Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: September 14, 8:56 AM ET
What were Week 1 NFL lessons?
By Ross Tucker
It's only one game. Sure, it is the only game we have to go on at this point, but it is still just the first step in what veteran NFL players and coaches realize is a marathon and not a sprint. If your team is 1-0, chances are it isn't going to win the Super Bowl, let alone go 16-0. The opposite holds true for those teams that lost. You can step back off that proverbial ledge if your team's performance left you disheartened.
That's not to say you shouldn't be excited if your team got off to a good start or that you need to fully temper your disappointment if your squad had a disastrous opener. It's just that you can't extrapolate as much information from the first game as you may want to. Are the Buffalo Bills truly that good or are the Kansas City Chiefs just really bad? Or both? No one could possibly know the answer at this point.
Players, unlike a lot of fans and even members of the media, realize that the NFL is a week-to-week league. What happened to a team the previous week, unless it suffered a major injury to a key player, has nothing to do with the next game. They have no choice but to move forward. The next game will feature an entirely separate game plan and dozens of different individual matchups. It is an entity unto itself.
Several of the teams that looked bad in Week 1, perhaps the Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, will probably look much better in Week 2. At least they hope so. The same holds true for individual players. The Titans' Chris Johnson and Vikings' Donovan McNabb are highly unlikely to be as ineffective going forward as they were in Week 1.
Perhaps the best example is the Pittsburgh Steelers. What are the odds that they have another seven-turnover game this season? Not especially good. That game was an anomaly and, thankfully for them, is over.
So what do we know after Week 1? More than anything, we know how much we still don't know. But we also know how wrong so many of us were about so many assumptions made going into the season. Take the idea that Cam Newton was not ready to start at quarterback in the NFL and that both he and the Panthers would really struggle. Oh really? All he did was go out and break the record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback in a season opener, slashing the Arizona Cardinals for 422 yards and two touchdowns, albeit in a losing effort.
What about the idea that the Miami Dolphins' defense was going to build on last year's top-10 performance and become one of the elite defenses in the league? Most people thought that, probably up until the point Tom Brady went over 500 yards passing on Monday night. Not exactly the start the Dolphins' defenders were looking for.
So don't take too much out of one game, other than the fact that there are a lot of things that we were all clearly wrong about. Unless Week 1 was just an aberration. We'll find out where the truth lies soon enough.
From the inbox
Q. How is it possible for some teams to have above-average pass blocking O-lines and sub-par run blocking O-lines? I would think run blocking would be easier because they only have to move a D-lineman to the side for less than 2 seconds to open a seam, as opposed to having to keep back a pass-rusher for 3-5 seconds or more. Why don't they seem to go hand in hand?
Steven in Brick, N.J.
A. Run blocking and pass blocking are two very different skills. In my experience, guys are usually better at one or the other, and a lot of it has to do with body types. Longer-armed, more athletic guys tend to be better in pass protection while thicker, more powerful players usually get more movement in the run game. Think of it like golf. There are some guys who really excel in the short game and are just average or worse off the tee, and vice versa. In general, pass blocking is typically harder for most players than run blocking. I know it was for me, primarily because I have relatively short arms.
Q. A lot of people say it, and I don't understand it, but how is the league more interesting when the Oakland Raiders are good? Because of their history? I don't hear anyone saying the NFL is more interesting when the Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns are good. The NFL is plenty interesting whether the Raiders are competitive or not.
Seth in Newport News, Va.
A. I think it is because of their rich history and mystique, Seth, but I hear you. The NFL is already really interesting, and if the Browns or Bills were surprisingly really good this year, that would be pretty interesting, too. I think that, unlike the Browns or the Bills, however, the Raiders have a very large and significant national fan base. When they are relevant, it is especially good for the league because of that fan base.
Q. So much is being made of the Philadelphia Eagles' free agency acquisitions and the lack of moves in the LB department. I have been an Eagles fan since birth, and I can't remember us having an "elite" LB ever. I mean, Jeremiah Trotter was our guy for years. Andy Reid has a way of making guys over-achieve. Casey Matthews could be a rookie of the year candidate.
Joe in Moorestown, N.J.
A. It is pretty clear from the moves the Eagles have made how little they value the linebacker position. There is only so much money and cap room to go around, and the Eagles elected to allocate their resources to positions that they believe have a greater impact on the game, namely the defensive line and cornerbacks. I completely understand that philosophy. But there are only 11 guys on the field at a time. It is hard to look at the Eagles' linebackers and safeties and believe those five players are Super Bowl quality.
Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in a seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.