Ian Rapoport | Tags:
As we do every week, let’s take a swing around the NFL, looking at a bunch of random things…
So, what’s been up?
1. The Texans are pretty good. That’s some analysis, right? But they are. A complete offense, a defense with enough firepower so you can’t double-team DE J.J. Watt, they have it all. I’d say right now, they are the NFL’s best team. And man, it’s been a long time coming. Think about it. They are 3-0 for the first time in franchise history. In 10 full years, they have just two winning seasons, one of which was last year. It took coach Gary Kubiak six seasons to win 10 games, and now that he’s sticking around, they’re on their way to doing it this year. And while players downplay things like being ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll, some do take meaning in what’s happening. Notably, WR Andre Johnson. He’s the longest-tenured Texan, and as he told me this week, he spends a fair amount of time appreciating things.
“I think the biggest thing is, especially for me and the fans that have been here since Day 1, just knowing where this organization has come from,” Johnson told me, “all the things we’ve been through to get to where we’re at. That’s the most exciting part. Now, we can go out and compete with all the teams. I couldn’t say that in my first few years when I first got here. I think that’s the exciting part. I think the sky’s the limit for us, and I think other people see that. Everybody is just excited about this season and so far, it’s been going pretty well. We’re just going to try to finish up this first quarter undefeated.”
2. One of the strangest stories of the week, I thought, was the Jets keeping CB Darrelle Revis on the active roster. The dude just tore his ACL, he’s out for the season, so why keep him on the 53-man roster and waste a spot? Because Jets coach Rex Ryan wants him available if the Jets make the Super Bowl. Or something like that. As Ryan said, if there’s slim chance the Jets could make the big show in February, he wants to have the option of using Revis. A couple things here. First, if they play like they’ve been playing, they’re not making anything. Second, Revis won’t be close to healthy enough to play by February, so why pretend? Word started circulating among the Jets peeps that this was a motivational ploy. Why spend time on this nonsense? The Jets season isn’t over. Teams have made the playoffs under worse circumstances, with the 2011 Matt Schaub-less Texans coming to mind. Focus on that, rather than pretending Revis could be back on the field before the end of 2012. It’s just energy thrown into the garbage.
3. I have the Titans-Texans game today at Reliant Stadium, and one of the main storylines is Chris Johnson. The Titans RB has struggled, and he’s just his team’s second-leading rusher. Yikes. The man formerly known as CJ2K is averaging fewer than two yards per carry. To find out a little more about what’s up, I talked with Titans RB coach Jim Skipper. He’s trying to remain positive, likening Johnson’s situation to that of a homerun hitter. This perspective, I thought, was sound. “Well, it’s like baseball batter trying to hit a home run,” Skipper told me. “All of the sudden, the batter hasn’t hit a home run in 25 at-bats and now everybody’s counting how many at-bats he’s gone since he hit a homer. That type of thing. What you gotta do is just relax and eventually, things will start happening. All you gotta do is be yourself and good things will happen and just stay positive.“
4. I’m also doing the Cowboys-Bears game on Monday night, and because I’m a crack researcher, I noticed something. The Bears lead the league in sacks. Who knew? They have 14, while holding opposing QBs to a 62.1 passer rating. Pretty sick. No wonder Jay Cutler can get away with being inconsistent. But what I also found interesting was how they do it. They essentially rush four. Little blitzing, few stunts, just beating you one-on-one. And they have great players. Listen to Dallas guard Nate Livings explain it to me. “They don’t do anything that’s crazy,” Livings said. “You see what they do, it’s simple. You just gotta go out there and execute. It’s not like they line up and say, we’re about to run this. But they run the same basic stuff everyone else runs. They don’t do too much, they just do enough. It’s a great defense, man, they’ve been doing it for years.” The challenge for QB Tony Romo is that because they just rush four, there are more people in coverage. As he said, “They have a lot of guys who are looking at the ball, who are consistently in a position to get their hands on stuff.” He’ll have his hands full.
5. I admit, I cringed when I saw the comments by Chargers GM A.J. Smith on former first-round back Ryan Mathews. Injuries, fumbles, Mathews has been maddening, and San Diego hasn’t quite gotten what it wanted from him. So, Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune, if “the fumbling continues, then you will be somebody else’s fumbler.” Dayyum! I want to rip what Smith said, because it comes off, well, how it comes off. But I can’t blame him for the sentiment. You make what seems like a good draft pick. You grab a good kid. He tries hard, has tons of talent, it seems. And it just doesn’t work out, or hasn’t worked out. Smith is clearly weighing when to pull the plug. Not that he has a better option, but his frustration is justified. There’s a lot that comes with being a top pick, including the expectations. To me, fumbling is an effort thing. A concentration thing. Smith maybe shouldn’t have sounded like that. But at what point does Mathews do his part? At what point must he take hold of his career?
6. You guys know by now I’m a little bit of a nerd. No shame in that. I love the nerd websites, too, like ProFootballFocus.com, which grades every player. In the spirit of that, fellow dweebs might like this one that always sends me emails. I used to ignore it, but now I kinda like it. The site is DraftMetrics. The latest edition goes through all the preseason numbers and tells you where everyone came from and how teams are comprised. For instance, the Bears have the most experienced team in the league with players who started 370 games in 2011 on their roster. The Patriots are next with 364, though 50 or so are on IR or PUP. And did you know that last year, nine of 12 playoff teams retained at least 77 percent of their starters from the previous year, with only the Bengals, Patriots, and Broncos bucking the trend? Cool stuff with a lot of insight into how things are the way they are.
7. Really liked this story in USA Today by old buddy Mike Garafolo on Saints QB Drew Brees giving his team a pep talk. At 0-3 with their season seemingly on the line against the Packers, the Saints need it. So Brees stood in front of his team and eliminated the margin for error. He pumped them up and stressed urgency. As OT Zach Strief told Garafolo, “It’s like coming from a coach, but it’s not a coach, it’s one of your peers and that’s pretty powerful.” All true. Brees is fighting for his team to get back to its form before it’s too late. They clearly miss Sean Payton. But I have to think there is something else going on with Brees, too. He just signed a $100 million contract, and he’s floundered in absolutely shocking fashion. There have to be some people wondering how much of his success was because of Payton pulling the strings. And I am sure he is trying just incredibly hard, feeling all of this pressure. Will the speech help? I don’t know. But however great he is, if his performance continues like this, we will all remember that this is what happened when Payton left for a year. Bet that is weighing on Brees’ shoulders. He might benefit from a deep breath.
8. You really have to credit Bills RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller for their grit. Both are absolutely battling to make it back on the field after injuries in record time. And coach Chan Gailey has said there’s a legit chance they’ll be on the field. Why did they fight to come back so quick? One, they are competitors. Two, it’s the Patriots, who are still the team to beat in the AFC. Three, Spiller must know how tenuous his grasp on carries and a starting job are. If Jackson goes out and tears it up, his carries may decrease. And vice versa. In reality, they are competing for every touch, and that’s kinda awesome. It should bring out the best in them. Oh, and four, the Bills need to seize every opportunity to be good, since it happens so rarely. I sense those on the Bills feel this could be a special year. But they need the RBs to make it happen.
9. I think more teams should do what the 49ers did this week. They had a game in Minnesota followed by a game against the Jets. Instead of going back to California, they hung out in Youngstown, Ohio, for practice — in essence, a mini training camp. On the heels of a surprising loss, a little togetherness won’t hurt. I know the logistics of this trip makes doing it this way easier on the players’ bodies. But don’t underestimate the impact of the team-building part. Five days together, backpacking across the country, it’s all kinda cool. It’s the kind of thing that can help players depend on one another.