Snap judgments on Jackson, Trubisky, Dalton, other NFL QBs

Yardbarker NFL writers Michael Tunison and Chris Mueller address some of the hottest issues in the league. This week’s topic: Which quarterbacks shined brightest and tumbled farthest in Week 1?

Mueller: Week 1 in the NFL, as you may have heard, is the time for snap judgments, many of which end up being wrong. Still, it was hard not to be impressed by several quarterbacking performances and underwhelmed, to say the least, by others. The goal, of course, is to figure which efforts are a harbinger of things to come and which are blips on the radar.

First, the good. I was skeptical about Baltimore’s newfangled offense, both in terms of what form it would take, and whether or not Lamar Jackson could stay healthy enough and improve enough as a passer to make it work. And while the Dolphins are doing everything short of actively throwing games in an effort to tank, what Jackson (324 yards passing, five TDs) did to them in Week 1 was still stunning. 

Jackson has always thrown a good deep ball, and the Ravens had things schemed up such that he had multiple opportunities to cut it loose, and he took full advantage. His 83-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown was beautifully arced, and even took into account a bump that Brown had to fight through well into his route. Far more impressive was his first touchdown hookup with Brown, a 47-yard play that saw him place the ball perfectly on a slant route, giving Brown a chance to catch the ball out ahead of his body and in stride, and go the distance. 

If the pass had been thrown anywhere else, it might still have been a completion, but it wouldn’t have gone for a score. Again, it was only Miami; teams will adjust, and Jackson — who faces Arizona in Week 2 — won’t always have all day to throw, but if he keeps up a pace anything remotely close to this, Baltimore might successfully defend its AFC North title. 

On the flip side, I’d be concerned if I were a Chicago Bears fan. The defense is great, but Mitchell Trubisky did nothing to impress in the 10-3 loss to Green Bay in Week 1. Pro Football Focus’ passing grade for Trubisky was 53.8 — a bad number, yet one that still seemed generous. He was terrible under pressure, terrible against the blitz, and showed no ability to make big plays. The Bears went 3-for-15 on third downs, and Trubisky — who faces a good Broncos defense on the road in Week 2 — consistently failed to fit the ball into tight windows. 

Chicago’s chances of being a serious NFC title contender hinge on Trubisky making big strides, and for one game, he looked overmatched. His interception wasn’t an unlucky one, either. He stared down Allen Robinson, and made it easy for Adrian Amos to play center field and make the pick. The staredown was enough of a rookie mistake.

What’s just as bad is the fact that Trubisky, knowing he had two downs to get 10 yards, could have thrown underneath and taken a chunk, then had a more manageable do-or-die fourth down. He didn’t, and the game was functionally over after that. This is Trubisky’s third season — we need to see much more.

Sep 8, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) passes the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Cincinnati 21-20. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Tunison: Probably the most overlooked of the new head coaches going into 2019 was the Bengals’ Zac Taylor, who had come over from the Rams, for whom he served as quarterbacks coach in 2018. There are several reasons for why this might be — the Bengals are hardly the most popular franchise in the league, but also because even in Marvin Lewis’ protracted stretch of moderate success, there was an understanding that the team hit its ceiling. In part, that was due to good but not great coaching, but also good but not great quarterbacking.

In some ways, the Bengals are caught in the same purgatory a team like the Lions is: They have a middle-of-the-pack starting quarterback who is just good enough to keep his job forever, but never contend for a championship. Andy Dalton is in his ninth season. How did that happen? There have been a few times his status as starter has been threatened, but ultimately the Bengals decided to ride it out.

Clearly the idea of hiring a coach with a background helping QBs was a last-ditch effort to make an honest go of it with Dalton. In Week 1, though the team ultimately fell short in Seattle, he looked pretty good. He threw for two scores and 418 yards. The main concern was a lack of protection, as he was sacked five times, including one on the final possession that resulted in a fumble that iced the game.

This was without the services of A.J. Green and left tackle Cordy Glenn. The Seahawks no longer have the Legion of Boom, but still on the road, given the circumstances, this was about as encouraging as it could be for Dalton, save for perhaps also coming away with a victory.

On the flip side, there’s Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. They dumped Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator and brought back Dirk Koetter, whom the Falcons had success before he had an unremarkable stint as the Bucs head coach. With a supposed return to offensive competence, the Falcons responded with 12 points in Week 1 against Minnesota, and Matt Ryan had his first multiple-interception game since December 2017.

Atlanta stunk up the joint in the first half, trailing 21-0 at the break. This is a team with immense talent on offense, one of the best receiving tandems in the league, and a quarterback who falls just outside the accepted group of elites. Ryan had a chance to possibly get Atlanta into the game early in the second half, only to throw a red- zone interception on the first possession of the third quarter. 

On the second-down play, it was hard to tell whether Ryan was trying to throw it out of the back of the end zone and live for third down or make a sincere attempt to fit one in. Either way the result was essentially a game-ending blunder. Ryan is obviously secure for the foreseeable future, but there’s only so much blame that can be pinned on coordinators for the failure of what should be a dynamic offense.

Mueller: What’s most interesting to me about all of the quarterback-centric stories lately is how many of them seem to involve the play-caller as a co-star. Maybe it’s just my memory failing me, but it feels like the fascination with hotshot offensive coordinators or head coaches is a recent trend. Sure, there was Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense, and Air Coryell further back, but aside from Norv Turner and maybe Mike Shanahan, it never felt like the guys calling the plays in the ’90s and early-2000s had household-name status. 

With Taylor in Cincy, you almost get the sense that he’ll get more credit than Dalton, because there is a perception that Dalton is already known, and any growth will be Taylor’s doing. Same thing in Arizona, where it’s Kyler and Kliff, not just Kyler. I could go on, but you get the idea. 

I don’t want to sound like I’m bemoaning it, either. Feels like a position long described as the most important in all of sports is finally getting the kind of treatment commensurate with such a designation. If you’re trying to find a franchise QB, might as well go all-in on trying to maximize his talents. If that means hiring as head coach a guy they’re comfortable with, like Freddie Kitchens for Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, or surrounding them with players who complement what they do well, like Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, so be it. Better to risk spectacular failure than deal in half-measures.

Sep 8, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) talks with head coach Sean McVay in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tunison:  I think the playcaller as co-star trend began, as many recent coaching trends have, with Rams head Sean McVay. He came to Los Angeles having been hailed with guiding Kirk Cousins to respectability in Washington, where he was offensive coordinator, and the idea was that he could do the same with Jared Goff, who was already being discussed as a bust after a disastrous rookie campaign during the last year of Jeff Fisher’s regime. That was probably unfair given that it was just one abbreviated season, and Fisher had an impressive track record of destroying quarterbacks in pedestrian offenses.

Yet McVay has not only rescued Goff, he has gotten almost the entirety of the credit for his success. Part of that is because fans and media can point to the fact that McVay has been said to essentially read defenses for him and call plays up until the point that the coach can no longer communicate with the quarterback over the helmet mic before a play. That perception solidified with last season’s Super Bowl loss, when the Patriots developed a strategy to call a second defensive play after Goff could no longer talk with McVay pre-snap. We all saw how muddled the Rams’ offense was in that game.

Some of that criticism seems valid and yet also somewhat of an oversimplification. Goff, after all, still has to make the throws, and he’s not going to the first read on every play, so no matter how savvy the guidance is from McVay, he has to do at least some of it himself. Moreover, if this strategy were so simple and effective, why has it not been emulated league-wide yet? McVay is billed as a wunderkind, but I doubt his offensive acumen is that much more pronounced than a lot of other head coaches around the league.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/snap_judgments_on_jackson_trubisky_dalton_other_nfl_qbs/s1_13132_29977259

By: Chris Mueller and Mike Tunison

NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

Colin Kaepernick Won’t Help Bengals Win, But Andy Dalton Still Sucks

Written by Neil Greenberg at Washington Post.com

Every year around this time, bad teams take stock and do what they can to salvage the rest of the season. Often that means considering a change under center.

Look no further than Cincinnati, where Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been one of the league’s worst passers this season.

It’s a good idea — Kaepernick should be on a roster this season — but no quarterback could produce behind the Bengals’ terrible offensive line. (Cincinnati has failed to score a touchdown this season.)

According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, Cincinnati’s offensive line has allowed a sack, hit or hurry on 41 percent of the team’s passing plays. The rest of the league has allowed a rate of 29 percent. From 2011, Dalton’s rookie year, to 2015, the Bengals’ offensive line has never ranked lower than fifth in terms of protecting their quarterback. In 2016 they ranked 10th. This year, 31st. That’s bad news for Dalton, whose passer rating goes from 94.2 in a clean pocket to 58.7 under pressure.

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Sleeper Fantasy QB Picks

Written by Michael Beller at SI.com

ANDY DALTON, QB, BENGALS (ADP: ROUND 11)

Dalton finished as the fantasy QB12 in 2016, the QB4 in 2013, and actually has three top-12 finishes in the last five years. A.J. Green is healthy, Tyler Eifert should be ready for camp, and the Bengals added speedster John Ross and the versatile Joe Mixon in the draft. In the last two seasons with a healthy Green available for 23 games, Dalton has completed 65.4% of his passes for 261 yards (8.1 yards per attempt) and 1.57 touchdowns, with just 0.57 interceptions, per game. He also scored an average of 0.26 rushing touchdowns per game during that span. The resulting 18.4 fantasy points per game would have been good for QB7 numbers in 2016, so Dalton is looking like a terrific value as the 16th or 17th passer off the board. Given his ADP, Dalton can be paired with another quarterback to form a potent committee, or an owner could even forgo a backup and start out with Dalton as their sole quarterback. — John Paulsen

TYROD TAYLOR, QB, BILLS (ADP: ROUND 10)

Taylor was a 4for4 favorite last summer until Sammy Watkins’ injury, but he still produced top-eight numbers with Watkins in and out of the lineup. He was also a top-10 quarterback on a per-game basis in 2015, meaning he has now produced starter-caliber numbers in two straight seasons. In 29 games over the last two years, Taylor has completed 62.7% of his passes for 208 yards (7.38 YPA), 1.28 touchdowns and just 0.41 interceptions. He’s also a dual threat, adding an average of 41 rushing yards and 0.34 touchdowns on the ground per game, totaling an average of 18.8 fantasy points per game. His fantasy playoff schedule (Colts, Dolphins and Patriots in Weeks 14–16, respectively) looks pretty favorable, as well. To top it all off, Taylor’s age 26–27 numbers compare favorably to Russell Wilson’s. As long as Watkins stays healthy (fingers crossed), Taylor is shaping up as one of the best late-round quarterback values. — JP

CARSON PALMER, QB, CARDINALS (ADP: ROUND 14)

Let’s start with the bad. Palmer is 37 years old and coming off a season of significant regression. He has been a top-15 quarterback just once in his four seasons with the Cardinals, making his monster 2015 campaign the outlier. And yet, I find it awfully hard to resist him in the 14th round. Say what you will, Palmer still has the big arm that has been his hallmark all the way back to his college days at USC. David Johnson is clearly the focal point of the offense, and Bruce Arians is expected to scale back his air-it-out offense to better reflect that fact, but this team is still going to push the ball down the field. Palmer has an attractive set of weapons, starting with Johnson, who could probably be a top-20 receiver if he weren’t the perfect running back for the modern NFL. Larry Fitzgerald is still getting the job done, and John Brown is healthy for the first time since early last season. No one is going to fight you for Palmer, but he has easily identifiable QB1 upside. — Michael Beller

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Bengals Need to Bounce Back in Week 4


Written by Rebecca Toback at CincyJungle

Emotions were running high after the Bengals’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday afternoon. And no, I’m not talking about the players’ emotions, I’m talking about that of the fans. The fans who felt the need to boo their team in the home opener at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, the fans who took to social media to preach how the season was over (hey guys, it’s Week 3) and the fans who accepted the loss but are frustrated after back-to-back defeats. I can sympathize with those last fans more than the former two. Hey, if you want to count the Bengals out now, I’ll compile a list and when the team makes the playoffs, I’ll be sure to get back in touch with you.

Yes, the Bengals lost, but, there are still 13 games left to be played in the regular-season and there’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to Bengals football. I’m certainly not giving upon the Bengals after Week 3 and would recommend you follow suit.

Here are five things I’m thinking after the Bengals’ loss to the Broncos.

Adam Jones just had his worst game in a long time.

Wow, what was going on with Adam Jones on Sunday? He looked lost and I feel confident saying this was his worst game in well over a year, maybe over two years. Let’s review Jones’ day, starting in the first quarter. His name was first mentioned for defensive holding. Next, he was in coverage for a 19-yard catch by Emmanuel Sanders, and again in coverage for a 6-yard catch by Demaryius Thomas. He then had a three yard punt return that was fumbled and recovered by former Bengal Shiloh Keo. Now, I don’t think it was an actual fumble, this was another opportunity for the refs to make a mis-call, which they did, but, it stood as a fumble.

That was only the first quarter.

In the second quarter, he was in coverage for a 13-yard catch by Andy Janovich (it was reported that he was injured on the play, but he quickly came back in). Jones slightly redeemed himself in the third quarter with a forced fumble on Thomas, which was recovered by Karlos Dansby. Later in the third quarter he had a tackle (shared with Vinny Rey) on C.J. Andersonafter a 13-yard run. And, in the fourth quarter, Broncos tight end John Phillips had an 8-yard catch with Jones in coverage, before Bennie Fowler also gained 13 yards through the air before Jones tackled him (along with Shawn Williams). Jones only had one play (that I accounted for, and maybe I missed some) where the person he was covering was targeted and didn’t actually make the catch. That one play came in the fourth quarter when Siemian threw a pass to Thomas. Jones got injured again on that play in the fourth quarter, which led to Chris Lewis-Harris entering the game and on the following play, Lewis-Harris allowed Thomas to score a 55-yard touchdown. So, it’s safe to say, Sunday was not a good day for Jones. He is clearly emotionally-driven though, so, I’d expect him to bounce back quickly.

When one Bengals cornerback gets hurt, they all get hurt.

The Bengals cornerbacks took a beating on Sunday, both physically and with their play. At varying points of the game Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Shaw all left the game due to injury. It’s never good for three of your cornerbacks to get hurt in one game, but it’s especially bad on a short week. The Bengals’ only practice that’s open to the media this week is on Tuesday, so we’ll likely know more about the extent of players’ injuries then. In addition to the cornerback unit facing injury on Sunday, safety Shawn Williams also left the game, though he returned, and Rey left the game for a concussion evaluation, but also returned.

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The Troubles of Prime Time Andy Dalton

Written by Pablo Figueroa at Sporting Charts

Every NFL season, it seems as if one squad earns the distinction as the league’s “best bad team”; this team is the one that is not really a serious contender, but that does enough to beat up on lesser squads. In the end, this status doesn’t amount to much, as this kind of team can take advantage of a soft schedule and make the playoffs, but ultimately doesn’t hold a chance when facing quality rosters.

If this kind of dubious distinction would be applied to a specific player, it seems as if Andy Dalton would be a perfect fit. In many ways, his career has been a success. Through four and a half seasons, he has started 72 straight games and gone 48-23-1, which translates to an amazing .676 winning percentage. Only 10 of his losses have been by double digits, so he tends to lead his team to having a chance to win, and with a perfect 8-0 start to the 2015 season, he is all but guaranteed to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a fifth straight playoff berth.

However, the knock on Dalton has been his inability to lead the Bengals in big spots. Alongside Coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have gone 0-4 in the playoffs in the past four seasons, which has been terrible for a franchise that still awaits its first playoff win since 1990. Dalton’s futility has also been evident in the regular season when the Bengals have been scheduled to play in prime-time.

With the schedule makers pegging them for three straight prime-time games between Weeks 9 and 11 of the present season, doubts starting floating around Dalton and the Bengals again. As many have questioned Cincinnati’s status as a big-time contender for Super Bowl 50, the Bengals cleared their first prime-time hurdle by crushing the Browns on Thursday Night Football, easily covering the spread even as they went in as 11-point favorites.

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