The NFL is back, and so are the letdowns. For every exciting winner on Sunday, there was a loser — unless you’re the Detroit Lions or Arizona Cardinals, who managed to tie. The week had its fair share of goats, from teams with high expectations falling flat on their faces to a cavalcade of blown double-digit leads in second halves around the NFL.
Here are the ten biggest disappointments of NFL Week 1.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Woof. What an ugly season opener for the Steelers. They were skunked in the first half and fell behind 20-0. They mustered very little in the second half and only got their points thanks to a poor decision by Mike Tomlin. Tom Brady ate up their zone defenses, utilizing deep threat Phillip Dorsett for four catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s offense lacked punch, running the ball for just 32 yards and throwing for 255. It’s almost as if losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown made them worse.
2. Cleveland Browns
After an offseason of hype and aspirations of a division title, this was absolutely not how the Browns envisioned things going in Week 1. They were outcoached and outmatched by the Tennessee Titans, who picked off an overwhelmed (and hurt) Baker Mayfield three times. Perhaps the biggest issues for the Browns were their offensive line and the team’s discipline. Mayfield was sacked five times and the Browns took a remarkable 18 penalties for a total of 182 yards. Six of them resulted in first downs. That can’t happen on a team that expects to contend.
The Detroit Lions have locked down Damon Harrison for another year.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the defensive lineman has signed a one-year extension with the Lions worth $11 million. It will guarantee him $12 million in total over the next two years.
Harrison was acquired last October from the New York Giants and quickly became a key part of the Lions’ formidable run defense, adding 3.5 sacks in 10 games. He had been seeking a new contract and even skipped minicamp in search of one. It took a while, but ultimately, they have found a short-term agreement.
Dontrelle Inman looks likely to land on his feet following his release from the New England Patriots.
According to Ian Rapoport, the wide receiver is generating “immediate interest” and already has a visit set with the Detroit Lions within the next day or so.
Inman caught three touchdowns and racked up 304 yards for the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Patriots added him as wide receiver depth, but when Josh Gordon was reinstated, Inman requested and received his release from the team in search of a bigger role elsewhere.
One of the NFL’s new rules was on display Saturday night when Detroit Lions offensive lineman Oday Aboushi was called for a blindside block, and the penalty is sure to create some controversy if its called during the regular season.
Owners voted during the offseason to eliminate blindside blocks, which are defined as “if a player initiates a block when he is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and makes contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm or shoulder.” Officials for Saturday’s game between the Lions and Houston Texans determined Aboushi was guilty of that on this play:
We’ve seen plays in the past where unnecessary roughness is called for a blindside block that initiates contact around the head and shoulders (such as this monster hit from JuJu Smith-Schuster on Vontaze Burfict last year), but the new blindside block rule lowers the standard to basically any player blocking an opponent while said player is heading toward his own goal line.
Some prominent people within the NFL community think it is going to be a problem:
It’s hard to fault the NFL for implementing rules designed to protect players, but there are situations where the new blindside block rule will essentially force linemen and running backs to give up on protecting the quarterback. That could have some unintended consequences, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out during the regular season.
Perhaps the Detroit Lions are going a bit more for attitude in 2019, and are using their joint practices with the New England Patriots to set the tone.
The Patriots were in Allen Park, Mich. on Monday for a joint practice with the Lions, who decided to do a little trolling. During the practice, the Lions played Bon Jovi’s “This Is Our House,” which is the touchdown song used by the Patriots.
There are plenty of connections between the Lions and Patriots. The Lions employ former Patriots executive Bob Quinn as GM and former assistant Matt Patricia as their head coach. The use of their touchdown song, however, is probably a one-off. Maybe they just want to get back at Bill Belichick for snubbing some of their fans last season.
Two days after his surprising release from the Green Bay Packers, Mike Daniels has signed on with one of their division rivals.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Daniels will sign with the Detroit Lions after receiving interest from nearly a dozen teams.
It’s a real coup for the Lions, who strengthen their defensive front even more while adding a player who has been a key part of a division rival for several seasons. With Daniels, Trey Flowers, and Damon Harrison on the defensive line, the Lions will be extremely tough to run against in 2019.
The decision also comes as a bit of a surprise. Daniels had been eager to sign with a contender, and the Lions are not considered a likely playoff team. Perhaps the defensive tackle saw something that others aren’t seeing — and perhaps the opportunity for a pair of revenge games against Green Bay played into his thinking, too.
The New England Patriots appeared to make a roster move earlier this week that would bring them some much-needed tight end depth, but the trade has been nixed.
The Detroit Lions announced on Friday that they are waiving tight end Michael Roberts after he was reverted back to their roster. The Lions and Patriots had agreed to a trade for Roberts on Thursday.
That likely means Roberts failed his physical, so it’s unclear what the future holds for him.
Roberts, a fourth-round pick in 2017, caught just nine passes for 100 yards last year, but three of them were touchdowns. While he was not expected to replace Rob Gronkowski’s production, he’s 6-foot-5 and could have provided the Patriots with a big body in the red zone. They will need to keep looking if they want to bolster the tight end position before the start of the season.
Calvin Johnson made well over $100 million during his nine seasons playing in the NFL, but the former Pro Bowler is a man of principle. And until the Detroit Lions pay him the remainder of his signing bonus, he doesn’t want anything to do with the team.
Johnson said earlier this month that he is only going to reconcile with the Lions if they “put that money back in my pocket.” The money he is referring to is the portion of his signing bonus from his 2012 contract that the team forced him to pay back after he retired. Johnson shared more of his thoughts on the situation in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week.
While the exact amount that Johnson paid back has not been disclosed, it is believed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million. The contract he signed with the Lions in 2012 included a $16 million signing bonus, and that money is prorated over the course of the deal. When he retired before playing out the eight-year contract, the Lions forced Megatron to pay some money back.
Johnson will likely reconcile with the Lions eventually the same way Brett Favre did with the Green Bay Packers, but it doesn’t sound like he is going to back down. We highly doubt he needs the extra $1 million, so he clearly just feels the organization is in the wrong after all he accomplished on the field.
The New England Patriots are still looking for options to replace Rob Gronkowski in he wake of the star tight end’s retirement, and they are hoping a trade they have completed with the Detroit Lions will help.
According to numerous reports, the Lions have agreed to trade tight end Michael Roberts to the Patriots for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
Roberts, a fourth-round pick in 2017, caught just nine passes for 100 yards last year, but three of them were touchdowns. He’s 6-foot-5 and should provide the Patriots with a big body in the red zone, which is something they need with Gronk gone.
While many NFL teams were scrambling to build a passing offense similar to what Sean McVay has done with the Los Angeles Rams, the Detroit Lions are going in a different direction.
New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell confirmed while speaking with the media on Tuesday that they intend to run the ball.
“We’ll always be about running the football,” Bevell said Tuesday via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “We want to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team. We want to be able to exert our will on our opponents.”
Bevell believes that while NFL defenses stack their teams with smaller, quicker players to defend against speed offenses, they will struggle to adjust to the Lions’ intended physical approach.
Whether the strategy works remains to be seen. So much will come down to how well Detroit plays on defense. The more they’re able to shut down opponents, the better the rushing game plan will work. It also should help that they got Matthew Stafford some receiving weapons rather than trade them away like they did last year with Golden Tate.
This approach should mean big things for Kerryon Johnson and CJ Anderson.