After the first two weeks of the NFL season, the 2019-20 season is off to a roaring start, from off-the-field drama, weird injuries, and teams that are on the rise or on the decline. Here are my takeaways from the first two weeks of the NFL season.
First, Lamar Jackson. “Not bad for a running back,” said Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson after throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in a week one slaughter of the Miami Dolphins, 59-10. Using the term running back, Jackson was poking at many draft “experts,” or sports personalities across the country saying that Lamar Jackson projected as a running back in the NFL, as they thought he didn’t possess the throwing capability to succeed in the NFL. In two seasons, Jackson is 8-1 in the regular season as the Ravens starting quarterback. His five passing touchdowns in week one was just one short of his season total of six from 2018. In a week two victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Jackson threw for 272 yards and ran for 120 yards on just 16 carries. The Ravens first round investment on the former Heisman Trophy winner out of Louisville is looking good entering the meat of the 2019-20 season. While Jackson will face tougher defenses as the season goes on, including four matchups with division foes Pittsburgh and Cleveland, his impressive start is a remarkable story for a player who many thought would have to change positions to succeed in the NFL. If he continues his current success, he could be nearing the top of the quarterback rankings by the end of the season.
Despite Lamar’s successes, this is not going to be the year of the quarterback. While passing the football becomes more prolific every single year, quarterback stats continue to spike every year as teams are choosing to air the ball out more. This year, though, may be different, as quarterbacks across the league are being sidelined. Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick, two storied veterans, both were benched in favor of younger players. Both the Giants and Dolphins, their respective teams, are currently 0-2, but considering the talent both teams have, it’s hard to say it’s their fault. Front offices seem to just want to give fans something to get excited about, even if it doesn’t change the result of the game. I mean, if you’re going to get smacked by 40 points anyway, you might as well let your rookie quarterback give some glimpses of the future, right? Eli Manning, a two time Super Bowl Champion, was recently benched for first round pick Daniel Jones. Despite the Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman insisting that Jones was going to sit for an extended period of time, like star quarterback Patrick Mahomes did in Kansas City, Jones will be under center for the New York Giants in just week three after two blowout losses. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is on his eighth different team after signing with the Miami Dolphins earlier this offseason, will be replaced by second year quarterback Josh Rosen, who was kicked to the curb in Arizona after Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury ditched the supposed “Franchise QB” in favor of Heisman Trophy recipient Kyler Murray. I doubt Rosen will make much of a difference, though, as after being outscored 102-10 in the first two weeks of the season, the Dolphins might have a hard time fielding a team around him going forward. No, seriously, many Dolphins players have reportedly called their agents and requested their way out. Star linebacker Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills got shipped to Houston just before the season, and it appears as if a few more Dolphins will be swimming to other NFL teams in no-time.
The injury bug has also railed NFL quarterbacks this year. The whole notion that quarterbacks are the position to pay in the NFL because they stay the healthiest has been debunked this year. Drew Brees is out for at least six weeks after injuring ligaments in his thumb while hitting his hand on a defenders’ helmet in a week two loss to the LA Rams. Brees, one of the top NFL quarterbacks, will be sorely missed, as Teddy Bridgewater, who hasn’t started an NFL game in around three years, and Taysom Hill, who also plays other positions for the Saints, will be looking to fill a void that is seemingly impossible to do with Hill and Bridgewater. Another top quarterback in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger, is out for the season after injuring his throwing elbow in the early part of this young NFL season. Ex-Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph looks to lead the Steelers after the injury, but without Le’veon Bell or Antonio Brown, and with the emergence of the Ravens and Browns, it may be hard for the gunslinger Rudolph to lead this Pittsburgh team to a division title, much less a playoff spot.
The New York Jets have maybe been hit the hardest, as they lost two quarterbacks for significant periods of time in less than a week. Leading up to New York’s Monday Night Football matchup versus Cleveland, Jets HC Adam Gase, in one of the most awkward press conferences in recent history, explained to the media that budding second year quarterback Sam Darnold contracted Mono and was out indefinitely. The only other quarterback to ever contract Mono was Chris Chandler in 1995. Then, in the MNF game versus the Browns, backup quarterback Trevor Semien broke his ankle on a gruesome play that will sideline him for the year. Now onto third string quarterback Luke Falk, the Jets seemed doomed once again. It doesn’t really matter since we all know who’s winning the AFC East for what would be the eleventh straight time: the New England Patriots.
Beyond quarterbacks, this offseason might have been the craziest offseason of all-time. Former number one overall pick and star quarterback Andrew Luck’s bizarre retirement highlighted it all. During a Colts pre-season game, word got out that Luck had retired out of nowhere. Luck, who was on the Indianapolis sideline at the time, was booed off the field by the Colts faithful at Lucas-Oil stadium, a gesture that quite frankly was beyond disrespectful considering all that Luck did for the franchise and how little protection he had up front. Luck cited in his retirement presser that football had taken too much of a mental toll on him and that he needed to step away. Despite this very valid reason and the fact that he’s made more money than he’ll ever know what to do with, Colts fans were not having it, especially since the timing of it was so weird: right before the start of the regular season.
The offseason was also highlighted by Antonio Brown and his antics. After being traded to Oakland, he contracted frostbite in his foot, threatened to retire if the NFL didn’t let him wear his helmet, and got into a verbal altercation with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock before even playing a game in Oakland. He never played a game in Oakland, and now he’s a member of the New England Patriots (I know, what a shocker) after being cut by Oakland. It doesn’t stop there; Brown is now the face of a sexual assault lawsuit from a former trainer, and although he is currently still on the Patriots, Nike dumped him from their endorsement deal.
Many players are still on strike from the NFL, with grievances with their respective teams about their current contracts. Star running back Melvin Gordon is still not with the LA Chargers, and might not report anytime soon, as the Chargers aren’t willing to give him an extension at this time. Former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was traded from Houston to Seattle after Houston refused to pay him his extension. Ezekiel Elliott missed the entire Cowboys training camp to train in Cabo while he waited for a new contract. Just days before their week one game versus the NY Giants, Elliott received a massive contract worth $90 million dollars to return to Dallas, where he has been feasting so far in the young season. From injuries, to holdouts, to star performances, the NFL season to this point has been nothing short of must-see TV.