The NFL season may only be three weeks old, but there have already been enough surprising performances to raise eyebrows across the league. Rookie QB’s have taken flight, previously successful teams have stumbled out of the gate and a host of veteran players have yet to hit their stride. See below for the five biggest talking points as we near the quarter point of the schedule – plus five things that shouldn’t have caught you unawares.
Carson Wentz is Kinda Good
Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be good. Rookie quarterbacks who played in one quarter of pre-season football aren’t supposed to be good. And Rookie quarterbacks who assumed the starting role eight days before the start of the regular season, well that hasn’t happened much, if at all, in the history of the NFL. Wentz has been simply phenomenal as he’s lead the Eagles to a 3-0 record and a 34-3 rout over the Steelers in the battle for Pennsylvania, refusing to turn the ball over and making a number of impressive throws including a deft 73-yarder to Darren Sproles after his protection broke down around him. Rookie head coach Doug Pederson deserves a great deal of credit for his game-calling nous, and at some stage Wentz will have to deal with adversity – but for now the former North Dakota State QB has unquestionably been the surprise of the young NFL season.
Maybe the Cowboys Don’t Need Romo After All
Last season, Dallas saw their campaign fall apart following what felt like Tony Romo’s millionth broken collarbone injury, but this year the script has taken an upward turn for Jerry Jones’ franchise. Ezekiel Elliot rushed for his first career 100-yard game on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears and has increased his yardage total from each game to the next, while rookie QB Dak Prescott has been efficient and avoided the turnovers that plagued the likes of Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden in 2015. The defense hasn’t been horrible, either, and it’s entirely possible that Dallas will be fighting for a play-off berth by the time Romo returns, if he returns, later on in the year.
Were the Carolina Panthers a one-time Deal?
Probably not. But alarm bells are sure to be ringing in Charlotte after Cam Newton and co. lost their second game of the young season to Minnesota, whose stifling defense picked off Cam three times and sacked the reigning MVP on six occasions. Admittedly the week one defeat to Denver should never have happened (Carolina missed a game-winning field goal try as time expired), but even with Kelvin Benjamin back in the fold it’s not gone to script for Ron Rivera’s men so far in 2016. The one saving grace for the Panthers? The Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons are unlikely to put too much pressure on them for their division crown following slow starts.
Has Anyone Seen Goff?
So this is kind of awkward for Jeff Fisher and the rest of the Los Angeles Rams top brass. After trading up to the first overall pick in May’s first year player draft, the Rams decided to select Jared Goff ahead of Wentz and so far the L.A QB has taken a grand total of – zero snaps. Goff didn’t even dress in week one, and although he’s since been promoted from third to second on the Rams depth chart it’s been a huge disappointment that he’s been unable to displace the mediocre Case Keenum as the top dog in the city of angels. Goff struggled in pre-season play and his relaxed attitude which was on display in Hard Knocks has come in for criticism in some quarters, especially when compared to the focused intensity displayed by the number two pick in the draft, Wentz. It’s likely we’ll see Goff in action sooner rather than later, but when we do the pressure will already be on for him to at least perform adequately following the success of Wentz and fellow rookie Prescott.
How Much More Time Will Gus Get?
For some, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the popular sleeper pick to emerge as a play-off calibre team in 2016. Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdown passes last season and with the signings of Chris Ivory and Malik Jackson it was thought they’d improve both their rushing attack and defensive line. However, the team has struggled as much as ever (they haven’t made the play-offs since 2007), and Bortles has been dire as the Jags have fallen to 0-3 for the third time in head coach Gus Bradley’s four seasons in charge. Bradley labelled his job a rebuilding one upon taking the reins in Jacksonville, but the lack of improvement from years one to four could condemn him and lead to the former Seattle defensive co-ordinator being the first coaching casualty of the season. More worrying for Jags fans has been the regression of Bortles, who has now thrown 45 interceptions in just two and a bit seasons in the league.
And Five Entirely Predictable Stories…
- The Browns are still the Browns, even missing a gimme 46-yard field goal to beat the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
- Bill Belichick is a genius who could probably win with Donald Trump at QB. Or Hilary.
- Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman clashed again during their second career meeting. The winner, by split decision, was however the kicking net that Beckham unsuccessfully shoved in a childish strop.
- Blaine Gabbert is still not a good NFL QB, and Chip Kelly is still not a good NFL head coach.
- Why did Chicago give Jay Cutler a new contract last season? The mind boggles.