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Henry’s Nuts: Unshelling Week 1

800px-blair_walsh_and_larry_dean
Joe Bielawa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Week 1 of the NFL season was, unfortunately, not sponsored by Rust Check spray, which may explain why the creaks and groans of unprepared players rang out across a Sunday of sloppy, albeit entertaining, football. Perhaps the biggest winner of this weekend was those who want a shortened preseason? Because there’s no way the quality of football could be that much worse with only two games to prepare.

Funny enough, the worst offenders this weekend were special teams units. The guys who are often playing every preseason game, either trying to latch onto the team or because there’s no competition at their position. The rust showed, and it showed in some huge spots.

In what will surely become a weekly feature, let’s crack open some of the most notable accomplishments and failures from Week 1. Before we highlight some of the good to come out of this week, let’s call out some of those players who just weren’t quite ready for some football. Who was the rustiest bunch out of the gate?

Week 1 in a Nutshell

The Rust Belt Holder

Special teams, league-wide.

Ultimately, three games were decided this weekend by missed field goals (though it’s hard to fault Saints kicker Will Lutz for pushing a 61-yarder). One can’t even simply pin the shanks on “stupid kickers,” because neither Graham Gano nor Chandler Catanzaro were the recipient of great snaps as they sailed their teams’ chances wide.

Gano and Catanzaro didn’t even have the worst days in Week 1. That belonged to playoff goat Blair Walsh. If you were curious about his psyche after sailing a game-winner wide left last January, Walsh also hooked his first two field goals on Sunday off to the same side. While he recovered to hit his next four (though he missed an extra point as well), Minnesota has to be feeling uneasy about trotting Walsh out in a close game, something this defensive-minded team figures to find themselves in a lot.

Though kickers are a dismal 51/63 so far in Week 1, this special teams call out isn’t solely for them. It’s also for any returner who seemed to forgot touchbacks are now moved out to the 25-yard line. Andre Ellington, Devin Hester, Deonte Thompson, and many other returners put their teams in far worse positions, taking balls out of the end zone for meager gains. There’s pretty much no reason to return a sure touchback anymore, even if you are the greatest of all-time at it.

Finally, I saw two different players get called for “leaping” this weekend. You’re not Kobe Bryant; you’re opponents aren’t an Aston Martin. Stop it!

The Top Challengers

Kenny Stills forgets how to catch. 

I don’t want to say this surefire touchdown drop cost the Dolphins the game, but the correlation between catching that ball and Miami winning is like +0.96.

Terrance Williams forgets how to clock.

After the Giants mismanaged the clock in last year’s Week 1 loss, it seemed only fair that Dallas gifted one back to them.

John Fox forgets how challenges work.

Here’s a challenge do-and-don’t list John. Do: challenge questionable ball spots on crucial third downs. Don’t: challenge sure catches that happen right in front of your sideline.

Marcus Mariota forgets how to quarterback. 

Exotic smashmouth probably won’t succeed if you keep flinging footballs off your back-foot into traffic.

Al and Cris forget names, but they’ll never forget Giselle.

For the best broadcast group in football, Sunday night was about a B-minus. B for Brandon Bolden, a name they couldn’t seem to remember. But thankfully they broke down a Gisele Instagram post for an uncomfortably long time.

Ya (Warrick) Dunn good! [Winners of the week]

Travis AFB (Flickr album: Oakland Raiders Military Appreciation Day)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/]
Travis AFB (Flickr album: Oakland Raiders Military Appreciation Day)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/]
Jack Del Rio.

Not only is the man known to dress sharp, but he’s taking a go-for-the-jugular approach with this year’s Raiders. In the hostile Superdome, Del Rio’s choice to bypass a game-tying convert was celebrated by armchair quarterbacks everywhere. It’s a big step in developing an identity for a young Oakland team that has been defined by its failures. In the same way that the 2013 Panthers rallied around “Riverboat Ron,” “BlackJack Del Rio” could be the perfect captain for this ship of wild cards.

A.J. Green

Secondary options? Who needs them! A.J. Green escaped from Revis Island with 180 yards and a touchdown in a heroic afternoon that had to have Bengals fans feeling better about an offense sans Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Tyler Eifert. Green accounted for half of Dalton’s completions and passing yards on the day.

Jimmy Garoppolo.

Handsome Jimmy helped the Pats win the one game we all circled as a loss. It’s not often you hear the name “Bill Belichick” and the word “upset” in the same sentence, unless that sentence is “Belichick was upset at the media for asking him questions.” Garoppolo executed New England’s offensive staple – getting the ball to quick white guys in space – to perfection, and took his first big step towards getting paid down the line. Sure, he’s terrible at post game interviews, but just look at that face!

Chiefs and Chargers fans alike.

The day started out on its head, as the Chargers raced out to a 24-3 lead and Melvin Gordon looked like the second coming of L.T. But as we all prepared for another early-season overreaction declaring the Chiefs dead, the offense stormed back. For anyone worried that Kansas City’s offense was too vanilla to come back from a big deficit, Alex Smith’s 363-yard passing day was proof that this team can fling it when needed. While the defense continues to get healthy, the Chiefs showed their offense can weather the storm.

As for Chargers fans, think of that game as the band-aid getting ripped off. Blowing a 21-point second half lead to a division rival and losing Keenan Allen for the year is a clear-cut sign; this team was not meant to contend this year. At least you learned that lesson early, so illusions about the rest of the season can be quashed and you can enjoy the team’s final year in San Diego in peace.

Actually, fans across the board.

Week 1 is usually pretty hectic, but this was an especially strong showing. Eleven games (so far) were decided by one score or less, including all three games in the late afternoon block (sometimes a dry spell) and both prime-time affairs. Couple that with my fantasy team winning, and there’s really not much more you can ask for to start the year.

Tags : A.J. GreenAlex SmithAndre EllingtonBengalsBlair WalshChandler CatanzaroChargersChiefsDeonte ThompsonDevin HesterDolphinsGraham GanoJack Del RioJimmy GaroppoloJohn FoxKenny StillsMarcus MariotaNBC broadcastNFL Week 1RaidersTerrance WilliamsVikings
Henry Mardukas

The author Henry Mardukas