Both Week 16 and the regular season are barreling towards the finish line …
• So why does Marshawn Lynch make sense for the Seahawks right now? Obviously, losing Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise and Rashaad Penny to injuries is a major part of it. And with only one regular-season game left, Lynch’s institutional knowledge of that place will help get him up to speed quickly. On top of that, a handful of players are left from when Lynch was last in the building, meaning any of the baggage leftover from the breakup of the Legion of Boom isn’t nearly as relevant as it might’ve been two years ago. That shouldn’t be overlooked as a factor.
• Seattle also does not plan to ask the world of Lynch right off the bat. He’s 33 years old with a lot of mileage on his legs, and the hope is he can be a piece of the solution. One team official conceded to me Monday that it’s too early to know what kind of shape Lynch is in. They’ll need to see him actually play football first.
• With Bengals WR A.J. Green going on IR, let’s not forget how this injury was caused in the first place—with the NFL desperately trying to preserve a silly 100-year celebration in Dayton, Ohio at the beginning of training camp this summer.
If you remember, their original plan was to build a field at Triangle Park, where the first NFL game was played, but that fell through when evidence was found that the site had evidence of an ancient Indiana burial group on it. The NFL still wanted to practice in Dayton, and so the Bengals cleared the idea of going to the University of Dayton’s home stadium, but several people saw the field as subpar. Still, the league pushed through, and we ended up with a star wide receiver injured for the season.
• If there was an overall vibe I got from the Cowboys locker room on Sunday night, I think center Travis Frederick encapsulated it well, when I asked what’s missing: “We've been trying to figure out what that is. Obviously, there's something that hasn't been quite right. When you look down the roster and you look at all the guys that we have, we have a really talented group of people. And a really great coaching staff. So we got to find it and put our finger on it and get a win this week.”
Unfortunately for Dallas, Week 17 is pretty late in the game to be searching for an answer on that front, and getting a win this week may not matter much.
• Panthers rookie Will Grier was sacked five times and picked off thrice against the Colts, but I don’t think the coaching staff was pulling fire alarms in the aftermath. There were bigger problems around him that created a near impossible situation for a first-time starting quarterback. How bad has it gotten? The Panthers defense is now two scores away from allowing the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history.
• Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore press that he’s planning on sitting Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, Mashal Yanda, Earl Thomas and Brandon Williams. I’m told the coaches will probably pick one more player on each side of the ball to sit, or at least pace, on Sunday. My understanding is that, as you’d expect, the choices were made with age and value in mind—like Harbaugh said, with a 53-man roster, you can’t sit everyone.
• Word around the campfire is that whoever the next Carolina coach is could have significant say in how football operations is run. And that could include power of elements like the strength program and the training staff. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is to coaches—things like this caused the initial fraying in the gentleman’s agreement between Indianapolis and Josh McDaniels a couple years ago. That probably appeals to Mike McCarthy, who just interviewed there.
• Two teams that feel like they’ll wind up better for what they went through in 2019 next year: The Steelers and Eagles. In the case of the former, the injury to Ben Roethlisberger forces them to confront their future at the position, and it also put the onus on the defense to grow up, which it did in a very big way. On the latter, the plague of skill position injuries in Philadelphia put more on the shoulders of Carson Wentz. And starting with his big second-half against the Giants in Week 14, he’s taken his game to another level.
• Redskins QB Dwayne Haskins’ rookie year is over—he’ll sit in Week 17 with a high ankle sprain—but the team saw serious strides over the last few weeks as he gained experience. In particular, Haskins effectively started to tie his feet and his eyes to his progression, did a better job of aggressively getting the ball to his first read if it was there, became more proficient in finding matchups and even improved in learning to climb the pocket to where he was better positioned for off-schedule situations. All this fundamental improvement is a pretty good sign in his ability to take and apply the coaching, and reflects his work.
• I know the Dolphins have taken some grief for losing draft position with the continued improvement of Brian Flores’s team. But if you want an example of the value of how they’re playing, you can find it right there in the AFC East. Ask anyone in Buffalo, and they’ll tell you how important the 9-7 season of 2017 was in establishing Sean McDermott’s program. It made getting their quarterback in 2018 tougher. But it was worth it, given the foundation they have now. And if Flores turns the Dolphins around, I bet they’ll wind up looking at 2019 similarly.
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