NFL Week 2 preview

The NFL’s second week got off to a good start when none of the Bengals and Browns players tested positive for COVID-19.

Now the question is what happens before the weekend games now that the players are no longer in the training camp lockdown.

The success of the season depends on the players being cautious, staying home and wearing masks. The league has already warned them they can be fined for going to clubs and bars.

—After the TV ratings took a dip for the three nights of prime-time games last week, the Thursday night Browns-Bengals game got a slight uptick over last year even though it was competing against the NFL and NHL. But it was still the lowest-rated Thursday opener since 2011, so it remains to be seen how the ratings will be going forward.

—Joe Burrow is off to an 0-2 start, which is not unusual for a rookie quarterback – even the first pick in the draft – but he is showing promise. In the Browns game he became the first quarterback to throw 60 or more passes without a pick and threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

—Two veteran quarterbacks who each changed teams this year and threw two picks in losing their openers will attempt to avoid 0-2 starts. Tom Brady of the Bucs has the easier task against Carolina while Philip Rivers of the Colts has the tougher assignment against Minnesota.

—In the Sunday night game, New England goes to Seattle for their second game against the Seahawks since their Super Bowl meeting when Russell Wilson threw the infamous interception. Wilson is now in his prime and Brady has been replaced by Cam Newton, so the Seahawks have the edge. It’s also oldest coaching matchup in history when Bill Belichick faces Pete Carroll, who was replaced by Belichick two decades ago after the Patriots fired him. Carroll is 69 and Belichick is 68. Unless they play in a Super Bowl, the teams won’t meet again for another four years. Will they still be on the sidelines?

—The doubleheader game CBS is sending to most of the country Sunday afternoon is the Chiefs at the Chargers. Gus Bradley gets the assignment of trying to figure out how to stop Patrick Mahomes.

—Countless number of fans were knocked out of survivor pools when the Jaguars stunned the Colts with the help of Rivers two picks. Now the Jaguars try to show it wasn’t a fluke when they go to Tennessee where they haven’t won since 2013. They have also lost seven of the last nine.

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.