All posts by Griffin Mathiews

Biggest takeaways from the Bengals-Colts game

The Cincinnati Bengals spoiled Andrew Luck’s return as they defeated the Colts 34-23 on Sunday. Here are the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s game.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the Bengals:

The main takeaway for the Bengals is that their offense looked very balanced especially with starting running back Joe Mixon leading the way. Mixon was impressive as he led the Bengals with 95 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also added another 54 receiving yards which was kind of surprising to see him play that kind of a role. However, Mixon proved that he is ready to be the lead back for Cincinnati and he gives the team a much-needed threat on offense. Another takeaway from this game for the Bengals is the solid -performance from quarterback Andy Dalton. Sure, the Colts defense isn’t exactly good, but it was still encouraging for Dalton to play well in the season opener. He did make one mistake by throwing an interception, but he overall played at a very high level. If Dalton can play like this and Mixon can add some balance in the running game then Cincinnati could have a very good offense. The Bengals still have some work to do, but it was encouraging to see the offense get off to a good start to the season.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the Colts:

The main takeaway for the Colts is that they will basically rely upon quarterback Andrew Luck to do everything. Luck certainly had to carry the offense against the Bengals as he had a whopping 53 pass attempts. Luck showed what made him an elite quarterback a few years ago as he had 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, he also showed a little bit of rust as he had an interception and he didn’t look very sharp at times. Either way, the rest of the offense didn’t help him out much especially the running backs who only combined for 75 yards. The running game should be better if Marlon Mack returns from injury soon, but Andrew Luck is going have to do a lot this season if the Colts want to remain competitive. Meanwhile, another takeaway was the performance of the Colts defense. The Colts defense actually had a couple of bright spots as they forced a couple of turnovers and defensive end Margus Hunt had a couple of sacks. However, the Colts defense still struggled against a decent Bengals offense and it didn’t inspire much confidence that Indianapolis could improve on defense. The Colts showed that they still have a long way to go on defense, yet it was at least a little encouraging that they made a few big plays. Overall, Andrew Luck’s return didn’t go as planned, but it wasn’t exactly his fault. The rest of the Colts roster needs to play much better if they want to have a chance to win games.

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Biggest Takeaways from the Bucs-Saints game

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off the biggest upset of the week as they stunned the Saints by defeating them 48-40. Here are the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s game.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the Buccaneers:

The biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers is that they should be just fine while starting quarterback Jameis Winston is suspended. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and played at an elite level while throwing for a career-high 417 yards and 5 total touchdowns. Fitzpatrick showed that he is more than capable of winning games and playing at a high level. However, he also showed that he might actually be a better option as a starting quarterback for the Buccaneers than Winston. It helped that Fitzpatrick had a terrific supporting cast around him, but if he keeps playing this well then the Buccaneers could be better than expected. Meanwhile, another takeaway is that the Buccaneers once again struggled on defense. The Buccaneers secondary got lit up by Drew Brees and they proved that they are still just as bad as they were last season when they finished last against the pass. Injuries to Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves didn’t help at all, but the Bucs still need to improve in that area. Tampa Bay’s defense made plays when they had to, but they were very lucky that the offense played so well. Overall, the Buccaneers proved that they are a better team than many people expected, although they still have tons of work to do on defense.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the Saints:

The main concern for the Saints is clearly their defense which got absolutely torched by the Buccaneers. New Orleans allowed 529 total yards to Tampa Bay and the Saints didn’t even have a sack or cause a turnover. New Orleans had an improved defense last season and that was a big reason for their success, but it took a major step back in this game. Their best cornerback Marshon Lattimore struggled all game despite playing very well in his rookie year last season. Also, star defensive end Cameron Jordan didn’t make any impact and the Saints pass rush was absolutely nonexistent. There was no bright spot for the Saints on defense and hopefully they will learn from this miserable performance. Meanwhile, there certainly weren’t too many issues for the Saints on offense and quarterback Drew Brees showed that age is just a number. Brees had an outstanding game as he torched the Bucs defense for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Saints did fumble the ball a couple of times, but that surely isn’t Brees’ fault. Brees showed that his performance won’t be declining anytime soon, although it is a shame that the Saints lost despite Brees’ tremendous play. Overall, the Saints offense showed that they will be just fine despite making a couple of costly mistakes. However, the Saints won’t reach their full potential until the Saints defense at least puts forward an average performance.

Biggest takeaways from the 49ers-Vikings Game

The Minnesota Vikings showed that they might just be Super Bowl contenders this season as they defeated the 49ers rather easily 24-16. Here are the biggest takeaways for both teams from Sunday’s game.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the 49ers:

The main concern for the 49ers is how poorly starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played in the season opener. Sure, Garoppolo was impressive in his 5 starts last season and he was given a massive contract this offseason. However, Garoppolo played terribly against the Vikings on Sunday. He struggled with accuracy and he made several costly mistakes as he threw 3 interceptions. The Vikings defense is really good, so this could just be a rare bad game for Garoppolo. That being said, it is extremely concerning for Garoppolo to play so poorly especially considering how much hype he has received. Meanwhile, the other major concern for the 49ers is that they just couldn’t get anything going at the running back position. Matt Breida and Alfred Morris pretty much split the carries evenly, although neither really had a good game. Breida led the team with 46 yards, but he wasn’t very impressive. Meanwhile, Alfred Morris was much worse as he only had 3.2 yards per carry and he a costly fumble near the endzone. The 49ers had severe issues on offense and it wasn’t just the running game, but their running backs need to be much better to take the pressure off of Garoppolo. Overall, the 49ers proved that they have a lot of work to do on offense before they can compete with outstanding teams like the Vikings.

 

Biggest Takeaways for the Vikings:

The biggest takeaway for the Vikings is that they proved how good their defense still is this season. They made 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo look below average while forcing 5 turnovers. Minnesota really has no weakness on their defense and they proved that they can be successful against any NFL offense. Meanwhile, the other main takeaway is that new starting quarterback Kirk Cousins looked very impressive in his debut with the team. Cousins didn’t make any costly mistakes which was important and he threw a couple of touchdowns to carry the offense as well. Overall, if the Vikings defense plays this well and Cousins play effectively as well then the Vikings will be really difficult to beat.

Most surprising roster cut for every NFL team

Arizona Cardinals – Brice Butler – Wide Receiver

The Cardinals didn’t make any really surprising cuts prior to the 2018 season, but the one that sticks out the most is receiver Brice Butler. He has been productive as a receiver most notably with the Cowboys the past few seasons. Butler wasn’t expected to be the number two receiver for the Cardinals, but he could have provided some much needed depth as a 3rd or 4th receiver. Arizona is rather unproven at wide receiver besides Larry Fitzgerald which is why it was so surprising that they decided to let go of a quality veteran receiver like Butler. He could have at least provided better depth at receiver, but he shouldn’t be on the free agent market for too long.

 

Atlanta Falcons – Ron Parker – Safety

Ron Parker might be the most notable player to be cut by an NFL team just prior to the 2018 season. Parker wasn’t really expected to be a starter for the Falcons, but he has proven that he can provide terrific depth at the safety position. In fact, Parker showed his value the past few seasons with the Chiefs as he was a starter on a good defense for the past 4 seasons. Parker has already been picked up again by Kansas City, but he could have definitely provided the Falcons with a reliable backup safety.

 

Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perriman – Wide Receiver

Breshad Perriman is a very talented receiver and that is why the Ravens selected him in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. However, injuries and inconsistent play really held him back from reaching his full potential with the Ravens. It shouldn’t be too shocking that he was released considering the Ravens added a ton of wide receivers to their roster this offseason. However, Baltimore could have given him another opportunity as a 3rd or 4th receiver. Either way, it is a disappointing end to Perriman’s tenure in Baltimore that didn’t live up to the hype. However, he shouldn’t be on the free agent market for long as there should be some team that takes a chance on the young receiver with some potential still.

 

Buffalo Bills – Corey Coleman – Wide Receiver

Corey Coleman is yet another former 1st round wide receiver that has yet to prove his value. Coleman struggled tremendously with injuries and inconsistency during his two years in Cleveland and they surprisingly ended up just trading him away to Buffalo this offseason. However, Coleman didn’t last long with the Bills as he was cut just after the end of the preseason. It is especially surprising that he was released considering how thin the Bills are at the wide receiver position. Also, it is surprising that they let him go this soon especially considering that the team gave up a draft pick to do so. Coleman should find a role as a 3rd or 4th receiver on another team since he is still really young with lots of potential. However, if he couldn’t succeed with the Bills then it is hard to envision him finding much success elsewhere.

 

Carolina Panthers – Daeshon Hall – Defensive End

The Panthers hoped that by drafting Daeshon Hall in the 3rd round last year that he would provide some much needed depth to the pass rush. However, Hall only played in one game last year before missing the rest of the season with a knee injury. He returned from the knee injury and he wasn’t very impressive this preseason for the Panthers. That being said, it is weird to see Carolina give up on such a high draft pick after only one season. Hall still has tons of potential and he should be picked up as a developmental project by another team, but it is disappointing to see his time in Carolina end before it really even started.

 

Chicago Bears – Doran Grant – Cornerback

Doran Grant had a very strong preseason for the Bears and it was thought that he was likely to make the 53-man roster. However, that didn’t end up being the case as it was a somewhat surprising move for him to be released. Cornerback Marcus Cooper really struggled in the preseason and it was thought that he might be cut, but instead it was Grant who was the odd man out. Grant still should be picked up by a team that needs depth at cornerback and his strong preseason performance only helps his cause.

 

Cincinnati Bengals – Michael Johnson – Defensive End

This might be the most notable player that was released on cut day, but it shouldn’t be very surprising. The reason this move didn’t come as much of a surprise as he has under performed in comparison to his contract and this moves saves the Bengals about $5 million. Also, Johnson’s release allows for some of the Bengals promising young pass rushers like Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson to get more playing time. Johnson could re-sign with the Bengals if he takes a pay cut, but he is still a player that can help other teams that need a good pass rusher.

 

Cleveland Browns – Nate Orchard – Defensive End

Add defensive end Nate Orchard to a long list of high draft picks for the Browns that have been busts. Orchard was a 2nd round pick in the 2015 draft and he was never really able to establish himself as a full-time starter with Cleveland. Orchard had been a backup defensive end for the Browns and he never really proved himself as he only had 5 sacks during 3 seasons with Cleveland. Some team will likely pick up Orchard as he can provide some solid depth at defensive end, but it was still a disappointing tenure for him with Cleveland.

 

Dallas Cowboys – Dan Bailey – Kicker

This move was arguably the most stunning move of the entire cut day as Dan Bailey seemed sure to be the starting kicker for the Cowboys in week one. Brett Maher didn’t seem like much competition since he was a 28-year old that had never even attempted a field goal in an NFL regular season game. Bailey was considered one of the best kickers in the NFL for several seasons with Dallas and that was why they gave him a 7-year deal back in 2018. However, injuries really held him back last season and he had the worst season in the NFL as he only made 15/20 field goals. This decision is purely based off of money as Bailey was going to make $3.4 million this year and Maher is playing on an extremely inexpensive contract. Bailey is still a very good kicker, so don’t expect him to be unemployed for too long. However, it is still surprising that the Cowboys would release arguably the best kicker in franchise history.

 

Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch – Quarterback

Paxton Lynch never really got the chance to be the full-time starter in Denver as he couldn’t even beat out Trevor Siemian for the starting job the past 2 years. Lynch started this offseason as the clear backup to new quarterback Case Keenum. However, Lynch’s awful preseason performances cost him the number two quarterback role as Chad Kelly played extremely well and jumped Lynch on the depth chart. After Kelly was officially named the backup quarterback it made it very clear that Lynch would probably not make the opening-day roster. There is a lot to like about Lynch as he has a good arm and terrific athletic ability for a quarterback. That was why the Broncos selected him in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, but he struggled in the limited opportunities that he had as the starting quarterback. Lynch didn’t have a good tenure with the Broncos, but being released should benefit as he should be able to get a fresh start as a backup quarterback elsewhere.

 

Detroit Lions – DeShawn Shead – Cornerback

Detroit signed veteran cornerback DeShawn Shead in hopes that he would compete for the 3rd cornerback role. However, Shead didn’t perform well mostly due to injury and now it turns out that he won’t be making the roster at all. The Lions are going with rookie Teez Tabor in the 3rd cornerback role, but it is kind of surprising that they didn’t keep Shead around for some veteran cornerback depth. Either way, the Lions gave Shead some decent guaranteed money this offseason and now he won’t even play in a regular season game for the team.

 

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Ripkowski – Fullback

The Packers didn’t really make any notable roster moves, but Aaron Ripkowski was probably the most well-known name to go. Ripkowski established himself as the Packers starting fullback the past few seasons, but he wasn’t used too often. There just wasn’t much of a role for Ripkowski in the backfield with Green Bay especially with the team not using a fullback too often anymore. Ripkowski might struggle to find a new team considering not many teams use fullbacks consistently, but he was a reliable player for the Packers the past few years.

 

Houston Texans – Braxton Miller – Wide Receiver

This was one of the most surprising moves on cut day mostly because the Texans lack depth at the wide receiver position. Miller was supposed to be a dynamic play maker when the Texans drafted him in the 3rd round in the 2016 draft. However, Miller failed to establish himself as Houston’s 3rd receiver as he only had 34 catches in two seasons. Miller has struggled with injuries and it was clearly a tough transition for him to go from playing quarterback in college to being a starting NFL wide receiver. Miller still has tons of potential and it shouldn’t take long for him to find a new team, but it was disappointing that he never lived up to the hype with Houston.

 

Indianapolis Colts – John Simon – Defensive End

John Simon was one of the very few veteran players on an extremely weak and inexperienced Colts defense. That is part of the reason that the Colts surprisingly decided to part ways with the defensive end on cut day. Simon has struggled with injuries and he was one of the Colts best pass rushers last season as he had 3 sacks. He isn’t a very good starter at defensive end, but he was still arguably the best defensive end that the team had right now. What makes this move even more surprising is that Simon had a terrific preseason as a starter and now he is just off the roster. Simon wasn’t the best option as a starter in the 1st place, but the problem is that the Colts don’t really have much to replace him. Simon should provide good pass rush depth for another team, but it was silly for Indianapolis to release him considering their troubles on defense.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars – Sealver Siliga – Defensive Tackle

None of the moves that the Jaguars made are surprising at all and the release of Sealver Siliga was foreseen as well. However, Siliga is a veteran defensive tackle that has provided solid depth at that position for several different teams. He shouldn’t be a starter like he was with the Patriots a few years ago, although he could have helped provide some depth for the Jaguars defensive line. The Jaguars are deep on the defensive line which is why Siliga likely didn’t make the team, but it is notable that he couldn’t secure a final roster spot.

 

Kansas City Chiefs – David Amerson – Cornerback

David Amerson looked like a lock to make the Chiefs roster as the 3rd cornerback heading into training camp. However, that all changed when the Chiefs decided to add Orlando Scandrick during the preseason. Also, Amerson struggled during the 3 preseason games that he appeared in and that didn’t help his cause at all. Amerson was once a decent starter with the Redskins and Raiders, but his career has progressively continued to go downhill. Amerson shouldn’t be counted on as a starter anymore, but he can still be a decent 4th cornerback for a team in need of some depth.

 

Los Angeles Chargers – Roberto Aguayo – Kicker

The Chargers had an intense competition at the kicker position between veteran Caleb Sturgis and former 2nd round pick Roberto Aguayo. However, Sturgis proved to the Chargers throughout the preseason that he was the more reliable kicker. Aguayo clearly has more potential, but he just has yet to put it together in the NFL after having an outstanding college career. Aguayo has now been with 3 teams since being drafted in the 2nd round a couple of years ago and it appears that his time to land a regular season role is dwindling. Aguayo hopefully can find some consistency and turn his NFL career around, but it isn’t a good sign that he couldn’t win the Chargers kicking job.

 

Los Angeles Rams – Temarrick Hemingway – Tight End

There were absolutely no surprises for the Rams on cut day as there weren’t really any notable cuts. However, one that caught my eye is tight end Temarrick Hemingway who was battling for the 3rd tight end role on the Rams roster. Hemingway missed all of last season due to injury and he didn’t perform well at all during the preseason. That was apparently enough for the Rams to part ways despite not having too much talent at the tight end position to begin with.

 

Miami Dolphins – Tony Lippett – Cornerback

It wasn’t too long ago that Tony Lippett was a starting cornerback for the Dolphins as he had 4 interceptions during the 2016 season. He was expected to be a starter once again last season until suffering a season-ending Achilles injury. Lippett came back this offseason, but he never really looked the same after the injury. Also, Lippett clearly fell down the depth chart and the team just decided to part ways. It is really surprising that Miami decided to let Lippett go considering their lack of depth at cornerback, but he will surely find another job relatively soon.

 

Minnesota Vikings – Brian Robison – Defensive End

The Vikings made several stunning moves on cut day, but perhaps nothing was more stunning than the release of longtime Viking defensive end Brian Robison. Just a few years ago Robison was one of the most underrated defensive ends in the entire NFL. However, his play had dropped off last season as he only had 4 sacks for Minnesota and he is likely slowing down considering that he is 35 years old. That being said, it is still very shocking that the team would release him especially since the Vikings didn’t save much money and he wasn’t going to be a starter anyway. Also, Robison has been with the Vikings his entire career since being drafted by the team in 2007 and it makes no sense that they wouldn’t keep him as a reliable backup. Another thing is that Minnesota didn’t have much depth behind Robison and they will be going with a couple of really inexperienced players as the new backup defensive ends. Overall, this is a poor decision by the Vikings especially since Robison still could have helped the team as a backup pass rusher. Either way, Robison should find another job soon, but it would be really disappointing to see him play for another team after having him play for the Vikings his entire career.

 

New England Patriots – Cyrus Jones – Cornerback

Jones was a rare draft bust for the Patriots as he was a 2nd round pick by the team just two years ago. However, Jones struggled to carve out a role in the secondary with the Patriots as he was basically relegated to full-time special teams role during his rookie year in 2016. Jones ended up missing last season due to injury and he wasn’t very impressive upon his return to the field this offseason. Jones could have possibly found a role in the Patriots secondary this season since it is likely weaker than last season. However, Jones just fell out of favor with the coaching staff and he never got the opportunity to be a starter. Jones still has tons of potential, so maybe he can make an impact elsewhere, but it is surprising to see him released so soon.

 

New Orleans Saints – Rick Leonard – Offensive Tackle

The Saints cut a few of their late-round draft picks from the 2018 draft, but one surprising release was rookie 4th round pick Rick Leonard. Sure, Leonard probably needs some more time to develop, but the Saints knew that when they drafted him. Leonard wasn’t expected to play right away, but releasing him so soon doesn’t make too much sense. However, Leonard did sign to the practice squad which is probably best as it allows him time to develop, but the Saints shouldn’t have drafted him that high if they didn’t think he would be ready to make the roster.

 

New York Giants – Darian Thompson – Safety

New York made an absolutely shocking move by releasing safety Darian Thompson who was started all 16 games last season. It is especially surprising to see him released so soon considering that he was a 3rd round pick just last season. That being said, the Giants now are very young and inexperienced at one of the safety positions. Thompson might have been released because he is dealing with a hamstring injury, but if he gets healthy soon then there should be plenty of teams interested in signing him.

 

New York Jets – Kevin Minter – Inside Linebacker

The Jets apparently feel comfortable about their depth at linebacker as they released veteran Kevin Minter on cut day. Minter struggled with injuries last season, but he is still a decent linebacker that could be a starting linebacker. Minter is probably just a good backup at this point, but he should generate plenty of interest in free agency from teams that need linebacker depth. It was surprising to see the Jets release Minter since he could have provided solid veteran leadership on a relatively young team, but he shouldn’t have a problem finding a job elsewhere.

 

Oakland Raiders – Martavis Bryant – Wide Receiver

Oakland made several hugely stunning moves on Saturday, but the one that sticks out the most is wide receiver Martavis Bryant. The reason this move is so stunning is because the Raiders traded a 3rd round pick to the Steelers to acquire him during the draft in April. Bryant was expected to play a big role in the Raiders offense as their 3rd receiver, but he was basically nonexistent for the Raiders during the preseason. Also, Bryant has some serious character concerns which made it strange that Oakland would give up so much to acquire him in the first place. Bryant is facing yet another suspension for drug-related issues and it is likely that he would be suspended for at least one season like he was in 2016. However, it appears that Bryant has self-destructed his own career and it is disappointing to see a player with such tremendous talent basically waste it. At this point it would actually be very surprising if any team takes a chance on Bryant ever again especially if he is officially suspended by the league soon. Bryant is a very talented receiver, but at this point his chances of returning to the NFL are basically nonexistent.

 

Philadelphia Eagles – Donnel Pumphrey – Running Back

The Eagles are giving up on last year’s 4th round pick Donnel Pumphrey already as the team released him just prior to the start of the 2018 season. Pumphrey had a remarkable college career at San Diego State where he became the all-team lead rusher in NCAA history. However, Pumphrey hasn’t adjusted well to the NFL level as he has struggled tremendously with injuries. Pumphrey missed all of last season due to injury and he missed most of the 2018 preseason as well. It is kind of surprising that the Eagles released him so soon especially since the team doesn’t have as much depth at running back this year. Overall, it was disappointing that Pumphrey never even got an opportunity to play in a regular season game for the Eagles, but he should find a job soon as he can provide quality running back depth for basically any team.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers – Landry Jones – Quarterback

It appears that the Steelers have decided on who their backup quarterback will be as they released veteran backup Landry Jones on cut day. Jones has seen action during the regular season each of the last 3 years, but he wasn’t very impressive when given an opportunity. Jones wasn’t a very good backup, but it will be interesting to see whether a team in need of a backup takes a chance on Jones. Meanwhile, Josh Dobbs looked like the odd man out for the Steelers at the quarterback position, although he will surprisingly stick around and be the new backup to Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh also has Mason Rudolph who was the team’s 3rd round pick this year, but the Steelers will likely just keep him as the 3rd quarterback for now while he develops. Landry Jones never really amount to anything in a backup and it was probably the right move for the Steelers to let him go considering the depth that they have at quarterback.

 

San Francisco 49ers – Jeremiah Attaochu – Defensive End

It has been a really disappointing NFL career for defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu who was a 2nd round pick of the Chargers back in 2014. He will have to find yet another new team as the 49ers released him after a short tenure with the franchise. This move makes sense for the 49ers though as Attaochu has struggled with injuries in recent years. Also, he wasn’t that impressive even when he was on the field for the 49ers this preseason. This move is somewhat surprising though because the 49ers lack good options with their pass rush right now and Attaochu has shown that he might be able to help a little bit in that area. He should find a job somewhere soon as a rotational pass rusher, but he just wasn’t a fit with the 49ers.

 

Seattle Seahawks – Maurice Alexander – Safety

This move is kind of surprising considering that the Seahawks are searching for some depth at the safety position with the contract holdout of star safety Earl Thomas. Alexander could have at least provided Seattle with a good backup safety while Thomas is out, but the Seahawks instead decided to add some young inexperienced safeties to their roster. Alexander certainly has proven his worth at the NFL level as he had 18 starts for the Rams during the past 2 seasons before he was released. Alexander might be able to be a backup on another team, yet it was a bad mistake for the Seahawks to release a guy that could have helped their team tremendously.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Keith Tandy – Safety

It wasn’t too long ago that Keith Tandy was a starting safety for the Buccaneers and he made some big plays that almost helped lead the Bucs to the playoffs in 2016. He lost his starting safety job last season, but he was still a quality backup that usually played well when called upon. This move is especially surprising considering Tampa Bay’s lack of depth at the safety position and he would probably be an upgrade over current starter Chris Conte. Tandy’s hamstring injury probably played a big factor in the decision to let Tandy go, but if he can get healthy then another team could be adding a very quality backup safety.

 

Tennessee Titans – Luke Falk – Quarterback

Luke Falk had a terrific college career at Washington State and it looked at one point that he might even be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Falk fell all the way to the Titans in the 6th round for some reason and he was competing for the backup quarterback spot behind Marcus Mariota. However, Falk couldn’t beat out veteran Blaine Gabbert for that role and Falk ended up losing his roster spot with the Titans as well. Falk could be a solid backup for a team in need of one, although it might take some time to develop him. Falk has already found another team though as the Dolphins claimed him off waivers and he will compete for a roster spot there. It is unfortunate that Falk didn’t last very long with the Titans, but he is probably going into a better situation with Miami.

 

Washington Redskins – Kapri Bibbs – Running Back

The Redskins have been absolutely decimated at the running back position during the preseason as Derrius Guice and Byron Marshall both suffered serious injuries. That led the team to sign future hall-of-fame running back Adrian Peterson just before the start of the regular season. However, it appears that signing came at the expense of young running back Kapri Bibbs who barely missed making the active roster for the Redskins. Bibbs has been impressive during the preseason because of his versatility as a runner and a pass-catcher as well. Bibbs might draw interest from other teams in need of running back depth, although he was re-signed to the Redskins practice squad for now. It was surprising to see Washington let go of Bibbs considering the injuries they’ve had at the position, but it might not be too long before he is back on the active roster.

Biggest question for every NFL team entering the 2018 season

Arizona Cardinals – Biggest Question: Can David Johnson stay healthy?

The Cardinals actually did fairly well last season as they finished 8-8 despite missing star running back David Johnson for basically the entire season. It is especially important that Johnson stays healthy this season since the Cardinals have such uncertainty at the quarterback position. Johnson is undoubtedly one of the best running backs in the NFL, but if he misses significant time then the Cardinals offense could have serious issues.

 

Atlanta Falcons – Biggest Question: Will the offense improve with Steve Sarkisian as the play caller?

Atlanta had a dynamic offense in 2016 as quarterback Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP while leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl. However, Ryan’s play dropped off significantly last season with 1st-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Atlanta has too many weapons on offense not to be successful, so it is up to Sarkisian to do a better job with play calling in his 2nd season as offensive coordinator. Expect better results from the Falcons offense in 2018, but Sarkisian certainly needs to do a better job organizing the offense.

 

Baltimore Ravens – Biggest Question: How long will Joe Flacco last as the starting quarterback?

Joe Flacco is entering yet another season as the clear starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. However, there is much more pressure on Flacco in 2018 after the Ravens drafted rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the 1st round. Jackson proved that he is still a raw prospect during the preseason as he struggled with his passing at times. However, if Flacco plays poorly again this season then Baltimore might be pressured to make a change sooner rather than later. Flacco’s starting role should be safe at least for this season, but the Ravens clearly didn’t draft Jackson just to have him sit on the bench for a long time.

 

Buffalo Bills – Biggest Question: What is the Quarterback situation for the Bills?

The Bills enter the 2018 season with a very strange situation at the quarterback position as they basically have three guys competing for the starting role. Rookie Josh Allen has the most potential for sure, although he proved during the preseason that he likely isn’t the immediate answer for the Bills. Nathan Peterman has looked good in the preseason, but he still might not be even a good short-term solution for the Bills. A.J. McCarron seemed like the clear short-term starter for awhile, yet his injury kind of took him out of the race to be the week 1 starter. Either way, the Bills have three young and inexperienced starters that are all competing for the starting job. The Bills have many issues on their team, but the quarterback position is a complete mess right now.

 

Carolina Panthers – Biggest Question: Will the offensive line be up to the task?

The Panthers have some elite offensive talent especially with quarterback Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. However, the offensive line is definitely the biggest question mark on offense for the Panthers heading into the 2018 season. The loss of guard Andrew Norwell this offseason really hurt Carolina especially since they didn’t do anything to replace him. Meanwhile, the Panthers have already tested their offensive line depth in the preseason as they have dealt with a few injuries to their starting offensive line. Carolina is looking for Cam Newton to play better this season, but if the offensive line doesn’t give him much time then it could be a problem for the Panthers offense.

 

Chicago Bears – Biggest Question: Is Mitchell Trubisky ready to be a quality starter?

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky took over as the full-time starter late last season for the Bears and he wasn’t very impressive to say the least. Most of that could be attributed to the horrible supporting cast that they had to throw to. However, last season showed that Trubisky might not be ready to be a good NFL starting quarterback. There is a lot to like about Trubisky as he is a very good playmaker with terrific athletic ability. Hopefully having a full offseason of preparation as a starting quarterback and some much better receivers to throw to will help him out. Either way, Trubisky is clearly the starter now and the pressure is on him to perform because he has much more around him this season.

 

Cincinnati Bengals – Biggest Question: Will the offensive line play better?

The Bengals offensive line was an absolute disaster last season and that was the main reason that the team struggled. However, the Bengals took the initiative to fix the offensive line as they added Cordy Glenn as their new left tackle. Also, the team drafted center Billy Price in the 1st round and he figures to start right away as a rookie. We’ll see how big of a help those two players will be for the offensive line, but they couldn’t be any worse than what the team had last season. If the offensive line can just play at respectable level then the Bengals have some good talent to improve the offense in a major way.

 

Cleveland Browns – Biggest Question: When will Baker Mayfield take over as the starting QB?

Tyrod Taylor is clearly the starting quarterback for the Browns at least early on in the 2018 season. However, it certainly won’t be long before 1st overall pick Baker Mayfield has the chance to turn around the Browns franchise. Mayfield certainly looked like the real deal during the preseason and the team didn’t just draft him that high to have him sit on the bench. It might not be this season that Mayfield gets his chance as the starter especially if Taylor continues to play well. However, it is possible that Mayfield could become the full-time starter soon rather than later.

 

Dallas Cowboys – Biggest Question: Who will step up as the top receiver?

Dez Bryant is no longer with the Cowboys and that means the Cowboys group of receivers will look way different this season. Allen Hurns was brought in to possibly take over the role as the number one receiver, although his injury history shows that he might not be a very reliable option. Rookie receiver Michael Gallup has impressed during the preseason as well, so he figures to have a big role early on. Also, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley figure to have a decent role in the offense as well. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are a complete mess at the tight end position after the sudden retirement of Jason Witten. Dallas is now without their only two reliable pass catchers and they must replace those guys effectively or it could be a long season for the Cowboys offense.

 

Denver Broncos – Biggest Question: Is Case Keenum the answer at quarterback?

Denver had poor quarterback play last season and that was the main reason they struggled so much. However, the Broncos have their quarterback for the 2018 season as they signed Case Keenum to a rather big deal this offseason. Keenum really should be an upgrade over what the Broncos had at quarterback last season. He was surprisingly really good with Minnesota last season as he led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. However, Keenum has been a journeyman backup for basically his entire career and it makes you wonder if last season was just a fluke. Keenum has plenty of talent around him with the Broncos and there is no reason that he shouldn’t replicate last year’s success. That being said, Keenum wasn’t too impressive during the preseason and it will be interesting to see if he is the answer for the Broncos at quarterback.

 

Detroit Lions – Biggest Question: Will the Running Game improve tremendously?

The Detroit Lions have struggled at the running back position for awhile now, but the good news is that they made some serious improvements in that area this offseason. Detroit signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency and he figures to be the starter at least early on this season. Rookie 3rd round pick Kerryon Johnson should see plenty of carries throughout the 2018 season as well. Meanwhile, Theo Riddick has his role basically carved out as the 3rd-down running back and last year’s starter Ameer Abdullah could see some carries as well. Detroit still doesn’t have a great running back group, but it couldn’t be any worse than it has been in recent years. If Blount and Johnson can play well then it should take a lot of pressure off the Lions passing game.

 

Green Bay Packers – Biggest Question: Who is the starting running back?

Green Bay’s passing offense should be fine as long as Aaron Rodgers is the starting quarterback. However, there is a major question mark at the running back position for Green Bay as they have 3 players vying for carries this season. Ty Montgomery was the starter for the Packers basically the past two seasons, but he might be in for a lesser role this season. Also, Montgomery hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy consistently which is a major concern for the Packers. Jamaal Williams appears in line to be the starter early on and he should see most of the carries this season. Meanwhile, Aaron Jones seems like he might not have a big role especially since he is suspended to start the season, yet he could still see plenty of carries when he returns. Green Bay doesn’t have a clear starter right now and it seems as if the Packers are using a committee approach with their running backs. Either way, Green Bay is hoping that somebody takes the job and runs with it.

 

Houston Texans – Biggest Question: How effective will the offensive line be?

The Texans offensive line was definitely the main source of issues for the Texans offense last season and it is still a major concern heading into the 2018 season. However, Houston did at least attempt to solve their offensive line issues in free agency. They added Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete to be their starters at both of the guard spots. Also, they added Seantrel Henderson to be the new starter at least temporarily at the right tackle position. Those three shouldn’t make a huge difference for the Texans offensive line, but they certainly should be an upgrade over the disastrous offensive line that the team had last season. The number one priority for the Texans should be keeping quarterback Deshaun Watson healthy and it is still unknown if they will be able to protect him effectively.

 

Indianapolis Colts – Biggest Question: Can the defense at least be average?

It is the same issue every year, but the Colts just can’t seem to find a way to try and improve their defense. The good news is that star quarterback Andrew Luck will be back to start the 2018 season, but there is only so much that he can do. The Colts did add some young talent to the defense early on in the draft and that should upgrade the defense a little bit. That being said, there are still major concerns all across the board on defense especially in the secondary after they let go of their starting cornerbacks. Young safety Malik Hooker is really the lone bright spot in the Colts secondary and he will be relied upon to help carry the defense. Meanwhile, veteran Jabaal Sheard is the anchor of the Colts defensive line as he led the team in sacks last season. However, the Colts will have to rely upon their rookie defenders early on as Darius Leonard will be expected to start right away at linebacker. Also, rookie defensive end Kemoko Turay will be relied upon to start immediately and hopefully help the Colts defense that finished 31st in sacks last year. Rookie 2nd round defensive tackle Tyquan Lewis also could see plenty of playing time early on, although he shouldn’t have to be a starter immediately. Overall, the Colts defense is extremely inexperienced and they still have to improve at basically every position.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars – Biggest Question: Who will step up at wide receiver?

The Jaguars wide receiver group will look a lot different than it looked at the start of last season. Most notably they lost their top two receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in free agency this offseason. They did give Marqise Lee a big contract to keep him around, although he is out for the season after suffering a gruesome knee injury in the preseason. Jacksonville did add Donte Moncrief in free agency and he figures to now become the number one receiver for the team after the injury to Lee. However, Moncrief hasn’t proven that he can be a consistently reliable receiver during his time in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, rookie 2nd round pick DJ Chark could also see a much bigger role sooner than expected in the Jaguars offense. The good news is that Jacksonville has arguably the best running game in the NFL, but the offense could struggle if they need their receivers to step up and make big plays. The Jaguars already came into the preseason with a big need at wide receiver, but now they are even more thin at the position and they will need their inexperienced receivers to step up.

 

Kansas City Chiefs – Biggest Question: Can Patrick Mahomes prove that he is the franchise QB?

The Chiefs had plenty of consistency at the quarterback position for the past few seasons with veteran Alex Smith leading the offense. However, Kansas City is going in an entirely different direction this season with 2nd-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the new full-time starter. Mahomes is basically a rookie since he only had one start last season for the Chiefs, but there is no quarterback competing with him for the starting job this year. There is a lot to like about Mahomes as he has a terrific arm and he has terrific athletic ability as well. However, there are some concerns that he might turn the ball over too often which is certainly not what the Chiefs have been used to with Alex Smith under center. There is plenty of weapons around Mahomes though as he has Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins to throw to this season. Also, he has terrific running back Kareem Hunt alongside him to try and take some of the pressure off. The Chiefs entire season will depend on the success of Mahomes and they are hoping that he can live up to the hype and follow in the footsteps of Alex Smith.

 

Los Angeles Chargers – Biggest Question: Can the Chargers find some stability at Kicker?

The Chargers had a revolving door at the kicker position last season as they had 4 different kickers appear during the regular season. This season they are hoping to have much more stability as Caleb Sturgis heads into 2018 as the new kicker. Sturgis has been very reliable throughout his career and the Chargers are hoping that they can rely on him. The Chargers are a team with playoff aspirations this season and if the kicking situation isn’t solved then it could have the potential to cost them a chance at the postseason. Caleb Sturgis seems like he will be a major upgrade for the Chargers at kicker, but until he proves his worth then it will continue to be a huge question mark for the team.

 

Los Angeles Rams – Biggest Question: Can Jared Goff continue to improve?

Quarterback Jared Goff had an absolutely miserable rookie year in 2016, but last year the new coaching staff made a huge difference in his performance. Goff ended up playing at a pro-bowl level last season for the Rams and he proved that he is the franchise quarterback. However, this year is absolutely crucial for Goff as there is much higher expectations for him and the Rams in 2018. Goff has even more talent around him this season, so there is really no excuse for him not to take another step forward in 2018. I don’t think he will regress to the type of player that he was in his rookie season, but he needs to prove that last year wasn’t just a fluke.

 

Miami Dolphins – Biggest Question: Is Ryan Tannehill the answer at quarterback?

The Dolphins had some major issues at the quarterback position last season and it made them realize how much they actually missed Ryan Tannehill as the starter. Tannehill missed all of last season with a knee injury and it will be interesting to see how well he has recovered. Even when he is healthy Tannehill hasn’t yet proven that he is anything more than an average starting quarterback. It certainly won’t help that Tannehill doesn’t have much to work with on offense especially after the departure of star receiver Jarvis Landry. Tannehill has been in the league for awhile now, yet he still hasn’t proven that the Dolphins can rely on him consistently. However, if the Dolphins want to compete at all this season then they will need much more out of Tannehill especially considering that they don’t have much talent with the rest of the roster.

 

Minnesota Vikings – Biggest Question: Was Kirk Cousins worth the money?

The Vikings had some good quarterback play last season from Case Keenum, but they decided to try and upgrade even more by signing pro-bowl caliber quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency. Cousins is clearly an upgrade over Keenum, but many believe that the Vikings paid Cousins way too much. Minnesota gave Cousins a fully guaranteed $84 million contract which is a lot especially for a quarterback that isn’t even considered a top 5 QB in the NFL. Cousins has much more around him than he ever had in Washington as the Vikings have super bowl aspirations this season. Cousins has plenty of weapons especially on offense, so there is really no excuse for him not to play at an elite level in 2018. Cousins is set up for success, but he will have to prove a lot if he wants to show that he was worth all of that guaranteed money.

 

New England Patriots – Biggest Question: Who will step up at wide receiver?

The Patriots didn’t have an elite group of receivers last season, but it seems to be an even thinner group this season after the departure of Brandin Cooks. New England has tight end Rob Gronkowski and he figures to play a huge role as long as he stays healthy. However, the Patriots don’t have many great options at wide receiver especially early on in the season. Julian Edelman would likely be Tom Brady’s top target, but Edelman is suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Chris Hogan figures to be the top receiver while Edelman is out and Hogan should see a huge role in the offense even when Edelman returns. However, beyond Hogan and Edelman there is a huge question mark at the wide receiver position. Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett are likely the next options, although both of them haven’t proven that they can be relied upon as receivers. The Patriots passing game should still be elite as long as Tom Brady is the quarterback, yet it is a little bit of a concern that he doesn’t have many good options to throw to.

 

New Orleans Saints – Biggest Question: Has age catch up to Drew Brees?

The New Orleans Saints arguably have the best roster that they’ve had in the Drew Brees era, but the problem is that Brees is nearing the end of his career. Brees was still very accurate as proven by his 72% completion percentage. However, Brees just had a relatively average season by his standards. That being said, his decline in yards and touchdowns could be attributed to a much better running game for the Saints. Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but we’ll see if his statistics continue to drop as he turns 40 years old in a few months.

 

New York Giants – Biggest Question: Will Eli Manning ever return to pro-bowl level?

Age has definitely not been kind to Giants quarterback Eli Manning as it appears that he is just an average starting quarterback these days. However, the Giants hope that having Odell Beckham back from injury and the addition of elite running back prospect Saquon Barkley will help Manning out. Manning certainly has plenty around him, so now there isn’t an excuse for Manning not to play well in 2018. However, Manning needs to stop turning the ball over which has been a problem throughout his career. He has always been inconsistent as he has had some terrific seasons, but he has also had a few really bad seasons. The Giants have the overall roster to be playoff contenders once again, although if Manning doesn’t play well then it might be time for the Giants to find their quarterback of the future.

 

New York Jets – Biggest Question: Is Sam Darnold ready to be the starting quarterback?

The Jets knew that they were making a big investment when they traded up to select quarterback Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. However, the Jets expected to develop Darnold slowly and let Josh McCown be the short-term starting quarterback. That plan apparently didn’t last very long as Darnold was named the week 1 starter for the Jets and he will be the youngest week one starter in NFL history. The Jets clearly believe that Darnold gives the team the best chance to win right away. Darnold is no doubt the quarterback of the future, but it might not be the smartest move to play him right away if he isn’t ready.

 

Oakland Raiders – Biggest Question: How will the Raiders replace Khalil Mack?

Oakland’s defense was already bad enough last season, but it just got even worse as the Raiders traded away elite pass rusher wKhalil Mack to the Bears. Mack was the only reliable player on Oakland’s defense, but now the Raiders defense appears terrible. The main question is how the Raiders will replace Mack for the 2018 season. It isn’t like they can just go out and sign a good pass rusher at this time of year, so it appears they’ll need their current defensive ends to step up. Tank Carradine seems like the most obvious replacement as he has been the starter for the entire preseason. However, Carradine only has 5.5 career sacks which isn’t exactly a sign of optimism for the Raiders. It will be tough to replace Mack, but the Raiders are hoping that someone can surprise them and at least somewhat fill that void.

 

Philadelphia Eagles – Biggest Question: How much will Carson Wentz play this season?

Starting quarterback Carson Wentz is coming off of a season-ending knee injury late last year. The thought was that he would be ready to start the season, but the good news is that the Eagles have the luxury of having a very good backup with Nick Foles. We already know that Wentz won’t start in week one, but beyond that it is unknown when he’ll be ready. Philadelphia doesn’t seem to be in a rush to play Wentz until he is 100% healthy, yet it will be interesting to see how long Wentz will be out. Nick Foles has proven that he can play just as well as Wentz and it allows the Eagles to take their team and wait until Wentz is completely ready.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers – Biggest Question: Are the Steelers prepared to be without Le’Veon Bell?

Steelers star running backLe’Veon Bell is clearly unhappy with being franchise tagged once again this offseason and he has held out of the entire offseason for the 2nd straight year. However, the regular season is nearing and it is concerning that Bell still hasn’t reported to the team. Sure, he could decide to report just a few days before the regular season like he did last season, but it is still up in the air if that will happen. Either way, it appears that this is very likely Bell’s last season in Pittsburgh unless the two sides can miraculously agree on a new contract. The Steelers must prepare for what they will do if Bell departs after this season. That plan likely includes James Conner who got some valuable reps with the 1st-team in the preseason while Bell held out. Conner has been impressive so far and he is a good backup option if Bell decides to leave the Steelers. Even if Bell ends his holdout, the Steelers would be wise to give a bigger role to Conner as they prepare him to be the possible starter in 2019. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers handle the running back situation this season.

 

San Francisco 49ers – Biggest Question: What will the 49ers do at running back?

The 49ers seemed to find their new starting running back when they signed Jerick McKinnon to a big contract this offseason. However, the 49ers got some terrible news just prior to the season as McKinnon tore his ACL during practice and he will be out for the season. That means backup Matt Breida and newly signed veteran running back Alfred Morris will likely share the backfield for the 2018 season. The good news is that Breida and Morris have been impressive this preseason, although it will be difficult to replace the explosiveness of McKinnon. Breida figures to be the lead running back, but it is important that both running backs do well or else the offense might really struggle.

 

Seattle Seahawks – Biggest Question: How long will Earl Thomas hold out?

Earl Thomas has been away from the Seahawks all offseason as he has been seeking a new contract from the team. However, it doesn’t appear that there will be a resolution to this situation anytime soon as Thomas seems likely to not play any regular season games until he gets a new contract. Seattle also seems unwilling to trade Thomas unless they get good compensation in return like a 1st or 2nd round pick. Either way, Thomas is a free agent after the season and it seems unlikely that he will re-sign with the team. Thomas is really important to the Seahawks especially since they lost several key players from their defense this offseason. Thomas probably won’t play until he gets a new deal and the Seahawks probably won’t even negotiate a contract until he ends his holdout. Either way, both sides need to compromise or else this holdout could last all season.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Biggest Question: Is Jameis Winston the answer at quarterback?

There is no doubt the talent that Jameis Winston has and he showed it off during an impressive preseason. However, his character has once again come into question as he is suspended for the first 3 games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The main question though is whether he is the franchise quarterback that the Buccaneers have never really had. Winston often makes incredible plays, but he also makes way too many incredibly dumb decisions. Ryan Fitzpatrick certainly isn’t too much of a threat to take over Winston’s job long-term, yet if Fitzpatrick plays well the first 3 games of the season then it is very possible that Winston will be benched. Either way, this season is very important for Winston as he will need to prove that he is the answer for Tampa Bay at quarterback. If he fails to do that then the Buccaneers may be looking for a new starting quarterback very soon.

 

Tennessee Titans – Biggest Question: Can Mariota have a comeback season?

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t exactly have a good 2017 season as he threw for 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Tennessee still somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs and win a playoff game, but it was still concerning that Mariota played so poorly. Mariota was still a threat running the ball and he will continue to be a good dual-threat quarterback, but he needs to become more consistent as a passer. Mariota needs to return to the type of player that he was in 2016 when he played at a very high level and he didn’t turn the ball over very often. Mariota definitely has the potential and supporting cast to return to that type of season, but the Titans need him to play better because it will be difficult to win without him. It is likely that Mariota will bounce back in 2018, yet he needs to prove that he is the franchise quarterback for years to come.

 

Washington Redskins – Biggest Question: Is Alex Smith an upgrade over Kirk Cousins?

Washington was very fortunate to have pro-bowl caliber quarterback Kirk Cousins for the past few seasons. However, the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract extension and now the Redskins are moving on with a new veteran quarterback. Alex Smith was acquired by Washington and signed to a 4-year deal to be the Redskins new starter. Smith has already proven that he can be an elite quarterback even though he doesn’t often get considered that way across the league. Sure, Smith doesn’t make huge plays as often as other quarterbacks do, but he is an accurate and reliable quarterback. The best thing about Smith is that he rarely makes big mistakes. He takes care of the football and he usually gives his team a chance to win every single week. Smith might not be the most flashy quarterback, but he proved during his time in Kansas City is that all he does is win games. Kirk Cousins probably has more talent and potential than Smith does, but Smith might actually be an upgrade since he is a proven winner as a starting quarterback.

Reacting to the Khalil Mack trade

The Oakland Raiders made a significant trade just prior to the 2018 season as they dealt all-pro pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in exchange for two 1st round picks.

 

Raiders Grade/Analysis:

This trade actually makes some sense for the Raiders as the team was making no progress in contract talks with Khalil Mack. Sure, this trade no doubt hurts the Raiders in the short-term as Mack was basically the only reliable player on the Raiders defense. However, Mack was holding out and it appeared that he might even be willing to miss games until his contract situation was resolved. That made it likely easier for the Raiders to trade him especially since they are getting major value in return. Oakland is going through a rebuild process and the two 1st round picks could help the Raiders return to relevance in a few years. Mack was a great player for the Raiders, but it really didn’t matter since the team didn’t have much around him on defense. The Raiders can now use those picks to possibly add a couple of good pieces in order to try and build up their defense. It definitely wasn’t easy for the Raiders to give up an elite young player like Khalil Mack, but ultimately it was probably the right decision considering the massive return that they received.

Grade: B

 

Bears Grade/Analysis:

This trade officially signals that the Bears rebuild is over as Mack is the type of player that can push the Bears into playoff contention. Mack now adds to a defense that was already underrated with good young players like Roquan Smith and Kyle Fuller. Mack is no doubt one of the best players in the NFL and he suddenly makes Chicago’s defense a top 10 defense. Chicago still has some holes to fill on both sides of the football, but adding Mack makes the Bears a much more serious threat in the tough NFC North. However, this trade certainly doesn’t come without a large amount of risk. The Bears are making their team better in the short-term, but giving up two 1st round picks is extremely risky for the Bears in the long-term. It makes sense that the Bears are trying to make their team better and they certainly are much better in the short-term. However, a few years from now they might regret this trade considering how much they gave up.

Grade: C

Biggest position battle to watch for each AFC East team during training camp

Buffalo Bills – Biggest Position Battle: Quarterback

The Buffalo Bills are in an interesting position at quarterback heading into 2018 season as they have two extremely inexperienced players at the position. A.J. McCarron likely has the advantage as he has the most experience despite only having 3 career NFL starts. McCarron has been a backup his entire career and it is completely unknown how he will fare if he becomes the Bills starter at quarterback. Meanwhile, Josh Allen is McCarron’s main competitor for the starting quarterback job. Allen is certainly going to get his shot to be the starter at some point considering he was a 1st round pick by the Bills this year. However, the question is whether Allen would be ready to start week one or if it will take more time for him to develop. If Allen really makes a strong impression during training camp then it is possible that he could be the starter right away. However, A.J. McCarron has more experience and it appears he is the frontrunner to win the job.

Miami Dolphins – Biggest Position Battle: Running Back

The Dolphins are clearly big believers in Kenyan Drake or else they wouldn’t have traded away Jay Ajayi last season. However, the Dolphins added future hall-of-fame running back Frank Gore to compete for the starting job. Kenyan Drake has a bright future as Miami’s number one option at running back, although it is a mystery as to whether he can be the lead guy right now. Gore was likely brought in to take some of the pressure off of Kenyan Drake. However, if Drake doesn’t have a good training camp then Frank Fore could take the majority of the carries.

New England Patriots – Biggest Position Battle: Running Back

The New England Patriots lost starting running back Dion Lewis this offseason, but it shouldn’t hold them back since they added Sony Michel in the 1st round of the draft. Michel should see plenty of carries in his rookie year, yet it is unclear whether he will become the starter early on. Rex Burkhead is a veteran that will likely compete for the starting job with Michel during training camp. The Patriots also have James White who will take some of the carries away from the other two guys. Michel is the most talented running back that New England has, but he might struggle to take the starting job away from Rex Burkhead.

New York Jets – Biggest Position Battle: Quarterback

The Jets have three quarterbacks on their roster that could technically compete for the starting job. However, this appears to be a competition between veteran quarterback Josh McCown and rookie 1st round pick Sam Darnold. McCown is 39 years old, so he is nothing more than a temporary solution for the Jets at quarterback. However, he played well last season with the Jets and he has plenty of experience as an NFL quarterback. Darnold will have to be extremely impressive in order for the Jets to name him the week 1 starter, but he is much more talented than McCown is. McCown clearly has the advantage based off experience in the NFL, although it shouldn’t be too long before Darnold takes over the starting quarterback role.