Randall Cobb’s Honesty, the Saints’ Potential Pain, Bruce Arians’ Wisdom and More
1. I think it’s refreshing for Randall Cobb to put bravado aside and admit that it’s going to be hard for him to top what he did last year, when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cobb, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract this past offseason to stay in Green Bay, had reason for his assertion, telling the Packers’ website, “Davante [Adams is] coming along, that adds a target, and he’s going to get more targets.” Exactly. Adams has a chance to become the next Jordy Nelson in Mike McCarthy’s system. His rise—plus the subtle rise we can expect from second-year tight end Richard Rodgers—means fewer touches for Cobb.
2. I think if Junior Galette’s pectoral injury is significant, the Saints will be in a world of hurt. New Orleans made major changes on both sides of the ball this season in an effort to shore up a leaky defense, but Galette offers the only modicum of speed that New Orleans’ pass rush has. Rob Ryan can compensate with crazy blitzes like his brother is known for, but the longer-haired twin would rather play coverage-based concepts. Without Galette, that would be very difficult.
3. I think it’s wise of Bruce Arians to mentally discard linebacker Daryl Washington, who, though eligible for reinstatement, remains suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. “I don’t lose one minute’s sleep or even think about it,” Arians said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “Until he becomes a Cardinal again, it’s a waste of breath.”
And also a waste of talent. Before his problems towered to untenable heights, Washington was a top-five NFL inside linebacker, maybe the fastest, most athletic in the game. He would have been a superstar in the Todd Bowles scheme that Arians will have new coordinator James Bettcher continue. Instead, Washington is a de facto unemployed 28-year-old with a rap sheet.
Once reinstated, Washington will still face discipline for his 2014 guilty plea on aggravated assault chargers in a domestic dispute involving the mother of his child. Since that episode, the NFL, you may have noticed, has bumped into some ugly PR situations involving other domestically abusive players. Washington could very well be facing a double-digit game suspension, which will carry his absence close to two full seasons.
4. I think Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is blowing hot air when he says a smaller stature will have no impact on the 5-10, 185-pound Brandon Boykin’s potential for the starting cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell. “If you’re good enough, you’re big enough,” said Davis, who runs a lot of Seahawks-style coverages (only with a few more disguises). But if good enough equaled big enough, Boykin would have replaced the floundering Bradley Fletcher at some point last season. Some guys are just built for the slot—nothing wrong with that. Boykin will still play about 60 percent of the snaps this year—not as good as 100 percent, yes, but better than being asked to employ press techniques you’re not built for.
5. I think once the Vikings dug their heels in, there was never any question that Adrian Peterson would play for Minnesota in 2015. It’s always surprising how caught up fans get in contract disputes. But when faced with the option of playing for Team A or not playing at all, 99 times out of 100 a player will eventually back down and play for Team A. Because what’s a guy like Peterson going to do? Sit out, get older and not get paid the millions that he’s more than likely become dependent on? Missing a second straight year, Peterson would have given up $12.75 million and would not have found a comparable deal as a 31-year-old somewhere else in 2016. Besides, he would have been right back in the same spot anyway. Other than Sean Gilbert in 1997, no player of consequence has sat out an entire season in a contract dispute. If it’s all about the money—and these situations usually are—the player will cave. Because that’s the only way the money can factor on his side. The player is fighting something that an NFL team will never have to worry about: a short shelf-life on earnings power. Peterson’s Vikings contract would have still been in place, as if only frozen for a year.
6. I think it would be a mistake for the Patriots to move Devin McCourty from safety back to corner. New England is already severely weakened at cornerback after the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Alfonzo Dennard, and moving McCourty would only leave the Patriots severely weakened at the other defensive backfield position while making them no better than mediocre at corner. McCourty is an above-average cornerback and a very good—maybe even great—safety. He recognizes this, too, recently saying, “It’s up to the coaches. I want to play safety, but it’s out of my control so whatever the coaches decide is what it will have to be.”
7. I think it’s bizarre that 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis, at this stage in his career, has decided to take a sabbatical. But at least he did it after signing his lucrative second contract. True, he may ultimately lose some of the signing bonus, but the second contract would not have come up in the first place if he’d pulled this stunt while still on his rookie deal. Davis would be viewed like Jonathan Martin: too much of an emotional wild card to take a significant chance on.
Davis is better than Martin ever was, but the Niners can survive his absence. Their run-blocking might have some glitches, but their scheme is heavy on tight end and fullback usage, so some of those glitches will be masked. In pass protection, Davis is nothing special. And Colin Kaepernick, with his poor pocket presence, often doesn’t capitalize on good protection anyway. Kaepernick’s randomized style of play will not be affected by a downgraded at right tackle.
8. I think the Panthers will come to realize (if they don’t already) that they overpaid for Cam Newton. Entering his fifth season, Newton, 26, is essentially the same player now that he was entering his second season. He’s inconsistent in his mechanics and decision-making. He plays like someone who constantly has friends in his ear telling him that he’s the greatest. What he needs is a quarterbacks coach with the mettle to jump down his throat after a repeated mistake.
9. I think you also can’t blame the Panthers for overpaying for Newton. What choice did they have? Quarterbacks are rare in the NFL, even average ones. A team that’s been to the playoffs two straight years can’t plan to let its mid-20-year-old signal-caller leave soon via free agency. The only way to prevent that is to make him one of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the game. That’s simply what an adequate NFL quarterback costs. Newton’s contract is not a testament to Newton—it’s a testament to the price of his position. It was the same with Ryan Tannehill, who got a new deal shortly before Newton did. (And by the way, Tannehill, who has improved each year in his career, is a much better player and long-term prospect than his Carolina counterpart).
10. I think grown men should not wear jerseys unless they’re attending a game. I saw a 50-something-year-old man in the Phoenix airport the other day sporting one of those super expensive full-stitched Russell Wilson jerseys (the grey one). It looked ridiculous: an adult tacitly declaring that he looks up to this other adult who is half his age, totally unrelated to him and whom he likely has never even met. Considering such jerseys cost well into three figures, a full-grown adult’s decision to wear one as casual dress looks all the more childish.
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