With only one more September game on the 2019 NFL schedule, it’s getting to the point where overreactions are a little less … over-reacty. A quarter of the season has been played (minus Monday night’s Bengals-Steelers game on ESPN and the ESPN app), and some of the stuff we’ve seen is starting to look like stuff in which we can believe.
So when we make our weekly declarations and decide whether they’re overreactions or not, we have more data now on which to base our conclusions. As we head into the second quarter of the season, things are getting real. With that in mind, it’s time for Overreaction Monday:
The Browns‘ offense is fixed!
Cleveland rolled into Baltimore on Sunday and took apart the Ravens’ defense in a 40-25 victory that put the Browns in first place in the AFC North. Baker Mayfield was a tidy 20-for-30 passing for 342 yards. Nick Chubb ran for 165. Jarvis Landry had eight catches for 167. The Browns took an entire class field trip off the schneid and looked, for the first time this season, the way we all expected them to look on offense.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Not that it’s all going to be smooth sailing for the Browns from here on out, but the way they looked Sunday was the way they’re going to look when their offense is clicking. Mayfield under center. Run the thing through Chubb. Take what’s open instead of trying to force yourself into something they aren’t giving you. Baltimore wanted to make sure Odell Beckham Jr. was a nonfactor, so the Browns leaned on Chubb and Landry.
Cleveland’s upcoming schedule (San Francisco, Seattle, New England, Denver, Buffalo) is pocked with tough defenses, and so it’s not going to look this way every week. But what the Browns put on film Sunday is an offensive identity — something to which they can refer to when they get in trouble over the rest of the season — and there’s major value in that.
Washington needs to move on from Jay Gruden
Washington fell to 0-4 with a road loss to the division-rival Giants, and this looks like a team going nowhere. Gruden put in rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins because, he said, starter Case Keenum hurt his foot. Haskins’ three-interception performance backed up everything we’d heard the past couple of weeks about him not being NFL-ready yet.
Gruden is in his sixth season as Washington’s coach, and he hasn’t finished better than third in the NFC East since he won it in 2015. It does not appear, at this juncture, as if that streak is in jeopardy.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Look, I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who tracks this stuff that Gruden won’t be Washington’s coach in 2020. I just don’t see what’s to gain by making the move in Week 5 of 2019. It’s not as if there’s some hotshot head-coaching candidate on the staff that they’d promote to see if he could do it.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula have head-coaching experience, but Callahan hasn’t been an NFL head coach since 2002, and Tomsula’s one-year 49ers tenure wasn’t exactly an argument for more chances. Either guy would just be in charge of getting the car into the garage so the team could hire someone else in the offseason.
Jay Gruden says it doesn’t matter where Dwayne Haskins was picked in the draft and that he has to earn the starting role.
Gruden seems to be well-liked by the players and at least has some sense of what he wants to do on offense (even if his team isn’t doing it). I know it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but he’s probably as good a caretaker coach as anyone.
Jacksonville is on a two-game win streak thanks to cult-hero quarterback Gardner Minshew, and it was able to beat the Broncos on Sunday even without its best cornerback in the lineup. The fact that Joe Flacco threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns against the Jags argues for keeping Ramsey, but the past couple of weeks have been one thing after another — a trade demand, a passive-aggressive news conference, an illness, a back injury.
Ramsey’s relationship with Jaguars management is not in a good place, and there’s no indication that the two-game win streak has changed his mind about wanting out.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION, assuming they still don’t intend to sign him to an extension. Teams that have been in touch with the Jaguars on Ramsey say they seemed less interested in trading Ramsey last week than they did the week before, and there’s a sense around the league that they have to figure things out on their own end before they do a deal with any team.
But let’s face it: Even though Ramsey hasn’t made the same kind of stink other players in similar situations might have made over his trade demand, this isn’t a situation that’s going to get better if the Jags just leave it alone. If they aren’t going to sign Ramsey to the long-term deal he wants — and so far, indications are that they haven’t made much progress in that regard — it’s best for the team to get a first-rounder or two for him now and look to the future.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are going to get those contract extensions after all
Winston led the Buccaneers to a stunning 55-40 victory in Los Angeles, handing the Rams their first loss of the season. He threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns with one interception, and in his past three games he has completed 65% of his passes with eight touchdowns and only two picks. He’d have won all three, too, if not for a missed field goal attempt at the end of last week’s loss to the Giants. Mariota on Sunday led the Titans to a 24-10 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta, completing 18-of-27 for 227 interception-free yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season, even though he has been far from spectacular.
The top two picks in the 2015 draft are in the final year of their contracts, and the Bucs and Titans have made no move to extend either one of them. They have to show something this year if they want to stick around, and Sunday was a point in each one’s favor.
Jameis Winston throws for 385 yards and four touchdowns as he hands the Rams their first loss with a 55-40 win.
The verdict: OVERREACTION. Come on, here. The reason Winston and Mariota haven’t been extended is because they haven’t stretched consistent performance over long enough periods of time. Winston hasn’t shown he can put his turnover problems behind him, and Mariota hasn’t shown he can (a) stay healthy or (b) elevate his offense.
With three-quarters of the season left, each of these guys still has a lot more to prove before his team decides to commit to him long term. Good starts for both, but a long way to go.
Cousins had a miserable day Sunday in Chicago. Yes, he completed 27-of-36 passes, but he averaged 6.5 yards per attempt, didn’t throw a touchdown pass and took six sacks. Just about everything looked like a checkdown, and with the Bears’ defense in his face throughout a 16-6 loss, there were times when Cousins looked as if he’d rather be elsewhere.
The Vikings are 2-2 in the second year of Cousins’ fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract, and he is averaging 184 yards per game with three total touchdowns to two interceptions. Not the stuff of highly-paid star QBs.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Look, they missed the playoffs in Cousins’ first year and aren’t off to the most inspirational start in his second. It’s tough to judge any quarterback against Chicago’s planet-devouring defense, but this isn’t Cousins’ first disappointing game of the season. The Vikings want to be a run-first team, and so far they have made good on that. But there are going to be times when Cousins has to do the starting quarterback thing and lift them up and carry them.
To this point in Minnesota, he has not shown he can consistently be that kind of guy. If they keep muddling along at .500 much longer, patience will start to wear thin in a hurry, even among the famously friendly denizens of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.