It seems like just last week the 2020 NFL Season started. After the games this past week we are officially half way through the NFL season. Now that the trade deadline has past it is very clear the identity of each team this season. Some teams were extremely predictable in how they would preform this year and others have shocked us. There have been numerous takeaways and headlines that were produced in the last couple of weeks. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the first half of the NFL Season.
Adam Gase will not be fired midseason
As the weeks go on the media appears to be getting bored of the idea that the New York Jets will fire head coach Adam Gase midseason. Despite their 0-8 start, the only headlines about the team has to do with their quarterback situation going forward. The reason for this is that people are finally coming to the conclusion that Adam Gase will not be fired until the end of the 2020 season. General Manager Joe Douglas said in a press conference this past week that “Adam Gase is part of the solution.”. The media has joked that the only solution Gase is a part of is the one where he lands them the first overall pick. But Douglas has answered questions about Adam Gase and Sam Darnold like a professional and is instilling the belief that he will not reevaluate their job performances until after the season. Which despite popular belief, is the right decision.
The reason a team should fire a head coach this season is to see if another coach on the staff is capable of taking over the position full time. A prime example of a team experimenting with this is the Atlanta Falcons who have replaced Dan Quinn with Raheem Morris who is 2-1 since taking over the team. Many believe that Morris can become an NFL head coach again. Two examples of when a coach was hired after filling in an interm role is Dirk Koetter for the 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jason Garrett for the 2010 Dallas Cowboys. What the Jets lack is a coordinator or coach who shows the ability to be Gase’s replacement. Despite Gregg Williams success as a defensive coordinator he has his flaws that make him an unlikely candidate to become the teams next head coach.
Its no secret that the New York Jets need to bring in a new coaching staff and make some major personnel changes this offseason. But it doesn’t make much sense for Joe Douglas to do it midseason. Douglas has done the most that he could shipping out veteran players for day three draft picks and releasing Le’Veon Bell to get his salary off the books as soon as possible.
The NFL over-evaluated Justin Herbert
After his first six starts it is fair to say that the people who evaluated Justin Herbert during the predraft process owe him an apology. Despite being ranked between the mid teens to twenties on peoples big boards, Herbert had exceeded early expectations and has played fantastic. In all of his games this year Herbert either has over 300 yards passing or 3+ passing touchdowns. He also has a 15-5 touchdown to interception ratio which is great considering this is his first year in the league and it seemed unlikely that he would start as early as he did in the season.
Despite the Chargers record, Herbert has played extremely well and seems to be first or second in the offensive rookie of the year standings. He has shown to be legitimate and could develop into a superstar quarterback in this league. What happened during the predraft processes is that Herberts evaluators have already watched a ton of film on him considering he likely would have been the first or second quarterback selected when he was eligible to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Then when he didn’t play as great as he did the year prior scouts looked nitpicked his tape and made it seem like he was a borderline first round pick player, but was going to get selected there due to need at the position.
This mistake isn’t new, other quarterbacks who fell victim of this in recent years were Teddy Bridgewater, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson. All of which have played at a Pro Bowl level and have exceeded the expectations of scouts. They have also played much better than some of the quarterbacks taken before them. Herbert will likely be the next quarterback on that list to show that scouts were wrong on him initially during the predraft process.
New England and Jacksonville are as bad as we originally thought
After the first few weeks of the season two teams who seemed to be competitive and potentially wild card teams in the AFC are the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams looked like they were not going to completely fall a part this season like many expected them to but as the weeks went on they went on to show that the original prediction on how they would look and perform this season was true.
Both of New Englands wins versus the Dolphins and Raiders were gritty games that highlighted great defensive play and a strong running game. But the game that put them back on the map and had doubters apologizing was their performance versus the Seattle Seahawks Week 2, where the Patriots were a successful quarterback run away from upsetting Seattle on the road. During that game Cam Newton had 397 yards passing and three total touchdowns. But like Newton has done over the past couple of seasons, his play has regressed as the season went on. In his four starts since then Newton has averaged almost 148 passing yards a game and has a 1-6 (passing) touchdown to interception ratio. The Patriots have one of the worst passing offenses in the league combined with the regression from their elite defense from a year ago and the Patriots are 2-5. Every week that passes is another week they get closer to potentially being position to take Trey Lance or even Justin Fields.
The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 who many had thought was the favorites to win the division. After seeing how well the offense looked under Gardner Minshew the Jaguars looked like a potential wild card or .500 team. But the team has not won since Week 1and Minshew has not played great. He has not been super inaccurate and has made mistakes on what seem like easy plays for a franchise quarterback. On top of the insufficient offense, the teams young defense hasn’t reached their potential yet. Jacksonville seems like a lock to be picking in the top-5 next April.
Miami and New York (Giants) are better than we originally thought
Coming into the season many considered the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants to be two of teams that would easily be taken advantage of and experience multiple blowouts throughout the year. When the year first started neither team looked great. Now half way through the season the Dolphins and Giants look like competitive teams that could make lives harder for their opponent every week.
The Miami Dolphins were the team last season where if you bet on their opponent to win every time they played you would have turned a profit. The Dolphins seemed to be tanking for Tua Tagovailoa. Despite winning some games late last season the Dolphins ended up drafting Tagovailoa. But after adding multiple veteran players on both sides of the ball, the Dolphins have continued to play well from the end of last season and are one of the more competitive teams in the league. Throughout eight weeks the Dolphins the best scoring defense. They also rank second in the league in turnovers and tenth in the league in sacks. On the offensive side of the ball the offensive line looks improved and is part of the reason why Myles Gaskin has emerged as an NFL starting running back. The passing game looked great under Ryan Fitzpatrick and could take a slight dip with Tagovailoa under center, but they should still play at a high level. At 4-3 the Giants are very much in the playoff hunt this season.
The New York Giants may only have one win on the season but under first year head coach Joe Judge the team looks so much better than it did a season ago. The Giants have actually been competitive in their games this season. Only two of their losses have been by two possessions or more this year. The Giants have been in almost every single game they’ve played till the end. Their defense has been one of the better defenses in the league up to this point ranking thirteenth it total defense. The Giants are also twelfth in the league in turnovers and tied for seventh in the league in sacks. Their offense has been shaky Daniel Jones has to find a way to reduce his turnovers. But now that Sterling Shepard is healthy the Giants offense should play better from here on out. It is fair to say that if Saquon Barkley didn’t tear is ACL in Week 2 the Giants could have two or three wins at this point of the season.
Lamar Jackson has regressed as a passer
Last season Lamar Jackson was the second unanimous MVP in NFL History. He led the league in touchdown passes with 36, broke the all time single season rushing record for quarterbacks with 1,206 yards, and was major reason why the Ravens went 14-2 last season (won 12 straight). But this season Jackson has not been in the MVP conversation past his performance in Week 1. During the first game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, Jackson had 275 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns. Since then Jackson has averaged 178 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game. That his below his 208 passing yards and his 2.4 passing touchdowns he averaged a game last season.
Very much like most mobil quarterbacks who came before Jackson, the league has figured out how to keep him contained. Once he is contained he is easier to game plan against because of below average passing. If Jackson doesn’t grow as a passer and keeps relying heavily on his mobility and athleticism to get him by he could very end up like former MVP Cam Newton who was in a similar situation and now is a shell of the player he used to be now that his body is not what it once was. But if he continues to work on his passing and grows as a pocket quarterback and combines it with his rushing ability he could be as dominant as Russell Wilson or Michael Vick towards the end of his career with the Eagles. But right now the Ravens should have some concern about Lamar Jacksons long term future if this trend continues.
Carson Wentz turnovers will continue to make people uncomfortable, but he still finds a way to win
It seems like every Monday the most talked about quarterback around sports media platforms is Carson Wentz. The reason is that this season he has been a turnover machine. On the season Wentz has 12 interceptions and 7 fumbles throughout his first seven games. That is 19 total turnovers and 2.7 turnovers per game. He has played with a makeshift cast of players on offense after the injury bug hit the Eagles hard. But despite not having his expected starters some of the plays that Wentz makes that causes turnovers are head scratching and at times ridiculous.
When asked about the turnovers neither Wentz or head coach Doug Pederson think any changes are necessary because the Eagles keep finding ways to win. The part that is so hard to understand is despite the turnovers and terrible plays the reason why the are competitive in their losses are the great plays that Wentz makes. He has been on both sides of the spectrum either awful and trying overcompensate on plays or outstanding and makes plays that seemingly only the elite can make. It is boggling and so uncommon for a quarterback to be a gunslinger in todays game. What is meant by gunslinger is that Wentz looks for the big play more times than not because of his past he has had success with these plays however because he tries to make big plays he is more prone to make mistakes.
The Eagles taking a highly regarded quarterback prospect like Jalen Hurts in the second round doesn’t help the case for keeping Wentz in the lineup with all of his mistakes. But as long as the Eagles keep winning under Wentz they will not make a change at the position.
D.K. Metcalf is the next great wide receiver
Coming out of Ole Miss D.K. Metcalf was a physical specimen. Metcalf is 6’3″, 228 pounds, and can run a 4.33 forty. The biggest issue with Metcalf is that many thought he was too good to be true. Many thought a receiver that big and that fast was going to get hurt. They thought that his body type wouldn’t translate to consistent production in the NFL. Two years later Metcalf has people believing they over thought what type of player he is. Seattle got him with the 64th pick in the second round and it looks like a total steal.
In Metcalf’s first year in the league he quickly became the teams #2 receiver finishing the year with 900 yards on 58 catches and seven touchdowns. Throughout eight games this season Metcalf has 680 yards on 36 catches and 7 touchdowns. He leads the team in receiving yards and is tied with Tyler Lockett in receive touchdowns. Watching Metcalf play is unreal there is not much that could be done to stop him anywhere in the field. His combination of size and speed is seemingly unreal and at the young age of 22 he has so much time to develop. Right now there isn’t any other receiver as gifted as Metcalf that will join elite territory before he does.
Pittsburgh’s got the team to win it all this year
If a prediction was made for the record of a team who went 8-8 last season off of elite defensive play and little to no help from a very injured offense got healthy on the offensive side of the ball which means their two time Super Bowl champion quarterback returned to the team, that record would at least have double digit wins and could be one of the best in the league. Surprisingly not many believed the Steelers would be a playoff team this season. There were even those who though they could potentially have a worse season from the year prior. Those who believed the Steelers would be average, below average, or even above average are eating their words because right now they have the best team in the AFC.
Going through the Steelers offense they have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, James Conner running well at running back, three star wide receivers in Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and second round pick Chase Claypool, one of the leagues better tight ends Eric Ebron, one of the best offensive lines in football. On defense Pittsburgh has arguably the best edge rusher duo in the league T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. They have a great interior defensive line in Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu who is having a breakout year at nose tackle. Avery Williamson was just added to play in the middle next to Vince Williams since Devin Bush is out for the year with a torn ACL. Finally their secondary is made up for Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, former first round pick Terrell Edmunds, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Where is the weakness on this team? The crazy answer is Roethlisberger! This team does not have any major hole and at 7-0 it is hard to name many other teams in a position to win a Super Bowl this season.