POINT BLANK – August 25
What a “Bettor Better Know”
Time to review the weekend that was, and isolate some key advantages that you will be able to take to the windows in the games ahead, this time with the focus on some key NFL QB storylines.
Floundering to to 4-0
The Giants are out of the gate at 4-0 in a season in which they are looking for some redemption, and if you only looked at the final scoreboards and box scores you might think that the transition to Bob McAdoo’s new offense has been a positive one. And if you did that, you would be wrong. Last week in this space there was a take on the issues they were having (http://pregame.com/pregame-forums/f/14/t/1014380.aspx), and despite putting 35 on the board against the Jets, they have not been solved.
Eli Manning and the first-team offense contributed little. The only points came on a TD pass from Manning to Rueben Randle with 0:05 left in the first half, and they needed a replay over-rule of a Jet interception to keep that drive alive. Prior to that, it had been five punts in five possessions, despite facing a defense that was riddled with injuries in the secondary.
The Manning bottom line in the McAdoo playbook has been 51.4 percent completions at 5.1 yards per attempt. That is bad enough in most pre-seasons, but downright awful in an August in which defenses have literally had their hands tied behind their backs. Now an already unsettled OL rotation has seen Geoff Schwartz go down with a dislocated toe, elevating rookie Weston Richburg, who had been drafted as a center, to the top of the depth chart.
The Giants clearly are not ready on offense for the season to begin. Don’t be surprised if that first unit is on the field Thursday against the Patriots, instead of the usual of taking the night off, and it would not be a bad idea to take an early lead there.
Carolina fears become realized
Instead of taking another step forward after improving to a 12-4 regular season in 2013, Carolina has lost some key personnel without adding much, and there were particular concerns about the passing game, with issues in both the OL and the WR corps. It has not taken long for those problems to materialize. Cam Newton and the first-team offense have had an inauspicious pre-season.
Newton’s debut vs. Kansas City began with three straight three-and-out possessions, and he finished 4-9-65, while also being sacked twice for a -19. That makes it 46 net yards out of 11 pass plays. Against the Patriots they did not score in five possessions, including bringing Newton back out to open the third quarter. Newton was 8-12, but for only 88 yards, while also being sacked three times. Add the two games together and it is a net of 115 passing yards on 26 attempts with him in the game. There have been eight punts in 10 drives.
The OL issue may not be solved this season, with Byron Bell looking overmatched at LT. While rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin is a keeper, Newton has yet to connect a single time with Jerricho Cotchery, and this collective group will rival the league’s worst. It is not just a lack of talent, but also a lack of chemistry with the limited options that are available. That becomes even more pronounced now that Newton is going to miss practice time because of that fractured rib; while Ron Rivera has said that he expects him back for the opener vs. Tampa Bay, the simple truth is that without some more pre-season time, the first team offense will not be ready for that opener anyway.
Is it “akland”, without an “O”?
After posting a respectable career prior to 2013, Matt Schaub had a disastrous campaign with the Texans. It was a combination of both physical and mental issues, with the former being a loss of zip in his longer throws, and the latter created by that Pick Six parade that was not easy to regroup from. As such, he was available pretty cheaply, a sixth-round draft pick, and it was not an awful gamble by the Raiders, who need veteran leadership at the position. But is that what they have received?
The first-team Oakland offense did not manage a first down vs. Minnesota. Against Detroit it was a Schaub interception, three consecutive 3-and-outs, and then another 3-and-out following a Lion penalty. Against Green Bay there was an opening 60-yard TD drive, but the last 40 of those came overland from Maurice Jones-Drew, and then it was four straight 3-and-outs. Outside of the TD run, the first half produced 46 yards in 32 snaps.
Through three games the Schaub counts are 51.1 percent completions, and with sacks incorporated, a net of 3.8 yards per pass attempt. The “Eye Test” is not any better; there are no hidden positives inside of the numbers. He looks gun-shy and awkward in the pocket, and is not providing anything that David Carr or Matt McGloin can learn from.
The quandary for Dennis Allen may not just be of whether he plays Schaub vs. Seattle this week to try to establish a rhythm (a sore elbow that has already caused him to miss practice time could put the kibosh on that), but perhaps whether McGloin may genuinely be the best option to start when the regular season begins.
Sam Bradford gets hurt, again…
Since being chosen in the 1st round of the 2010 draft, Bradford has much almost as much news for the number of times he has not been on the field, as for how well he has played when he was able to direct the St. Louis offense. He has missed 15 of 64 games over four seasons, and when he did play the numbers have not been special – if the ESPN QB ratings are used as the guide, he rates #29 of the 32 since 2010 of those that have played enough to qualify. He actually caught a bit of a break with his 2013 numbers, not having to face Seattle at all over the seven games seven games he played, yet could still only rate #24.
So what is the dropoff to Shaun Hill? There simply isn’t much. While Hill has been mostly a journeyman across four NFL teams (there was even a stint with the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe), he has performed adequately enough when called on – a 13-13 record as a starter, with stats better than Bradford’s in several categories. There really is not much that Bradford could do that he can not, and the timing element also allows for a reasonable transition – he will get the final week of the pre-season as the #1, and the opening salvo of a home game vs. the Vikings, road game against the Buccaneers, and a home game vs. the Cowboys, then a bye week, is not all that taxing.
The problem that the Rams will have with Hill is the same one they were going to have with Bradford – is there enough play-making capacity to seriously challenge the Seahawk/49er/Cardinal defenses, the toughest division trio any QB will have to face. That answer is likely a no, even with some better talent added at the other offensive skill positions. But failures in the division tests could leave them as an under-rated commodity in other games – they were 4-1 SU and ATS in non-division home games LY, beating the spread by a significant 42.5 points in the process. For now the adjustment from Bradford to Hill should not be more than a half point, and given the early bye week, by the end of September there may be no adjustment at all. The markets are already over-reacting; make sure that you do not.