Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard & Other NFL Thoughts
In this week’s NFL discussion, we examine unexpected turnarounds, including the Bears defensive upswing and the Broncos playoff chase. We also explore the Panthers’ coaching and roster challenges, the AFC North’s scoring struggles, the Colts’ playoff hopes with Gardner Minshew, and the Jets offensive adjustments. Additionally, we assess the impact of Aaron Rodgers preferred receivers, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, on the team’s future.
– Some of the teams that appeared to be the weakest at the start of the season are now among the teams you don’t want to play down the stretch. The Bears are playing great defense. Chicago lost their first four games of the year allowing an average of 34 points per game. They have nearly halved that allowing about 18 per game over their last three games. The Broncos have fought back into playoff contention after starting 1-5. The Packers have won three of four after the upset win in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
– I have to wonder how many games the Carolina Panthers management expected to win this season. They have arguably the worst roster in the league. Frank Reich had the shortest coaching tenure in history. Panther’s owner David Tepper now owes Reich 36 million and will need to find a new coach under the dark cloud of a terrible roster and the reputation for a short leash on head coaches. Hang in there, Panther fans.
– Points are hard to come by in the AFC North. Only the Bengals are allowing over twenty points per game (22). The Ravens, Browns, and Steelers are all in the top six in points allowed. The Ravens only allow 15.6 points per game, and they are the one team in the division that can consistently put points on the board. Baltimore scores 27 points per game.
– The Colts are on the edge of a playoff berth at 6-5. One of the advantages the Colts have over several other teams is a capable backup quarterback. Anthony Richardson was injured in week five. Gardner Minshew is not going to make the Pro Bowl, but he has kept the Colts competitive. In a weak division, Minshew might be just enough to get the Colts into the post season.
– While the running back position has been de-emphasized in recent years, the running game is as important as ever. Of the nine division leaders only two teams (Kansas City, Jacksonville) are outside the top nine in rushing yards per game.
– Tim Boyle’s first start of the season didn’t result in a dramatic increase in offensive productivity for the Jets. Boyle was plagued by what might have been the Jets worst performance by an offensive line combination this season. When he wasn’t under siege, Boyle went through his reads and was decisive in throwing the ball. He deserves another start.
– Breece Hall had 13 rushes against the Raiders. He rushed just 10 times against Buffalo. On Friday the Jets gave him the ball just seven times. It’s a losing formula for a team without a quality starting quarterback on the roster.
– Will McDonald had two tackles against the Dolphins. In another lost season, McDonald’s performance is one of things worth keeping track of down the stretch. He should get more action as the Jets fade from playoff contention. Israel Abanikanda didn’t get a carry against Miami. Abanikanda’s touches should also be increasing as the season winds down.
– Add Tackle Carter Warren to the list of young players who should see more time down the stretch. Warren played every snap against the Dolphins, allowing just one sack. Warren could use the reps more than Mekhi Becton or Duane Brown.
– The Jets need to try more two-back and two-tight end sets. Maybe Dalvin Cook would find his form from 2022 if the defense had to worry about Breece Hall. The two tight-end sets would help with pass protection and give opponents a look they haven’t seen much so far this season.
– The effort to get all of Aaron Rodger’s favorite receiving targets on the roster has not worked out well. Randall Cobb can no longer be a productive player, and Allen Lazard has gotten himself benched. Maybe things would have turned out differently for Cobb and Lazard if Rodgers were not injured, but there is no need to keep the two on the roster in 2024. Rodgers is under contract, and the Jets can’t afford to keep sentimental favorites around. They need productive players at all the skill positions.