New England’s New Back Is Its Most Important
Plus, the journeyest journeyman QB lands in Tampa, the Panthers have a new look that might not fit Cam, and why Peterson and Marshawn are 30-something backs who won’t go quietly
The MMQB editor-in-chief Peter King shares which division he believes is the strongest in the NFL.
1. I think Rex Burkhead will wind up being New England’s most important running back this season. Great receiver, good runner and a better blocker than fellow scatbacks Dion Lewis and James White.
2. I think the receiving and running part of the item above are what is most important. The blocking adds one more snippet of dimension to the Patriots offense, but it’s not huge. The Patriots are almost exclusively a five-man protection team, which is to say they rely solely on their O-line in pass protection and send all five eligible receivers out on routes.
3. I think the most—and maybe only—interesting thing about Ryan Fitzpatrick signing on as a backup in Tampa Bay is that the Bucs are the seventh different team Fitzpatrick has been on during his 13-year career. Remarkably, since 2008, Fitzpatrick, perhaps the “journeyest” journeyman in NFL quarterback history, has started 113 of his (six different) teams’ 144 games. The Bucs, of course, hope that by this time next year, he’ll have started 113 of 160 games.
4. I think the Panthers have had the most fascinating offseason in the league this year. The selections of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in Rounds 1 and 2 tell you this team clearly plans on altering its downfield-based passing attack into more of a quick-strike one. That’s a huge makeover, and I’m skeptical that it will fit Cam Newton’s style of play. But we’ll see. Another QB who underwent this sort of system change was Ben Roethlisberger. It’s worked out great for him. But remember, Roethlisberger is a markedly better all-around thrower than Newton.
5. I think, given the Panthers’ system change, we could see reduced production from tight end Greg Olsen. He’s perfect for running the seam routes that had defined Carolina’s vertical passing game. In fact, did you know Olsen is the only tight end in history to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons?
6. We just ranked the top 10 edge players on the latest MMQB 10 Things Podcast. Nos. 1 and 2 you could probably guess: Von Miller and Khalil Mack, in that order, for the second straight year. No. 3? Joey Bosa, after just 12 NFL games. Last season, Bosa became the second rookie in history (with Julius Peppers) to record double-digit sacks in fewer than 13 games. He also led the league with 17 tackles for loss. Bosa has spectacular lateral explosiveness in confined areas. In fact, don’t be surprised if he winds up getting a lot of third-down snaps at defensive tackle under Chargers new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
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7. I think it’s pretty clear that history says you should be leery of 30-plus-year-old running backs, especially when they’re joining new teams. And yet I still can’t help but think that Adrian Peterson will wind up leading the Saints in rushing, and Marshawn Lynch will lead the Raiders. And each will be the primary back for his team down the stretch.
8. I think I agree with Peter King that Colin Kaepernick would be an excellent fit as Russell Wilson’s backup in Seattle. (And I’m the guy who, every year, writes a “Kaepernick stinks on the field, and here’s why” story for this website.) Seattle is the one place where Kaepernick’s sandlot quarterbacking style would not be totally disruptive to the offense. Wilson is no longer a sandlot QB like Kaepernick, but he has played that style enough that the offense wouldn’t have to make a big adjustment for Kaepernick. I don’t think Kaepernick’s politics have much to do with his unemployment. But if you do, then add to the list that, in the Pacific Northwest, last season’s protest during the national anthem would have been either admired or ignored by most denizens there. And his right to do it would have been largely respected in Pete Carroll’s locker room.
9. I think shortening overtime to 10 minutes would be foolish. Beyond foolish. Classic case of fixing what’s not broken.
10. I think driverless cars can’t get here fast enough. (This has nothing to do with football, but it’s May, so who cares?) Distant generations will look back and wonder how did humans ever believe they were suited to drive cars themselves? Our brains aren’t equipped for it. This includes mine. Just the other day, I cut off a van on the freeway while I was trying to pass a semi-truck that, maddeningly, had just cut me off. Driving brings out the worst in everyone. It’s where the elderly act their oldest. Jackasses are at their rudest. Jerks at their most vile. Teenagers at their most reckless. Airheads at their dumbest. And all these things yield add up to the same result: danger on the roads.
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