from Brown were just as Jackson explained them—football plays that he’d run before.

 

The first, the 47-yarder, was actually a product of something Jackson has worked on with his receivers for a while now. Last year, as he saw it, he wasn’t hitting his targets in stride like he should, which handicapped the receivers’ own ability to turn shorter throws into big gains.

 

“That was a big emphasis,” Jackson says. “I’ve been saying that what I want them to do is finish out the plays and score touchdowns. That’s what we did today.”

 

On this play, a first-and-10 from the Dolphins 47, Jackson took the snap, faked to Mark Ingram, pulled the ball (it looked like RPO action), and hit Brown between the ‘1’ and the ‘5’ on his jersey, which set him up to take the slant and turn upfield for the long score.

 

The next one, an 83-yarder, was actually even easier.

 

“Five-step dropback, it looked like they dropped to Cover 2,” Jackson said. “[Brown] was one-on-one with the safety, I just had to give him a great ball and let him run under it. And you guys seen him in college. You were able to see it on that play. He has the speed to run to the ball, track the ball down and score a long touchdown. That’s what he did.”

 

This doesn’t mean Jackson’s going to be league MVP. We can take it slow, at least for now, on that. But it does mean that just maybe we’ve all looked at this the wrong way.

 

Both the above plays, and a bunch of others, showed Jackson operating concepts that any other NFL quarterback would, and making NFL quarterback decisions. On the Brown scores, Jackson saw matchups he liked, and took them. No smoke-and-mirrors. Just the quarterback carrying out the plays and showing his own growth in the process.

 

Now, here’s the scary part about that : He didn’t even have to use his generational talent as a running quarterback to accomplish it.

 

 

CINCINNATI

The Bengals have jettisoned a recent 3rd-round pick.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The makeover continues in Cincinnati.

 

The Bengals are waiving defensive end Jordan Willis, Tom Pelissero of the NFL reports.

 

The team made him a third-round choice in 2017 after he stood out at the Senior Bowl and ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

 

He played all 32 games with two starts in his first two seasons but was inactive for Sunday’s season opener.

 

Willis finished his time in Cincinnati with 45 tackles and two sacks.

 

The Bengals are expected to sign veteran linebacker LaRoy Reynolds to take his roster spot, according to Pelissero.

 

Reynolds, 28, has played 84 games with seven starts since 2013. He has played for the Jaguars, Bears, Falcons and Eagles.

 

He appeared in all 16 games for Philadelphia last season.

 

 

CLEVELAND

If the plan was to get major publicity for his massively expensive watch, WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. can say mission accomplished.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Odell Beckham appears to feel the same way about his watch that Antonio Brown felt about his old helmet.

 

The Browns wideout wore a $350,000 watch during the team’s loss to the Titans last Sunday and word from the league was that his choice of accessory was a violation of league rules. The league was expected to address the issue with Beckham and the Browns without any discipline being imposed.

 

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Beckham said on Tuesday that he plans to wear the watch again in Week Two against the Jets. He also said that he feels it is only an issue because he is wearing the watch and that there would be no issue at all if the watch cost $20.

 

Beckham added that he wants it to be “about football, not the watch.” His approach to making things about football instead of the watch is sure to leave some scratching their head.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

WR DEVIN FUNCHESS broke his collar bone against the Chargers.  He goes on IR, but could return in about two months.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

A team run by Tom Coughlin has “no discipline” according to Michael Lombardi of The Athletic:

 

Jacksonville has zero discipline and lacks mental toughness as a team. These two weaknesses were on full display against the Chiefs. Ten penalties called against them and Myles Jack, their best linebacker, was tossed from the game. Now without Nick Foles at quarterback the Jags will have to win with their defense, but is it good enough? I don’t think so.

– – –

Scoop about new QB GARDNER MINSHEW from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com off a Tweet from Ross Tucker:

 

@RossTuckerNFL

Gardner Minshew was going to be the 3rd sting QB for Bama last year as a Grad Transfer.  Now he’s playing and playing well as a rookie in the NFL in the opener.

 

Life is crazy.

 

This is true. Minshew initially intended to transfer to Alabama from East Carolina in early 2018, because he wanted to get into coaching and believed playing for Nick Saban would be a good step in that direction. Had he gone, he’d have backed up Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts last fall. Instead, he relented to Washington State coach Mike Leach’s sales pitch. And the rest is history.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

CB XAVIER HOWARD is not among the Dolphins who want to bail on the looming disaster per a Tweet from veteran Miami Herald scribe Barry Jackson:

 

Barry Jackson

‏@flasportsbuzz

Regarding PFT report about some players wanting out, one player who did NOT ask for trade today is Xavien Howard. Dolphins have told him they value him and he said he wants to stay

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

There are the Patriots, mighty and proud.  But they couldn’t resist adding one more piece in WR ANTONIO BROWN.  It may make them a 19-0 juggernaut, like other bad apples tamed by Belichick have done.

 

But Jon Gruden has words of warning.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It’s fitting for the Antonio Brown saga in Oakland, that even when Jon Gruden thought he was offering the last word, there were more words. Also, two key ones.

 

With the Raiders winning in their first game after releasing the high-maintenance wideout, Gruden was hoping he could finally move past the hourly drama.

 

“What happened here the last couple days may have been, you know, big news to some, but there were no distractions,” Gruden said, via Josh Schrock of NBCSportsBayArea.com. “I think you could tell that tonight, our team was ready to roll.

 

“I’m never going to bring it up again. That incident, whatever you call it, had nothing to do with our team’s focus or preparation. That’s it. End of story.”

 

But wait, there’s more. With Antonio Brown, there’s always more.

 

Asked later if the Raiders surprised people by beating the Broncos without Brown (though they barely practiced with him), Gruden offered a final volley, or a warning shot to Bill Belichick.

 

“As much as people talk about it, I mean, my god,” Gruden said. “Man, I feel like someone smashed me in my temple on the side of the head. Get over it, man. It’s over. You know? We were good in the preseason without him. We’re going to be fine without him. And we wish him the best.

 

“You know, we gave it a shot. Now New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. I can’t deal with it anymore.”

 

Whenever Brown runs his course with the Patriots, we can only hope Belichick offers as eloquent a benediction.

 

Belichick confidante Michael Lombardi predicts how it will play out in the digital pages of The Athletic:

 

When dealing with Brown off the field someone needs to be strong, decisive and consistent. Enter Bill Belichick, the Patriots head coach. Belichick has no problem coaching talented, high-strung players dating to his time with the New York Giants, where he dealt with Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. He will lay out a comprehensive team plan for Brown on what he expects from the wide receiver. Belichick won’t sugarcoat the conversation; he will be brutally direct, always putting the team first and making sure Brown understands that no one is bigger than the team. Not Brown, not Brady not Belichick himself.

 

When Belichick traded for Randy Moss in 2007, I was still working with the Raiders as a senior executive. He called and asked me about Moss the player and the person. It was an easy conversation because Moss was excellent in both areas —he was one of the smartest players I have ever been around. He just hated the regime in Oakland and thought people lied to him. Belichick never lies to players. The conversation with Belichick might not be what the player wants to hear, but there can be no misunderstanding or debate afterward, as Belichick is entirely straightforward.

 

Most importantly, what Belichick and Brown discuss behind closed doors stays between them — no one will know about their conversations. Belichick is not interested in selling this decision to the media or having his picture taken alongside Brown; he is only interested in doing what is best for the team. Getting Brown’s act right off the field is best for the Patriots.

 

Belichick is not afraid of hurting Brown’s feelings, or recruiting him, he knows Brown only respects the truth. Brown will not operate as an independent contractor; there won’t be any press conferences to announce his arrival; there won’t be any special concessions made for Brown. Brown will be expected to behave in the same manner that every other Patriot player must act. The reality is that Brown just joined the NFL version of the Navy Seals.

 

On the field Brown gives the Patriots the best receiver they have had since Moss. Brady wants to throw the ball in the middle of the field, and when the Patriots had tight end Rob Gronkowski to play alongside slot receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White, Brady had three options. Before Brown arrived, Brady had just two. Now, Brown essentially will replace Gronk in the passing game and allow Brady to control the middle passing game while still having Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett on the outside. Adding Brown will allow Brady to control the game at the line of scrimmage. Brown will not come back to the huddle demanding the ball because Brady won’t tolerate that behavior. The Patriot huddle may have great offensive stars, but no one is bigger than the team. With Super Bowl MVP Edelman in the huddle, Brown will have to adapt his game and not be the center of attention. Can he handle this? Does he have a choice?  If Brown fails to comply, his career will be in serious doubt.

 

Belichick has always loved Brown’s talent as a receiver and who doesn’t? Brown the player is easy to love. In the opening game of the 2015 season when the Patriots faced the Steelers in Foxborough, Brown was targeted 11 times, catching nine for 133 yards and a touchdown. The whole time he was doubled and still got open. He was a beast, and the Patriots had no answer to slow him down.

 

In the end will this work? My sense is yes, in part because I know “fear” always does the work of reason. After all that happened in Oakland, Brown should be fearful.  Players who are fearful their career might be in danger are more open to change. With only one year left on his deal, Brown can become a free agent next year, and sign a huge contract. Meanwhile, Belichick will either re-sign Brown or take a compensatory pick for this 15-game experiment.

 

Sunday night the explosive Patriots offense did not look in need of another talented receiver. With Brown in the fold, their third-down offense will improve as will their red-zone execution. Brown the player will shine as long as Brown the person doesn’t sabotage his own career.

 

 

 

– – –

T MARCUS CANNON went down, but not out for the long term, on Sunday night. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Lost in the thorough and complete beating they administered to the Steelers Sunday night was an actual concern for the Patriots.

 

When right tackle Marcus Cannon went down late in the game, it underscored their lack of depth on the offensive line. But there might be a silver lining.

 

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, Cannon left the locker room in a sling, but his injury isn’t considered season-ending or long-term in nature.

 

For those final eight snaps of the game, the Patriots moved left guard Joe Thuney out to tackle, but if Cannon misses time they might go with Korey Cunningham, who was inactive in the opener.

 

The Patriots made three trades for line depth during the preseason, after losing center David Andrews for the season because of blood clots. They ended up cutting one of them (Russell Bodine), but they might need to make some more moves to shore up a thin spot.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

PK KAARE VEDVIK was woeful on Sunday in the loss to the Bills.  Another Jets kicking change could be afoot.  Mike Stypulkoski of NJ.com handicaps the field.

 

Sorry, Kaare.

 

The Jets are reportedly working out potential new kickers on Tuesday, as they continue searching for a solution at that position. Kaare Vedvik, in his first week with the team, missed a PAT and a 45-yard field goal in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Bills.

 

After the game, head coach Adam Gase was not in the mood to give Vedvik a vote of confidence. So, this process firing up again was pretty predictable.

 

But who can the Jets realistically land that might be an upgrade over Vedvik? Here’s a look at five players who fit that description:

 

1. Elliott Fry, free agent

The Ravens churned out extra kickers this summer. For the Jets’ sake, hopefully Fry would turn out better than Vedvik – who started training camp in Baltimore. The Ravens shipped Vedvik to the Vikings in exchange for a fifth-round pick. He’s since bombed, both with the Vikings and Jets. But Fry, who the Ravens released just before Labor Day, finished camp on the uptick. He just was never going to unseat Justin Tucker in Baltimore, who is one of the league’s best. He spent most of training camp trying to win the Bears’ job, then lost out to Eddy Piniero. But he landed with Baltimore and went 2-for-2 on FGs and 2-for-2 on PATs in the preseason finale – including a 48-yard make. He’s a young guy, too, at age 24. Word on the street the past few weeks has been that Jets GM Joe Douglas would prefer a younger talent.

 

2. Chase McLaughlin, Vikings

Speaking of young kickers, McLaughlin is an undrafted rookie. He recently graduated from Illinois, now he’s making the NFL transition. He went 4-for-6 on FGs of 50-plus yards as a senior. He went 5-for-5 on PATs and 3-for-3 on FGs, including a 54-yarder, this preseason. The Bills couldn’t keep him at the end of this summer because they’d locked up Steven Hauschka long term. So McLaughlin got cut and landed in Minnesota on the practice squad.

 

3. Kai Forbath, free agent

Forbath was released in February and hasn’t landed anywhere since. That’s surprising, considering he hit 84 percent of his field goals in 2017, when he last played a full season. That’s not a bad number. He went 32-for-38 with a long of 53. PATs were a bit shaky, but 34-for-39 isn’t terrible. He was mostly a backup for the Jaguars last year, but kicked in three games and went 4-for-5 on field goals and 3-for-3 on PATs. So clearly he can still do this a bit. He’s 31, but that’s not even close to old by kicker standards.

 

4. Cody Parkey, free agent

Yes, Parkey is synonymous with the Bears’ heartbreaking “double doink.” But infamy aside, he still may be a better option than Vedvik, who has now kicked in just one NFL game. Parkey is only two years older, at 27, and has a Pro Bowl pedigree; he made the game in 2014. He definitely had a rough year for the Bears, going 23-for-30 (76.7 percent) in 2018. But he also made 93.3 percent of PATs, so at least you know he’s solid on those. The bet would be that Parkey reverts to his old self – or at least moves closer to the mean. He’s a career 83.9 percent kicker on field goals. He has a history with Gase, too; both men were in Miami in 2017.

 

5. Younghoe Koo, free agent

Koo is a New Jersey native – he went to Ridgewood High School. Back in 2017, he cracked the NFL with the Chargers, though he lasted just four games because he went 3-for-6 on field goals. That said, one of those attempts was blocked, which wasn’t his fault. And right before the block, he made what would have been a last-minute, game-tying kick, but it was called back because the Broncos had called timeout. Koo also went 3-for-3 on PATs during his NFL stint. Then, in 2018, he landed in the AAF and put together an unblemished kicking record in that developmental league. So, it’s probably time he got another shot at the NFL level.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ESPN POWER RANKING AFTER WEEK 1

 

Plus a rookie who flashed:

 

1. New England Patriots (1-0)                Preseason ranking: 1

Rookie who flashed: Isaiah Wynn, OT

 

How the newcomer starred: The 2018 first-round draft choice, who had missed his rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon, played all 70 snaps protecting Tom Brady’s blind side and held his ground in a promising performance.

 

2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)                        Preseason ranking: 2

Rookie who flashed: Juan Thornhill, S

 

How the newcomer starred: Thornhill stood out among Chiefs’ rookies mainly because he was the only one starting.

 

3. New Orleans Saints (1-0)                        Preseason ranking: 3

Rookie who flashed: Erik McCoy, C

 

How the newcomer starred: The new starting center sure seemed to hold up well on a night when the Saints ran for 148 yards on 21 carries (a 7.0 average) and threw for 370 yards on 44 dropbacks. Drew Brees was sacked only once.

 

4. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)                           Preseason ranking: 4

Rookie who flashed: Taylor Rapp, S

 

How the newcomer starred: The versatility of the second-round pick was on display throughout the 32 snaps (48%) he played on defense. Before the game, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Rapp would not be used only as a backup and noted his “short-area quickness” and tackling ability.

 

5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)                            Preseason ranking: 5

Rookie who flashed: Miles Sanders, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: His stat line (11 carries, 25 yards) doesn’t tell the whole story. Sanders saw a touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty and broke off a 19-yarder that showed off the burst and wiggle that coaches and teammates have been talking up all summer.

 

6. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)                                    Preseason ranking: 9

Rookie who flashed: Tony Pollard, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: The Cowboys had only two rookies active for the game, so the choice by default is Pollard, a fourth-round running back. He was nearly the starter before Ezekiel Elliott signed in the middle of last week. Pollard’s numbers do not look that strong — 13 carries, 24 yards — but some of that was a product of being in a run-out-the-clock situation late in the game.

 

7. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)                            Preseason ranking: 6

Rookie who flashed: Drue Tranquill, LB

 

How the newcomer starred: The fourth-round selection didn’t play a snap on defense. However, he played 16 snaps on special teams, finishing with a tackle and a partially blocked punt in his first NFL game.

 

8. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)                                      Preseason ranking: 17

Rookie who flashed: Marquise Brown, WR

 

How the newcomer starred: The No. 25 overall pick showed why he was the first wide receiver selected in this year’s draft. With his electric speed, “Hollywood” scored on his first two catches, recording touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards. Brown’s 147 yards receiving were the most in a player’s first NFL game since Anquan Boldin in 2003.

 

9. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)                                      Preseason ranking: 12

Rookie who flashed: Alexander Mattison, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: While Dalvin Cook stole the show in the Vikings’ 28-12 victory over Atlanta, Mattison — a third-round draft pick — had a handful of big runs in a game in which he notched nine carries for 49 yards.

 

10. Green Bay Packers (1-0                                    Preseason ranking: 13

Rookie who flashed: Darnell Savage, S

 

How the newcomer starred: While top pick Rashan Gary (No. 12 overall) played just six snaps, the 21st overall pick never came off the field.

 

11. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)                                       Preseason ranking: 15

Rookie who flashed: DK Metcalf, WR

 

How the newcomer starred: After arriving to CenturyLink Field in a throwback Steve Largent Seahawks jersey, Metcalf caught four passes for a team-high 89 yards to break Largent’s 43-year-old club record for most yards by a rookie receiver in his debut.

 

12. Houston Texans (0-1)                                           Preseason ranking: 14

Rookie who flashed: Cullen Gillaspia, FB

 

How the newcomer starred: The Texans did not have a rookie contribution on offense or defense. Gillaspia and cornerback Lonnie Johnson did play on special teams

 

13. Chicago Bears (0-1)                                             Preseason ranking: 7

Rookie who flashed: David Montgomery, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: Matt Nagy freely admitted after Week 1’s loss to Green Bay that the rookie running back needs more touches

 

14. Tennessee Titans (1-0)                                         Preseason ranking: 20

Rookie who flashed: A.J. Brown, WR

 

How the newcomer starred: Brown quickly showed that he will be an impactful pass-catcher for the Titans. Known for his ability to generate yards after the catch, Brown turned a short pass into a 51-yard gain on the first play of the second half, helping him to a 100-yard receiving performance on three receptions.

 

15. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)                                           Preseason ranking: 8

Rookie who flashed: Rock Ya-Sin, CB

 

How the newcomer starred: Ya-Sin, who quickly moved up the depth chart during training camp, started on the outside with veteran Pierre Desir on Sunday.

 

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)                                          Preseason ranking: 11

Rookie who flashed: Devin Bush, LB

 

How the newcomer starred: Bush played the most significant role among Steelers rookies, leading the team with 11 tackles.

 

17. Cleveland Browns (0-1)                                           Preseason ranking: 10

Rookie who flashed: Jamie Gillan, P

 

How the newcomer starred: One of Cleveland’s few Week 1 bright spots was Gillan, a rookie punter who averaged almost 47 yards on five punts.

 

18. Carolina Panthers (0-1)                                         Preseason ranking: 18

Rookie who flashed: Brian Burns, OLB

 

How the newcomer starred: Burns was brought in to pressure quarterbacks as an edge rusher, and he responded in his first start with two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss.

 

19. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)                                              Preseason ranking: 16

Rookie who flashed: Chris Lindstrom, G

 

How the newcomer starred: Although he wasn’t flawless, the Falcons’ top pick looked strong at times at right guard before exiting with a broken foot.

 

20. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)                                     Preseason ranking: 22

Rookie who flashed: Nick Bosa, DE

 

How the newcomer starred: Who else? Bosa made his NFL debut after returning from an ankle sprain and made an impact. Although he whiffed on an early sack opportunity as Jameis Winston evaded him, he managed to finish with three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits in unofficial statistics.

 

21. Detroit Lions (0-0-1)                                                   Preseason ranking: 21

Rookie who flashed: T.J. Hockenson, TE

 

How the newcomer starred: Hockenson set a rookie record for yards from a tight end in his debut with a six-catch, 131-yard, one-touchdown effort against Arizona.

 

22. Buffalo Bills (1-0)                                                     Preseason ranking: 25

Rookie who flashed: Devin Singletary, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: First-round pick Ed Oliver turned in a strong effort at defensive tackle, but Singletary was arguably the Bills’ most dynamic playmaker Sunday. He accounted for 98 yards on nine touches.

 

23. Oakland Raiders (1-0)                                              Preseason ranking: 26

Rookie who flashed: Josh Jacobs, RB

 

How the newcomer starred: Jacobs, who never carried the ball more than 20 times in a game at Alabama and rushed only 251 times total in college, showed he was more than ready for prime time. His patience, vision and cutting ability kept Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb at bay. And Jacobs’ 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries proved him prophetic — his play spoke for itself.

 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)                                      Preseason ranking: 19

Rookie who flashed: Gardner Minshew, QB

 

How the newcomer starred: Minshew completed his first 13 passes — the most by a rookie quarterback to begin his career over the past 40 years, per Elias Sports Bureau research — en route to 275 yards and two touchdowns. Minshew completed 22 of 25 passes, with one of the incompletions a pass that bounced off Leonard Fournette’s hands and was intercepted.

 

25. Denver Broncos                                                      Preseason ranking: 23

Rookie who flashed: Dalton Risner, G

 

How the newcomer starred: It wasn’t the best of opening weeks for the Broncos’ rookie class given that Drew Lock is injured and first-rounder Noah Fant was flagged multiple times in a rocky outing in the loss to the Raiders. But against a defensive front that features plenty of bulk, Risner (second round) showed that he’s NFL-ready in the run game.

 

26. New York Jets (0-1)                                                  Preseason ranking: 24

Rookie who flashed: Quinnen Williams, DT

 

How the newcomer starred: Williams wins by default because he’s the only rookie who played a semi-significant role.

 

27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)                                            Preseason ranking: 28

Rookie who flashed: Michael Jordan, G

 

How the newcomer starred: Cincinnati’s rookies had a relatively quiet day, but Jordan held his own at left guard against a quality Seattle defensive front.

 

28. Washington Redskins (0-1)                                        Preseason ranking: 29

Rookie who flashed: Terry McLaurin, WR

 

How the newcomer starred: The Redskins were comfortable releasing Josh Doctson because of what they had in McLaurin and he responded well, catching five passes for 125 yards and a 69-yard touchdown.

 

29. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1)                                             Preseason ranking: 30

Rookie who flashed: Kyler Murray, QB

 

How the newcomer starred: Murray showed why he was the first overall pick in April’s draft during the fourth quarter of a Week 1 tie against Detroit. If it wasn’t for him, the Cardinals wouldn’t have been in position to pull even after three dismal quarters of offense. Murray shined in the fourth quarter, going 15-for-19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the final stanza.

 

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)                                        Preseason ranking: 27

Rookie who flashed: Devin White, LB

 

How the newcomer starred: The No. 5 overall pick had five solo tackles — six combined — in the Bucs’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers.

 

31. New York Giants (0-1)                                                Preseason ranking: 31

Rookie who flashed: Ryan Connelly, LB

 

How the newcomer starred: It was hard to find any of the Giants’ 10 draft picks who excelled in that debacle against Dallas.

 

32. Miami Dolphins (0-1)                                                Preseason ranking: 32

Rookie who flashed: Preston Williams, WR

 

How the newcomer starred: There weren’t many bright spots in the Dolphins’ embarrassing Week 1 loss, but Williams — Miami’s undrafted free-agent find out of Colorado State — showed that he has a real NFL future. He got the start and caught his first career touchdown pass.