Average: the worst thing you can be in professional sports.
In a league which is controlled by both a hard salary cap and a stringent draft system for college players, being a middle-of-the-road team is quite bleak. These teams sit in quarterback purgatory, unable to get access to the best college prospects, while also not being good enough currently to really compete with the top teams in the league.
So, in order to gain that access to top talent and build your team into a true competitor, you must first tear the whole thing down.
Yes, most of the time, you need to tank.
Though teams typically overvalue draft picks, there's no doubt that the best way to build a football team is with young, cheap talent. By leveraging the rookie wage scale, teams can maximize title windows by finding cheap quarterbacks through the draft, and spending big money on other key positions. The Seahawks have done it, the Eagles have done it, and now the Browns are looking to do it.
And, as clear as can be, the Dolphins are going full tank mode in 2019.
Miami is off to one of the most pathetic starts in NFL history. After getting throttled 59-10 at home in their season opener, Miami followed up that loss with another awful performance in week 2. Through two games, Miami has been outscored 102-10. It's unwatchable for the fans, and most importantly, demoralizing for the players.
From a front office stand point, its easy to understand what the Dolphins are doing. After all, as a Dallas Cowboy fan, you can argue that Jimmy Johnson brought the tank to the NFL with his famous Herschel Walker trade. Johnson hoarded draft picks from 1988-1991 and built one of the greatest dynasties this league has ever seen.
Miami has not had a legit starting quarterback since Dan Marino graced their sidelines, and they are doing everything in their power to make sure they have their top choice for a franchise quarterback over the next two drafts. It may work out just as it did for those '90's Cowboys. Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence might be the next great player who brings Miami out from despair. And, with the way the NFL's access to talent is set up, this is the most efficient way to get their shot.
But, man, even the 1989 Cowboys were rarely this bad.
The one's who have to pay the price for this rebuild, really, are the current players. Tanking is likely the best way to rebuild your roster and find that quarterback, but this isn't Madden. You can't simulate the season, humans have to play these games.
While tanking has become incredibly popular in both the NBA and MLB, tanking in football is different. In a word - it's dangerous. Miami is willingly putting players out there who likely wouldn't have those same roles on normal, competing teams. If one of these lesser players misses an assignment, or simply isn't good enough to hang, he's putting both himself and his teammates in actual danger. Football is a violent game, one where your life could be at stake. You have to have confidence in the guy next to you to do his job, and the Dolphins front office is giving little reason to have that confidence.
Even outside of the physical danger, there's financial drawbacks for these players as well. The front office is putting these players in a nearly impossible position to succeed, so for the players who would have a chance at a second contract, all of this bad and embarrassing film is hurting their future earning potential.
And when it's all over, and the picks convey into players, those that had to play these games and suffer these embarrassments won't even be around the enjoy the payoff. They won't get the quarterback, or the chances at success, or the parade if there ever is one in Miami.
I get the reasoning behind tanking. From the view of the front office, and the view of all the analytics, it's likely the most efficient way to complete your rebuild. Yet I can't help but feel for the players, who are being put out there to fail week in and week out.
Jourdan Lewis Continues to Shine, Needs More Playing Time
Once upon a time, Cornerback Jourdan Lewis was a star at Michigan who had first-round talent written all over him. The former two-time First-Team All-American would see his stock plummet, though, with a domestic violence accusation hanging over his head. Nonetheless, the Dallas Cowboys selected him 92nd overall in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
His career got off to a great start in his rookie campaign. He totaled 54 tackles (48 solo), 10 passes defended and an interception. Unfortunately for Lewis, when the Cowboys hired Kris Richard as the Passing Game Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach in 2018 he became the forgotten man in the secondary. The architect of the infamous "Legion of Boom" in Seattle that produced stars such as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor likes tall, physical and rangy corners. At 5'10 and 195 pounds, Lewis simply didn't fit Richard's vision of what his secondary should look like.
He would only manage one start in 15 games and registered a pedestrian 12 tackles in 2018. Lewis caught a break recently, though, when starting nickel corner Anthony Brown left the Cowboys Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets with a hamstring injury. Lewis, who obviously had been chomping at the bit to make his presence felt didn't waste any time reminding everyone how talented he is.
Lewis would not only register four tackles but he intercepted Sam Darnold inside the 10 in the third quarter. As we all know, turnovers have been the achilles heel for the entire defensive unit for years so to see Lewis come in and get one in a matter of minutes was encouraging.
With Brown ruled out against the Philadelphia Eagles, Lewis would get another shot to show what kind of a player he is, and once again, he didn't disappoint. In a dominant 37-10 win, Lewis had four tackles and his first NFL sack. Simply put, Lewis makes plays whenever he's on the field.
It's not like Brown is a bad corner or anything, he's not at all. In fact, he could start for a lot of teams in the NFL as their top corner or be a solid number two. However, in 2017 he was benched in favor of Chidobe Awuzie in Week 13 and remained a backup for the rest of the season. With this latest setback, Lewis could find himself with a permanent role, that is if Richard can look past his height and focus on who's the best option to put on the field out of Lewis and Brown.
There are several reasons I feel Lewis is a better option than Brown as the lead nickel corner. For one thing, Lewis is a ball-hawking corner and you can never have enough of those is this passing era of NFL football. Brown is the only corner out of the team's top four with more career interceptions than Lewis, and they have all had significantly more playing time than he has over the last three years.
Also, he's a sure tackler as 68 of his 77 career tackles (88%) are of the solo variety. A corner who can create turnovers and tackle well is a defensive coordinator's dream come true. Lastly, Lewis can play in the slot or on the outside. Position flex is a very valuable tool to have as a defensive back and makes it easier to fill a hole in case of an unfortunate injury in your secondary.
So when Brown is healthy enough to return what does Richard do? Will he insert him back into the starting lineup? Does he realize Lewis is the better player and keep him on the field? This will be an interesting decision and one that a lot of fans will definitely be keeping an eye on.
Football Focus: Top 3 MVP Candidates Through Seven Weeks
Once week 8 comes around, it's acceptable to start MVP discussions. Of course, that sort of talk begins even before the season starts, but by the eight week of the season we've seen plenty of NFL action for the conversation to have any sense at all. Having said that, on today's edition of Football Focus, I'll share with you my top three candidates for the MVP award this season. Stick around for some thoughts on the New England Patriots, Andy Dalton, Los Angeles Chargers and more!
Let's get to it.
Russel Wilson, SEA Seahawks
Dangerous Russ is playing absolutely great. Despite a rough outing versus the Baltimore Ravens, Wilson has been playing at MVP level all season. Although the Seahawks are always thought of as a talented team, the truth is they're far from being one of the best rosters in the NFL. Wilson's offensive line is average at best and he still manages to play lights out football.
He has a 122.1 passer rating outside of the pocket, according to PFF. He's led the Seahawks' passing offense to become the second most efficient according to DVOA. Wilson is elevating the players around him. If the Seahawks make the postseason, it'll be thanks to him. He might be the best QB in the NFL right now.
Deshaun Watson, HOU Texans
The Houston Texans are a difficult team to figure out. They're 4-3 and have been somewhat inconsistent this season. They're not the best of teams, but Deshaun Watson is a great QB. Watching him play is unbelievably fun as he slings the ball all over the field. His offensive line is far from great, but he manages to extend plays and get the job done frequently.
Watson is throwing 8.3 yards per attempt (fifth most in the league) and he's racked up 18 total touchdowns (tied for first in the NFL).
Last week wasn't very helpful to his case, but Watson will continue to play well this year. If the Texans win the division, I'll sure consider him an MVP candidate.
Lamar Jackson, BAL Ravens
Baltimore Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson might be a dark-horse candidate in the MVP race, and I'm surely betting on him. He's just a tough quarterback to defend. Many people don't like running signal-callers and I get it. Historically, their careers haven't been very long and they're often injury-prone.
But Jackson is sixth in the league in rushing yards (576). In average rushing yards per attempt, Lamar actually leads the league with 6.9 yards. He makes it look easy even against well-coached defenses such as Pete Carroll's Seahawks. With the Ravens playing aggressively this season on their way to a 5-2 record, Lamar Jackson should be in the MVP conversation.
Three-And-Out: 3 Quick Thoughts
- Maybe the New England Patriots haven't faced a tough team yet, but that doesn't mean you should doubt them. They're really good and Bill Belichick might be coaching the best defense of his career. Through seven games, they have allowed 6.9 points per game, 223 yards per game, and have 22 takeaways. In all of those categories (and more), they rank #1 in the NFL. They've allowed three offensive touchdowns while scoring three on defense. This team is remarkable. Don't let lazy "they haven't played anyone" narratives fool you.
- With the Cincinnati Bengals leading the Jacksonville Jaguars 10-9, things went south for the 0-7 Bengals really fast. Quarterback Andy Dalton would go on to throw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. It truly feels like it's time to move on from Dalton in Cincinnati. Start the rebuild with a new face at the wheel.
- Oh, the Los Angeles Chargers. Prior to the season, they looked like a serious contender in the AFC West. Now they're 2-5. Last weekend, they were inches away from getting a win over the Tennessee Titans but Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball and the Chargers lost in disappointing fashion. They might not be a bad football team, but there are more issues with Anthony Lynn's team than just health issues. Even if they were completely healthy, this wouldn't be a great team.
Underdog of the Week: Baltimore Ravens
The Seattle Seahawks were 3-point favorites last week against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defeated the Seahawks on the road - which isn't easy in Seattle - 30-16. Lamar Jackson was impressive on the ground as he racked up 116 yards in 14 carries. The guy is special and it's the first time this season when the Ravens have convinced me they're a good team. I had my doubts, but they're gone now.
Player of the Week: QB Aaron Rodgers, GB Packers
This might've been Rodgers' first "elite" performance of the season. Against a bad Oakland Raiders' defense, Rodgers did a fantastic job throwing the football. He completed 25 out of 31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. He was great. Although the Green Bay Packers are 6-1, they're one of those teams that still have a lot to prove. Rodgers having such a good game is a step in the right direction.
College Football Corner: Down Goes Wisconsin
Sooner or later, the Wisconsin Badgers were supposed to fall. They're a good football team and they ranked #6 prior to last week, but they weren't likely to survive a game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes next Saturday. However, their first loss of the season arrived very unexpectedly. As a 31-point underdogs (yes, you read that right), Illinois defeated Wisconsin on a walk-off game winning field goal.
Illinois pulls off the BIGGEST upset of the season over No. 6 Wisconsin! #SCtop10 https://t.co/z3lmx1H7kK
Just like that, Wisconsin's playoff hopes are completely gone. It's tough to see, but it's what makes college football beautiful. The surprises never stop.
Will Cowboys Bring Back Anyone From Injured Reserve After Week 8?
After thoroughly dominating the Philadelphia Eagles and claiming sole possession of the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys are officially on their bye week. It couldn't possibly come at a better time. Not only are there several players who need to get healthy, but it's the perfect time to reassess what's gone right and wrong thus far for them in 2019.
During the week off the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is going to be really busy. They need to reevaluate just about everything, which includes the current roster as it stands right now. Why? Well, not only is the trade deadline approaching quickly, but teams can also bring back players who have been on injured reserve after Week 8.
Per NFL rules, teams can bring back a total of two players who have spent the first eight weeks of the season on injured reserve. The Dallas Cowboys have designated players to return from IR in the past, but will they do so again this season?
When thinking about who the Cowboys might bring back from IR two names immediately popped into my head, Wide Receiver Noah Brown and Offensive Guard Connor McGovern. After doing a little research though I discovered Noah Brown doesn't qualify because he's on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP), not IR. Let's talk a little about him before we discuss McGovern's 2019 fate.
Even though Noah Brown can't be designated to return from IR, the Dallas Cowboys still have to make a decision on his 2019 future pretty quickly as well. You see, players on the PUP list have until November 4 to start practicing and then the Cowboys would have three weeks to either activate or shut him down for the season.
Unfortunately, as recently as last week reports indicated Noah Brown isn't ready to practice due to a lingering knee injury. That doesn't bode well for him suiting up this season, meaning we could see him placed on IR at some point in the next few weeks.
That leaves Connor McGovern as the Dallas Cowboys most logical option to be designated to return from IR. With the Cowboys current offensive line depth on the roster right now it doesn't make much sense for them to add McGovern to the active roster, but the trade deadline could change all of that.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have three offensive lineman in the last year of their contracts (Joe Looney, Xavier Su'a Filo, and Adam Redmond). The Cowboys would surely take a call from any team showing an interest in trading for any one of the three, especially if they believe Connor McGovern is ready to step in as a replacement.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys make such a move. I think they will keep McGovern on IR and allow this to be a redshirt year of sorts for him. Of course, that could all change if the Cowboys become sellers before the trade deadline.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys bring back anybody from injured reserve?
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