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  • Plus, a rival scout on what Pittsburgh will be missing when Le’Veon Bell sits out, a tight end is set to emerge in San Francisco’s offense, and why David Johnson and his agent made a smart move
By Albert Breer
September 09, 2018

Your MMQB Tip Sheet for Week 1 …

1. There will be a lot of attention on the anthem. My sense is the NFL and NFLPA might be looking to give the idea of leaving the policy alone a dry run. I actually think that would be a smart approach—stay in contact, let things ride for a little while, and determine whether doing nothing is a viable option.

2. When I talked to Andrew Luck about his comeback, this comment, concerning his appreciation for football, stuck out: “Intellectually, when someone tells you once it’s taken away from you, you’re going to appreciate it more, it’s, ‘Yeah, of course’. But yeah, I never felt that in my gut, in my heart until now. Without sounding too cliché, there’s a little bit of a new lease on life, my football life. And by no means am I perfect. I’ve got a ways to go.” Coming back, as he said, won’t be without bumps. But the key is that progress has been steady. The Colts paced him through training camp and timed his days off to simulate game weeks, so he’d be comfortable going into Week 1. And I’m told that he’s taken every rep in practice this week. So he’s ready.

3. One rival scout on the difference between Steelers estranged star Le’Veon Bell and his replacement (for now), James Conner: “[Conner is] a good inside, downhill runner, but totally different style than Bell and how they block for him. Biggest difference is in the passing game, where Bell is so versatile and dangerous out of the backfield. Conner does not give them that. … Would guess they rely more on Ben [Roethlisberger] early in the season.” Those who’ve worked with both echo that: The Steelers should be able to make it work with Conner in the run game, but Bell’s versatility in the pass game will be tough to replace.

4. On the flip side, I’d expect the Browns to take a play-it-by-ear approach to reincorporating Josh Gordon this week. He’s only had three real practices since the start of OTAs.

5. With Jerick McKinnon out, the Niners will need other skill guys to take a step forward, and here’s one they expect to do so: second-year tight end George Kittle. Kyle Shanahan’s offense needs a playmaker at the position, and the belief is that Kittle can give his coach what Jordan Reed did in Washington, and what Austin Hooper was starting to give him in Atlanta.

6. Speaking of Jordan Reed, he’s had a fantastic summer and word is he and new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith already have a nice rapport.

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7. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots use Cordarelle Patterson on offense, given the team’s crying need for receiver help. What I was told to watch for: Plays that basically generate a punt return situation for him by putting him in space. So screens and swings and those sorts of things could be on his menu today.

8. Much has been made of New England’s problems at receiver, but it will be interesting to see if the Texans can take advantage of this vulnerability given the state of a crew of well-paid corners (Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, Aaron Colvin), with a fourth vet at the position (Kareem Jackson) having moved over. There was concern there in camp that hasn’t been allayed yet.

9. It was smart of David Johnson and agent Brian Mackler for insisting on a shorter-term deal in Arizona. All players should be doing this.

10. I’m pumped to see Aaron Rodgers work with Jimmy Graham. The Packers built depth at that spot, and brought in guys like Marcedes Lewis (basically a third tackle at this point) to free up the coaches to move Graham all over the place. I’m not a scout, but his play at camp stood out to me, and those in the building are excited to see what he’ll do in a new environment.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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