1 Player Every NFL Team Should Bench ASAP

Alex BallentineSeptember 28, 2022

1 Player Every NFL Team Should Bench ASAP

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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) looks to pass during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Sep. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)
    New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has struggled with an injury and turnovers early in the season. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

    Starting jobs in the NFL are won during training camp, but the competition never truly ends.

    NFL coaches are constantly fighting for their job, which means players are constantly fighting for theirs. In a league where 10 head coaches were replaced last offseason, there's nonstop pressure to perform.

    Three games into the season is a big enough sample size to start truly evaluating the roster and seeing whose role should be reduced moving forward.

    Whether it's because they have been exposed in a specific facet of the game, aren't playing up their ability or have someone behind them who deserves more reps, the following players should be seeing the bench as the season moves on.

Arizona Cardinals: LB Nick Vigil

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    Arizona Cardinals linebacker Nick Vigil (59) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    Nick Vigil (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's use of his linebackers has been baffling through three weeks.

    Isaiah Simmons started in Week 1 and played 61 snaps, but he's come off the bench the past two weeks and was a part-timer on defense. After he played only 15 snaps in a Week 2 win against the Las Vegas Raiders, Joseph said he shouldn't worry about his workload.

    "I told him, 'It's not about how many plays you play. It's about how you play when you play," Joseph said, per Darren Urban of the team's website.

    Meanwhile, Nick Vigil played 26 snaps in Week 2 and 18 snaps in Week 3. Through three games, he's Pro Football Focus' lowest-graded linebacker in the league.

    It doesn't make sense for Arizona to continue to trot out the 29-year-old over Simmons, whom it took eighth overall in 2020.

Atlanta Falcons: C Drew Dalman

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    Atlanta Falcons center Drew Dalman (67) lines up during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Sep. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 27-26. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
    Drew Dalman (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

    Drew Dalman may have won the Atlanta Falcons' starting center job during the preseason, but it's time to re-evaluate that decision.

    The 2021 fourth-round pick has experienced a steep learning curve three starts into his NFL career. PFF has him as the 31st-ranked center leaguewide.

    Dalman's shotgun snaps have not been consistent, and he was charged with one fumble in the Falcons' Week 2 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. That's the first job of any center, and his struggles don't end there.

    The rookie has also been charged with a league-leading five penalties, per PFF. That includes a crucial holding penalty in the second quarter of the Rams game that forced the team to settle for a field goal in a 31-27 loss.

    The Falcons could turn to Matt Hennessy, who committed only five penalties across nearly 1,000 snaps last season while earning an above-average 77.1 grade from PFF.

Baltimore Ravens: LB Josh Bynes

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    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots runs past linebacker Josh Bynes #56 of the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
    Josh Bynes (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    It's hard to find a weak link in the Baltimore Ravens starting lineup. The team has started 2-1, with a shootout loss to the 3-0 Miami Dolphins as their only blemish.

    However, linebacker Josh Bynes has not been as good as his 10-tackle, one interception performance against the New England Patriots this past Sunday would suggest.

    That outing might save Bynes' job for another week or two. But if he returns to his form from the first two weeks of the season, it's going to be hard for the Ravens to justify keeping him in their starting lineup.

    Bynes was essentially a ghost in those first two games, securing only two combined tackles despite starting at inside linebacker. His interception this past week was more of a bad decision from Mac Jones than an outstanding play.

    The Ravens hosted free-agent linebacker Blake Martinez for a visit last week, according to ESPN's Field Yates. If Bynes doesn't continue to make plays, they could bring in Martinez and bench Bynes as soon as Martinez is ready to play.

Buffalo Bills: OG Rodger Saffold

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    Buffalo Bills guard Rodger Saffold (76) blocks during an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Orchard Park, NY. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)
    Rodger Saffold (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

    The Buffalo Bills still have serious Super Bowl aspirations even after losing to the Miami Dolphins this past weekend. (They outgained Miami by 285 yards in that loss, after all.)

    However, a serious liability on the offensive line can be a drag on even the most explosive offenses in the NFL. It hasn't hurt them yet, but Rodger Saffold has been that at left guard.

    The 34-year-old might be endearing himself to the fanbase as a vocal leader, but his play has been subpar. While he hasn't been charged with any sacks, PFF currently has him as the league's 62nd-ranked guard.

    Right now, the Bills are a bit handcuffed. Greg Van Roten is a utility option on the interior, but he's currently handling center duties while Mitch Morse is out with an elbow injury.

    Van Roten has not been great at center. He has a middling 48.8 PFF grade at the pivot, but he could at least offer competition for Saffold at guard once Morse returns to the lineup.

Carolina Panthers: TE Ian Thomas

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    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 11: Ian Thomas #80 of the Carolina Panthers makes a reception during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Bank of America Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Ian Thomas (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    At this point, the Carolina Panthers passing game needs all the help it can get. Baker Mayfield is 32nd in total QBR, they have only 484 passing yards through three games and only one receiver has more than 100 yards on the season (Robbie Anderson).

    It certainly doesn't help that tight end Ian Thomas has offered next to nothing as a receiver.

    Thomas had a 50-yard reception against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. Outside of that play, he has four catches for 29 yards.

    At this point, the Panthers should be playing as many young players as possible and seeing what they have. Thomas has had four-plus seasons to break out for the Panthers, but he's never improved on his 333-yard, two-touchdown campaign as a rookie in 2018.

    It's time for head coach Matt Rhule to see what 2021 third-round pick Tommy Tremble can do with a bigger role. The Notre Dame product was on the field for 48 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie last season. This year, he is seeing only 30 percent of the action.

    That number should go up since he theoretically has more upside than Thomas.

Chicago Bears: Edge Al-Quadin Muhammad

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    Chicago Bears defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (55) looks on during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
    Al-Quadin Muhammad (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

    The Chicago Bears' acquisition of edge-rusher Al-Quadin Muhammad made sense this offseason. As a veteran who previously played for new head coach Matt Eberflus, he brought knowledge of Eberflus' system and a veteran presence to a group of edge-rushers that lost Khalil Mack.

    But it no longer makes sense for Muhammad to be part of the Bears' starting lineup.

    In three games of action, Muhammad has only five quarterback hurries with no hits or sacks. He has only four tackles, and PFF has him ranked 82nd among all edge defenders.

    Meanwhile, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson have done everything in their power to earn bigger roles. They are the most efficient pass-rushers on the team with eight and four pressures, respectively, but they are playing only 37 and 34 percent of the snaps.

    Eberflus needs to get both on the field a lot more, even if it means playing his trusted veteran less.

Cincinnati Bengals: OG Cordell Volson

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Cordell Volson (67) during the National Football League game between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals on September 25, 2022 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Cordell Volson (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line is struggling, but it isn't quite like last year. This year, the struggles are much more apparent in the run game.

    The pass protection is still questionable. They've conceded 15 sacks through three weeks, which is tied for most in the league.

    Joe Burrow is averaging 2.2 seconds in the pocket, but some of the problems are on him, as he prefers to hold on to the ball and allow deeper routes to develop. That seems like it's going to be part of the Burrow experience for the long term.

    What can't continue is the mess of a run game the Bengals have right now. They are 30th in the league with only 3.3 yards per carry this season.

    Rookie left guard Cordell Volson hasn't helped. Ben Solak of The Ringer wrote an in-depth piece on the Bengals' struggles in which he highlighted some specific plays. Volson does not look good in many of those clips and appears to be lost at times.

    The fact that Volson cracked the starting lineup is a great sign from a fourth-round rookie. However, he might have bit off more than he can chew this early in his career.

    It might be time for Cincinnati to turn to Jackson Carman even though Volson beat him for the starting job in training camp.

Cleveland Browns: S Grant Delpit

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    Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit (22) chases after New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson after he made a catch and then took it in for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. The Jets won 31-30. (AP Photo/David Richard)
    AP Photo/David Richard

    The Grant Delpit experience has been wild for the Cleveland Browns.

    The team used a second-round pick on him in 2020, but he suffered a torn Achilles during the preseason and missed the entire year. He was a part-time player last season, making seven starts and playing 61 percent of the defensive snaps.

    His transition to an every-down player in 2022 has come with some serious growing pains..

    First, there was the 75-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Robbie Anderson in Week 1. Then there was the last-minute touchdown from Joe Flacco to Corey Davis in which Denzel Ward and Delpit appeared to have a miscommunication resulting in a blown coverage.

    Ward publicly said he was playing the flat zone, making Delpit the most logical scapegoat.

    He's giving up nearly nine yards per target while playing 100 percent of the Browns' defensive snaps. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods needs to consider dialing back that workload to give up fewer big plays in the passing game.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown

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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 18: Anthony Brown #3 of the Dallas Cowboys gets set against the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Anthony Brown (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    There's a lot to like about the Dallas Cowboys defense. Micah Parsons is one of the elite pass-rushers in the league. Trevon Diggs is an absolute ball hawk.

    However, Anthony Brown does not make the list.

    Through three weeks, Brown is the most-targeted defender in the Cowboys' secondary. Opposing quarterbacks have tried him 19 times compared to Diggs' 14, and they are having plenty of success. He's given up 160 yards and a passer rating of 111.7.

    Teams going after Brown is nothing new. He saw 122 targets last season and gave up 836 yards and five touchdowns.

    Through two weeks, Brown is 44th in the league in Player Profiler's coverage rating.

    As long as Brown continues to struggle, the Cowboys are going to give offenses an easy out in the passing game.

Denver Broncos: DL DeShawn Williams

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    Denver Broncos defensive lineman DeShawn Williams takes part in drills Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at the NFL football team's headquarters in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
    DeShawn Williams (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    One would think the Denver Broncos offense has some dead weight given how bad they've been with new quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm. However, it's mostly a case of them needing to get healthy and in sync.

    The Broncos' Week 3 injury report featured 11 players who were either out or questionable with various ailments. Wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and offensive linemen Billy Turner and Quinn Meinerz will make the offense better as they get healthy.

    The Broncos have some issues on defense as well, but DeShawn Williams stands out as the weak link on an otherwise stellar defensive line.

    Williams currently has a 45.9 PFF grade, which ranks 100th out of 112 interior defenders. He doesn't show up a ton since he's on the interior, but he can be seen getting bullied at the line of scrimmage.

    If Williams doesn't improve, there are notable names still left on the free-agent market including Sheldon Richardson and Kingsley Keke.

Detroit Lions: CB Amani Oruwariye

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    Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (24) gets set on defense against Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
    Amani Oruwariye (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

    Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was one of the few bright spots on the Detroit Lions' defense last season. He had six interceptions and 11 passes defended and seemed like he'd routinely be taking on No. 1 wideouts in 2022.

    Instead, he's been a complete liability on a defense that has struggled to contain opposing offenses.

    Oruwariye has already racked up six penalties, a figure that leads all players in the league regardless of position. He accounts for 40 percent of the Lions' penalties so far this season.

    The entire secondary has been an issue for the Lions. They have just one interception and have given up 265.7 yards per game, eighth-worst in the league.

    With Aidan Hutchinson improving the pass rush, the Lions' defensive backs have to hold up their end of the bargain. That starts with finding alternatives to Oruwariye at corner.

Green Bay Packers: OG Royce Newman

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    Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Royce Newman (70) in action during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
    Royce Newman (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

    The Green Bay Packers had eight linemen play at least 25 percent of the offensive snaps last season. David Bakhtiari's extended absence has forced players like Elgton Jenkins to play both tackle and guard.

    With Bakhtiari returning in Week 3 to play 56 percent of the snaps in a 14-12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Packers' O-line could be in for yet another reshuffle.

    If head coach Matt LaFleur looks to make the simple swap, Yosh Nijman will be the odd man out. If he's looking to get his best five linemen on the field, he'll find a way to bench Royce Newman.

    Through three games, Newman has the worst PFF grade of the bunch (57.7). He has also allowed two sacks. For a team that could have one of the league's best offensive lines, that won't cut it.

    The Packers have multiple options if they want Newman out of their lineup. Jenkins has played right guard before, so he could kick back inside and allow Nijman to take over at right tackle. They could also try Nijman at left guard and move Jon Runyan Jr. to the right side.

    Either way, Newman is not in their best lineups.

Houston Texans: TE Pharaoh Brown

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    Houston Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown (85) catches a pass during pregame warmups before an NFL preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, August 13, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)
    Pharaoh Brown (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

    Early in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Houston Texans were facing a 3rd-and-8 from the Chicago Bears' 27-yard line. They were nursing a 14-13 lead at the time.

    The Texans elected to run a screen pass to Pharaoh Brown, which went for only six yards. Houston wound up kicking a field goal there and ultimately lost 23-20.

    Coming out of Oregon, Brown ran a 4.83-second 40-yard dash and posted a relative athletic score of only 4.5. Meanwhile, the Texans signed tight end O.J. Howard just over a week before the season started, and he caught two touchdowns on two targets in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. Howard has seen only two targets since then.

    Brown has some value as a blocker, but his 59.2 PFF grade suggests he isn't exactly getting the job done in that category, either.

    The Texans started out in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), so Howard technically got the start, but Brown saw more snaps.

    Once Brevin Jordan gets back from an ankle injury, the Texans should be playing he and Howard over Brown.

Indianapolis Colts: OG Danny Pinter

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 18: Danny Pinter #63 of the Indianapolis Colts blocks against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 18, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
    Danny Pinter (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

    The Indianapolis Colts' long-term viability on offense relies on having one of the league's best offensive lines. Quarterback Matt Ryan's mobility is compromised at 37 years old, and the Colts are reliant on Johnathan Taylor and the run game anyway.

    That puts quite a lot of pressure on an offensive line that has some questions.

    Left tackle Matt Pryor got off to a rough start this season and has rookie third-round pick Bernhard Raimann behind him. However, he finished with the team's second-highest PFF grade on offense in its Week 3 win against the Kansas City Chiefs, which should buy him some additional time.

    Meanwhile, right guard Danny Pinter has yet to have that breakout performance. Defenders just bounce off Pinter far too often in the run game, and he's already given up one sack while earning a middling 50.5 PFF grade.

    Whether the Colts want to try to move Raimann to right guard, kick Pryor inside or find an alternative on the bench, they can't wait for Pinter to show signs of life much longer.

Jacksonville Jaguars: S Rayshawn Jenkins

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 18: Rayshawn Jenkins #2 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field on September 18, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
    Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    It's hard to find too many Jacksonville Jaguars whose job security should be questioned right now. With back-to-back impressive wins, including a 38-10 handling of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, it's hard to see them doing too much with their lineup.

    It's also easy to love the effort and energy Rayshawn Jenkins brings to the table. His pick of an ill-conceived pass from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan is a great example of that effort.

    But that doesn't make up for him being a bit of a liability in deep coverage and consistently missing tackles.

    According to Sports Info Solutions, Jenkins is among the worst tackling cornerbacks and safeties in the league, with six broken or missed tackles already this season.

    On top of that, he's given up 14.6 yards per target and ranks 71st out of 76 safeties in the league at PFF.

    As the Jaguars look to start playing the part of an aspiring playoff team, Jenkins' shortcomings could become a bigger issue. Andrew Wingard started 15 games for the Jags last season, posting a 69.0 grade from PFF. It would be worth it to give him an opportunity with the new coaching staff.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

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    Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling runs a pass pattern against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. The Chiefs won 44-21. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
    AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

    It's clear the Kansas City Chiefs offense is still figuring out how to best utilize its wide receivers in a post-Tyreek Hill world.

    Thus far, the answer is not feeding targets to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The 6'4", 206-pounder initially appeared to be an ideal addition. While JuJu Smith-Schuster could handle a lot of the short and intermediate routes that were part of the Hill route tree, MVS could be the deep threat who kept defenses honest.

    So far, he hasn't done much to strike fear in the hearts of secondaries.

    At this point, Valdes-Scantling is the least efficient of the Chiefs receivers. He's averaged just 5.8 yards per target and hasn't seemed to build the kind of rapport and chemistry with Patrick Mahomes.

    Instead, familiar face Mecole Hardman has been the best deep threat. He has an average depth of target of 11.7, and Mahomes has a quarterback rating of 110.8 when targeting him. That rating plummets to 72.7 when looking MVS's way.

    Both Justin Watson and Skyy Moore have made plays in limited opportunities. It's time to start increasing their roles as the Chiefs offense continues to evolve.

Las Vegas Raiders: T/G Jermaine Eluemunor

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 26:  Guard Jermaine Eluemunor #72 of the Las Vegas Raiders prepares for a play during the first half of a preseason game against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
    Chris Unger/Getty Images

    The offensive line was a concern for the Las Vegas Raiders before the season even started. Now at 0-3, those offensive line problems are only more daunting.

    The problems don't come down to just one lineman. While the Raiders are giving Derek Carr 2.5 seconds of pocket time, they are averaging only 2.3 yards before contact in the running game.

    Jermaine Eluemunor has already started games at right tackle and guard as the Raiders try to put out a starting five that can help this offense get going.

    Regardless of position, Eluemunor doesn't seem to be the answer. According to Sports Info Solutions, the former Patriots lineman has the fifth-highest blown-block percentage of anyone who has played at least 50 snaps this season.

    Fortunately for the Raiders, help might be on the way. The team traded for Justin Herron, a 26-year-old tackle who has started 10 games for the Patriots over the last two seasons.

    "A guy that we have some familiarity with, has played tackle in games, plenty of games, and has some versatility," head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters of the acquisition. "Young player that's continuing to develop."

    At least Herron seems to have some upside that Eluemunor hasn't shown in three games.

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Storm Norton

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    Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Storm Norton (74) waits for the snap during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
    AP Photo/Kyusung Gong

    The hits just keep on coming for the 1-2 Los Angeles Chargers. Just a week after taking the Kansas City Chiefs to the wire in a prime-time game, they were clobbered by the injury bug and the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.

    The worst injury news of all is that Rashawn Slater—an All-Pro selection in his rookie season—will be out for the year with a ruptured biceps tendon, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

    The loss of Justin Herbert's blindside protector is a killer for the two major problems the Chargers are already facing. The first is that Herbert is already playing through a rib injury and is going to need to stay relatively clean to play at a high level.

    The second is that the Chargers' running game has been atrocious. They are worst in the league in yards before contact (1.3).

    Storm Norton replaced Slater on Sunday. That's the same Storm Norton who lost his starting right tackle job to Trey Pipkins in the preseason. He also surrendered nine sacks in 2021.

    It would be coaching malpractice to continue to expect Herbert to play behind a line with Norton at left tackle for an extended period of time. The Chargers must hit free agency or the trade market to find an alternative solution.

Los Angeles Rams: S Taylor Rapp

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp (24)  during an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams on September 18, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Taylor Rapp (Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    As the Los Angeles Rams look for an answer at outside cornerback across from Jalen Ramsey, the importance of good safety play is magnified.

    Injuries have taken away most of their depth at cornerback. Cobie Durant and David Long were both out with injuries against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3, leaving Derion Kendrick and Grant Haley as the only option across from Ramsey.

    It also exposed Taylor Rapp as a problem in the secondary. The Cardinals targeted him eight times Sunday, and he gave up six catches for 51 yards, per Cameron DeSilva of Rams Wire.

    It would be a lot easier to shrug that off as a small-sample-size blunder for Rapp, but it reflects the way he played last season. He surrendered a 74.1 percent completion percentage and four touchdowns in coverage.

    Rapp doesn't make enough plays as a box player against the run to justify his subpar coverage. He had only two tackles for loss last season and has yet to register one this year.

Miami Dolphins: LB Elandon Roberts

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 05: Elandon Roberts #52 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after a defensive play against the New York Giants in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on December 05, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins are the only 3-0 team in the AFC, but they still have some serious underlying concerns moving forward. Their defense gave up 38 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 and allowed 497 yards to the Buffalo Bills in a 21-19 win this past Sunday.

    It's hard to criticize a team that has come up with two big wins in a row against good teams. But to reach their ceiling this season, the Dolphins will have to tighten up their defense.

    That might mean playing linebacker Elandon Roberts less.

    The 28-year-old is an experienced option at inside linebacker, but he has a history of struggling in coverage. He has already missed 15 percent of his tackles this season.

    Miami has yet to give ultra-athletic rookie linebacker Channing Tindall any defensive snaps. The Georgia product was one of the preseason's best linebackers in zone coverage.

    Giving him the opportunity to supplant Roberts can't hurt.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Chandon Sullivan

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    Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) runs from Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chandon Sullivan (39) after catching a pass during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
    Chandon Sullivan (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

    Chandon Sullivan has started two games as the Minnesota Vikings' primary slot corner.

    The Vikings' first two opponents didn't challenge the slot often. The Green Bay Packers' passing game was not threatening in Week 1, while the Philadelphia Eagles had success targeting tight end Dallas Goedert and outside receiver Devonta Smith.

    However, the Detroit Lions found the weakness in the secondary with Amon-Ra St. Brown this past Sunday. The Sun God had six catches for 73 yards and was the first to show the Vikings that they might not have an answer inside with Sullivan.

    Through three games, Sullivan has a pedestrian 56.6 PFF grade. That's right in line with his production last season, when he graded out at 55.0 with 47 receptions allowed on 68 targets.

    The Vikings are 27th in adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed. They need to find some answers in the secondary, and a new option to man the slot would be a good start.

New England Patriots: RB Damien Harris

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    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 25: Linebacker Patrick Queen #6 of the Baltimore Ravens attempts to tackle running back Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
    Damien Harris (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been the king of maddening running back usage, but it's going to be crucial for him to get the most out of his backfield for the next few weeks. Quarterback Mac Jones is expected to miss time with a "severe" high ankle sprain, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Damien Harris got the start against the Baltimore Ravens last week, but Rhamondre Stevenson was the more useful and efficient running back. Stevenson saw 62 percent of the snaps and turned 12 carries and five targets into 101 total yards and a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, Harris had 46 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and three targets.

    Stevenson is a do-it-all back with the ability to run between the tackles for the hard yards and be utilized in the passing game. The Patriots need to not only start him over Harris, but lean on him and the offensive line to carry the offense while they figure out how to survive in Jones' absence.

New Orleans Saints: QB Jameis Winston

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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) sets back to pass the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)
    AP Photo/Rusty Jones

    New head coach Dennis Allen has already faced questions about whether he'll continue to roll with Jameis Winston at quarterback.

    His answer was a resounding "yes".

    "There's enough mistakes to go around. I don't really want to go there. I feel confident with Jameis. Certainly, we all need to do better, and that's what we're going to do," he told media after the team's 22-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

    He shouldn't be so hasty to make that proclamation. The Saints' problems on offense aren't exclusively on the quarterback, but his play hasn't helped. In Week 3, he fumbled twice and threw two interceptions.

    Winston is 26th in total QBR and is tied for the league lead in interceptions.

    Some of Winston's struggles can be tied to his injuries. He was on the injury report with an ankle issue and is still dealing with a back injury from Week 1, according to the Fox game broadcast.

    It isn't like the Saints would have to turn to Taysom Hill or Ian Book like last season. They have Andy Dalton on the roster. Allen should be handing him the reins until Winston can prove to be healthy and take better care of the ball.

New York Giants: LB Tae Crowder

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    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Tae Crowder #48 of the New York Giants celebrates after making a tackle for a loss during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Despite a 2-1 record, the New York Giants own one of the worst run defenses in the league. Thus far, Brian Daboll's squad is allowing 5.3 yards per carry and just gave up 176 yards on the ground to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

    Much of the onus in that department has to fall on the inside linebackers, and Tae Crowder is the worst among them.

    His effort on a 3rd-and-goal run from Ezekiel Elliott is a perfect example of why he shouldn't be on the field. In a crucial moment, he didn't even try to wrap up Elliott on his tackle attempt, and Elliott easily bounced off the tackle and scored a key touchdown.

    Last season, Crowder started all 17 games and averaged 7.6 tackles per game. Through three starts this season, he has only 14 stops.

    He doesn't offer much in the way of coverage either. His PFF grade of 29.1 ranks 77th of 78 eligible linebackers.

    The Giants recently signed Jaylon Smith to their practice squad. As soon as he is ready to play, they should be handing Crowder a one-way ticket to the bench.

New York Jets: S Lamarcus Joyner

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 25: Lamarcus Joyner #29 of the New York Jets reacts after being penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Tee Higgins #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Jets poured a lot of resources into building a great, young secondary this offseason. Jordan Whitehead, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed all joined the fold to execute Robert Saleh's defensive vision.

    Thus far, the safeties have not held up their end of the bargain.

    Jordan Whitehead isn't playing great, but at least the first-year Jet can claim he's still learning the system and getting acquainted. Lamarcus Joyner was on this team last season and should be a leader in the secondary.

    Instead, he's ranked 75th of the 76 safeties graded by PFF.

    Joyner has blown coverages and already given up two touchdowns with an average of 12.1 yards per target.

    On top of that, he was flagged for unnecessary roughness against the Bengals after leading with his helmet against Tee Higgins. He continues to cost the team, and it's going to be hard for the Jets to win games if they allow that kind of play to remain on the field.

Philadelphia Eagles: DT Javon Hargrave

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    LANDOVER, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles pressures quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField on September 25, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    This one is less about Javon Hargrave and more about Jordan Davis.

    Hargrave certainly deserves to be a part of the defensive tackle rotation. He's played more than any other interior defender with 56.5 percent of the snaps. The veteran shouldn't be completely shelved, but he hasn't offered much in the way of pass rush with just three pressures and one sack in three games.

    So that leaves Hargrave to be compared to Davis in run defense, and the rookie might actually already be better there. The 6'6" 336-pounder has already proved to have a huge impact against the run.

    But against the Washington Commanders, he also showed some juice as a pass-rusher.

    Despite his game-wrecking abilities, the Eagles are playing Davis on just 32.4 percent of snaps.

    It's time to start slowly ramping up his workload even if it means taking some snaps from Hargrave.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ahkello Witherspoon

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    Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (25) plays in the second half during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Justin Berl)
    AP Photo/Justin Berl

    The news that Joe Haden officially decided to retire last week had to sting for the Steelers, especially with the way Ahkello Witherspoon has played.

    The 27-year-old is struggling as the team has leaned on him to be a full-time starter. Opposing quarterbacks are finding him often. He's been targeted 21 times, conceding 15 catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 108.2.

    That includes getting outmuscled by Nelson Agholor for a jump ball in Week 2 against the New England Patriots.

    It's a frustrating development for the Steelers. Witherspoon was much better as a spot starter and backup for the team last season. In nine 2021 games, he held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 35.1.

    To make matters worse, Witherspoon suffered a hamstring injury that took him out of the Thursday night game against the Cleveland Browns, so Mike Tomlin might have to bench him anyway.

    New addition Levi Wallace hasn't looked that great either, so the Steelers might want to keep an eye out for trade candidates at cornerback. Offenses are only going to continue to find him in coverage if they don't find a solution.

San Francisco 49ers: C Jake Brendel

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    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Jake Brendel #64 of the San Francisco 49ers blocks during the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the 49ers 19-10. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
    Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

    Jake Brendel's ascent to a starting spot on the 49ers offensive line was a great preseason story. The journeyman bounced around four NFL rosters before getting his shot with Kyle Shanahan's team.

    But now it's Week 4, the 49ers offense is sputtering after an 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football and Brendel is struggling.

    Shanahan had no issue placing the blame on the center for a botched snap. The 30-year-old was overmatched against D.J. Jones, and his performance helped contribute to his 50.7 grade from PFF, which ranks 31st out of 37 centers.

    He has yet to give up a sack but has already drawn two penalties.

    While the 49ers are going to have to find an alternative for the injured Trent Williams at left tackle, there's already a contingency in place at center. Daniel Brunskill played over 1,000 snaps for the team at right guard last season. Brunskill has been out with a hamstring injury, but he's returning to practice this week.

    At this point, he can't be a worse option than Brendel.

Seattle Seahawks: S Josh Jones

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 25: Josh Jones #13 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during the second half of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lumen Field on September 25, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)
    Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

    Replacing Jamal Adams is no easy task. That's why he's one of the highest-paid safeties in the game. But the defense needs to find a competent replacement, and Josh Jones isn't the guy.

    The 28-year-old journeyman is playing like someone who is on his fifth NFL team. He has yet to make any impact plays. He has no interceptions, tackles for loss or pass deflections.

    He has 18 tackles but has floundered in coverage. In three games, he has already allowed a touchdown with a passer rating allowed of 124.8.

    Pete Carroll's defense has been completely lost against the pass. Through a combination of bad coverage and not getting to the quarterback, Seattle is allowing 8.9 adjusted yards per attempt, second-worst in the league.

    For much of the Seahawks secondary, it's an understandable product of playing young players. Rookies like Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant are getting valuable experience.

    But Jones has already shown who he is and doesn't have much upside.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Cameron Brate

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    TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tight End Cameron Brate (84) runs with the ball after the catch during the regular season game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 25, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense looks Super Bowl-ready, but the offense doesn't even look like a playoff team.

    Much of that has to do with the offensive line play and Tom Brady's lack of weapons. Due to suspensions, injuries and a personal matter, Brady was without Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and Cade Otton in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers.

    The result was yet another week in which the offense put up less than 20 points in a 14-12 loss.

    Usually, it's games like these where Brady would have relied heavily on Rob Gronkowski. He tried to do the same with Cameron Brate, who was second on the team in targets with six.

    But Brate hasn't proven to be that kind of weapon for the quarterback. He has just 11 targets on the season, catching seven for 68 yards.

    Whether it's rookie Cade Otton when he returns or Kyle Rudolph working his way onto the active roster, the Bucs need a more dynamic pass-catching tight end to make this offense dangerous.

Tennessee Titans: TE Austin Hooper

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Austin Hooper #81 of the Tennessee Titans gets set against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on September 19, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The Tennessee Titans are starting to find out why the Cleveland Browns were willing to absorb $7.5 million in dead cap charges over the next two seasons for Hooper to no longer be on the roster.

    The Titans are desperate for receiving weapons to help ignite the passing attack. Yet Hooper has just four catches on nine targets. Even when he does make catches, it's mostly because he's been schemed open, rather than creating separation for himself.

    Hooper is technically not a starter. Geoff Swaim has logged three starts, but they've been relatively close in playing time. Swaim has played 62.6 percent of the snaps while Hooper has logged 51.4 percent.

    It isn't as though Hooper is lighting it up as a blocker. His overall grade on PFF is a 49.5, making him the 62nd tight end out of 65 ranked by the site.

    Swaim is not a game-breaker either, but he's at least caught six of his seven targets with a touchdown already.

Washington Commanders: CB Kendall Fuller

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    Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) makes a touchdown catch against the Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller (29) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
    AP Photo/Nick Wass

    The Philadelphia Eagles are certainly hoping the Commanders don't heed this advice. It was clear that finding and targeting Kendall Fuller was a part of their game plan and it worked to perfection.

    According to PFF (h/t Grant Paulsen of The Athletic), Fuller was targeted 11 times by the Eagles, giving up nine catches for 152 yards and a QBR of 149.1. That was after giving up a touchdown to the Lions in Week 2 and 10.6 yards per target to the Jaguars in Week 1.

    For now, the Commanders are kind of stuck playing Fuller. With William Jackson III dealing with a back injury, they don't have many options.

    However, when Jackson comes back from his injury the Commanders need to start looking for alternatives to Fuller. He has just one year left on his contract, and playing at this level isn't going to earn him a new one.

    Whether it's a young player with high upside, a trade target or another veteran available in free agency, the Commanders have to get better coverage from their corners or it's going to be a shootout every week.


    All snap counts and advanced stats via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

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