1 Change Each NFL Team Must Make Moving Forward

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    Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

    Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season is underway. The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers kicked things off Thursday night, but the league’s other 30 teams are still making adjustments from their opening games.

    Week 1 didn’t go as expected for several franchises. Russell Wilson’s Denver Broncos lost in his return to Seattle. The Tennessee Titans, the AFC’s top seed last year, were upset by the New York Giants, and we saw a tie between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.

    No matter how teams fared in Week 1, each has an adjustment to make. It could be as simple as eliminating a repeated miscue or as dramatic as shaking up the depth chart.

    All aspects of a franchise—starting lineup, depth, coaching focus, strategy, etc.—are on the table, and teams are listed in alphabetical order.

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    Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    The Arizona Cardinals came out flat against the Chiefs, and that got them into a huge hole early. Kansas City scored on seven of its first nine possessions, and with a sluggish offense, the Cards had no hope of keeping up.

    Obviously, Arizona needs to improve defensively, but the new-look Chiefs offense will be a problem for plenty of teams. Offensively, the Cardinals need to do a better job of establishing the run and taking pressure off quarterback Kyler Murray.

    The Cardinals had just 44 rushing yards in the opening half and Arizona failed to find a first down on four of its eight possessions. For the game, Murray was under pressure on a ridiculous 64.9 percent of his dropbacks. The Chiefs took a 23-7 lead into halftime, and the game was essentially over then.

    With DeAndre Hopkins suspended and little offensive line help to be found on the free-agent market, the best way to make things easier for Murray is to field a stronger rushing attack. To do that, Arizona should utilize Eno Benjamin more frequently.

    The third-year back led Arizona with a 7.0 yards-per-carry average, but he only logged four runs. Starter James Conner, meanwhile, averaged just 2.6 yards per rush on 10 attempts. This is where we point out that while Conner was a Pro Bowler in 2021, he averaged a modest 3.7 yards per rush.

    Benjamin, who also caught three passes for 33 yards, played just 34 percent of the snaps. That’s not enough when Connor is struggling.

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    Falcons QB Marcus Mariota (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

    The Atlanta Falcons have likely spent much of this week working on red-zone drills—and they should. Better execution in scoring range has to be a goal heading into Week 2.

    The Falcons had an opportunity to blow out the rival New Orleans Saints last Sunday, and for a while, it appeared they would. Atlanta took a 23-10 lead into the fourth quarter and then collapsed.

    The Saints found new life in the final period by utilizing a more uptempo offense. Atlanta, meanwhile, stalled far too often. New Orleans went on a 17-3 run to snatch a one-point victory. However, the Falcons’ lead might have been insurmountable with more efficient play in and just outside the red zone.

    In the first half, Atlanta settled for field goals from the New Orleans 35-, 32- and 22-yard lines. In the third quarter, quarterback Marcus Mariota fumbled at the Saints’ 5-yard line. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta marched to the New Orleans 9-yard line but settled for a Younghoe Koo 27-yard field goal.

    Had any one of these five possessions ended in a touchdown, there’s a good chance Atlanta would be sitting at 1-0. If the Falcons don’t do a better job of playing efficiently in opposing territory this week against the Los Angeles Rams, they’ll be sitting at 0-2.

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    Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Plenty of teams struggled with slow starts in Week 1, which is likely a product of resting starters in the preseason. The Baltimore Ravens were no different, though they did go on to dominate the New York Jets 24-9.

    However, the offense was not clicking early, as the Ravens mustered a mere 10 points in six first-half possessions—they had a seventh but took over with 24 seconds and ran a single play.

    Despite outscoring New York 10-3, Baltimore was outgained 172 yards to 92 in the first half. While the Jets managed 10 first downs, the Ravens had only five. Against a better team, the Ravens could easily have found themselves in a big halftime hole.

    Baltimore will have to figure out a way to start faster against the Miami Dolphins and beyond. That could mean getting more out of the ground game, which produced a mere 63 yards last Sunday—and getting J.K. Dobbins back in practice this week after he missed last year with a knee injury is a tremendous first step.

    It could mean making an earlier deep connection between Lamar Jackson and wideout wideout Rashod Bateman. While Bateman had just one catch for four yards in the first half, he burned the Jets defense with a 55-yard touchdown reception in the second.

    It could mean more designed runs for Jackson, who only rushed six times against New York.

    One way or another, though, offensive coordinator Greg Roman must find a way to get his unit off to a better start. Holding opponents to fewer than 10 points won’t be a weekly occurrence.

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    Bills RB Devin Singletary (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

    The Buffalo Bills dominated the defending-champion Rams to open the 2021 season. Almost everything clicked for Buffalo en route to a 31-10 victory, and to be fair, we’re nitpicking a bit.

    However, it would be wise for the Bills to find a little more balance on offense. Quarterback Josh Allen is an elite signal-caller, and the attack should run through him. However, if Buffalo wants to keep opponents guessing, it shouldn’t be quite as pass-heavy as it was in Week 1.

    Allen attempted 31 passes against Los Angeles and carried the ball 10 times. Buffalo’s trio of running backs—Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and James Cook—logged a mere 15 carries combined.

    And it’s not as if the running game, specifically with Singletary, was ineffective. The fourth-year back averaged six yards per carry. Moss and Cook were less effective and each lost a fumble.

    Singletary deserves to be Buffalo’s lead back, and it would behoove offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to lean on him a little bit more to help ensure that Allen doesn’t always have to carry the offense alone.

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    Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

    Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the NFL’s best when healthy. Despite appearing in only seven games last season because of hamstring and ankle injuries, he logged 442 rushing yards, 343 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

    In Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, though, McCaffrey wasn’t the centerpiece of the Panthers offense. He had 10 carries for a mere 33 yards and caught four passes for 24. He did have a touchdown run and turned a botched snap into a heads-up 28-yard gain. However, he wasn’t heavily utilized.

    This wasn’t entirely surprising. McCaffrey was making his return after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, and this was his first game with new quarterback Baker Mayfield. Moving forward, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo must ensure that McCaffrey is the focal point of the offense.

    Mayfield is an upgrade over Sam Darnold. However, he proved against his former team that he’s still learning the offense and building chemistry. Mayfield did enough in the second half to give Carolina a late lead, but he got off to a rocky start (10-of-19 for 101 yards and an interception in the first half).

    Allowing the offense to run through McCaffrey with Mayfield serving as a high-end game manager will give the Panthers a better chance to succeed as the quarterback continues adjusting to his new home.

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    Bears TE Cole Kmet (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    The Chicago Bears secured the upset over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but it wasn’t a pretty game. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields was extremely inconsistent and struggled outside of a couple of long touchdown passes.

    Fields delivered 18- and 51-yard touchdowns strikes, but he also finished just 8-of-17 for 171 yards, an interception and the two scores. Chicago was just 5-of-14 on third down and picked up a mere four first downs through the air.

    If the Bears are going to get more consistent play out of Fields—and keep the chains moving via the pass—tight end Cole Kmet should be one of the QB’s go-to outlet options. Kmet, who had 60 receptions and 612 yards last season, appeared to be developing some preseason chemistry with Fields.

    “It’s growing,” Kmet said of his rapport with the quarterback, per Larry Mayer of the team’s official website. “… I’m excited about where it’s at.”

    Against the 49ers, though, Kmet logged just a single target and didn’t have a catch. Granted, the field in Chicago was sloppy, and the Bears didn’t use a pass-heavy approach. However, they need to ensure that Fields is regularly looking in his tight end’s direction, beginning this Sunday night against the rival Green Bay Packers.

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    Bengals QB Joe Burrow (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The term “conservative” and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow might not seem to go together. He helped Cincinnati reach Super Bowl LVI by making aggressive throws and attacking all areas of the field. His connection with wideout Ja’Marr Chase became one of the most indefensible in the league last season.

    However, Burrow’s desire to find the big play does sometimes lead to mistakes. He tossed 14 interceptions last season and was sacked a league-high 51 times. Many of those sacks were caused by bad offensive line play, but Burrow needs to learn to get the ball out more quickly.

    His mistakes cost the Bengals against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. Yes, a blocked extra point sent the game to overtime, but Cincinnati would never have been in that position if not for Burrow’s five turnovers (4 interceptions, 1 fumble).

    Burrow played well enough in the second half to give Cincinnati a shot, but he hurt his team by giving the ball to the opposition and taking seven sacks. For the time being, Cincinnati needs to focus on having him make safer throws.

    Cincinnati has four new starters along its offensive line, including rookie guard Cordell Volson. He was responsible for two of the seven sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The new-look line will need time to jell, and until it does, the Bengals must take a more conservative approach.

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    Browns RB Demetric Felton Jr. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    The Cleveland Browns tried to improve their return game in the offseason, signing former Pro Bowler Jakeem Grant Sr. Unfortunately, Grant was lost for the season to a torn Achilles over the summer, which left Cleveland scrambling for a new return specialist.

    The team settled on second-year running back Demetric Felton Jr., who returned 32 punts last season.

    “I think we’ll be OK. He’s seen more football now than he did last year,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said of Felton before Week 1, per Browns staff writer Anthony Poisal.

    Felton’s first 2022 outing as the return man was incredibly dicey. He caught one punt in heavy traffic without signaling for a fair catch and muffed another—though the Browns did recover. On the day he averaged just 5.8 yards per return.

    Cleveland needs reliability on special teams. While the Browns have a talented roster, they can ill afford special teams turnovers. Felton didn’t commit any against Carolina, but he was uncomfortably close.

    Recent practice squad addition Chester Rogers, who averaged 9.8 yards per punt return last season, seems like a prime candidate to replace Felton.

    The Browns should also consider giving Donovan Peoples-Jones, who returned 12 punts last season, a crack at the role or look to sign a player with return experience. Tavon Austin, for example, resides on the Bills’ practice squad and has 190 career punt returns and three return touchdowns.

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    Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    The Dallas Cowboys have no choice but to make a change at quarterback. Starter Dak Prescott suffered a thumb injury in Week 1 that required surgery. He’s likely to miss a minimum of four weeks, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

    In the meantime, Dallas will roll with Cooper Rush at quarterback and Will Grier as the backup. However, it would behoove the Cowboys to add another signal-caller. Rush is 1-0 as a starter and may be serviceable, but Grier is not an enticing insurance option. He’s gone 0-2 as a starter and has a career 33.2 passer rating. If Rush goes down, Dallas will be in serious trouble.

    The Cowboys are at least considering external options.

    “I got a list here of every quarterback in the league,” coach Mike McCarthy said, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s going to be a long conversation.”

    That conversation should include former Cowboys backup Ben DiNucci and journeyman Josh Johnson. The latter, for what it’s worth, posted a respectable 99.0 quarterback rating in four games with the Ravens and Jets last season.

    The reality is that Dallas needs to ensure it can survive without Prescott for the foreseeable future. The Cowboys are already in a hole after dropping the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rush is Dallas’ best in-house option, but another quarterback injury could have the team out of the playoff mix by the time Prescott returns.

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    Broncos QB Russell Wilson (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    The Denver Broncos saw Russell Wilson’s debut spoiled against his former team, the Seattle Seahawks. Plenty went wrong in the game, including two drives that ended in fumbles at or near the Seattle goal line.

    The Broncos’ biggest mistake, though, was a decision made by new head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

    With Denver down a point and facing a 4th-and-5 from the Seattle 46-yard line, the Broncos needed just one play to pick up a first down and potentially drive for the game-winning field goal. There was roughly a minute remaining, and Denver had all three of its timeouts.

    Instead of trusting Wilson to make that one critical play, Hackett ran the clock down to 20 seconds and had his team attempt a 64-yard field goal—the NFL record, for context, is 66 yards. Unsurprisingly, Brandon McManus’ attempt was no good, and Seattle won.

    This was not the time to question Wilson’s ability. The 33-year-old wasn’t perfect Monday night, but he helped deliver a field goal on the previous drive and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.

    The Broncos spent a boatload of capital—including two first-round and two second-round picks—to get Wilson. Why take the ball out of his hands with the game on the line in favor of a near-record field-goal attempt?

    Wilson has 24 fourth-quarter comebacks and 32 game-winning drives. The Broncos have to trust him more in the biggest moments.

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    Lions RB D’Andre Swift (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

    It’s hard for Detroit Lions fans to be too unhappy with the team’s performance in Week 1. While the Lions didn’t knock off the Philadelphia Eagles, they went toe-to-toe with a playoff-caliber team and nearly pulled off the upset.

    The Eagles, who escaped with a 38-35 victory, were a terrific early measuring stick for Detroit. A Lions team that won only three games in 2021 appears poised to win many more this season.

    Moving forward, the Lions need to do a better job of putting the ball into the hands of running back D’Andre Swift. The third-year standout was electric against Philadelphia, finishing with 144 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards and a touchdown.

    However, Swift wasn’t utilized as much as he could have been. Despite playing 67 percent of the offensive snaps, he saw a mere 15 carries. This is likely because Swift was playing through an ankle injury.

    Swift, though, said that the injury is “not at all” something to worry about, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

    Once he’s back to 100 percent, of course—the Lions need to let the offense flow through Swift. Detroit has a great complementary back in Jamaal Williams, but Swift is the more explosive runner and the sort of back who can take over a ballgame.

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    Packers CB Jaire Alexander (David Berding/Getty Images)

    The Green Bay Packers fell flat against the rival Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. The game rarely felt as close as the 23-7 final score might indicate, and two glaring problems were present.

    For one, Aaron Rodgers seemed to have zero chemistry with his new-look receiving corps. That’s probably a product of him not participating in the preseason and will work itself out.

    Defensively, though, the Packers had no answers for Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson, who finished with nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Green Bay stubbornly stayed in zone coverage and too often allowed Jefferson to line up away from star cornerback Jaire Alexander.

    The defender asked to be matched up with Jefferson prior to the game, according to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman.

    “But it ain’t about me,” Alexander said, per Schneidman.

    The Packers need to make it more about Alexander and have him consistently match up with the opposition’s top receiver. He’s one of the league’s premier cover corners, and Green Bay isn’t getting the most out of him by playing predominantly in zone.

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    Texans coach Lovie Smith (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    The Houston Texans avoided a loss in Week 1, but they didn’t get a win out of the deal. Instead, they tied the rival Indianapolis Colts to start the season 0-0-1.

    Houston, though, had a chance to steal the win late following a missed Colts field goal in overtime. The Texans drove to the Indianapolis 49-yard line and then chose to punt on 4th-and-3 with just 26 seconds remaining.

    The Texans even had a timeout remaining. Instead of trying to win, though, Houston played for the tie.

    “I felt like a tie was better than a potential loss. Defensively, we weren’t really stopping them an awful lot at the end,” head coach Lovie Smith said after the game, per Jonathan M. Alexander of the Houston Chronicle.

    While it’s true that Houston’s defense was on the field a lot—the Colts held the ball for more than 39 minutes—and wore down in the second half, this was a bad decision for a rebuilding team. By punting, Smith basically admitted he doesn’t trust his offense to pick up three yards or trust his defense to get a stop.

    The Texans are unlikely to push for the postseason in 2022, and this season should be about building for the future and establishing confidence. The next time the Texans have an opportunity to steal a game, they need to take it.

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    Colts QB Matt Ryan (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    The Indianapolis Colts already made one big change following their Week 1 tie with the division-rival Texans. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was released after he missed a 42-yard field goal in overtime.

    The next tweak Indianapolis needs to make is a minor one, but it’s important. The Colts must ensure that new quarterback Matt Ryan takes better care of the football. He threw one interception and fumbled four times, losing one of them.

    Ryan’s two turnovers came in Texans territory. The pick came when the Colts were at the Texans’ 22-yard line, while the botched snap led to a turnover from the Houston 40.

    Efficiency in opposing territory was a problem throughout the game. The Colts turned it over on downs from the Houston 2-yard line and settled for a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. However, the two turnovers potentially took points off the board for Indy, and both led to Texans touchdowns.

    If Ryan is to be an upgrade over departed quarterback Carson Wentz, he needs to protect the football better. That means working on his chemistry with the Colts receivers and working on his exchanges with center Ryan Kelly.

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    Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

    The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t win a game until Week 6 last season, and they only won three of them. Yet, Jacksonville nearly started 2022 at 1-0 after a close game with the Washington Commanders.

    They had a fourth-quarter lead, but key mistakes sank their hopes. One drive into Washington territory stalled when Trevor Lawrence was sacked for a six-yard loss. The Commanders scored a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession, and Lawrence threw a pick on the following drive.

    This is a much better Jacksonville team than we saw in 2021, but Lawrence is young and still developing. Head coach Doug Pederson can make life a whole lot easier for the second-year signal-caller by getting Travis Etienne Jr. more involved.

    Etienne missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury but flashed his potential in Week 1. He averaged an absurd 11.8 yards per carry and 9.0 yards per reception. But despite playing 51 percent of the offensive snaps, Etienne logged only four carries and two receptions (on four targets).

    Lawrence, who played with Etienne at Clemson, should feel comfortable having the 23-year-old as an outlet option. Etienne had 914 rushing yards, 588 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his final year with the Tigers and is a legitimate dual threat who should be more than just a change of pace behind James Robinson.

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    Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Pretty much everything went right for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. The offense racked up 488 yards, the defense smothered Kyler Murray, and Patrick Mahomes proved he’s still an elite quarterback without Tyreek Hill.

    Kansas City played one of the cleanest games of Week 1, looking sharp on both sides of the ball and committing only four penalties during the 44-21 blowout of Arizona.

    The only concern coming out of the contest is Kansas City’s ball security.

    Though they only lost one of them, the Chiefs fumbled an unsettling five times. Mahomes, backup Chad Henne, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and JuJu Smith-Schuster all lost hold of the football, with Smith-Schuster fumbling twice and yielding a turnover.

    Against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, Mahomes had multiple poor throws that easily could have been picked off—and he had two interceptions called back, one after a penalty and the other after a replay review.

    It’s not unfair to say that Mahomes was bailed out a few times against Los Angeles.

    Turnovers will eventually cost the Chiefs, and Kansas City was fortunate to not have more turnovers over the first two weeks. Andy Reid and the coaching staff must put a little extra emphasis on ball security.

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    Raiders QB Derek Carr (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    The Las Vegas Raiders played a tight game against the rival Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. Las Vegas trailed 17-3 at the half but surged after the break to lose by a mere five points. If not for some critical mistakes by quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders might have emerged victorious.

    He threw three interceptions and fumbled twice, though Las Vegas retained possession on both fumbles. Two of his interceptions came in the fourth quarter, when Carr was clearly pressing.

    “That’s on me, the decisions to be too aggressive in certain moments,” Carr told reporters after the game.

    With former Fresno State teammate and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams in the fold, Carr’s desire to be aggressive is understandable. Adams, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller form a dangerous receiving trio, but Carr can’t force passes and expect to be successful.

    The Raiders can afford to punt and try again. They cannot afford multiple turnovers in critical divisional matchups.

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    Chargers RB Sony Michel (Harry How/Getty Images)

    The Los Angeles Chargers fared relatively well on both sides of the ball against Las Vegas. Justin Herbert was brilliant passing the ball (279 yards, 3 TD) and didn’t take a sack. The defense pressured Derek Carr early and often and forced him into critical mistakes.

    The running game, however, was underwhelming and finished with just 76 yards and 2.5 yards per carry.

    The Chargers, it seemed, relied a little too heavily on recent addition Sony Michel. He averaged a paltry 1.7 yards per attempt. While none of Los Angeles’ running backs were especially efficient in Week 1, Michel did nothing to suggest he deserved 12 carries.

    Los Angeles added Michel as another rushing complement to dual-threat starter Austin Ekeler. However, returning back Joshua Kelley was the more effective ball-carrier in Week 1. While he only logged four carries, he broke a 12-yard run and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

    The trend continued in Week 2 against the Chiefs. While Michel only logged four carries, he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Kelley (5.5 yards per carry) was again the better rushing complement.

    The story of Thursday night was Justin Herbert’s late pick-six in the red zone that sunk the Chargers’ chances. However, it was a great defensive play by Jaylen Watson and not the result of a mistake-prone tendency by Herbert.

    Michel’s lack of consistency and explosiveness is a detriment to the offense and something the Los Angeles can easily fix. The Chargers simply need to eliminate Michel from the rotation.

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    Rams WR Allen Robinson II (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    The Los Angeles Rams offense was a major disappointment in Week 1. Cooper Kupp was spectacular, as per usual, finishing with 13 catches, 128 yards and a touchdown. However, the rest of the offense was out of rhythm for most of the game.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a disaster of a night and was particularly ineffective when targeting receivers not named Kupp. While he caught 13 of 15 targets, the rest of L.A.’s receiving corps caught just 16 of 26 targets.

    Stafford tossed three interceptions and was sacked seven times. If coach Sean McVay hopes to get better results from his quarterback, he needs to find Stafford a reliable No. 2 target.

    This is where Allen Robinson II comes in. He was supposed to be the new No. 2 target, yet Stafford rarely looked in his direction. The prized free-agent acquisition was only targeted twice and finished with one catch for 12 yards.

    McVay and Stafford need to get Robinson more involved. Otherwise, opposing defenses will focus solely on containing Kupp and making things difficult for Stafford—at least until Van Jefferson is fully back from offseason knee surgery.

    The offensive line isn’t great, and their running game (2.9 yards per carry in Week 1) is potentially problematic. So Stafford needs to be able to get the ball out quickly. That will be easier if Robinson, who had 1,250 receiving yards just two years ago, can become a go-to option.

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    Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki (Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

    It was fair to believe that new Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel would make a star out of tight end Mike Gesicki. The Dolphins’ franchise-tagged pass-catcher was coming off back-to-back 700-plus-yard seasons, and McDaniel oversaw an elite tight end in George Kittle with the San Francisco 49ers.

    However, Gesicki saw little action in Week 1 against the rival New England Patriots. He played just 42 percent of the offensive snaps and finished with one target and one reception.

    McDaniel needs to get Gesicki more involved in the passing game immediately.

    Now, the Dolphins offense was mostly fine against the Patriots. Miami tallied 307 yards, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a respectable 23-of-33 for 270 yards and a touchdown. However, Miami wasn’t particularly efficient on third down (6-of-14) and tallied a mere three second-half points.

    This game was won with defense and because of New England’s offensive miscues. Winning with 20 points will be a stiffer challenge against upcoming opponents such as the Ravens and Bills.

    The offense needs a boost, and Gesicki can provide it. He had 73 receptions and 780 yards last season, and while Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are a great receiver tandem, there’s room for Gesicki.

    Perhaps this was a matchup-specific decision on McDaniel’s part, and the Dolphins did win. Moving forward, though, they need to send a few balls Gesicki’s way.

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    Vikings LB Jordan Hicks (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    The Minnesota Vikings’ bend-but-don’t-break defensive style worked against the Packers in Week 1. The team surrendered 338 yards and 21 first downs but only allowed seven points.

    Moving forward, however, and especially this week against the Eagles, Minnesota will need to clamp down on the run.

    The Packers tallied 111 rushing yards last Sunday, and starting back Aaron Jones averaged an impressive 9.8 yards per carry. If the Vikings allow that sort of efficiency against Philadelphia, they likely won’t win.

    The Eagles racked up 216 rushing yards against the Lions in Week 1 and had three different players—Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Jalen Hurts—average at least four yards per carry. The Eagles also had the league’s top-ranked rushing offense last season and scored a league-high 25 rushing touchdowns.

    Minnesota must play a tighter style of defense against the run in Week 2.

    And Philadelphia is far from the only strong running team that Minnesota will see this season. The Lions and running back D’Andre Swift (144 rushing yards in Week 1) are on the docket for Week 3.

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    Patriots RB Damien Harris (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Plenty of questions surrounded the New England Patriots offense and new play-caller Matt Patricia heading into Week 1. He was an offensive assistant in 2004 and 2005 but spent the bulk of his Patriots career on the defensive side.

    After a stint as the Lions head coach, he returned in 2020 as an offensive line coach and took over play-calling (along with head coach Bill Belichick) this year in the wake of Josh McDaniels’ departure.

    The Week 1 game plan left plenty to be desired. New England tallied 271 yards and 17 first downs but put a measly seven points on the board. Quarterback Mac Jones also committed two turnovers, and four drives ended in Dolphins territory without points.

    The one thing that worked well was running the ball via Damien Harris. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, though he only got nine opportunities. Against the Steelers and beyond, Harris must be a bigger focal point.

    Jones became a bit mistake-prone down the stretch last season, and his turnover problems continued into Week 1. In his last six games, including playoffs, Jones has tossed eight interceptions and lost three fumbles. He’ll next face a Steelers defense that forced Joe Burrow into five Week 1 turnovers.

    New England needs to take the ball out of Jones’ hands as much as possible, and it should place it into the hands of the back who logged 15 rushing touchdowns in 15 games last season.

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    Saints QB Jameis Winston (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Very little went right for the New Orleans Saints in the first three quarters against Atlanta. They mustered a mere 10 points, and quarterback Jameis Winston was frequently under pressure. For the game, he was under pressure on 25 percent of his dropbacks.

    In the fourth quarter, however, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael went with a more uptempo offense, and the transition was notable. It allowed Winston to get into a rhythm with his receivers and put the Falcons pass rush on its heels

    “He took a beating for three quarters against a Falcons rush that piled up four sacks and sent Jameis to the tent,” NFL.com’s Marc Sessler wrote. “Then Winston turned electric,
    hitting 11 of 12 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns on
    back-to-back, fourth-quarter marches that brought the Saints within two
    points of Atlanta.”

    Carmichael should continue utilizing a faster-paced offense for a couple of reasons. First, it helped put points on the board. New Orleans scored on all three of its fourth-quarter possessions.

    Second, the Saints offensive line did a better job keeping a clean pocket with the faster pace. For any quarterback—especially one returning from a torn ACL—better protection is always desirable.

    New Orleans shouldn’t go uptempo every possession, of course, because the goal will be to keep opponents off balance. However, the Saints shouldn’t wait until they’re trailing to sprinkle it in either.

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    Giants QB Daniel Jones (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    The New York Giants stole a win over the Titans when new head coach Brian Daboll made a gutsy fourth-quarter decision. The Giants scored a potential game-tying touchdown with just over a minute remaining, but Daboll opted to go for two points and the win instead of an extra point and the tie.

    Saquon Barkley took a shovel pass into the end zone to give the Giants the lead.

    Yes, the Giants were fortunate that Tennessee missed the go-ahead field goal with time expiring, but you can bet that they are thrilled to be 1-0. If they’re going to string together wins, though, they need to play a more efficient brand of football.

    The Giants were a pitiful 2-of-10 on third down against the Titans. That rate must be elevated if New York hopes to remain relevant in the playoff race.

    Daboll has already shown he’s willing to take an unconventional approach to game management. He needs to continue that trend by dialing up more designed runs for quarterback Daniel Jones. This is a tactic that he regularly used with Josh Allen and the Bills.

    Jones isn’t Allen, of course, but he’s a capable ball-carrier. He’s averaged 5.8 yards per carry for his career and averaged 4.2 yards per carry against the Titans. Yet, Jones only rushed six times. He scrambled twice on third down and picked up a first down on a 4th-and-1 run.

    By utilizing Jones more often as a runner—and not only on third down—Daboll can give opposing defenses a lot more to think about when Jones does line up in critical down-and-distance situations. Misdirection runs and run-pass options will be much more effective if the threat of a scrambling quarterback is real.

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    Jets RB Michael Carter (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Zach Wilson (knee) returned to practice this week, but the New York Jets aren’t expected to start the second-year quarterback until at least Week 4.

    In the interim, New York needs to lean on its ground game instead of quarterback Joe Flacco. The 37-year-old isn’t the rocket-armed signal-caller he once was, and he’s always been among the league’s least mobile quarterbacks.

    Flacco passed for 309 yards against Baltimore in Week 1, but it took him a whopping 59 attempts to reach that total. His lack of mobility is also concerning, especially with left tackle Duane Brown on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and Mekhi Becton on season-ending IR because of knee setback.

    Against the Ravens, Flacco was under pressure on 25.8 percent of his dropbacks.

    The Jets averaged a solid 4.9 yards per carry against Baltimore, and that’s with Flacco notching one carry for zero yards. Michael Carter led with 60 yards on 10 attempts, while rookie Breece Hall added 23 yards on six carries.

    And that’s all the Jets ran last Sunday: 16 carries by running backs and 59 passing attempts by Flacco. That sort of game plan won’t work often, and it’s certainly not going to work this week against the Browns, Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

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    Eagles WR DeVonta Smith (Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the Lions 38-35, and they need to execute better on defense, especially against the run. However, Philadelphia fielded a defense that ranked 10th in yards allowed last season, and it should be OK on that side of the ball.

    The biggest change should come on the other side, where DeVonta Smith seemingly disappeared. The second-year wideout was targeted four times but finished without a single reception.

    Smith’s absence wasn’t glaring because Philadelphia was incredible offensively (455 total yards) and got a huge day from new receiver A.J. Brown (10 catches, 155 yards). However, Smith is a playmaker and needs to be an offensive focal point.

    As a rookie last season, he caught 64 passes for 916 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles know they need to get him involved.

    “We have to (involve him) because you never want to be one-dimensional and let them say, ‘Hey, we are taking this away or taking that away,'” head coach Nick Sirianni said, per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

    Having one dominant receiver in Brown is great, but the Eagles offense can be a nightmare if Hurts is clicking with Brown and Smith.

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    Steelers LB Malik Reed (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

    This change is one the Pittsburgh Steelers must make out of necessity. They lost star pass-rusher T.J. Watt to a torn pectoral in Week 1. The good news is that the injury won’t require surgery, and Watt is expected to only miss six weeks, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

    The bad news is that Pittsburgh will still have to play the next six weeks without its best defender.

    To help replace Watt in the interim, Pittsburgh needs to give more playing time to recently acquired linebacker Malik Reed. The Steelers added Reed around the August 30 cut deadline, so it’s understandable that he only saw 32 percent of the defensive snaps in the opener. However, Pittsburgh must get him up to speed and in the pass-rushing rotation as soon as possible.

    Over the last two seasons in Denver, Reed was a fine complementary rusher. In 2020 and 2021, he logged a combined 13 sacks and 55 quarterback pressures. He’s not going to replace Watt’s production on his own, but he can help Pittsburgh navigate Watt’s injury.

    A pass rush that features Reed, Alex Highsmith and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward will still make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. It will at least help keep Pittsburgh in the playoff mix while Watt recovers.

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    49ers coach Kyle Shanahan (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Trey Lance’s 2022 debut left plenty to be desired. He fared well running the ball, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. However, he finished just 13-of-28 passing for 164 yards and an interception.

    Could the 49ers make a quarterback change and go back to Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting signal-caller? Perhaps, but they probably won’t do it anytime soon. The 49ers handed the reins to second-year man Lance early in the offseason and should give him a large chunk of the season to prove himself.

    Instead of a switch, head coach Kyle Shanahan needs to focus on the fundamentals and find a way to increase his team’s discipline. Against Chicago, there was very little of it.

    San Francisco was flagged an unacceptable 12 times. Those penalties yielded 99 yards to the opposition and led to five Chicago first downs. It’s hard for any team to win when making mistakes at such a high rate.

    For a team with a quarterback who is still learning the position—Lance has made three pro starts and appeared in only 19 collegiate games—repeated penalties could make winning virtually impossible. Beginning this week against the rival Seahawks, the 49ers have to play cleaner football.

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    Seahawks S Jamal Adams (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

    The Seattle Seahawks capped Week 1 with an upset win over their former quarterback Russell Wilson and the Broncos. Seattle should feel good about getting the win and a solid performance from quarterback Geno Smith (195 yards, 2 TDs, 119.5 rating).

    What the Seahawks won’t feel good about is losing standout safety Jamal Adams to a quadriceps injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

    With Adams out, the Seahawks need to add some safety insurance. Ryan Neal and Josh Jones are likely to enter the rotation along with starter Quandre Diggs. However, Seattle could use another experienced veteran.

    Jones only started one game in 2021 and is with his fifth team in six years. Neal allowed a disastrous 138.0 opposing passer rating in coverage last season.

    The free-agent market isn’t loaded, but notable names such as Landon Collins and Jaquiski Tartt are available. Losing Adams is a massive defensive blow, and Seattle cannot let a secondary that allowed 330 net passing yards in the opener to become an even bigger weakness.

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    Buccaneers TE Kyle Rudolph (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers performed well against the Cowboys in Week 1, finishing with a dominant 19-3 victory. The game could have been even more lopsided, though, if so many scoring drives hadn’t stalled and resulted in field goals.

    We likely would have seen more Buccaneers touchdowns if tight end Rob Gronkowski hadn’t retired in the offseason, and you can bet that Tom Brady misses his favorite target. With Gronkowski out, tight ends were barely a factor in the game.

    Cameron Brate was targeted three times but had just one catch for seven yards. Kyle Rudolph was a healthy scratch. Tampa needs to find a way to fit Rudolph into the active lineup because he can be a contributing pass-catcher.

    The 11-year veteran has two Pro Bowls and 479 receptions on his resume. While he may not be the playmaker he was earlier in his career, he’s still a fine complementary option. He had 26 receptions for 257 yards and a touchdown with the Giants last season while sharing the load with Evan Engram.

    Having another outlet option at tight end should help Brady be more efficient in the red zone. Rudolph will also give the QB another proven target while wideout Chris Godwin recovers from the hamstring injury he sustained in the opener.

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    Titans RB Derrick Henry (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    You can bet that Tennessee Titans fans aren’t happy about the Week 1 loss to the Giants. Tennessee was the AFC’s No. 1 seed last season, while New York hadn’t had a winning record since 2016.

    It was a close game, though, and it came down to the narrowest of margins. Randy Bullock’s missed 47-yard attempt at the end of regulation will haunt fans for a while.

    However, Tennessee might have been able to control this game if it had simply handed off to Derrick Henry more frequently in short-yardage situations. Henry averaged a modest 3.9 yards per carry against New York, but he was still underutilized on third down.

    One critical 3rd-and-1 came at the start of the third quarter. Instead of calling a simple run, offensive coordinator Todd Downing called for a direct snap. Henry fumbled and was tackled for a loss. On the next Titans drive, Ryan Tannehill threw an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-2.

    In the fourth quarter, Tennessee faced another 3rd-and-1 and ran an end-around with tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo instead of running Henry up the middle.

    Had Tennessee extended any of these three drives, it may have well won. New York scored a touchdown and the go-ahead two-point conversions with just over a minute remaining.

    Tennessee must stay with simplicity and just give the ball to Henry on 3rd-and-short.

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    Commanders QB Carson Wentz (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    OK, so every team should place a priority on ball security. However, great teams—and specifically those with elite quarterbacks—can live with a turnover or two. The Bills, for example, will tolerate the occasional Josh Allen pick because his aggressive style is part of his greatness.

    The Commanders, however, are not the Bills, and Carson Wentz is not Allen. Yes, Wentz delivered the go-ahead touchdown late and had two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. However, he also had two interceptions that led directly to 10 Jaguars points in the fourth quarter.

    The Commanders are willing to take Wentz’s ups and downs.

    “We’re going to ride with him, we’ll go with the good, we’ll go with the bad,” head coach Ron Rivera said, per ESPN’s John Keim.

    This is the wrong approach with a quarterback who sank Indianapolis’ playoff chances with too much bad over the final two weeks (333 yards, 2 TDs, 2 turnovers) last season. If Washington hopes to win consistently, Wentz has to be more careful with the football.

    With all due respect to a Jags team that appears better than last season’s three-win squad, Jacksonville is unlikely to be a playoff contender. Bouncing back from critical miscues will be much tougher against upcoming opponents such as the Eagles, Titans, Packers and Colts.


    Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

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