- Plus, why Kizer was benched and why it puts the Browns in a tough spot, why Shazier’s speed could work against him in Kansas City, and the NFL’s toughest quarterback
1. The last two weeks, the Jets D has looked increasingly more like a Todd Bowles-coached unit. They’re bringing disguised pressure, and fast. Bowles loves to rush safeties and speedy linebackers (Demario Davis has flashed lately). Linebackers and especially safeties are not always accounted for in an offense’s pass-protection call. It will be interesting to see how the Jets play this week. In recent years, Bowles has backed off the blitzing and dropped eight into coverage against Tom Brady. But the 2017 Patriots offense is more vertical than horizontal; naturally, the ball is not out as quickly. And Brady, as we’ve all seen, has taken more hits. We could see the Jets really attack.
2. After watching the Browns’ film closer, I understand why Hue Jackson benched DeShone Kizer. As the first half progressed against the Jets, Kizer started locking more and more onto bad reads. It got to where he was hitching multiple times at the top of his dropback, waiting for covered receivers to get open. QBs are taught to never do that. The offense hummed much better under Kevin Hogan, who was tough and polished in the pocket. But now Jackson is in a difficult spot. He wants (needs) to develop Kizer; surely he anticipated some growing pains when he named his second-round rookie the starter, right? But Jackson can’t put Kizer on the field this week because Jackson’s men would see that he’s not playing the best player—and at the most important position, no less. That’s how you lose a locker room. Kizer can’t play again until Hogan starts to struggle.
3. 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner has been dominant, mainly against the run. He has long arms and fast hands.
4. Oh, how I wish the Giants game was flexed off of NBC (they face the Broncos). Now we have all of Sunday to dread it. That defense is probably too good for New York to earn a top-3 draft pick, but the offense without any wide receivers cannot function. Ben McAdoo’s system depends on receivers getting themselves open.
5. Against the Chargers, look for Oakland to put Amari Cooper in the “inside slot” in a trips formation and send him across the field on a deep “over” route. Teams have tried this every week against L.A. because in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme, the responsible defender against this deep route is the weak-inside linebacker. Chargers linebackers have gotten better and better at recognizing the deep “over” routes, but there’s still the matter of them not having the wheels to run with a guy like Cooper.
6. Carson Palmer is the NFL’s toughest QB. Palmer knows going into every game that, in Bruce Arians’s deep-drop scheme and behind that rickety offensive line, he’s going to get his guts beat out. (And he has!) And yet, Palmer still stands firm in the pocket and gives the offense a chance to function. Unfortunately, with its current O-line, it can’t.
7. In Detroit last week, tight end Darren Fells took some snaps from Eric Ebron, mostly on first- and second-down when run-blocking is a factor. If we see this again versus New Orleans, it’ll be time to reevaluate Ebron’s place in the offense.
8. Last time the Packers visited Minnesota, Aaron Rodgers went after cornerback Trae Waynes. Waynes has struggled downfield against speed receivers, and at times it has impacted his confidence and technique. Assuming Xavier Rhodes travels with Jordy Nelson, you’ll see the Packers fill the widest receiver spot on the other side with their best vertical weapon (likely Davante Adams, but perhaps Geronimo Allison). That will draw the matchup against Waynes.
9. No linebacker plays faster than Ryan Shazier. He’ll be fascinating to watch against Kansas City’s misdirection offense. This could be the one week where Shazier’s speed is a liability.
10. Besides the Shazier bit, Chiefs-Steelers is worth watching if for no other reason than Tony Romo is calling it. He’ll soon challenge Cris Collinsworth for the unofficial title of NFL’s Best Color Commentator. It is very, very apparent that Romo studies film and prepares diligently.
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