Kaepernick Looks Like a New Man, Slow That Falcons Bandwagon, and Does Seattle Really Want to Play Richard Sherman There?
1. I think, at times, I couldn’t believe my eyes watching Colin Kaepernick Monday night. He showed totally newfound poise as a drop-back passer. Not only did he climb the pocket and work deep into progressions, he also kept his eyes downfield. That’s something a typical running QB, and especially the Kaepernick of old, does not naturally do. Best of all, Kaepernick still made plays with his feet when appropriate. It was not a flawless performance by any means, and Kaepernick was aided by fantastic play-calling from new coordinator Geep Chryst, who used multi-tight end formations, moving pockets and the running game to get his QB comfortable. But if Kaepernick builds on this performance and becomes a respectable pocket passer, we’d be looking at one of football’s greatest quarterbacking growth spurts.
• A NEW STAR SHINES IN SAN FRANCISCO: In her “10 Things” column, Emily Kapalan highlights Carlos Hyde’s first career start and has kind words for Eli Manning in light of the clock-management disaster.
2. I think it’s old news but it wasn’t nearly newsy enough: Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake gave a pathetic effort on the play where Rob Gronkowski split out wide and was uncovered for a 16-yard touchdown. Embarrassing.
3. I think the Seahawks must decide whether they really want Richard Sherman playing the slot in nickel like he did in Week 1. Sherman is stellar but less effective inside. More importantly, outside, where the Seahawks once had Sherman and Byron Maxwell, they’re now operating with converted safety DeShawn Shead and Eagles castoff Cary Williams. Major downgrades.
• IN DEFENSE OF KAM CHANCELLOR: Seattle’s star safety was sorely missed in the opener as he sat locked in a contract dispute with the defending NFC champs. Robert Klemko on why his holdout deserves more consideration than angry fans are willing to give it.
4. I think a great highlight in an otherwise discouraging opener for Seattle was new defensive coordinator Kris Richard’s shrewd play call on Cary Williams’ sack-fumble of Nick Foles, which Williams recovered and returned for a touchdown. St. Louis had been gashing Seattle with slow developing first-down play-action, so Richard dialed up a corner blitz from the tight end side. It was an unconventional, and therefore unexpected, call. Williams came in clean. The beauty of it was that had the Rams run the ball on that first down, the blitz would have also put Williams in position to make the stop or funnel the runner back inside.
5. I think I’d pause before jumping on the Falcons bandwagon. It was an impressive showing against the Eagles… in the first half. But had they been on the field a minute or two longer in the second half, that exhausted Falcons D would not have held on. The biggest factor for them in 2015 will be whether rookie Vic Beasley can provide a steady edge-rushing presence.
6. I think this is a name to know: Kyle Emanuel. The Chargers’ fifth-round rookie from Stanford started at outside linebacker for an injured Jerry Attaochu (hamstring) last week and shined. With natural awareness and a firm grasp on fundamentals, Emanuel can be one of those guys who outplays his athletic ceiling.
7. I think for the people who got excited about the Vikings calling a college zone-read/play-action pass option for Teddy Bridgewater Monday night, just know that this was something the Vikings did last year, too. It will probably become a staple. Second-year quarterbacks coach Scott Turner (Norv’s son) entered the NFL as Carolina’s quality control coach in 2011. The Panthers made it part of Cam Newton’s repertoire. Turner brought the tactic with him to Minnesota.
8. I think if I was an NFL head coach, one assistant I’d consider to fill a defensive coordinator position is Cardinals secondary coach Nick Rapone. His unit the past two years has been solid in a scheme that’s very complex with its matchup zone coverage principles. Last week, that unit absolutely dominated the Saints. With Antonio Cromartie departing in free agency, Arizona’s secondary is thinner and less talented this season. But if everyone plays with the alertness (and, consequently, the speed) that they displayed in Week 1, this will still be an improved group in 2015.
9. I think Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ run-heavy offense will really be tested with Dez Bryant out. Whenever you have a receiver that consistently lifts a safety, the defensive box becomes lighter and coverages can be more readily defined. The Cowboys lose that element.
• FILM STUDY WITH JASON WITTEN: Andy Benoit kicks off his film-study series with the Jason Witten. As the Cowboys prepare for the Eagles on Sunday, Witten breaks down film for us as we take a look at their Week 15 matchup from last season.
10. I think the Ravens will miss Terrell Suggs, but they can survive his absence. Stylistically, Courtney Upshaw has enough similarities to the future Hall of Famer that the defense won’t have to alter its approach. Everyone will now just have to execute that much better.