Last night’s double NFL slate provided us with two lackluster games that left us only wanting more football, especially after the treat that was Sunday Night Football. Unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait till Thursday night when the Ravens travel to Cincinnati in an early season AFC North battle between two underachievers last season. But to hold us off till then, he’s four instant reactions to last nights games, and what they might mean for the rest of the NFL season.
1. The Raiders Are In Deep, Deep Trouble.
Jon Gruden’s regular season return to coaching last night was anything but triumphant. The Raiders looked listless with Gruden at the helm and quarterback Derek Carr was looked to to try and rescue the game before the third quarter was even half over. This should come as no surprise. Oakland cleaned house of tons of talented veterans this offseason and failed to replace them with anything remotely on the same level.
These issues began in free agency when they cut receiver Michael Crabtree as well as Pro-Bowl punter Marquette King and cornerback David Amerson. Gruden brought in veterans like Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin to attempt to assist Carr and take the pressure away from his franchise quarterback, but these veterans were almost nonexistent in last night’s loss to the Rams. Finally, Gruden had the gaul to complain about his pass-rush, in the same week he traded Khalil Mack to Chicago. Last night’s performance proved just how wrong the Raiders were about not paying the All-Pro linebacker and if I’m a betting man, the bad things have just begun in Oakland.
2. The Rams Should be Concerned About Their Linebacking Core
This was an offseason of change for Los Angeles’ favorite football team. Jared Goff put it perfectly when he said, “It felt like we brought in a new player every day this spring.” The additions of corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters as well as All-Pro defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh to pair with a record breaking offense that also added deep threat Brandin Cooks instantly made Los Angeles Super Bowl contenders.
The Rams left many wondering how they were able to acquire so much talent despite having a hefty payroll and a holdout defensive lineman Aaron Donald still to pay this can be answered in two parts, firstly the loophole of only having to pay Jared Goff $7.6MM despite close to All-Pro production and secondly, salary dumps of some past contributors on this roster. These salary dumps ravaged what was one of the most complete linebacking cores in football, as the Rams only return a single starter from last season in the form of Mark Barron, the others, including 2017 tackle leader Alec Ogletree were either traded or cut this offseason to make way for these new arrivals. This leaves a level of concern as the heart of the Rams defense is now comprised of questionable and unproven young players, this was most clear last night when Marshawn Lynch went “Beast Mode” right through the Rams defense for a 10-yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game.
3. The Jets Are Back….., Maybe.
Last night was the highly anticipated debut of former-USC quarterback Sam Darnold for the New York Jets. ‘Broadway Sam’ got the job done, with a big thanks to his running back Isaiah Crowell and the Jets defense that recorded five interceptions on the night. The Jets had several new faces including new Pro Bowl corner Trumaine Johnson after an offseason that saw them clean house on a number of veterans and trade up in the trade to get Darnold at number three. The biggest issue with last night’s performance is we simply don’t know how good/bad the Lions are, but they looked simply horrendous in the three quarters I cared to watch. Stories broke this morning that they read Matthew Stafford’s hard signals which may have contributed to the Jets pouncing on any and every throw the quarterback had last night, but this should take little away from the Jets, who for the first time since Mark Sanchez was under center might be back into contention.
4. The Lions Should Start From Scratch.
Listen.., I know they’ve played one game this year but for me, one game was simply enough. The Detroit Lions are fundamentally incapable of winning anything with their current core. After back-to-back winning seasons and MVP like play from Matthew Stafford the Lions hired former Patriots defensive coordinator this offseason with hopes of becoming Super Bowl contenders, those hopes lasted about two quarters. To be blown out on your own field by 31 points by a perennial bottom-dweller like the Jets is flat out embarrassing, and the fan base shouldn’t stand by and let it happen. This team needs to be rebuilt the right way and be stripped down to it’s core, with the only remaining pieces being a few offensive lineman and cornerback Darius Slay. Like I said this could all be premature and the Lions could even still go on to make the playoffs, but if last night is any indication of how this season will go, I’d want no part of this team’s present or future.