Column as I see ’em, Week Two:
• It has been a tough couple of weeks for Buffalo fans, but they can at least take some solace in the fact that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might not be available for the Pats when the Bills visit New England for an AFC East battle two weeks from now.
Of course, the long-term reality is more grim. In his first two games as an NFL starter in place of suspended football deflator Tom Brady, Garoppolo has performed at a surprisingly high level and made a strong case for himself as a potential NFL franchise QB.
Garoppolo is 42 of 60 passing for 498 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in six quarters for the 2-0 Pats. He’s the fourth-rated passer in the league at 117.0 and would have even more impressive numbers if he hadn’t sprained his shoulder late in the first half after shredding Miami’s defense for 234 yards and three TDs Sunday.
The Pats are hoping Garoppolo will be back in time for the Bills. Whatever the case, Brady will return for Week Five at the Browns. There should be no controversy about the Pats’ starter. The question is how long Brady will continue to play, and whether the Pats will trade Garoppolo, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season.
It’s a good problem to have, but still a problem. Garoppolo has looked the part of a franchise quarterback the first two weeks, making the tough throws, reading defenses well, and showing the athletic ability to move around in the pocket and escape pressure.
Bills fans will cringe to hear this, but Garoppolo is better than Tyrod Taylor. His first two games were more impressive than anything I’ve seen from Taylor over a sustained period in his 18 games as a starter. You know what’s even more distressing? Taylor might be the fifth-best quarterback in the AFC East.
I’d rather have Brady or Garoppolo. Taylor might have more long-term potential than Ryan Fitzpatrick, but how could anyone watch Thursday’s game and think Taylor was better than Fitz? That leaves Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, who puts up 4,000-yard seasons but hasn’t won anything. It’s certainly debatable between those two, but I’d take Tannehill.
For well over a decade, Bills fans have been waiting for the day when Brady retired and the Pats’ dominance over the AFC East would end. It has to be discouraging to think that, even if Brady leaves, the Pats could still be better off at the game’s most important position.
• People who criticize the Bills’ decision to trade an extra first-round pick to move up for Sammy Watkins in a receiver-rich 2014 draft generally point to the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. as the prize wideout the Bills could have had if they had simply stayed put.
But there are several other wideouts who went after Beckham who are doing quite nicely for themselves and making that draft look like perhaps the best in history for wide receivers.
The Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry leads the league in receptions after two weeks with 17. A year ago, he caught 110 passes for 1,137 yards and set an NFL record with 194 catches in his first two seasons. Landry went 63rd overall in the ’14 draft, 19 picks after Cyrus Kouandjio.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina’s 6-foot-5 wideout, has dominated in his first two games back from a season-ending ACL injury. Benjamin has become Cam Newton’s favorite target. He had seven catches for 108 yards and two TDs in the Panthers’ 46-27 win over the Niners on Sunday. Benjamin, who is tied for the NFL lead in receiving TDs, went 28th overall in 2014.
The Saints’ Brandin Cooks has 13 catches (tied for seventh with Benjamin) and 211 yards, including a 98-yard TD. Cooks had 84 receptions a year ago for 1,138 yards and nine TDs. Cooks, out of Oregon State, was the 20th overall selection in the 2014 draft.
The more time goes on, the worse Doug Whaley’s trade for Watkins looks. Even if Watkins were consistently healthy and producing at a top level, it would be indefensible.
• Maybe the Seahawks should take a page from the Bills and fire their offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell. Seattle’s offense has been dreadful through two weeks, scoring just one touchdown in two games. They’re lucky to be 1-1, thanks to a last-minute TD pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin that beat the Dolphins, 12-10, in the opener.
The Seahawks lost, 9-3, at the Rams on Sunday. Wilson, hobbled by a bad ankle, has not been the same player who threw 24 TD passes in the last seven games a year ago. Running back Thomas Rawls missed most of the second half with a bruised leg and has 25 yards on 19 carries on the season. Wideout Tyler Lockett sprained a knee against the Rams.
Wilson suffered a high ankle sprain in the opener, which has compromised his mobility. He has been hit 18 times in two weeks. Still, I expect Seattle to pull it together and be a playoff team again. No need to panic and fire Bevell, who was high on some lists for head coaching jobs a couple of years ago – along with Greg Roman.
• Adam Vinatieri continues to make a case as the best kicker of all time and a certain Hall of Famer. The Colts’ Vinatieri has made all four of his field-goal attempts (including 50- and 52-yarders) this year, giving him 28 in a row. He has converted 65 of 68 field goals dating back to late in the 2013 season.
Vinatieri is in his 11th year with Indy after 10 in New England. He’s third all-time with 507 field goals behind Morten Anderson (565) and Gary Anderson (538). Andersen kicked until he was 47. Vinatieri turns 44 in November. Considering how well he’s kicking, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be around long enough to be No. 1.
• Rex Ryan says his brother, Rob, “has done as good a job as anybody coaching in this league.” I’m not sure if he means this season or in general. The Bills’ defense is 29th through Sunday. A year ago, the Saints fired Rob as defensive coordinator in November with his defense on its way to setting an NFL record for passing TDs allowed with 45.
At least the Saints didn’t can him after two weeks.
• Cleveland had more total offensive yards (176) in the first 10 minutes against the Ravens on Sunday than the Bills had (160) in the entire opener against Baltimore. The Browns blew a 20-2 lead and went on to lose the game. Hey, they are the Browns.
• I guess Ryan Fitzpatrick has Rex’s number. Thursday was the first time in his head coaching career that a Rex Ryan defense allowed more than 35 points, 450 total yards, 350 passing yards and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. Curtains for Greg Roman.
• Greg Gabriel, a Buffalo native and longtime NFL scout, tweeted this late Thursday night after the Bills lost to the Jets: “The Bills are one of the most mismanaged, poorly coached teams in the NFL. I feel bad for the Pegulas.”
• It continues to amaze me how many players run back kickoffs from the middle of the end zone. Now that touchbacks come out to the 25, it’s even more foolish. How can coaches, who are such control freaks, allow such blatant stupidity?