Week 3 Observations

My reaction to Daniel Jones’ debut is best described by successive Twitter polls:

Before the game:

During the game:

After the game:

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Each one was a joke *at the time*, and the last one still is, but now I wouldn’t consider Darnold for Jones, and even Mayfield would not be a no-brainer. Rag on Dave Gettleman all you want for signing two running backs in Carolina to expensive long-term deals, but it’s hard to fault him for passing on the non-Mayfield QBs in last year’s draft, justifying the decision by saying if you have to talk yourself into a quarterback, it’s not the right QB, and then “reaching” at 1.6 for the guy about whom he felt conviction.

No matter how good Jones becomes — and obviously this was just one game — I suspect there won’t be many retractions from the “you have to take a QB crowd” slagging Gettleman last year. It’s a hit and run culture these days. As long as you’re attacking the permissible targets (ignorant front office people who don’t pay proper verbal homage to a certain kind of analytics) and have enough cohorts in your tribe doing the same, you’re never held to account. Your process was obviously superior, so why should it matter if you were utterly and totally wrong about a massively consequential decision for the franchise?

Moreover, when Jones was carving up the Bucs defense — incidentally a unit that performed surprisingly well against the 49ers and Panthers — the announcers in the game were bending over backwards to praise Eli Manning as a class act and a legend with whom Giants fans were no doubt ecstatic for the last 15 years. While any Giants fan was thrilled when they went on two of the most improbable, defense-fueled Super Bowl runs in history over a five-year span, most of Manning’s tenure was fairly bleak. He had a .500 record, unheard of for a “legend,” and he was never at any point in his career even a top-five QB. The player Manning displaced — Kurt Warner — went on to play in Arizona at a level of which Manning could only dream.

Credit to Manning where it’s due for being up to the moment in those playoff games, and making a few incredible plays in the Super Bowls, but since the start of 2012, an eternity in NFL years, Manning has been an catastrophe, and this despite the team surrounding him with high-pedigree talent like Hakeem Nicks, Odell Beckham, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. So why does every broadcast labor under the delusion that Manning was something he isn’t? Is there some high-ranking producer mandating Manning be treated as though he were Brett Favre or John Elway? Or do most announcers only ascend the broadcasting ladder because they internalize the permissible storylines without having to be instructed? I don’t know the answer, but Ronde Barber, Tiki Barber and Kenny Albert sounded like they were in a bizarre cult where the truth about Eli’s performance must never be spoken. I get why totalitarian regimes do this, but for sports why can’ t they just admit Eli sucked for more than seven years and was just pretty good before that? What possible reason is there to lie?

In any event, while sycophantic broadcasters rewrite history to seem like they and their cohorts in ownership, front offices and media were on the right side all along, Giants fans who lived the truth have something for which to hope at least. Saquon Barkley’s injury looked like a multi-week issue, and the defense is still terrible, but this team should contend for the playoffs next year if Jones’ level of play resembles what it was yesterday.

• I knew Jones was mobile — especially compared to the Weekend-At-Bernie’s style QB he replaced — but I was surprised at the extent. This will help extend plays and add some downfield shots to Shurmur’s typically safe scheme, upgrading Shepard, Engram and, in two weeks, Golden Tate.

•Barkley’s injury struck me as a high-ankle sprain — he couldn’t put weight on it, but he was able to hobble around on crutches for the after-the-game celebration. My guess is four to six weeks. Wayne Gallman could be useful — he’s an average back who can catch passes.

• Jameis Winston did his part, though he could have had a much bigger day had the Bucs not gone into a second-half shell. Mike Evans went crazy, and O.J. Howard showed a pulse on four targets. I still don’t trust Bruce Arians or his playcaller Byron Leftwich to maximize the talent, though.

• Ronald Jones looked explosive, but keep in mind the Giants defense is arguably the worst in the NFL.

• The Browns offensive line is bad, but Baker Mayfield holds the ball too long, and he’s only an average scrambler. The offense also lacks rhythm, and the play-design is bland.

• Nick Chubb looks pretty good, but in a Zeke Elliott kind of way, i.e., he has no special dimension like Alvin Kamara who’s such a slick receiver and almost impossible to bring down in open space or  Barkley who’s a threat to break any play for 50 yards.

• Freddie Kitchens not only called a draw on 4th-and-9, but he refused to run from 1st-and-goal from the five with three timeouts and the game on the line. Bring back Hue Jackson!

• Cooper Kupp is always open, he catches anything thrown his way and apparently recovered from his ACL tear at an Adrian Peterson-esque rate. He’s a top-15 PPR WR.

• Todd Gurley got what was blocked for him and not much more. His offensive line and scheme are good, but he’s just a guy now.

• The Niners should have covered but for two picks and three fumbles. Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient, but good luck handicapping the target share beyond George Kittle, and even he isn’t a lock this year.

• Their running backs are even worse with Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert in an even timeshare, except at the goal line when Jeff Wilson gets the carries.

• Mason Rudolph did not impress. He had only 6.4 YPA despite a 76-yard catch-and-run TD by Juju Smith-Schuster. Diontae Johnson has surpassed James Washington as the team’s No. 2.

• Teddy Bridgewater settled into his caretaker role, something that worked after the Seahawks coughed up points on fumble- and kick-return TDs, but Kamara is the star of this team. Apparently, he doesn’t need Drew Brees after all.

• Russell Wilson slipped in drafts because the Seahawks are typically so run-heavy, but he had 406 yards on 50 attempts and 51 yards on the ground. In a pass-first offense, I’d make Wilson QB2 without thinking twice.

• For the second week in a row, Tyler Lockett saw a massive number of targets. It looks like I was wrong about him.

• It’ll be interesting to see whether serial fumbler Chris Carson keeps his job once Rashaad Penny gets healthy. I’d bet against it.

• The Chargers have three offensive skill players they use: Keenan Allen (highest use of any WR), Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler. It might be the narrowest tree in the NFL.

• Deshaun Watson is still probably the QB2, but think of how good he’d be with an offensive line and a better coach.

• Duke Johnson barely exists.

• Kyle Allen lit up the Cardinals and gave the Panthers license to take their time with Cam Newton’s foot. Greg Olsen is top-10 TE, and Christian McCaffrey gains value with a healthy Allen as opposed to a hobbled Newton.

• Kyler Murray had a terrible game, but at least he ran for 69 yards.

• The Eagles seemed to miss Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. Nelson Agholor, despite a nice double-spin-move TD, is not a No. 1 WR.

• Kerryon Johnson had a tough day, but he got the volume (and the TD) at least.

• Congratulations to the Jets on one of the best backdoor covers of all time. An inspiration.

• The Patriots still have not allowed an offensive TD since last year’s AFC title game (16 quarters.)

• Dalvin Cook accelerates through the hole like he’s on a motorcycle.

• Darren Waller is the only game in Oakland. Antonio Brown would have had 200 targets.

• Speaking of backdoor covers, the Ravens deserve an honorable mention.

• Lamar Jackson got his fantasy points, but he looked more like the player from 2018 in Week 3. His longest pass play was for 31 yards, and he spread the ball around. Mark Ingram ran extremely hard and caught four passes. He’s the bell cow, not quite at the Zeke Elliott/Lev Bell level with Gus Edwards and Jackson around.

• Hopefully we can all agree the Pat Mahomes regression-using-historical-norms ship has sunk.

• The Chiefs receiving tree is wider than you’d like, and that’s without Tyreek Hill and Damian Williams, but the soil’s so fertile, there’s fruit on every branch. I’d even hold onto Darwin Thompson who didn’t play until LeSean McCoy aggravated his ankle injury.

• Julio Jones is a TD machine. No idea what the Falcons were doing for most of the last decade.

• System >>> QB. Exhibit A: Brissett, Jacoby. You have to be truly terrible to sink a good system. Exhibit B: Eli

• I benched Phillip Lindsay in a league for Kenyan Drake and Carlos Hyde. The Broncos ran a ton for a team that was behind all game.

• I’d like to see Aaron Rodgers break out of his caretaker role, but the Packers are 3-0 somehow.

• I can’t think of anything to say about the Dolphins-Cowboys game except that the late Tony Pollard TD cost me the cover.

• Joe Mixon showed a pulse in the second half, but the offensive line is bad, and Andy Dalton’s not the kind of QB who can consistently overcome it.

• Josh Allen is a beast — on the level of peak Cam Newton and young Ben Roethlisberger in strength and sack-resistance. He’s no Daniel Jones as a passer, though.