The Week in Overreactions: Gabbert, Tebow not answers for Jaguars
New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. 'This Week in Overreactions' focuses on the latter.
New storylines emerge every week. Some are reasonable, most are not. "This Week in Overreactions" focuses on the latter. Those items that offer a cursory "How do you do?" as they blow past reality straight for THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! We're here to keep everything in perspective. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.
'Gabbert is AWFUL, the Jags stink, Tebow is the answer!'
Tim Tebow may be gone but he will never, ever be forgotten. That's an overreaction, but the reality is that his name will come up whenever we're confronted with a struggling starting quarterback, especially one from Tebow's hometown.
In that sense,
If the Jaguars are going to only score 2 points they might as well call Tim Tebow!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 9, 2013
And although we can all agree that Gabbert has been terrible, Tebow wasn't, isn't and never will be the answer in Jacksonville. Owner Shad Khan may have wanted to trade for Tebow last offseason, before the quarterback opted for New York, but new general manager David Caldwell made it clear this spring that Tebow-to-the-Jags wasn't happening.
Never say never in the NFL, right? Sure, fine.
So, yes: Gabbert is awful. And the Jags do stink. But unless the question is "Quick, name a quarterback who would be less effective than Gabbert," the answer in Jacksonville will never be Tebow.
'Book it: The Eagles are going to the playoffs!'
Let's pump the brakes on this bandwagon, and we say that after predicting the Eagles would beat the Redskins Monday night. (We also have them finishing second in the NFC East.) The reason? It's not because we don't think Chip Kelly's uptempo offense can't work -- clearly, it can -- but because of something much more mundane: injuries.
Specifically: to Michael Vick, who last month professed his undying devotion and dedication to football thanks to Kelly.
“I'm having fun playing football and I fell in love with the game again and I am thankful for that," he said in mid-August. "You've got to play this game with intense passion and purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he has done for me and that's just giving me that confidence that I felt like I was losing at some point in my career."
Against Washington, that confidence was evident through the first 30 minutes. It was as sharp as Vick has looked in 12 NFL seasons, and it required very little improvisation on his part. But once he became a runner, the age-old concerns came with them. Namely: Vick's insistence on sliding head-first, absorbing hits from defenders who outweigh him by 50 pounds, and throwing his body around like someone who has no intentions of making through the next four months.
And we saw that in the second half, when Vick limped in and out of the huddle, and appeared to lack the burst that made him so dangerous earlier in the game.
Can this offense work with Nick Foles or Matt Barkley? Given Vick's medical history, we're going to find out. But it's reasonable to think that while the two backups can have success in this system, it won't be nearly as dynamic with Vick on the sidelines.
Along those lines: Is LeSean McCoy, who spent the evening juking hapless 'Skins' defenders right our of their cement boots, durable enough to carry the ball 31 times a game? Almost certainly not. And when Kelly has designs on running 100 plays a game, that means someone else in the backfield (preferably not Vick) will need to pick up the slack.
Finally, there's that defense. Here's what we wrote in our preview: One of the league's worst units a year ago, the preseason didn't offer much hope that things would change with the new regime. Gone are Juan Castillo (who you may remember as a successful offensive assistant until Andy Reid got the bright idea to have him head up the defense -- with predictably disastrous results) and Todd Bowles, and Billy Davis is now the defensive coordinator.
Whether it was because the Eagles were well prepared for Washington's read-option offense, or Robert Griffin III spent the first three quarters knocking off the rust, the defense was decisive, physical, and opportunistic. Pretty sure nobody outside the Eagles facility saw that coming.
But can this D play at that level from one week to the next? That -- along with the aforementioned concerns about Vick and McCoy -- will determine just how far this team goes in 2013.
'The Steelers are doomed with the loss of Pouncey!'
Against the Titans Sunday, the Steelers played one of the worst football games you'd ever want to see. The only way this team would have been more unprepared was if they took the field in street clothes. The offense was a disaster, and afterward the blame was spread equally among offensive coordinator Todd Haley and an offensive line that lost a key player for the season. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was taken out by friendly fire when teammate David DeCastro collapsed his knee while trying to cut block a Titans defender. DeCastro missed, Pouncey crumpled, and the Steelers' o-line is again a musical chairs circus.
Except that Pouncey might be more media creation than legit top-flight center. Since coming into the league in 2010, he's ranked 21st, 19th, and 12th among all centers, according to ProFootballFocus.com's metrics. (Now, you could argue that Pouncey has improved every year, and using that logic, he should improve in 2013, too. Fair point, and one we won't dispute. But that doesn't change the fact that Pouncey's value in his first three seasons might have been exaggerated by the media.)
Whatever your thoughts on Pouncey, this should be the takeaway: Ben Roethlisberger knows something about playing behind an o-line held together with chicken wire and duct tape.
When the Steelers had to replace the retiring center Jeff Hartings following the 2007 season, they signed Bucs retread Sean Mahan who struggled so badly that the team signed Panthers retread Justin Hartwig the following offseason. And that crew -- which included Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Hartwig, Darnell Stapleton and Willie Colon -- ranked 26th in run blocking, 29th in pass blocking, and played a non-trivial role in Roethlisberger taking 46 sacks. Still, by January, Pittsburgh had a 12-4 record. And a month later, the organization had its sixth Lombardi Trophy.
No doubt, losing Pouncey makes this unit worse, but his replacement, Kelvin Beachum, was serviceable Sunday (worth mentioning: Beachum had never played center in an NFL regular season game until Pouncey went down), and the team has since signed Fernando Velasco, who started 16 games for the Titans last year. The bigger issue for the Steelers' playoff hopes (pipe dreams?): Can this defense play like the 2008 version? Because that had as much to do with the team's success as Big Ben's ability to make plays after the protection broke down.
'Rex Ryan and Geno Smith might be able to salvage the Jets' season!'
Remember, two weeks ago, how the media was clamoring to have Rex Ryan fired because he stuck New York pariah Mark Sanchez into a meaningless preseason game and the quarterback promptly suffered a shoulder injury? So now, suddenly, that's all been forgotten because Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David has impeccably dreadful timing and Nick Folk converted a 48-yard field goal with two seconds to go?
To put the Jets' last-second win in perspective, consider this: The Bucs took a two-point lead with less than a minute to go. On the Jets' next drive -- with 15 seconds left, no timeouts and New York on its own 45-yard line -- the Buccaneers' win probability was 99.8 percent. As in: Other than an act of God, there's no way Tampa Bay is losing.
Well, Tampa Bay lost and God clearly has a fantastic sense of humor.
Put another way: The Jets beat what looks like a pretty bad Bucs team, but literally needed miracle to do it.
So, yes, Rex Ryan survives for another week. And in all likelihood, he'll make it through the next four months. But he remains a lame-duck coach, one new general manager John Idzik wasn't allowed to fire when he took the job earlier this year, a concession that will be rectified almost certainly the day after the Jets' season ends.
And while Jets fans got the week off from bashing Sanchez, Smith is still an overwhelmed rookie quarterback with no real idea of what he's doing. Yes, we know, Sanchez fits that description and at least Smith has upside. We don't disagree. It's just that Smith's upside can't overcome an offense devoid of playmakers overseen by a bumbling coach on his way out. Other than that, sure, these Jets are legit.
'Cutler needs to get paid!'
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league woefully short on quarterbacks. This is not news, but the Bears' decision to let Jay Cutler enter the season with one year remaining on his contract is puzzling, especially in light of his Week 1 performance against the Bengals. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Cutler was the league's most efficient passer (even better than Peyton Manning), going 21 of 33 for 242 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT against a very good Bengals defense.
But Cutler's problem has never been flashes of franchise-quarterbackin' ability. It's been the maddening inconsistency that likely drove the Bears' to take a wait-and-see approach. On the one hand, yes, Cutler can do things most quarterbacks can't. On the other hand, he's been to the playoffs a whopping one time in seven years, following the 2010 season, where he was 1-0 before a knee injury forced him from the NFC Championship Game against the Packers.
This is also the same guy who last season finished 27th in total QB value, according to FootballOutsiders.com's metrics, just ahead of names like Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, Jake Locker and, ahem, Blaine Gabbert.
The risk-averse philosophy of "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" suggests that the Bears should re-sign Cutler. And maybe they will, eventually. But it won't be based on Cutler's performance in a Week 1 game. He's an above-average NFL quarterback and he won't have any trouble finding work -- and being paid well in the process -- but if the Bears are serious about annually challenging the Packers in the NFC North, Cutler probably isn't the answer.
Other headlines that deserve a healthy dose of skepticism
'Andy Dalton would be a winning quarterback even if he didn't have A.J. Green'
'Brandon Weeden isn't really that bad -- he was awesome in the preseason!'
'Don't worry about Mike Wallace, he's a team-first guy!'
'Bruce Arians' offense is perfectly suited to keeping Carson Palmer healthy'
'No, seriously, the Ravens really won't miss Anquan Boldin'
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