NFL Week 3 Takeaways: Trevor Lawrence Arrives After Outplaying Justin Herbert

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor ISeptember 26, 2022

NFL Week 3 Takeaways: Trevor Lawrence Arrives After Outplaying Justin Herbert

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars warms up before his game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Trevor Lawrence (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    Following an abysmal rookie campaign, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence looks like he's on his way to a bright future thanks to head coach Doug Pederson in a regime shift.

    Perhaps we need to make room for him in the discussion among the NFL's brightest young talents at the position. He looked the part in Week 3.

    Also, we may have to rethink our AFC projections after a popular Super Bowl favorite lost to an upstart squad with a new head coach.

    The marquee matchup in the early kickoff slot between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins turned into a low-scoring battle, and the Dolphins defense pulled through late in the game. The lone 3-0 team in the AFC deserves a little more respect.

    The Philadelphia Eagles have steamrolled through their last two opponents, and they're head and shoulders above every team in the NFC East. On Sunday, the Eagles put together another complete performance in a convincing victory.

    On the opposite end of the NFL hierarchy, a couple of teams have quarterback issues, and one AFC West squad has dropped to the bottom of the standings in a clunky, mistaken-ridden 0-3 start to the 2022 season.

    Let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from Sunday's action.

Dolphins Establish Themselves as a Legitimate Contender

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    Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) gestures at the end of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Bills 21-19. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee )
    Tua Tagovailoa (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    Anyone who thought the Miami Dolphins pulled off a fluky Week 2 comeback 42-38 victory over the Baltimore Ravens must admit this team isn't a mirage after a win over the Buffalo Bills. They're legitimate contenders and sit atop the AFC alone at 3-0.

    Sure, the Bills came into Sunday's contest with several key players out—including stalwart safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, as well as center Mitch Morse—but the Dolphins won a tight 21-19 contest despite losing the possession battle 40:40 to 19:20 and getting outgained on offense by 285 yards.

    With the buildup around the number of points these teams would score, the Dolphins defense helped them pull off the upset.

    Miami allowed 497 total yards, though the unit stood its ground in the red zone, giving up a 50 percent conversion rate.

    Secondly, the Dolphins didn't surrender a ton of explosive plays and made quarterback Josh Allen work his way down the field. None of the Bills' pass-catchers racked up more than 78 receiving yards or averaged more than 12.3 yards per catch.

    Late in the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a big hit and had to leave the game, but he returned and finished with 13 completions out of 18 attempts for 186 yards and a touchdown. He didn't have a big game, though Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle led all pass-catchers with 102 receiving yards.

    Don't crown the Bills as AFC champions yet. The Dolphins will have something to say about that.

Eagles Defense Gets Much-Needed Praise in Blowout Win over Commanders

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Brandon Graham (55) reacts after the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brandon Graham (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    This past offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles offense grabbed headlines as quarterback Jalen Hurts attempts to make a third-year leap with new star wide receiver A.J. Brown on the roster.

    However, against the Washington Commanders, the Eagles defense shared the spotlight with Hurts, who threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-8 triumph.

    Philadelphia sacked Carson Wentz nine times, which is ironically the most sacks he's taken in a single game, narrowly edging the eight takedowns he took as an Eagle in 2020 against Washington.

    Wentz couldn't get anything going in the first half. The Eagles had twice as many sacks (six) than he had completions (three) through two quarters.

    Washington scored eight fourth-quarter points on a Daron Payne safety and a touchdown with a failed two-point conversion, but the Eagles' dominant defensive performance set the tone for the day. At 3-0, they have one of the league's most complete teams.

Gus Bradley Is Vindicated as Colts Get Much-Needed Win over Chiefs

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    Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
    Gus Bradley (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

    Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley took criticism and questions about how his defense gameplans have fared against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

    Last year, Mahomes carved up Bradley's units while the coordinator called plays (mostly single-high safety looks) for the Las Vegas Raiders. In two 2021 outings against the Silver and Black, the Chiefs signal-caller completed 55 out of 74 pass attempts for 664 yards and seven touchdowns and took just three sacks in two games.

    On Sunday, fantasy managers may have thought Mahomes would rack up a ton of points against another Bradley-led defense, but he finished with an average stat line, finishing 20-of-35 passing for 262 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 20-17 loss. The Colts defense forced a couple of turnovers, which also included rookie wideout Skyy Moore's muffed punt.

    In the big picture, the Colts had to pull themselves out of a stupor. After a season-opening tie with the Houston Texans, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 24-0 shutout.

    Every team in the AFC South division has a loss, so the Colts find themselves right back in the mix with a home matchup against the Tennessee Titans next week.

    Keep in mind that Shaquille Leonard (back) hasn't made his season debut yet. Bradley's defense will look stronger whenever the star linebacker returns to action.

Saints Should Rest Jameis Winston

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    New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) walks on the sideline after his pass was fumbled then recovered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
    Jameis Winston (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    Jameis Winston has had brief stretches of solid play with the New Orleans Saints while playing from behind, but he's been clearly hampered by injuries.

    According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Winston has played "in a lot of pain" with four fractures in his back over the past two weeks. The Saints signal-caller also has an ankle issue, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers only sacked Winston once, but he felt consistent pressure in the pocket as defensive coordinator Phil Snow dialed up multiple blitzes. Because of his injuries, Winston isn't equipped to evade the pass rush, which leaves him susceptible to more hits.

    The Saints offense has struggled at the beginning of every game this season, but Winston hasn't been able to pull off a comeback in the last two outings.

    Trailing the Panthers for the entire game Sunday, Winston heaved the ball downfield on his way to 353 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, but the Saints should consider resting him if the offense continues to struggle early in contests.

    With Taysom Hill at tight end and sidelined because of a rib injury, backup quarterback Andy Dalton, who's an experienced starter, can operate the offense for two to three weeks.

    Of course, the Saints need to keep their fingers crossed for wideouts Michael Thomas (foot) and Jarvis Landry (ankle), who both exited Sunday's game with injuries.

Mac Jones’ Ankle Injury Creates Uncertainty for Patriots Offense

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    New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) carries he ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
    Mac Jones (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Following a 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal shared a snapshot of quarterback Mac Jones writhing in pain as teammates helped him to the locker room.

    Jones suffered an ankle injury on the last play of the game. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots sent the quarterback for X-rays, which came back negative, and the team will continue to evaluate him.

    Against the Ravens' porous pass defense (ranked 32nd going into Week 3), Jones threw for 321 yards and three interceptions. The Patriots will likely turn to veteran backup Brian Hoyer over rookie fourth-rounder Bailey Zappe if Jones misses some time.

    Hoyer is in his eighth year with the Patriots, though he's yet to throw a pass this season. At 36 years old, he has limitations, but his familiarity with the coaching staff will probably give him the edge to start over the rookie against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4 if necessary.

New Coaching Staff, Same Issues Plague Raiders in Third Consecutive Loss

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    Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels answers questions after an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)
    Josh McDaniels (AP Photo/John Amis)

    Last year, under former head coach Jon Gruden and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, the Las Vegas Raiders struggled to limit penalties (second-most) and score touchdowns in the red zone (26th). On Sunday, they dropped to 0-3 partially because of those same issues with new head coach Josh McDaniels at the helm.

    In a 24-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Raiders made six trips to the red zone and only finished two of those drives with a touchdown. They kicked three field goals inside the Titans' 18-yard line, and Derek Carr threw a ball that bounced off tight end Darren Waller's hands into safety Kevin Byard's breadbasket for an interception.

    McDaniels' staff doesn't deserve all the blame for the Raiders' red-zone woes because Waller failed to haul in two passes that hit his hands in the end zone on Sunday.

    However, one can argue that the head coach and lead play-caller should rely on his running backs as opposed to the passing game deep in the opponent's territory. Vegas averaged 5.1 yards per carry against the Titans defense, which allowed the second-most rushing yards going into Week 3.

    After safety Duron Harmon intercepted a pass from Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Vegas' ensuing drive stalled because of a costly holding infraction on Jermaine Eluemunor that wiped out a 29-yard pass to Waller. Three plays later, the Raiders took a delay-of-game penalty that moved them out of field-goal range.

    On top of the red-zone and penalty issues, McDaniels did a little too much with his play-calling decisions early and throughout the game. The Raiders ran a wide receiver reverse for Davante Adams, losing four yards on the opening drive, and all sorts of unnecessary tricks plays when they just needed to run the ball through Tennessee's defensive front.

    Lastly, the Raiders defense doesn't look any better than the 2021 unit that ranked 26th and 14th in scoring and yards, respectively. Vegas went into Week 3 listed at 24th and 23rd in those categories, correspondingly.

    Titans racked up a season-high 361 total yards against the Raiders. Running back Derrick Henry, who averaged 3.1 yards per carry through the first two weeks, ran for 4.3 yards per rush attempt Sunday.

    This past offseason, the Raiders added Adams and All-Pro edge-rusher Chandler Jones, but they're off to an extremely disappointing 0-3 start in a step backwards.

Trevor Lawrence Is Finding His Way as an NFL Starter Under Doug Pederson

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars warms up before his game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Trevor Lawrence (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    While the Jacksonville Jaguars thumped the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium Sunday, former NFL cornerback and three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman asked a question directed at the Chargers defense.

    Richard Sherman @RSherman_25

    What is going on with <a href="">@chargers</a>? They have so much talent and it appears <a href="">@Jaguars</a> is scoring at will.

    While Sherman posed a valid question for a unit that features edge-rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa (before he exited with a groin injury) along with safety Derwin James Jr., we should turn our focus to Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a second-year signal-caller primed for a breakout campaign.

    Lawrence and the Jaguars had a disastrous run under former head coach Urban Meyer, but new lead skipper Doug Pederson has immediately changed the outlook of this club. Coming off a 24-0 victory over Indianapolis, Jacksonville throttled Los Angeles in its building.

    For the season, Lawrence has thrown for 772 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. In 2021, he threw for just 12 touchdowns and tied Matthew Stafford for a league-leading 17 interceptions.

    Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert played with fractured rib cartilage, but as Sherman pointed out, the Jaguars offense carved up head coach Brandon Staley's defense to the tune of 413 total yards.

    Opponents can no longer overlook or underestimate the Jaguars, who have a young quarterback on the rise.

Packers Still Among NFC's Best with New Winning Formula

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    Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers thorws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
    Aaron Rodgers (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

    On Sunday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earned his second head-to-head win over Tom Brady, and he did it without a 100-yard receiver or rusher.

    Rodgers threw for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also saw some growth out of rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs, who led the Packers with eight catches and 73 receiving yards, and fifth-year wideout Allen Lazard, who caught four passes for 45 yards and a score.

    Despite running back Aaron Jones' costly fumble in the red zone, Green Bay hung on to a lead because of its defense and the Buccaneers' untimely delay-of-game penalty on a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

    Though the Buccaneers botched a crucial offensive sequence, the Packers defense held them to 285 total yards, only allowed two third-down conversions on 11 opportunities and forced a couple of turnovers.

    In the post-Davante Adams era, the Packers have learned how to win with their ground attack (203 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears last week) and a strong defense, allowing fewer than 13 points in their last two contests.

    The Packers offense isn't going to move the ball up and down the field every week, but the club has a couple of wideouts in Lazard and Doubs that can make plays and a stingy defense that held up without lead cornerback Jaire Alexander (groin) for an extended period Sunday.

    Despite Adams' departure, Green Bay is still one of the top teams in the NFC. Brady didn't have wideouts Mike Evans (suspended), Chris Godwin (hamstring) or Julio Jones (partially torn PCL), but the Packers did a good job of limiting running back Leonard Fournette to 70 scoreless scrimmage yards.

    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.


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