NFL Week 1 review

The most noteworthy thing about Kickoff Weekend – calling it the first weekend of the season is so passé – is that the players and team personnel stayed in their training camp bubble and avoided the Covid 19 virus.

From September 6-12, just two players and five personnel tested positive.

Now that they are out of camp, the challenge for the players club personnel will be to continue to follow the safety guidelines. The league has told the players they can be fined if they go to bars and clubs.

The success of the season depends on the players being responsible.

–The players also showed they don’t need preseason games to be ready to start the season as most of the games were well played. Maybe the public needs them to get in the mood to watch football. The TV ratings for the prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights were all down. As well as the CBS Sunday games. What saved the day was Tom Brady’s debut in Tampa Bay. That was the Fox doubleheader game and it was up eight per cent. The Fox regional games were up seven per cent. Now the question is whether the ratings will improve in the coming weeks. The drop will be blamed on some on the league’s promotion of social justice, but it is uncertain if that was a major factor.

–Two aging quarterbacks who changed teams, Brady and Philip Rivers, both threw two picks – Brady’s second was a Pick Six – and lost to the Saints and Jaguars. Brady’s second one was an obvious poor throw, but coach Bruce Arians raised some eyebrows by blaming Brady for misreading the coverage on the first one. The Colts didn’t punt once in their loss to the Jaguars, but Rivers’ two picks and the Colts’ failure to convert on a fourth down instead of taking a field goal made the difference.

–The Kansas City Chiefs looked like a team that can repeat by opening with an easy win over the Texans. They now the Chargers on the road and then play at the Ravens on Monday night and then are home against the Patriots. If they start off 4-0, there will be talk about them running the table because the Saints may be their only tough foe the rest of the way.

–Bill Belichick plugged in Cam Newton at quarterback, changed the offense to suit his running style and beat the Dolphins. But Belichick doesn’t figure to win another Super Bowl as long as Patrick Mahomes stays healthy in Kansas City.

–The Lions blew a 17-point fourth period lead against the Bears but still could have won it if rookie D’Andre Swift hadn’t dropped a pass in the end zone with six seconds left.

–Kickers were shaky as they missed 19 field goal attempts, the worst first weekend record since 1982. Is this a trend or just a fluke? We will see.

–The officials also called only 18 offensive holding calls, a 78 per cent drop from the first week last year. Did the league tell the officials they were calling too many ticky tacky holding calls? This bears watching.     

NFL Week 1 quick takes

The most significant thing about the opening weekend is that there is an opening weekend.

The NFL and the players did a great job of limiting the number of Covid cases while they were in the NFL bubble.

Now things get more challenging as teams start to travel and players are out and about now that camp is over.

—It’s not surprising the NFL ratings for the Chiefs-Texans game were down 12 percent from last year’s opener between the Bears and Packers. It was still the highest-rated sporting event since the Super Bowl and highest show since the Academy Awards. There were several factors involved in the drop, but the big questions now are whether ratings will recover during the season.

—The most depressing part of the Chiefs-Texans game was the fans booing the Unity Moment. It shows this country is far from unified on the issue of social justice.

—Dak Prescott has to be saluted for going public with his depression problems, despite Skip Bayless’ inane comments that illustrate why many victims are reluctant to go public with depression issues. Meanwhile, Prescott faces a tough first three weeks facing the Rams, Falcons and Seahawks before the Cowboys play the Browns in Week 4.

—The most interesting thing about this weekend is that the Pats will play their first game with Tom Brady on the roster since 2008 and Brady will play his first NFL game not in a Patriots uniform. Brady will duel Drew Brees while Cam Newton replaces Brady and meets Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Dolphins.

—The Steelers figure to beat the Giants to give them a 17-2 mark on Monday Night Football under Mike Tomlin. By contrast, Tomlin is 8-7 in the playoffs, which is the same mark Sean Payton has.

Khan’s absentee neglect is killing the Jaguars

The Jaguars’ version of Where’s Waldo is Where’s Shad?

The Jaguars owner is a billionaire with business interests across the globe, but he is in danger of becoming another William Clay Ford, the late Lions’ owner who also happened to be in the car business and had a reputation for hiring incompetent executives.

Khan rarely gives interviews, but you have to wonder what he thinks of the way the men he entrusted his football team are running it.

The departure of Yannick Ngakoue for a second- and conditional fifth- round pick to the Vikings is another example that the Jaguars can’t keep their core together and too many of their best players want to leave.

And that was followed the next day by the cutting of Leonard Fournette, who was drafted with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were on the board. Cutting him was another reminder of that blunder.

There was speculation the move meant the Jaguars were tanking. The real reason is that they were getting rid of another mistake. They are probably better off without Fournette, but if they decided he no longer fit in their plans, why didn’t they address the running back position in the offseason?

Jaguars mistakes are like subway trains — there’s always another one coming down the tracks soon.

Since Khan took control of the season in 2012, they’ve had one winning season.

He has picked two men to run his team. Dave Caldwell, who had never been a general manager, Tom Coughlin, who had a reputation for being a good coach but mismanaged the cap when he was in charge of the franchise as the team’s first coach.

Caldwell started out with four losing seasons and whiffed on his biggest decision – the drafting of Blake Bortles. So, Khan brought back Coughlin, who had instant success with the 2017 playoff team. He also kept Caldwell in the front office.

But then it all fell apart after the 2017 and Coughlin was fired late in the 2019 season when the NFL singled him out for leading the league in grievances filed by the players.

Instead of cleaning house, Khan put Caldwell back in charge and they had another losing season last year. And still Khan kept Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone for another season.

The Ngakoue situation is another example of Caldwell’s mismanagement. When Ngakoue made it obvious he no longer wanted to play for the Jaguars, Caldwell could have traded him before last April’s draft to get immediate picks for him.

Instead, he franchised him and his $17.8 million tag salary counted against their cap.

He could have stuck to his guns and refused to give him up unless he got a first-round pick. Instead, he caved two weeks before the season started and traded him. The trade should have been made before the draft. And he would have had the money allotted to Ngakoue to spend in other areas.

Now it is too late to make much difference this year.

Ngakoue was one of the six Pro Bowlers on the 2017 team’s defense, and they are now all gone.

One of the departed, A.J. Bouye, gave an interview on Sirius XM outlining the dysfunction of the organization.

Everybody in football knows the Jaguars need a clean sweep of the front office. There’s no point in detailing all their failures. The record speaks for itself.

Khan either doesn’t understand he needs to start over or doesn’t know how to find a good executive.

Meanwhile, the spotlight is now on Khan. The team figures to have another losing season this year. Caldwell will have the excuse of the lack of an offseason because of Covid 19 and lobby for another year.

Does Khan give it to him or start over? And if he starts over, will he avoid striking out on hiring a third executive to run the team in less than a decade?

The buck stops at his desk. He’s got to figure out how to run a successful team or the losing will continue.

Despite his wild rookie year, Minshew remains an enigma

Where does Minshew Mania go from here?

That’s the question for the Jaguars as they prepare for the upcoming season, assuming there is a season.

Gardner Minshew became one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise in his rookie season as he won over the fans with his charisma, swashbuckling style and even his mustache.

The Jaguars were convinced to trade Nick Foles a year after signing him to expensive deal and install Minshew as the starter going into his second season.

But the question remains whether Minshew is good enough to take the next step or whether he will struggle as defenses have more time to hone in on him.

The challenges he faces were outlined in an in-depth study of his rookie season by Gus Logue on SI.com. His conclusions are that what you think you see in Minshew isn’t what you get.

He won the fans over with his ability to scramble and make plays. But when he scrambles, he ranks 24th in EPA per scramble and his throws were accurate 26.7% of the time compared to a league average of 42.5%. And he fumbled 13 times lost, fourth highest in the league. He was too quick to check down and his checkdown passes also weren’t that productive, although it didn’t help that Leonard Fournette wasn’t good in yards after the catch.

What Minshew is good at is hitting his first target on first downs. His PFF average in those situations was 57.1 percent, which was above league average.

Surprisingly enough, for a quarterback who doesn’t have a strong arm, he was effective throwing deep, but he didn’t do it often enough. Maybe he doesn’t have enough confidence in his arm.

And he was 6-6 in his 12 starts and the team ranked 26th in scoring an 31st in first half points.

Can Minshew, with the help of new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, improve his game this year since the Jaguars have given him more weapons this year, especially at tight end?

That is the question that will be answered this year.

Minshew said the team is going to “focus on what we can do and not what we can’t do.”

If Minshew and team can’t do it well enough this year, the Jaguars may be looking to find a new quarterback next year. If he does well, Minshew mania will continue.

Either way it is going to make for an interesting season. If there is a season, of course.

Newton shows some NFL teams are still clueless about signing QBs

NFL teams recently showed once again recently that they often don’t tend to get the quarterback position.

When Cam Newton hit the market, the Browns were the only team to even show an interest until the Patriots scooped him up for a bargain basement price of $500,000 guaranteed on a minimum base salary of just over $1 million that maxes out at $7.5 million if he hits all the incentives.

It was described as a gamble for the Patriots but there is no gamble. If he doesn’t beat out Jarrett Stidham for the starting job, they can cut him and he will only cost a half million, which is rookie salary money.

They spent the offseason acting as if they were committed to Stidham but that may have been a smokescreen.

So now that the Patriots have Newton, what were the rest of the teams thinking?

Granted, he could be a gamble. He is coming off a Lisfranc injury, which is devastating for a running quarterback, and he couldn’t work out for teams because of the league shutdown. And his shoulder problems are troubling.

And he wanted a place where he could start. He didn’t want to take a backup job the way Jameis Winston did for $1.1 million in New Orleans, where he could replace Drew Brees next year. Winston lost bargaining power because he was an interception machine last year even though he led the league in passing yardage and is the first quarterback to do that and not to start the following year.

Newton’s problem was that he was hurt the last two years. If he’s healthy, the Patriots will be a contender again despite Brady’s departure.

And look at what some of the teams that passed on Newton did.

Chicago traded for Nick Foles and guaranteed him $21 million over three years. Newton would have wanted more from the Bears than he got from the Patriots but he isn’t any more risky than Foles, who had a broken clavicle last year and nobody knows how he will recover from that.

Or look at the Los Angeles Chargers. They drafted Justin Herbert as their quarterback of the future. But will he be ready this year without an offseason? Tyrod Taylor is their alternative. Would Newton have been a better choice for a year?

The Jaguars are betting on Gardner Minshew and ignored Newton. This is a team that bypassed Patrick Mahones, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson in two consecuctive drafts because they believed in Blake Bortles. That was a great example of a team that doesn’t get it.

So when Newton didn’t get any better offers, Newton took the Patriots’ offer that Richard Sherman called “disgusting” and “ridiculous.”

Newton brushed off the talk about his low salary by saying on Instagram that it’s not about the money. It is about the respect. And Newton has already made $100 million in his career, so signing with the Patriots may have been the best option for him.

Now we find out if Newton is healthy and how good he is coming off his injuries.

If he can still be a top quarterback, he will make big money next year from the Patriots, who can franchise him, or from another team.

But if he is a good quarterback, some of the teams that weren’t willing to take a chance on him will look foolish.

He will become another example of how NFL teams often don’t get it when it comes to signing quarterbacks.