Through five week of the NFL season, we’re getting a much better sense of the contenders and teams that will be picking high in next year’s draft. Some players’ seasons have taken off, while others are struggling. For those in the latter group, there is still time for a turnaround.
Here’s a look at 10 players who badly need to turn things around.
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
The Cowboys looked like they were set at the quarterback position for a very long time when Prescott burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, but he has been quite underwhelming since. Dallas has basically had no passing game this season, and that is one of the main reasons they are off to a 2-3 start. Prescott has just five touchdowns compared to four interceptions in five starts. Teams are challenging the Cowboys to throw by loading up to stop Ezekiel Elliott, and Prescott hasn’t looked up to the challenge. That could have a lot to do with not having playmakers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to, but Dak needs to pick things up if the Cowboys want to make a run at the postseason. Luckily the NFC East is in bad enough shape where there’s still time.
Week 3 of the NFL was not kind to some favorites, as the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars headlined the list of surprising losers on Sunday. They were hardly the only surprises of the week, however, as there were certainly some surprising moments all throughout the league, from underperforming stars to ongoing troublesome trends to, yes, roughing the passer calls.
Here are 15 big disappointments from Week 3 of the NFL season.
New England Patriots
Woof. The Patriots are looking worse and worse by the week. Many chalked up their loss to the Jags in Week 2 to a lack of motivation and figured they’d come out angry in Week 3. That didn’t happen. The Pats looked totally uninspired against Detroit, opening the game with three straight three-and-outs. They only had three points as of halftime, but looked like they would turn things around in the second half after an interception followed by a touchdown drive to open the third. Then Detroit continued to put up points on them, while the Pats failed to answer. The Patriots were missing a number of defensive starters due to injuries, and it showed. Meanwhile, their former defensive coordinator coached like he knew exactly how to stop his former team. The Lions put the clamps on Gronk in coverage by doubling him often, daring someone else to beat them. The Patriots had nobody else who could. They desperately need Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman in action to provide an offensive boost.
After a long, eventful, and occasionally strange offseason, the NFL is back in action. As it always does, it provided some surprises and unexpected moments in its opening week, and plenty of talking points to go over ahead of Week 2.
But where some succeed, some will inevitably fall short, especially relative to expectations. Here are 15 things that weren’t quite as advertised during Week 1 of the NFL season.
This was a playoff team last season, even if few expect them to repeat that feat. Few also rate the Baltimore Ravens or Joe Flacco that highly, but they put up 47 points against a Buffalo team that was abject in every way. The offense was even worse. One has to wonder how many times Buffalo can throw Nathan Peterman out there before realizing that he’s simply not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback, as he went 5-of-18 for just 24 yards, throwing two picks before being replaced by rookie Josh Allen. The Bills don’t seem to have a coherent plan or anything going for them right now. They were brutal.
Every NFL team has that one offensive player who makes his team go. It can often be the quarterback, but some offenses are built around a talented running back or a dominant No. 1 receiver.
Which offensive player is most vital to each team’s success? Which player does everyone look to to get it done when it’s most needed? Here’s a look.
Arizona Cardinals — David Johnson, RB
It’s not really a coincidence that the Cardinals struggled so much last season after Johnson suffered a season-ending wrist injury after just 11 carries in the season opener. The 26-year-old scored 20 touchdowns the year before, so losing him meant the absence of their biggest playmaker. He should be ready to go this season, and Arizona will be desperate for him to return to the form that saw him lead the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones, WR
The Falcons will want to get Jones’s contract situation squared away as quickly as possible, because Matt Ryan needs him. His yardage numbers are incredible, and he’s collected at least 1,400 yards receiving in every season since 2014, even in spite of the occasional health issue. 1,500 yards is well within reach for Jones if he is healthy in 2018.
- A.J. Green, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, Case Keenum, Dak Prescott, David Johnson, Derek Carr, Deshaun Watson, Drew Brees, Duke Johnson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Kirk Cousins, Le'Veon Bell, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, Mitch Trubisky, Odell Beckham, Patrick Mahomes, Quincy Enunwa, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Todd Gurley, Tom Brady
Case Keenum is heading to Denver.
Keenum is expected to sign with the Broncos when free agency begins on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
The Minnesota Vikings decided not to franchise tag Keenum and appear to be poised to bring in Kirk Cousins. That leaves Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and likely Sam Bradford all looking for new teams. Keenum has found a home.
Keenum, 30, had a career-year for the Vikings. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while helping Minnesota reach the NFC Championship Game. The Broncos could use an upgrade at quarterback and will receive one, but there are plenty of good reasons to doubt whether Keenum will be able to replicate his success from last season.
- Case Keenum
All three of the quarterbacks that were on the Minnesota Vikings’ active roster last season could go on to be starters for new teams in 2018, and the Buffalo Bills are reportedly keeping their eye on at least two of them.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that the Buffalo Bills, who recently traded Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns, have interest in both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum.
The #Vikings have stayed in touch on Sam Bradford, but he may have options, provided he can pass a physical. One team to watch: the #Bills. Good scheme fit and they have some interest, sources say. Case Keenum could be an option in Buffalo, too.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 12, 2018
Both Bradford and Keenum should be highly sought after for teams that are in need of a starter, though Bradford will have to prove his knee is healthy. While he suffered no structural damage last season, he was said to have been dealing with a lot of pain. The way Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recently described Bradford’s knee condition does not sound all that promising.
Minnesota is considered the favorite to land Kirk Cousins, but you’d have to think they will bring back either Keenum, Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater if Cousins signs elsewhere.
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NFL free agency is fast approaching, with action happening daily. The market is strong this season, and it includes a few top quarterbacks, which will be particularly intriguing on the market.
Who are the best players available? Here are the 15 best players currently poised to hit the open market when the free agency period starts.
1. Drew Brees, QB
No, Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans — his coach has already said so. Still, he’s a prospective free agent who’s going to have to land on this list. Some of the 39-year-old’s numbers dropped in 2017, most notably his 4,334 passing yards and 23 touchdowns down from where he’s been for much of the last decade. He still led the Saints back to the playoffs, completed 72 percent of his passes, and looked every bit as controlled as he always has. The Saints will be thrilled to keep him as long as he remains effective.