Welcome to the Tuesday Fake Punt, your skip-through guide to the weekly NFL stories you might – or might not – be talking about.
Punter Takes It To The House!
Alex Collins was one of the most underrated backs in football in 2017. The former Seahawk rushed for 973 yards at 4.6 yards/carry for Baltimore, and looked fun and dynamic, though not exactly smooth, during that year. I was expecting a big breakout year behind a decent-not-amazing offensive line this year. It hasn’t quite gone to plan – through five games Football Outsiders had him ranked as the least efficient back with at least 40 rushes.
But while his ypc is still putrid, Collins punched in a couple of touchdowns against the Titans. And his stats are a reflection on his role, as Mike Tanier pointed out. Even in a pass-focused league, there’s still a role for a running back who gets 4+ yards on first downs. Collins will never break out into the elite group as he’s a mediocre pass blocker and not much of a pass catcher again. But watching him run, limbs flying everywhere, dreads doing the same, hurtling himself around desperate for a hole, is still going to be fun.
Punter Pass falls incomplete
People have criticised the Cleveland Browns a lot for passing on Carson Wentz. I still think this is a good decision, and this year’s rookie QB class is proving it. Why? Look, I cannot believe any rookie QB would have developed in Cleveland as was 2016-17. Wentz after two years in Cleveland is inaccurate, skittish, and a cautionary tale for D-II quarterbacks.
That’s not meant as a slight on Wentz. Quarterbacks will only develop if they have the structure – coaching staff and supporting cast – around them they need. Aaron Rodgers was famously picked one pick after the Oakland Raiders drafted in 2005. You think Rodgers in the dysfunctional late Al Davis period would have become the most able quarterback in the league? He wouldn’t.
With that in mind, this year’s rookies can only develop as far as their teams will let them. Sam Darnold has a good offensive line, a good run game, and some streaky but talented receivers. It shouldn’t be surprising that he looks the most promising. Baker Mayfield, behind an okay-but-sometimes-overmatched offensive line is having some good and some bad days. Josh Allen, with no offensive linemen or wide receivers, has been poor so far. Josh Rosen you feel the most sorry for. He has the receivers, he has a talented running back. But he has no offensive linemen and some horrendous gameplanning to deal with. Rosen shows flashes of potential, but he’s missing the opportunity to put that into development.
This deserves two points, because I do want to flag up how awful a job the Arizona coaching staff – and this all comes back to greenhorn head coach Steve Wilks – are doing. They’ve got a rookie quarterback that they can’t protect. They’ve got a dynamic, generational all-round back they’re only calling inside handoffs to. They don’t know how to use the talent they have, or to develop the potential. There are ill-advised defensive coverages, but the defense is knackered anyway because they can’t stay off the field.
It takes a lot to make a team with Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and Christian Kirk hopeless on offense. Wilks and co are managing not just that, they’re also successfully deep-sixing Josh Rosen’s development. A full season of this and Rosen will need some all-world mental resilience to bounce back, hopefully with new coaching staff (either in personnel or with the existing ones having an epiphany) next year.
Turnover on downs at midfield
The self-immolation in Oakland continues apace then. Latest reports have them looking for a first-round pick for Amari Cooper via trade. Khalil Mack is gone. Karl Joseph is on his way out. There’s a decent chance Derek Carr is out at the end of the season.
Oakland seem to want to trade Amari Cooper. Why? To what end? (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review Journal)
It’s quite incredible what Jon Gruden’s doing, and quite amazing that his team’s inherited-not-earned-wealth owner is letting him get away with it. This was a roster that two years ago reached the playoff and was young. It should not have been two years away from a rebuild. But Gruden has gone full confidence trickster and convinced Mark Davis that only is it needed, it’s going to take years to get anywhere. Years which will net Gruden $10m each.
Look. They’re welcome to run their franchise however they like. I think it’s stupid; of course I do. I will say this though: Amari Cooper is not worth a first-round pick. He has talent, but is coming off the back of a 680-yard season and hasn’t looked great in early play. Brandin Cooks was worth a first-round pick. Cooper is worth a second.
Guard Runs For 13 Yards, 1st Down
Brock Osweiler, then. Not a good quarterback, we’d agree. Maybe Bears fans wouldn’t. After taking down probably the best defense in the league, Osweiler is 3-0 against the Bears in his career. It just goes to show…something?
Blocked Punt Returned For TD
We’re six weeks into the season, so why not get ahead of ourselves and look at the playoff picture. It’s interesting – you look at the top 2 seeds in both NFC and AFC and it’s easy to imagine them being there at the end. Outside of that? Well, the Chargers have played excellent football – they’ve only lost to undefeated teams. And then we have talented but flawed teams who could beat anyone on their day. Teams like Carolina, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Green Bay. Next we’ll see which of these teams end up winning 10-12 games and which fall by the wayside.
Not much in the way of fake punts this week, the best I can do is from college football. Florida vs Vanderbilt, blah blah blah. I’ll show college football respect when the NCAA and colleges show the players respect.