With the first quarter of the 2015 NFL season in the books, here are some of my takeaway thoughts after Week 4:
1. Too many Mediocre Kickers in the NFL.
The bizarre trend started on Thursday night when Josh Scobee of the Pittsburgh Steelers missed two Field Goals at the end of the game, allowing the Baltimore Ravens chances to tie and win the game. Twenty-four hours later, the Steelers released Scobee and signed Chris Boswell to be their new Kicker.
On Sunday the Philadelphia Eagles had Caleb Sturgis as their Kicker with Cody Parkey out for the season with a groin injury; Sturgis went on to miss a field goal attempt and an extra point attempt.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kicker Kyle Brindza went 1 for 3 on Field Goal attempts this past Sunday AND missed an extra point; he is only hitting on 50 percent of his field goals in 2015.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had two opportunities to win their game versus the Colts on Sunday, but their Kicker Jason Myers missed both Field Goal attempts.
On the flip side veterans of over ten plus years in the league Adam Vinateri, Robbie Gould and Sebastian Janikowski are consistent every year, averaging over 80 percent accuracy for their careers. Also Atlanta Falcons have Matt Bryant and the Baltimore Ravens have Justin Tucker, both reliable kickers their teams know they can depend on. Furthermore the Denver Broncos Brandon McManus is the team’s third full time place Kicker in the last ten years, all three of those kickers have a career average of over 70 percent accuracy.
The truth is that with the way the game is played in the NFL in 2015 Kickers are under-valued and teams are not doing a good enough job at evaluating talent or preparing their Kickers for Game Day. The Steelers, Eagles, and Jaguars all lost on Sunday no thanks to their Kickers but none of these teams learned from the history of these players. I always find it ironic when teams assume a guy will play different for their team because of the player’s “talent”. With so many kickers in the NFL missing extra points and field goals, it is becoming ugly and teams need to do a better job at scouting along with development of their Kickers.
2. Devonta Freeman has “Wally Pip’ed” Tevin Coleman in Atlanta.
Coming into the 2015 season there was a battle in training camp for the Atlanta Falcons starting Running Back position. Devonta Freeman coming into his 2nd season after being drafted out of Florida State put up lackluster performances during the Pre-season leading to Rookie RB Tevin Coleman being named the starter. But Coleman got injured opening the door for Freeman to get an opportunity to start the last two weeks. Freeman has scored three rushing touchdowns in each game and compiled 342 Total Yards from scrimmage in two games.
Hall of Fame Yankees First Baseman Lou Gehrig was a “nobody” until starting First Baseman Wally Pipp took a day off due to a “migraine headache”. Gehrig would then go on to start 2,130 games in a row for the Yankees. While I am not saying Devonta Freeman will be a Hall of Fame Running Back, I think it is fair to assume that Freeman has a strangle hold on the starting Running back position in Atlanta. Coleman is a rookie, he is going to have to wait his turn when he returns from injury as that starting position is no longer exclusively his anymore.
3. The Eagles and Dolphins are a mess for a good reason.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins are 1-3 after Week Four of the 2015 NFL season for a good reason. Neither team has learned from the past. Both teams have been down this path before, having an offseason of big talent acquisitions then start the season playing underwhelming football. The reality is, that building a team through free agency and trades rarely equals success. You cannot buy wins and championships in the NFL. If you could then the Washington Redskins would be a dynasty by now.
The Eagles have tried to build a team by unloading most of the players from the previous head coach and bringing in players Chip Kelly believes are good fit for his program. But instead of building a team, he is trying to “plug and play” players as parts in a machine. The Eagles have made the mistake, like many before, of overlooking the fundamentals of the game in order to be on the “cutting edge”. The Eagles have seemingly regressed the last couple years as their Head Coach has unloaded talent and not replaced them with comparable skill players. Spending a lot of money does not equal wins; it just means Byron Maxwell and Demarco Murray got paid for past performances.
The Dolphins have had roster turnover every year since Head Coach Joe Philbin arrived in Miami. Instead of building a team around Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins have been swapping in and out players like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle looking for the “right combination”. They dish out big money for Defensive Lineman Ndamukong Suh but they let reliable players such as Wide receiver Brian Hartline and Defensive Lineman Jared Odrick leave. The team has played underwhelming on offense and defense in 2015.
I have said this numerous times: teams cannot buy championships or fabricate chemistry. No team in NFL history has ever had great success with this formula yet the Dolphins and Eagles insist that it can work. I remember someone asked about the arrogance of Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly and ineptitude of Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin in recent weeks; it appears both adjectives might be true looking at how 2015 has played out.
4. The Broncos, Panthers and Packers are undefeated in 2015 thanks to defense.
We have been inundated by the media for years about how a team needs a “franchise Quarterback” in order to win in the NFL. Quarterback is one of the most important position in all of sports, I do not disagree, but Football is still a team sport and the unit must work together in order to win. While Peyton Manning is a future Hall of Famer, Cam Newton is one of the most talented players in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers is arguably the top Quarterback in the NFL, all of these teams are winning games thanks to the efforts of their defenses.
The Packers and Panthers defenses have only allowed a total of 71 points against in 4 games this season, an average of 17.8 points per game against. Meanwhile the Broncos have allowed only 69 points against, an average of 17.3 points per game against. These three teams are among the top defenses in the NFL in 2015 and after the first quarter of the season they deserve recognition. Peyton Manning has looked subpar based on his own standards, Cam Newton has a below average group of receivers, and Aaron Rodgers has injuries to his Wide Receivers. These Pro Bowl Quarterbacks can thank their defenses for coming to their aid to help their teams win games.
By the way, do you know the team that has allowed the least number of points against so far in 2015? The New York Jets with a 3-1 win-loss record have allowed a total of 55 points against, an average in 4 games of 13.8 points per game against. In the era of high powered offenses and Quarterbacks getting paid multi-million dollar contracts, the old adage of “Defense wins championships” still carries weight.