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When Andy Reid bid adieu to the city of Brotherly Love, it was Chip Kelly chosen to replace him. And though there'll be plenty of Chiefs-Eagles comparisons throughout 2013, Week 1 was a pretty outstanding debut for both Reid and Kelly in their respective new locations.
Reid's Chiefs thumped the lowly Jaguars 28-2, by far the biggest beating of the first week in 2013. There's nothing offensively from the Chiefs game that will make you "oooohhh" and "aaaaahhh." But the Chiefs were up 21-2 at halftime and simply melted clock against an obviously overmatched opponent.
Instead it was the defense that really stood out. Kansas City allowed Blaine Gabbert just 3.5 yards per attempt as the much-maligned quarterback joined an ignominious and historical NFL list. They shut down Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 45 yards on 15 carries. Justin Houston had a hat trick of sacks. Dontari Poe was very active as well, picking up 1.5 sacks.
KC didn't even let the Jaguars cross midfield until the fourth quarter. It may have been boring, but it was an absolute white-washing.
You know what wasn't boring? Kelly's debut replacing Reid in Philadelphia. The Eagles ran a whopping 53 plays in the first half alone, which is exactly how many passing yards Robert Griffin III had for Washington when the half ended. The Redskins were perplexed and befuddled by Kelly's offense and when they were sloppy out of the gate on offense, the Eagles took advantage and jumped out to a huge lead.
The Eagles ran their offense at such a ludicrous speed to begin the game that they basically went plaid.
You know what's scary though? One, Kelly thought the offense was "slow," and two, the Eagles are just getting started.
"Tonight we probably showed 60 percent of our offense," Vick said afterwards. "We're just setting things up for next week."
They're also probably setting things up for third-week matchup against Reid and the Chiefs in Philadelphia. That game oozes blockbuster ratings as Reid returns to Philly for the first time since his firing and Kelly -- with San Diego coming to town next week -- might have the Eagles undefeated.
KC playing stout defense will make things very interesting when Kelly goes up tempo and I'm extremely interested to see how Reid uses offensive pace to counteract what the Eagles will do on offense.
Right now, though, both the big guys with the Philly connection have their respective squads rolling which is why they lead the market after the close of Week 1.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: This will sound like Week 1 hindsight and hyperbole packaged all into one, but it's really not: "Shady" could end up leading the NFL in rushing this season. A combination of skill (McCoy has it) and opportunity (thanks, Chip!) will lead to lots of things that look like this:
That touchdown run, which came with 14:00 left in the third quarter, only served to pad McCoy's NFL rushing lead. His 115 rushing yards in the first half had him atop the NFL stats standings through the first week. He's the perfect running back for this system, a guy who can grind out yards as necessary and pop off massive, Madden-like runs that look eerily similar to what we saw from Kelly's running backs at Oregon.
It wouldn't be surprising at all if McCoy -- assuming he can stay healthy and handle 30-carry games each week -- ended up leading the NFL in rushing.
Julian Thomas, TE, Broncos -- Thomas went bananas during Thursday night's NFL opener, catching five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He won't be on your fantasy league's waiver wire tomorrow morning and with good reason. What fascinates me about Thomas -- the latest college hoops convert making the leap to the NFL -- is how well he'll continue to do throughout the season. Barring injury I expect strong results. Peyton Manning's previously detailed just how important the tight end is in his offense. If Thomas stays healthy he becomes the fulcrum of Peyton's plan and the key for decryption of opposing defenses. That's going to give him plenty of opportunity to catch passes in what could be the most high-powered offense in the NFL.
Robert Quinn, DE, Rams: There was a whole lot to like about the Rams victory over the Cardinals Sunday but don't let the performance of Sam Bradford's new offensive weapons overshadow what Quinn did on defense, piling up three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. This entire unit is special -- Chris Long in particular is underrated -- but Quinn could have a stratospheric season surrounded they've got on the defense in St. Louis. Sunday he spent the afternoon dragging Arizona tackle Levi Brown out behind the shed and delivering him a sound, sound beating, smoking Brown three times for his hat trick of sacks including his final one of the day:
The result was a fumble that Long recovered and which the Rams turned into a game-tying field goal. Quinn's the full package. He's got the speed, athleticism and appears to be developing the type of moves necessary to put together a monster season.
Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers: While the Ravens still understandably got something for Boldin by moving him to San Francisco this offseason it had to sting watching him light up the Packers for more than 200 yards. Doubly so when the Ravens are so desperate for someone who can move the chains, having lost Dennis Pitta and forced to start the 2002 Fantasy Football All-Star combo of Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokely. What's so bizarre about Boldin is that he flashed separation on Sunday against Green Bay's secondary. Typically he's just a guy who finds space where it doesn't exist and forces his way into catches. Maybe he just really likes opening day?
In @nfl history, there have been only 3 10-catch, 200-yard rec games on KO Wknd. And Anquan Boldin now has 2 of them— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) September 9, 2013
Whatever the case, Boldin is a boon for the 49ers. With Michael Crabtree out, defenses appeared able to key in on Vernon Davis. (It also warrants noting that Colin Kaepernick is awesome. He makes people look good.) That's not the case when Boldin's playing the way he is. He might take another four weeks to get 200 yards but he's already having a critical impact on the 49ers offense in a positive way.
Monte Kiffin, DC, Cowboys: Dallas gave up 31 points so it's not like Kiffin's newly-installed scheme completely shut down the Giants on Sunday night. And many of the Giants troubles were self-inflicted. But you can't take detract too much from an impressive Cowboys performance that featured three sacks, three picks and a pair of forced fumbles. Victor Cruz and Eli Manning lit up the Cowboys passing defense for some large numbers and Hakeem Nicks/Rueben Randle also had 100+ yards receiving. But the Cowboys took a fumble to the house and an interception to the house and helped to propel this team to a victory on a turnover-filled evening when the offense wasn't completely clicking.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: The notion of "rusty" got thrown around a lot with respect to Washington's phenom of a quarterback on Monday night. Let's call it for what it is: he still doesn't trust his body. Adrian Peterson used a similar line when he spoke with CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco this summer, noting that he needed a "couple of weeks of "knocking the rust off" to really get right. RGIII's gonna need those weeks too. There's no reason to panic if you're a Redkins fan but the expectations the team had coming into 2013 should be adjusted a bit. (Don't forget, this team was 3-6 last year when Mike Shanahan gave up on the season.)
The bigger concern for RG3 in the immediate moment is how he adjusts to his "new" game. In the first half he lacked touch and accuracy on his passes and looked extremely tentative when it came to stepping into passes. The second half was much better and I'd expect continued improvement as he gets more and more comfortable in the pocket. His speed's not quite there yet but that might not be a bad thing for his health.
Mike Shula, OC, Panthers: The new Panthers offensive coordinator had an inauspicious debut Sunday, even though Carolina was up against a stout Seahawks defense. The Cats, who ran just 50 plays the whole game, scored only seven points and "piled up" 253 net yards. Not good. Additionally, Carolina was predictable and bland on offense throughout most of the game and especially in the second half. The worst part about the game he called? It didn't let Cam Newton be Cam Newton. Shula didn't take any chances vertically -- I'm not entirely sure that the Panthers attempted a pass that was longer than 20 yards the entire game -- and he only rarely let Newton run even though Cam averaged 7.6 yards per carry and was quite effective when he had the ball in his hands. Newton did complete 69.5 percent of his passes which is an improvement over his normal efficiency. But 23 attempts doesn't cut it when Caroina is struggling to score. The Panthers offense doesn't have to be three different scoops of ice cream covered in crème fraîche-infused sprinkles, but it certainly shouldn't be a bowl of vanilla yogurt either.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jaguars: Look. We covered it above. Gabbert had an historical game in his 2013 debut against the Chiefs. It was embarrassing and awkward to the point that a bunch of foolish people are throwing out the idea of Jacksonville signing Tim Tebow. Take a breath everyone. We all know that Gabbert isn't long for the Jaguars roster. He's proven to be an absolute bust in the draft for the Jaguars former regime and it's impossible for the current crew to keep him around in anything other than a backup veteran role. That doesn't mean 2013 won't be painful. I've heard NFL.com's Chris Wesseling throw out anything under five yards per attempt as the "Gabbert Zone." On Sunday the Jaguars quarterback upped the ante for qualifying when he went 3.5 yards per attempt. Tack on that he suffered a laceration of his hand and will give way to Chad Henne this week and it really is insult to injury.
Duane Brown, OT, Texans: Houston walked away with a win on Monday night thanks to a furious comeback over the Chargers. Though much of the spilled ink on this game will focus on the Bolts faults -- and that's fair -- it's worth noting some of the problems the Texans had in the first half and beyond. Brown is one of the better left tackle in the NFL, but Dwight Freeney, who signed a small deal with San Diego this offseason, manhandled the Texans tackle for much of the night. Freeney bullrushed Brown backwards on multiple plays and even if he only ended up with a half sack, he had a dominating evening. That Houston averaged just 4.15 yards per carry only adds salt to the wound.
Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings: Is it asking too much for Ponder to make big throws when there are eight- and nine-man fronts staring down Adrian Peterson and begging the Vikings to pass? Apparently so. Ponder averaged 8.43 yards per attempt on Sunday and actually completed 64.3 percent of his passes. But the turnovers against the Lions were unacceptable. He threw three interceptions -- two in the second quarter, one returned for a touchdown -- and fumbled a snap to Adrian Peterson that the Lions took to the house. Ponder's shown that he can be a game manager and help the Vikings win. But a game manager doesn't cough up turnovers throughout the ballgame in a shootout with a division rival. Peterson can put this team on his back all he wants, but if Ponder doesn't cut down on the critical mistakes it'll be difficult for the Vikings to maintain 2012's success.