1. I think if 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula had kept Colin Kaepernick in the starting lineup, he’d run the risk of losing the locker room. San Fran’s gameplans had become as simple as it gets, and still, Kaepernick was not executing the most basic of quarterbacking chores. How can you convince your other players to go hard if the man in charge of the ball isn’t giving them a chance?
2. I think the timing of Ken Whisenhunt’s firing makes no sense. Why fire him two weeks after Marcus Mariota goes out with a knee injury? What ownership is saying is, “Ken, your inability to beat a 5-1 Falcons team and the division rival Texans on the road with your young backup sixth-round QB Mettenberger? That was the final straw.” Ridiculous.
3. I think, more important than Whisenhunt’s record (which, granted, looks deplorable) was the surprising early success of Mariota. The Titans aren’t just rebuilding, they’re remodeling their whole franchise. The man they drafted second overall was playing above and beyond all expectations in Whisenhunt’s pocket-based system—something few thought the mobile rookie QB could do, let alone do immediately. There’s no chance Mariota could have performed so well without good coaching and scheming to help him out.
4. I think one of the most overlooked players in the NFL is Rams safety Mark Barron. Or, more accurately, Rams linebacker Mark Barron, as that’s where the ex-Buc has been in the wake of Alec Ogletree’s injury. Barron has excellent quickness in the box and the flexibility to cover running backs and tight ends one-on-one. He’s a great fit in Gregg Williams’ multifaceted system.
5. I think Todd Gurley is the best rookie running back I’ve seen on film since I was first truly exposed to the All-22 film in 2008. There is a subtleness and ease in all of Gurley’s movements.
6. I think Vernon Davis will have a tough time transitioning in Denver. Davis has never had a highly regarded football IQ. For the longest time, the 49ers made dramatic tweaks to their approach to simplify things for the talented tight end. Now Davis must learn a whole new scheme—and in a way it’s two schemes (Kubiak’s and Manning’s)—on the fly, midseason. It’s unlikely he becomes more than the No. 3 tight end considering Owen Daniels has been with Kubiak forever and Virgil Green has played with Manning the last four years.
7. I think—or actually, I wonder if the Patriots knew originally that they had the perfect type of weapon in Dion Lewis, and if that’s why they allowed Shane Vereen to leave in free agency. Lewis, who had been injured and was out of the league, was signed early in the calendar year, before Vereen left as a free agent. Lewis has proven to be a quicker, more dynamic version of Vereen. Like Vereen, he can split out wide and run receiver-type routes. He’s a perfect fit for New England’s system.
8. I think with Le’Veon Bell done for the season, the Steelers will have to go back to the wide receiver screens that they drifted from after Ben Roethlisberger’s knee injury. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant each need at least three touches a game on screens or reverses. Those six touches should come out of DeAngelo Williams’s workload, to better preserve the 32-year-old back.
9. I think Amari Cooper got the better of the matchup against Darrelle Revis last week. Function of Cooper’s early greatness? Or sign of subtle decline from the league’s top cover corner?
10. I think if you’re saying right now “Hey, moron—Revis isn’t the top cover corner, Josh Norman is!” then we need to clarify: cover corner implies a guy who regularly matches up man-to-man. Norman can do this, but Carolina’s system is zone-based, so he isn’t asked to play man very often. Norman might be the league’s most effective all-around corner right now, but he doesn’t get enough snaps in man to be in the discussion for top cover corner.