Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekend Football Roundup - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There are already a few NCAA coaches on the hot seat. Lane Kiffin might be one of them.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Every Tuesday during football season, editors Jeremy and Joe will bring you the good, the bad and the ugly from the college and pro football weekend that was.

The Good

Peyton Manning

He threw for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. That is all.


Chip Kelly, LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, and Everything Else Involving Philadelphia's First Half Offense

After seeing one game, I think it's safe to say that Chip Kelly is the best coach in NFL History. Any objections? No? Okay good.

As Joe mentioned on Twitter last night, we all knew the Eagles had the speed, but Chip Kelly is able to utilize it in a way that has really never been seen before in the NFL. In days of yore, people usually assumed that the success of a spread offense was dependent on the quarterback and the receivers. That's not true anymore. (Just as an aside, it wasn't totally true then; the running back in the spread offense - i.e. Marshall Faulk - takes on a ridiculous level of responsibility in the passing game via blitz pickups and checkdowns - without the right back, the spread offense fails - just ask the 2012 Lions.) Almost the entire success of the Chip Kelly offense relies on the running back, and whether or not he can make the first defender whiff on his tackle.

The offense is designed to get a skill player into a one-on-one scenario. Last night against Washington, LeSean McCoy won those one-on-one scenarios with a shocking amount of ease. Once the Redskins started crashing their linebackers to the strong side, Michael Vick pulled the ball out and took off. When the linebackers crashed straight down, Brent Celek was wide open down the seam.

The other assumption that people make is that you need speed on the outside to defend this type of spread offense. That isn't true - you need disciplined linebackers that don't make mental mistakes. Washington clearly didn't have that on Monday night. And it's unclear if any team in the league short of San Francisco does.


Marty Mornhinweg

Listen, Geno Smith was far from perfect in the Jets' season-opening win over Tampa Bay, but he did lead New York to a win in his first career start. Give a ton of credit to a guy that has taken his fair share of grief over the years, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

After Smith turned the ball over twice in the first half, Mornhinweg simplified things for his rookie signal caller, rolling him out more for one read plays and mixing in screens and draws well throughout the second half. The result? Smith threw for over 250 yards and a touchdown, plus led the Jets on a game-winning drive (Yes, aided by a bone-head Tampa penalty, but still) in the game's final minute.

Not a bad start.


Anquan Boldin

Boldin was traded from Baltimore to San Francisco for a 6th-round pick. Unless that sixth round pick turns out to be Tom Brady 2.0, I think the Ravens got fleeced there. Boldin fit seamlessly into San Francisco's offense, consistently finding wide-open space thanks to linebackers biting on Colin Kaepernick's zone-read fakes. Boldin played basically the same role Michael Crabtree did for the second half of last season, and he played it better than Crabtree did - 13 catches for 208 yards, including four 3rd-down conversions (one going for a touchdown) and a 4th-down conversion with three minutes left that all but sealed the game.


The U

It was a pretty messy game, but the Miami Hurricanes pulled out a program-altering win over Florida Saturday. Coach Al Golden, already recruiting at a high level in Coral Gables, now has a signature win against the state's most recent national power, and running back Duke Johnson appears to be the real deal.

How far can Miami take this? Well, outside of Clemson and Florida State, the ACC is just okay, so the Canes have to be considered a BCS bowl contender. But, as big of a win as Saturday' game was, it also showed that neither of these teams are national title contenders… Yet.


The Bad

Mike Wallace

Wallace was tabbed as a prima donna last season in Pittsburgh when he expressed his displeasure with not being more involved in the game plan. Well, anybody that thought things would be different in Miami were quickly proven wrong. After the Dolphins' WIN over the Browns, Wallace was clearly upset about only catching one ball for 15 yards, storming out of the locker room and refusing to speak with reporters.

When pressed on his performance, Wallace simply said, "I don't feel like talking about it. Ask Coach."

This should go well.


New England's Receivers

Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola had fine games - if it weren't for them, New England might have lost on opening day. However, they can't rely on those two guys against good defenses going forward.

Edelman and Amendola are very good underneath receivers. When both are on the field, they cumulatively replicate the effect that Wes Welker had - chances are at least one of them is going to be mis-matched against the wrong defender and will get open. However, that is all dependent upon one thing - the opposing safeties not deciding "hey, there's literally nobody that can beat us deep so we're going to drive on every underneath route." That's what is in New England's future.

Rob Gronkowski is injured, and won't play until at least Week 3 (given his injury, I'd be surprised if it's that soon). Kenbrell Thompkins managed to catch just four passes despite being targeted 14 times. Josh Boyce was targeted twice for no catches. Aaron Dobson didn't even get on the field. Gronkowski's replacements, Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui, caught one pass and dropped another that led to an interception.. If the Patriots can't come up with a playmaker on the outside, or a tight end that can drive the safeties deep down the seam, all of the underneath routes for Edelman and Amendola will dry up. Quickly.


Supposedly Great College Defenses

We came into Saturday night thinking we knew about South Carolina and Notre Dame, at least on the defensive side of the football. With NFL talent up front for both squads, many thought stout defense was a given for each of them.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way.

Each defense surrendered 41 points. Notre Dame allowed Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to pick them apart for 294 yards and four touchdowns passing, plus 82 yards and another touchdown on the ground.

The Gamecocks, meanwhile, simply let Georgia do whatever it wanted offensively. Quarterback Aaron Murray lit up SC for 309 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers, while running back Todd Gurley ran roughshod over Jadeveon Clowney and company, racking up 134 yards on what was supposed to be an elite rush defense.

Not quite the dominant performance either team was hoping for, but at least Connor Shaw and Tommy Rees looked ok...


The Ugly

Pittsburgh's Season Opener

There was just so much bad in this one for Pittsburgh. After being gifted a safety by Tennessee on the opening kickoff, the Steelers wouldn't score another point until the two-minute warning of the second half. In between, Pittsburgh lost three starters to season-ending injuries, none more significant than former All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. Pittsburgh running back Isaac Redman fumbled twice, once inside the Titan 10, and the depleted line allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked five times.

The line looks lost without Pouncey, the Steelers are hoping for a rookie to rejuvenate their running back corps, and tight end Heath Miller still isn't back from a late 2012 knee injury… Well, the defense was decent, I guess.


David Wilson 
First play of the season? Targeted on a screen pass - pass is intercepted.

First touch of the season? Fumble.

Six touches later? Another fumble.

In between, he was able to gain 19 yards on seven carries.

He didn't play the rest of the game.


Lane Kiffin and Mack Brown

I don't want to toot my own horn, but I did say that one or both of these guys would be fired this season in my college football preview (Actually, 2 of my 3 "bold predictions" are looking really good right now). Well, even I didn't think their seats would be this hot this fast. Kiffin left the field at the Coliseum to a cascade of "FIRE KIFFIN" chants from the USC student section after his Trojans threw for only 54 yards in a 10-7 home loss to Washington State.

Brown, meanwhile, is in damage control mode this week, firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after the Longhorns allowed BYU quarterback Taysom Hill to rush for 259 yards in a 40-21 loss to the Cougars. Texas brings back Greg Robinson, their old defensive coordinator from their 2005 national championship team, but this won't be a quick fix.

If either of these guys survives the season, I'll be shocked.


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