- Aaron Rodgers’ backup should get more practice time this week, Titans dodged a bullet on Mariota, Steelers linemen are eyeballing Le’Veon ... plus more Monday afternoon news for Week 1 and beyond
Quick-hitters for you coming off Week 1:
1. While Aaron Rodgers says he’s planning to play next week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made no promises, which means that he and his coaches will have to get DeShone Kizer ready to play. And Kizer has benefitted from the increased reps he’s gotten since Brett Hundley was dealt last month—something that showed in limited action on Sunday night—so this week should be good for him regardless of who takes the first snap against Minnesota on Sunday.
2. Bengals WR A.J. Green said postgame Sunday that he believes Joe Mixon belongs, from a talent perspective, in the same breath as Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. And I can tell you that coaches have felt that way pretty much since Mixon arrived in Cincinnati last year, particularly since he fits the new prototype for NFL backs—Gurley, Bell, Zeke Elliott, Saquon Barkley—as a 230-pounder who can play on all three downs.
3. The anger from the Steelers offensive line last week towards Le’Veon Bell was notable in large part because you almost never see an NFL player, let alone three, publicly trash a teammate for his handling of a contract dispute. So here’s an interesting nugget: Some of those linemen weren’t happy with Bell last year, either. The running back wound up showing up in shape, and ready to go for the start of the season, which alleviated some of that. Is he in the same kind of shape this year? Those guys are interested to find out.
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4. The Titans are believed to have dodged a bullet on Marcus Mariota. He did experience some issues with gripping the ball as a result of his arm injury in Miami, but it looks like he’s going to be fine.
5. The fact that the loss of mid-level free-agent signing Seantrel Henderson is such an issue for the Texans can inform the situation that GM Brian Gaine and coach Bill O’Brien were in going into the offseason along the offensive line. As it stands right now, the likely scenario is that Houston will stick with rookie third-round pick Martinas Rankin at left tackle and 2017 fourth-rounder Julie’n Davenport at right tackle. And hope for the best in protecting Deshaun Watson, who showed a little hesitancy stepping into throws in his first full game back from ACL surgery.
6. I asked around, and it doesn’t seem like the Vikings did anything crazy different to throw Jimmy Garoppolo off, which underscores a couple points. First, Minnesota has the horses on the defensive side to outman just about anyone. Second, it’s important to remember, after the hysteria of December, that the Niners were still a ground-up rebuild when GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan got there two Januarys ago (hence, the six-year deals), and so it might be wise for everyone to tap the brakes on expectations just a little.
7. The loss of safety Keanu Neal—who’s been the Kam Chancellor of Dan Quinn’s Atlanta defense—is a big one. Damontae Kazee is the next man up, and he’s a nice versatile piece. But at 5’11”, 190, he’s not close to the thumper that Neal is, so it’s fair to assume that there will be something missed in the physicality department.
8. The Jets have told us what they think of Sam Darnold via their actions—from giving him first team reps in the spring to opening the competition going into summer to giving him starting assignments in the second and third preseason games, to now starting him in the opener. So what to expect? Since he’s always been a gamer, the Jets are expecting his best. And I’m told they’ll help him by moving the pocket and working to establish the run game, similar to how the Niners broke in Jimmy Garoppolo last year.
9. On the flip side, the Lions know they need a big night from the pass rush, and that’ll have to mean Ziggy Ansah and Devon Kennard delivering.
10. I’m getting a little sick of people cherry-picking ratings numbers to fit whatever their arguments are. It’s like a wise man once told me: Numbers are like hostages. You can make them say whatever you want.
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