The 214-day NFL drought has ended, and Week One is nearly in the books. Hours of over-analyzing Dez Bryant’s Instagram follows have finally been replaced with hours of over-analyzing Le’Veon Bell tweets and I truly could not be happier.
Over the next couple of days we will witness the birth of thousands of hot takes and “Week One Takeaways”, the majority of which will be drastic overreactions. We have seen four quarters of real football, so it would be absolutely crazy to draw any real assumptions from this. But being rational is boring, so here is a bunch of stuff I might regret saying:
Saquon is exactly who we thought he was—unfortunately, so is the Giants offensive line
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who watched Giants-Jags on Sunday and was not impressed with rookie running back Saquon Barkley’s performance. This is not to say he dominated—outside of a long 68-yard touchdown run, the recent No. 2 pick ran for a measly 38 yards on 17 carries.
But what was remarkable about his debut was how well he ran behind his offensive line. Few O-lines look strong against Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell and the Jaguars defense, but offensive tackle OT Ereck Flowers and the rest of the Giants’ line put on a genuinely awful performance. Barkley was consistently met by Jacksonville behind the line of scrimmage (averaging -0.4 yards before contact in the first half), but managed to turn what he was dealt into a very solid day.
Does Saquon look like one of the most talented backs in the game? Yes. Will he be one of the most dominant? Probably not with that offensive line.
Mitch Trubisky is still on the verge of a breakout
After a statistically underwhelming rookie year, many are eager to see what quarterback Mitch Trubisky can do in his second season for the Chicago Bears. The 2017 2nd overall pick showed flashes of very real talent last season, improving quite a bit as the year progressed. Trubisky’s first half against the revamped Packers defense was simply fantastic—looking dangerous in the pocket and going mobile as he led the Bears to a 17-0 lead at the half. The second half was an entirely different story, as Trubisky looked totally ineffective against an inspired Packers D.
The game ended with a perfect opportunity to make a statement: down by 1 in Green Bay, 2 minutes left, ball on Chicago’s 18. But it looked like the pressure of the moment got to him – Trubisky looked all too inexperienced, tightening up and overthrowing his receivers as young quarterbacks tend to do.
I have no doubt he will continue to sharpen up as he gets on page with new targets Allen Robinson and Trey Burton, but it looks like Mitch Trubisky’s moment has not quite arrived… yet.
Falcons need to part ways with Steve Sarkisian
Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian should consider touching up his resume a bit, because it looks unlikely that he will be employed too much longer in Atlanta. Taking over Kyle Shanahan’s role as offensive coordinator, Sarkisian led the Falcons to a meager 22.1 points per game in 2017 (down from 33.8 in 2016), leading some to call for his firing only a season after taking the helm.
Thursday’s season opener against the Eagles will only serve as more ammunition for his doubters.
Though his play-calling was questionable the entire game, it was perhaps most evident in the game’s final drive. Having stalled out in the red zone twice before and putting up a total of 12 points, the Falcons found themselves with possession, 4 downs, and ten yards to the Eagles’ end zone.
After a first down incompletion, Sarkisian called three consecutive verticals on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down. Three. Consecutive. Verticals. Admittedly, he was bailed out by a defensive penalty and had the opportunity to switch up the playcall for the final play of the game, but that sequence was just atrocious.
The Falcons need to make some crucial changes if they want to compete, and it seems very clear that the problem lies in Steve Sarkisian.
Calm down about the Browns
I have had this argument hundreds of times and expect to have it a hundred more: the Browns are not dark-horse candidates for the AFC Wild Card. They are not even dark-horse candidates to go .500. A team that has gone 1-31 in the past two seasons is not a Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry away from relevency.
I have no doubt new GM John Dorsey’s massive offseason will improve the team somewhat, but talent was not really the issue last year—the Browns’ problem has always been head coach Hue Jackson.
I understand the temptation to overreact to the Browns 21-21 tie against the Steelers and declare Cleveland “okay,” but consider the following from Bill Barnwell’s Twitter:
“The Browns are +5 in takeaways today. Since the Browns returned to the NFL, teams with a turnover margin of +5 or better in a game are 132-4-1,” Barnwell tweeted.
As you may have gathered, this Sunday accounted for that single tie.
It is incredibly unlikely that Cleveland will be gifted turnovers like that again this season, and Tyrod’s rocky debut does not reflect positively on him being the “franchise QB” some thought he might be. Are the Browns in store for another 0-16 season? Almost certainly not, but I remain skeptical that the Browns will eclipse four wins in the 2018 season.
This is a sports opinion piece.
Contact Killian Pinkelman at [email protected]