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  • In this week’s Monday Afternoon Quarterback, we get into the unexpectedly unbeaten team in Miami, how Josh Rosen has more confidence than Sam Bradford right now, why the Niners will likely stick with C.J. Beathard, why no team should want to trade for Le’Veon Bell and more.
By Albert Breer
September 24, 2018

Here’s what we got, less than 18 hours removed from the third Sunday of the NFL season.

1. Sometimes, it’s hard to see a team’s offseason plan come to life, and sometimes, it’s not. The optics of the Dolphins’ 3–0 start puts Miami firmly in the latter category. Internally, there was an effort from coach Adam Gase, EVP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier to get faster all over the place in March and April. They signed a burner, receiver Albert Wilson, from Kansas City. They drafted the fastest tight end in the 2018 class (Mike Gesicki), the third-fastest running back (Kalen Ballage) and fourth-fastest linebacker (Jerome Baker). And they empowered younger guys on the roster like Jakeem Grant with opportunity. The result? Wilson and Grant were so far clear of the Raiders defense on Wilson’s 74-yard jet-sweep touchdown that they exchanged a high five while Wilson crossed the goal line. Grant had a 52-yard touchdown catch of his own (on a throw from Wilson), and Kenny Stills also scored from 34 yards out as big plays, and that big-play ability made up the difference, even as the Raiders outgained the Dolphins by 61 yards.

2. The number of starting rookie QBs bulged from two to four on Monday. For reasons why Baker Mayfield is now the guy in Cleveland (outside of the obvious), check out my conversation with Hue Jackson in today’s MMQB. As Arizona, I’m told that Josh Rosen’s been outstanding of late in practice, and seeing him command the huddle on Sunday, even in a losing situation against Chicago, was the final piece of the puzzle in deciding to the pull the trigger on the quarterback switch. As the staff sees it, Rosen’s carrying himself with more confidence than Sam Bradford at this point, and the mobility he brings over Bradford should help an offensive line that’s had some bumps.

3. I’d expect the Niners to stick with C.J. Beathard as their starting quarterback, and look to add depth behind him. Kyle Shanahan saw some similarities between Beathard in his final year at Iowa and what he’d seen in Kirk Cousins coming out of Michigan State in 2012, which is why the Niners traded up to get him in the third round last year.

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4. I’d be stunned to see more than a few teams in on Le’Veon Bell right now. You’d be dealing for a 26-year-old tailback with plenty of mileage, injury and suspension history, and you wouldn’t be able to extend him. Unless you’re a team that sincerely believes you’re a tailback away (I don’t know who that’d be), it’s hard to see the concept of it making sense for many GMs.

5. The Rams’ corner situation is tenuous, with both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib on the shelf for the time being. I’m told the plan is to roll with Sam Shields, Troy Hill and Nickell Robey-Coleman. Part of the trouble is that Los Angeles has generally dressed just five corners, so depth will certainly be tested here, particularly with Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen looming just three days away.

6. Name to keep an eye on: Chiefs QBs coach Mike Kafka. Andy Reid assigned Kafka, then a quality control coach, to work one-on-one with Patrick Mahomes last year, as the 10th pick in the 2017 draft went through his de facto redshirt season. Kafka was promoted after the season, and word about the work of guys like this get around, so it’s not hard to envision the former Northwestern and Eagles quarterback becoming a coordinator soon. He’s still just 31 years old.


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7. One thing to watch for with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky is how quick he is to tuck the ball and run. In his year starting at North Carolina, his biggest strength was how he saw the field and his ability to work through progressions, and scouts from opposing teams just aren’t seeing that right now. Instead, Trubisky seems to be making a single read, and running if it’s not there. There’s time, of course, for Trubisky to grow through it. And he is running an offense that’s still new to him.

8. The Giants/Texans game was another good example of the offensive line crisis the NFL is facing—with it getting harder and harder to find good ones coming out of college, and more and more expensive to sign competent ones in free agency (see: Nate Solder, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Jensen). This also explains why the Titans (Taylor Lewan), Falcons (Jake Matthews), Patriots (Shaq Mason) and Rams (Rob Havenstein) were aggressive in signing their own this summer. That slew of extensions has absolutely depleted next year’s free agent market. So it’s good to be a kid like Greg Little from Ole Miss or Jonah Williams from Alabama right now.

9. Name to watch tonight: Bucs TE O.J. Howard. The Steelers have struggled historically with athletic tight ends. Chiefs’ Travis Kelce killed them last week, and Tampa Bay OC Todd Monken has been creative in manufacturing matchups for Howard detached from the formation. Monken’s old boss, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, told me this week that Monken was known to say “don’t they deserve for us to try it at least one more time?” into the headsets, a reminder to not get away from what’s working. And so I’d expect Monken to get Howard involved early and, presuming it works, often.

10. It’s worth taking a look at the video of how the Lions welcomed Matt Patricia into the locker room after Detroit upended the Patriots on Sunday night. I’m not saying things haven’t been rocky—in fact, I know there’s been bellyaching from players over how demanding the schedule is. But there are certainly signs that he’s reaching at least some of his players. That much was evident in how Detroit controlled the line of scrimmage against New England, which you could correlate to the physical camp that Patricia ran.

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