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Why Lamar Jackson Is So Liked, Dalvin Cook at the Heart of the Vikings, More NFL Notes

Also, notes on the Redskins’ full-time switch to Dwayne Haskins, the Steelers’ trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mitch Trubisky’s and the Bears’ victory on Sunday.
Lamar Jackson, Dwayne Haskins, Dalvin Cook

Week 10’s not quite done yet—we have a good one coming tonight when the Seahawks visit the 49ers—but until then …

This interaction between Ravens coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Lamar Jackson during Sunday’s blowout win against the Bengals is all genuine—Jackson’s teammates love him.

Here’s an anecdote: After the Ravens knocked off the Patriots last week, Jackson and I were talking about TE Nick Boyle’s touchdown. I thought it was interesting that Baltimore was going to Boyle there, and brought up how he’s usually not a big part of the passing game (he’s made his bones as a blocker). The exceedingly polite Jackson stopped me. 

“You gotta take that back, Albert,” he said. “He's been doing a great job. He just hasn't been scoring those touchdowns ’til the third quarter. He's been doing a great job.”

Jackson routinely credits teammates, like a lot of quarterbacks do. But this seemed like more than that—he was going out of his way to take up for Boyle. That sort of thing is probably what his teammates appreciate about him, among other things.

• Christian McCaffrey deserves every scintilla of credit he’s gotten for his banner third NFL season—he’s second in the NFL in rushing yards, with 989 and 11 touchdowns, and is second among running backs in catches, with 48 for 396 yards and another three touchdowns. 

But look closely, and you’ll see Vikings star Dalvin Cook is right there with him, leading the NFL with 991 rushing yards to go with 10 rushing touchdowns, and sixth among backs with 40 catches for 424 yards. So as much as McCaffrey is the engine of the Panther offense, Cook is that guy in Minnesota. When I talked to linebacker Eric Kendricks on Sunday night, he said the personality that Cook brings to the offense has carried over on defense. 

“Just the whole running back group right now, their whole mindset, the way they attack games, sometimes the defense knows they're going to run the ball and they still pound it,” Kendricks said. “When we see that on the sidelines, it motivates us to go out there and do our part. We know those guys are scrapping for every yard they're getting and it's cool to see.” 

This, of course, is exactly what Mike Zimmer’s been looking for—an offense that fits the defensive mindset he’s brought to the franchise. We’ll see how far it takes them.

• The Redskins’ move to Dwayne Haskins was in motion during the bye week—the quarterbacks were told before an extended weekend off—and this makes sense from a football standpoint. But based on how politics have played into the post-Jay Gruden dynamics with veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy (more on that in the morning column), it’s not hard to surmise that more than a few hands were in the pot when making this decision.

• We alluded to this in this week’s MMQB, but Steelers GM Kevin Colbert is the one who was the driving force behind the deal for Minkah Fitzpatrick, as you’d expect. Both he and coach Mike Tomlin have an affinity for players from Alabama, and Fitzpatrick had a very high grade from the team ahead of the 2018 draft. And as we said in the morning column, how strongly Nick Saban felt about Fitzpatrick was a factor in all of that.

• The big difference in Mitchell Trubisky’s game on Sunday? As the Bears staff saw it, he was more consistent with his decision-making. And that meant being judicious in certain spots. One that was raised to me came in the fourth quarter, on a second-and-seven. Matt Nagy called a shot to Taylor Gabriel. Post-snap, Trubisky recognized that the Lions had it covered, and calmly reset, and checked the ball down underneath to a wide-open Allen Robinson for 13 yards and a first down. Oftentimes, a young quarterback will force the shot on a call like that, even if it’s not there. That Trubisky was willing to take his profit and move on is a good sign of growth as a quarterback.

• It’s fair to say now that the Dolphins have all the information they need on Josh Rosen. And when I asked about that earlier in the season—whether or not Miami needed to get a long look at Rosen to make an assessment—the staff there didn’t seem overly concerned that it wouldn’t be able to get a read on him as a player. Unfortunately for Rosen, that likely means Miami rides out its plan to draft a quarterback this year or next and, sooner or later, he’ll be headed to his third NFL team. Here’s hoping that a really talented kid gets a longer look and better situation somewhere than he has through two years.

• The rest of the NFL can learn a good lesson from the Eagles, who just gave G Brandon Brooks a new four-year deal—when you have good linemen, move heaven and earth to keep them. There are just too few to go around in 2019, evidenced by the market at those spots. Nate Solder, Trent Brown, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Jensen and Mitch Morse became the highest paid players at their positions as UFAs the last two offseasons, and that’s no mistake. It happens because demand far outweighs supply. So Brooks is 30, and the Eagles had to make him the highest paid guard? It’s a lot better than the alternative. And that Brooks got back to this place after tearing his Achilles in the divisional playoffs makes this money well-earned.

• I’m told that Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes came out of the Titans game no worse for the wear—“No issues at all,” said one source—so he’ll move forward as he normally would after knocking some rust of against the Titans in Nashville. Next up? A trip to Mexico City where, as you all know, the field has been an issue in the past.

• Just to clean up one thing from yesterday: I’m told Kyler Murray’s final heave during Cardinals-Buccaneers yesterday, during which Tampa Bay DB Jamel Dean ran into the back of Arizona WR Pharoh Cooper, actually was reviewed for pass interference by the command center in New York. There wasn’t an announcement about that, because it was the final play of the game and the call would stand. And there sure did seem to be plenty of contact there. Regardless, the NFL did, indeed, take a closer look at that one.

• On Sunday, the Cardinals finally saw Christian Kirk play like the player they were hoping for—the second-year stud racked up 138 yards and three touchdowns on six catches in Tampa. Kirk was Arizona’s best receiver, and one of its best players, through the spring and summer, so this happening was more a matter of when than if. But it’s gotta be exciting now, for Kliff Kingsbury and Co., that Kirk and Kyler Murray can grow up together in that offense, for which both guys are a really good fit. Kirk, by the way, doesn’t turn 23 until next week, which makes him just nine months older than his quarterback.

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