Every NFL Team's Biggest Weakness so Far This Season

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2018

Every NFL Team's Biggest Weakness so Far This Season

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    Though all 32 NFL teams tried to address their weaknesses during the offseason with trades, free-agent signings and draft picks, live action is here to expose the holes still on each roster.

    The regular season brings all sorts of unforeseen challenges. Coaches have to do their best to make sure the next man is ready to take the field, and front offices must keep an eye out for available talent capable of filling roster voids. 

    Through two weeks, we can already see what could possibly derail each team's season if the decision-makers fail to address major issues.

    Here, we take a deep dive into why certain teams have come up short on the scoreboard and how others can win by even bigger margins. Is the defense in need of a consistent pass rush to close games? Is a porous offensive line unable to give the quarterback time to scan the field for a winning drive? 

    What's the most pressing concern for each club going into Week 3?


Arizona Cardinals: Moving the Ball in Passing Offense

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    Six points—that's what the Arizona Cardinals scored through two weeks. Head coach Steve Wilks doesn't want to place all the blame on Sam Bradford, but he's far different from the quarterback who stepped into a new situation with the Minnesota Vikings two years ago.

    While speaking with the media Monday, Wilks highlighted Bradford's issues in the pocket.

    "Sam's got to have patience and confidence in the pocket to be able to step up and make that throw," he said.

    Nonetheless, the Cardinals head coach doesn't seem ready to start rookie signal-caller Josh Rosen against the Chicago Bears Sunday, which is a good idea considering their relentless pass rush. 

    Left tackle D.J. Humphries has experienced his share of issues keeping the pocket pressure at a minimum—something that factors into Bradford's ability to scan the field. However, the ninth-year veteran and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy must adjust to the challenges. 

    Running back David Johnson averages a respectable 3.9 yards per carry. But the Cardinals rank last in passing yards and first downs. Bradford doesn't have a touchdown pass, and he's shown no sign of his ability to move the ball in the face of pressure.

Atlanta Falcons: Lack of a Consistent No. 2 Receiving Option

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    The Atlanta Falcons red-zone inefficiency has been talked about ad nauseam. Viewers watched the offense come up short at the Philadelphia Eagles 5-yard line in the regular-season opener.

    However, the Falcons' red-zone efficiency for touchdowns ranks 17th at 55.6 percent, per Team Rankings. Sure, the unit should have a higher success rate with wideout Julio Jones on the field, but what about the options behind him in the passing attack? 

    Jones ranks seventh in the league in receiving yards with 233, tied with Vikings wideout Adam Thielen, but quarterback Matt Ryan hasn't established much with a No. 2 pass-catching option. 

    Mohamed Sanu hasn't provided a noticeable impact as a receiver. Tight end Austin Hooper ranks second on the team in targets (nine), receptions (eight) and yards (83) despite a forgettable Week 1 performance, when he logged three catches for 24 yards.

    Rookie first-rounder Calvin Ridley flashed upside in a solid outing against the Carolina Panthers, recording four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. But he must put together a string of productive performances before we can call him a consistent threat in the vertical attack. 

Baltimore Ravens: Opening Running Lanes

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    Last year, the Baltimore Ravens ground attack ranked 11th without two-time All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda on the interior. Running back Alex Collins flashed as the next ball-carrier to lead the rushing offense.

    Through two weeks, the Ravens have relied on quarterback Joe Flacco and his new offensive weapons to move the ball downfield. The offensive line has struggled in the trenches, but the 33-year-old signal-caller found ways to connect with his playmakers in the aerial attack. On the other hand, the rushing offense averages 3.3 yards per carry this year, which ranks 30th in the league. 

    According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens have been stuffed on 23 percent of their carries, which is four percent above the league average. The ball-carriers have moved the ball on short power runs for first downs, but the offense only produced two runs for 10-plus yards in two weeks. 

    With limited room to run, Baltimore's ground attack isn't yielding chunk plays, which may become a major issue when the passing attack struggles to advance the ball downfield.

Buffalo Bills: Red-Zone Pass Coverage

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    Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman may have a different perspective on the team's biggest weakness. In Week 1, he was sacked three times before the coaching staff pulled him off the field for rookie Josh Allen.

    Allen's mobility could mask the holes in pass protection. Secondly, the offensive line isn't always the culprit for a high number of sacks. The quarterback must adjust to the pressure and release the ball in a timely fashion.

    Buffalo has a bigger problem in the secondary. Cornerback Vontae Davis retired at halftime last week. Phillip Gaines dislocated his elbow. Rookie fourth-rounder Taron Johnson sat out with a shoulder injury in Week 2.

    The Bills look thin on talent at cornerback, and they've allowed six passing touchdowns inside the 20-yard line through two weeks. With the unit struggling to keep receivers out of the end zone, head coach Sean McDermott doesn't have many options to fill the gaps at the position.

    Buffalo promoted cornerback Ryan Lewis to the active roster Tuesday, which suggests an injury may keep a different cornerback on the sideline. 

Carolina Panthers: Defending the Run

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    In 2017, the Panthers fielded a stout run defense that ranked third in yards allowed and only surrendered seven scores on the ground. Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith gashed this unit last week, though, and the Panthers rank 23rd against the run through two weeks.

    It's somewhat of a shock, since the defense added tackle Dontari Poe, who's a solid run defender in the middle. The front seven will have a boost when linebacker Thomas Davis returns to action after serving his four-game suspension.

    Under head coach Ron Rivera in recent years, the Panthers have embraced a physical style of play, but the inability to stop the run so far this year deals a blow to the team's identity. The coaching staff may tweak the personnel if another team runs for 170-plus yards against this group. 

Chicago Bears: Stretching the Field in the Pass Game

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    The Bears signed wide receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton and selected Anthony Miller in the second round of April's draft. It's still early, but Chicago ranks 31st in yards per completion (7.1), according to Team Rankings. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hasn't eclipsed 200 passing yards in either of the first two games. 

    Trubisky has 14 starts, and the front office hired a new coaching staff for the offense. It's best to exercise patience with new parts coming together. Right now, Chicago isn't built to play from a big deficit. The passing attack doesn't have the continuity to advance the ball downfield in chunks.

    Robinson looked good in a few highlight plays against the Seattle Seahawks Monday night, but what will Trubisky do when opposing defenders blanket his top receiving option?

    Head coach Matt Nagy should sit down with Trubisky to find out what looks he likes best in the pocket and figure out how to scheme pass-catchers open for big plays. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Allowing Big Pass Plays

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have the talent to emerge as this year's sleeper team. They're off to a 2-0 start, and the defense could has six sacks and ranks third against the run.

    However, the unit has allowed two 20-plus yard passing scores. Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron logged a 26-yard touchdown in Week 1, and Flacco threaded the needle to wideout John Brown for a 21-yard score last week.

    On the bright side, free safety Jessie Bates hauled in an interception and almost came away with a second pick against the Ravens. The Bengals pass defense valued his ability to force turnovers, which explains why the front office selected him in the second round of the draft and felt comfortable releasing George Iloka during the offseason.

    Bates will likely erase more potential long gains, but the Bengals currently rank 29th in passing yards allowed. If the defense can limit big plays, this group should finish the year as a top-10 unit. 

Cleveland Browns: Protecting the Passer's Blind Side

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    The Cleveland Browns put the kibosh on an experiment, which shifted Joel Bitonio from guard to left tackle with the starters during the exhibition period. The coaching staff decided to open the regular season with undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison at the position. 

    In the first two weeks, quarterback Tyrod Taylor held the ball too long at times, but Harrison also struggled to fend off pressure on the blind side. After drawing three penalties in a rough debut, the West Georgia product showed improvement against the New Orleans Saints last week. Still, he had some difficulties keeping the pocket clean. 

    The New York Jets sacked Taylor three times before he went into concussion protocol during Thursday's contest. Rookie Baker Mayfield took over the huddle, and he injected life into the offense. Gang Green sacked him once, but he recovered with decisive, pinpoint passes to his receivers.

    Mayfield's quick release certainly helps Harrison, who's adjusting to the speed of the game. During a postgame interview, the rookie signal-caller talked about seeing a boost in the left tackle's confidence, which will be important as defenses attempt to disrupt the Browns' passing attack with pocket pressure. 

Dallas Cowboys: Deep Passing Attack

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    The Dallas Cowboys have had little success with big pass plays. Quarterback Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Autin against the New York Giants stands out as the lone successful throw that's gone downfield for more than 20 yards.

    Austin took advantage of busted coverage last week, but he's not a consistent receiver. The 28-year-old has played 23.9 percent of the team's snaps. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will probably continue to move him around the formation. 

    The Cowboys acquired wideouts Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson and rookie third-rounder Michael Gallup during the offseason. It's fair to give Prescott time to establish a rapport with the new pass-catchers. 

    Right now, Dallas will have to settle for a conservative approach with an occasional shot downfield. The Cowboys passing attack ranks 30th in total yards. 

Denver Broncos: Boundary Pass Coverage

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    Through the first two weeks, the Denver Broncos have missed cornerback Aqib Talib's coverage on the perimeter. The front office traded him to the Los Angeles Rams during the offseason, but his absence left a void on the boundary.

    Following Talib's exit, cornerback Bradley Roby prepared for a bigger workload over the summer. Thus far, he hasn't fared well as a replacement on the outside. Nonetheless, the fifth-year veteran has put together solid years in a lesser role, so it may take more time for him to adjust in expanded snaps.

    The Broncos' decision to select Isaac Yiadom in the third round of April's draft and to sign Adam Jones should make you wonder about their plans. Perhaps the team acquired both cornerbacks as an insurance policy in case Roby's move into a starting role flopped early in the season. 

    It's not panic time for a pass defense that ranks 20th in yards allowed, but keep an eye on the personnel combinations at cornerback in the coming weeks. 

Detroit Lions: Commitment to Ground Attack

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    Based on the Detroit Lions' offseason moves, we could surmise the coaching staff wanted to take on a more physical approach on offense. The front office selected interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow with the No. 20 overall pick, signed a physical ball-carrier in LeGarrette Blount and drafted rookie second-rounder Kerryon Johnson.

    However, we're seeing a similar offensive approach to the last couple of seasons. The Lions ranked 31st in rush attempts in each of the last two years, and that hasn't changed through two weeks.

    Before Detroit's home opener devolved into an embarrassing 48-17 loss to the Jets, the score remained close a few minutes into the third quarter. And the Lions were competitive through a majority of three quarters in Week 2.

    The Lions have the assets to commit to as they establish the ground attack, but the team continues to lean heavily on quarterback Matthew Stafford's arm.

    Of course, playing from behind late in both games inflates the volume of pass attempts. But the coaching staff had a chance to test the run game early for a more balanced game plan to start the season, and it hasn't yet. 

Green Bay Packers: Red-Zone Ground Attack

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    The Green Bay Packers don't have a rushing touchdown through two weeks. Aaron Jones will return from a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy on Sunday, and he could strengthen the offense in this area.

    Jones will join Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery in a running back by committee going forward. The 23-year-old logged four scores on the ground in 12 appearances last year.

    Green Bay has been totally reliant on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' arm to finish drives. He can certainly handle the responsibility, but the Packers must balance their approach when they're deep in the opponent's territory. The threat of the run game near the goal line could open more space for passes in confined space. 

    Furthermore, an effective ground attack would take some pressure off of Rodgers' ailing knee. He's concerned his injury could worsen as the season progress, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. The Packers have a trio of running backs who can balance the offense. But so far, it's all been on No. 12 to do the heavy lifting. 

Houston Texans: Converting on 3rd Down

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    It's easy to point the finger at the Houston Texans offensive line. It's still a work process, but let's take a deeper look at why this team ranks 26th in scoring.

    Despite the offensive line issues, the Texans have the No. 3 ground attack, which features running back Lamar Miller averaging 4.9 yards per carry, quarterback Deshaun Watson using his legs to accumulate 84 rushing yards on 13 attempts and ball-carrier Alfred Blue, who's logged six yards per rush in a reserve role. 

    The Texans have an effective means to move the ball, but they struggle at critical points in their drives. Houston has logged a first down in seven out of 22 third-down scenarios. 

    If an offense can't extend drives on third down, the unit won't have many opportunities to score points. The Texans rank 15th in total yards, but they have to do a better job late in the drive sequence. 

Indianapolis Colts: Inefficient Ground Attack

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    Does quarterback Andrew Luck have enough help in Indianapolis? In the past, many criticized the pass protection around the Colts franchise quarterback. The front office selected two offensive linemen, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, in this year's draft, signed a veteran guard in Matt Slauson and left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) should return to action in the near future.

    Now, it's a different issue. The Colts have a one-dimensional offense, which puts tremendous pressure on Luck coming off a lengthy recovery from a shoulder injury. The rushing offense averages 3.6 yards per carry, which ties with the Seahawks at 27th in the league. 

    The backfield doesn't have a clear-cut lead ball-carrier who can take over a game while handling the majority load. Head coach Frank Reich operated with a running-by-committee approach in Philadelphia, but he's not seeing adequate production out of his tailbacks in Indianapolis.

    Overall, the Colts ground attack ranks 24th over the last two weeks. Marlon Mack, the expected frontrunner at the position, missed most of the offseason program following shoulder surgery then suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason opener. Rookie fifth-rounder Jordan Wilkins may see a bigger workload when the team needs some offensive balance. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Protecting Blake Bortles' Blind Side

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    Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson tore his ACL in last week's contest with the New England Patriots. Josh Wells replaced him and didn't surrender a sack but allowed multiple pressures off the edge.

    Wells entered the game under short notice, so his performance could improve as he prepares to start. However, the Jaguars may have a weak link on the perimeter if the 27-year-old can't handle the pocket pressure. 

    "Marrone said reserve lineman Josh Walker or rookie reserve Will Richardson Jr. can play tackle if injuries necessitate, as can starting center Brandon Linder and starting right guard A.J. Cann," wrote John Oehser of the team's official website.

    It's wait and see with Wells, who has just four starts on his resume. But his first day suggests the team will need to shuffle its options at left tackle when the deceptively low sack total rises. 

Kansas City Chiefs: Intermediate Pass Coverage

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    Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry's eventual return from a heel injury should strengthen the intermediate pass defense. However, the healthy bodies in action must improve their coverage, specifically in the middle of the field and down the seam.

    Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Terrance Smith struggled to cover Chargers pass-catchers Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler out of the backfield in Week 1. The running back duo racked up a combined 14 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown.

    Last week, Hitchens and safety Eric Murray had difficulty covering Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James downfield. He logged five receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown.

    The Chiefs rank 32nd in passing yards allowed, but it's their inability to limit running back and tight end production in the middle of the field that's significantly hurt the defense over the last two weeks. 

Los Angeles Chargers: 3rd-Down Efficiency

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    The Chargers have an offensive unit loaded with talent. Ekeler has emerged as a solid No. 2 option behind Gordon at running back. He's second on the team in yards from scrimmage with 224.

    Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Gordon and Ekeler have all eclipsed 100 receiving yards, boosting the passing attack to No. 5 in total yardage. 

    However, the offense struggles to convert on third downs at 30 percent, ranking 28th in the NFL.

    Perhaps it's an area where a big-body tight end could help when defenses clamp down on wide receivers. Hunter Henry remains on the physically unable to perform list recovering from an ACL tear. At 38 years old, Antonio Gates isn't much of a threat in the passing game anymore. He's logged just two catches for 16 yards in two weeks. 

    At 6'4", 220 pounds, Williams could emerge as the go-to receiver on critical third downs. Until then, the Chargers have to find reliable offensive weapons late in drives. 

Los Angeles Rams: Generating Pocket Pressure off the Edge

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    Thus far, the Rams have two sacks. Defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh haven't been able to break through, but they're generating pressure to force the quarterback out of the pocket.

    The interior pressure should lead to more sacks for the outside linebackers coming off the edge. Samson Ebukam logged one of the two sacks in the last outing with the Cardinals. In his sophomore season, the 23-year-old takes on a full-time role after playing 33 percent of the team's snaps last season. 

    Opposing offensive lines will focus on keeping Donald and Suh away from the quarterback; Ebukam will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize off the edge. Outside linebacker Matt Longacre logged 5.5 sacks last year, but he's yet to make an impact in 42 defensive snaps through the first two weeks.

    As the Rams' competition level ramps up, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need his unheralded outside linebackers to complement the All-Pro defensive tackles in the pass rush. 

Miami Dolphins: Protecting the Football

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    The Miami Dolphins gave away possession four times over the last two weeks. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill accounts for three of the turnovers. In Week 1, he threw two interceptions, and the New York Jets strip-sacked him twice in the last outing. Tight end A.J. Derby recovered one of the fumbles.

    Of course, there's some blame to go around on the two fumbles, specifically the offensive line. However, Tannehill must prioritize ball security within an offense that doesn't move the ball consistently. 

    Miami ranks 28th in total yardage and 26th first downs through two weeks. Giveaways, especially in flurries, would be hard to overcome for this offense. Fortunately for the Dolphins, the Jets turned the ball over three times last week.

    In games against top-tier offensive units, Tannehill has to minimize mistakes when driving the field, possibly take the safe route and throw passes away if he's under duress. It's better to lose a down than give up possession. 

Minnesota Vikings: Right Side of Offensive Line

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    The Vikings don't have much to complain about with a strong roster top to bottom, but opposing defenses can collapse the pocket on the right side to thwart the run or pressure quarterback Kirk Cousins.

    According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings ball-carriers average 3.3 yards per carry when running behind the right tackle. 

    Opposing defenses sacked Cousins five times through two weeks. Mike Remmers moved inside from right tackle to guard. Rashod Hill took his spot on the perimeter. Both gave up several pressures and quarterback hurries in the last two outings.

    In Week 2, Hill went down with an ankle injury, which allowed rookie second-rounder Brian O'Neill to see the field. Perhaps he can improve the outlook on the right side, but the rookie will likely experience growing pains when defensive coordinators attempt to test him with top-notch pass-rushers able to line up on both sides. 

New England Patriots: Pass Defense

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    The Patriots pressured Watson, who's taking snaps behind an offensive line that needs time to jell, but we saw holes in the secondary when Bortles had time to throw last week.

    Bortles lit up the Patriots pass defense for 376 yards and four touchdowns. The Jaguars wideouts shredded Jonathan Jones in the slot. The third-year cornerback isn't the only defensive back who struggled against the Jaguars. Eric Rowe and Patrick Chung also allowed a few critical receptions in coverage. 

    Malcolm Butler's departure didn't cause this issue. The Patriots ranked 30th in passing yards allowed last year. However, if Bortles found a way to rack up scores against a defense that typically bends but doesn't break, quarterback Tom Brady may have to win more shootouts than usual this year.

    Aside from cornerback Stephon Gilmore, opposing quarterbacks may try a more aggressive approach in targeting the Patriots' cover men downfield. 

New Orleans Saints: Establishing the Ground Attack

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    Without running back Mark Ingram, who's serving a four-game suspension, the Saints rushing offense doesn't have much juice.

    The Saints rank last in rushing yards and 31st in yards per carry at 2.9. Running back Alvin Kamara, who emerged as a big-time playmaker en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, averages 3.6 yards per carry. He doesn't have the same effect without his running mate sharing the load.

    The inability to establish the run and control the clock has an increased importance when the defense can't slow down a strong passing attack. In Week 1, we saw the Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle through the air in a high-scoring game partially because neither team had the ball-carriers to control the tempo. 

    New Orleans could've kept quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's hot hand on the sideline with timely, effective runs. The Saints have shown their discomfort with Ingram's replacements, logging 36 total rush attempts, which ranks 30th in the NFL. 

    Expect to see a better Saints team when their two-time Pro Bowl running back returns to action. 

New York Giants: Protecting Eli Manning

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    For the Giants, it's a toss-up between a lack of pocket pressure and pass protection. Big Blue only has one sack for the season, but the defense should have some improvement in that area when outside linebacker Olivier Vernon returns to the field from an ankle injury.

    The Giants signed fullback Elijhaa Penny to replace Shane Smith, who struggled in the last outing, per ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan. He'll likely handle blocking duties for the run and pass game, but the offensive line has much bigger issues to address. 

    Quarterback Eli Manning looked shell-shocked behind the offensive line in Week 2. The Cowboys sacked him six times, which brought the total to eight for the season.

    Ereck Flowers has allowed constant pressure in his new position at right tackle. The front office paid top dollar for left tackle Nate Solder, but he hasn't performed to the level of his price tag. Rookie second-rounder Will Hernandez struggled with interior pressure in two starts. Lastly, Big Blue lost starting center Jon Halapio for the season with a broken ankle. 

    The decision to add Penny isn't going to fix all those problems. At 0-2, the Giants don't have much time to figure out solutions if they plan on making the playoffs. 

New York Jets: Protecting the Football

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    The Jets lead the league in turnovers with eight. Despite his production as a two-year starter at USC, quarterback Sam Darnold came into the league with a reputation for throwing interceptions. He tossed 22 picks over his last two seasons on the collegiate level.

    In appropriate fashion, Darnold's NFL career started with a pick-six against the Lions before he settled down and completed 16 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

    The rookie signal-caller has thrown five interceptions, the most in the league. Wideout Robby Anderson fumbled once following a catch in each of the last two outings. After a completion on fourth down, Darnold forced a throw into double coverage, and Browns linebacker Joe Schobert intercepted the pass in Thursday's contest.

    Gang Green must protect the football and come to terms with Darnold's interceptions because he's shown the tendency to take chances, and at times, it's necessary to win games. Head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have to stay in his ear about taking needless risks.

    As Darnold develops, he'll understand when he needs to reel it in rather than go for the jugular. 

Oakland Raiders: Generating a Pass Rush

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    The Raiders have two sacks through two weeks. During Wednesday's media press conference, head coach Jon Gruden commented on the difficulty in finding a top-notch pass-rusher, per The Athletic's Vic Tafur.

    It's too easy to point out the Khalil Mack trade. Gruden's words come across as a troll job on the media that hasn't allowed him to forget the blockbuster move that sent his best pass-rusher to the Bears.

    Nevertheless, the Raiders must figure out how to fill the void. During Monday's media conference, Gruden talked about getting more out of Bruce Irvin, rookie third-rounder Arden Key and first-year defensive tackles P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst. 

    Irvin doesn't have a double-digit sack season under his belt, but he's a full-time pass-rushing defensive end as opposed to a strong-side linebacker in play-caller Paul Guenther's scheme. It's unrealistic to expect a pair of rookies playing less than two-thirds of the defensive snaps to generate a constant pass rush right out of college. 

    The Raiders allowed the Broncos to drive downfield for a game-winning drive last week. An elite pass-rusher could've closed the game, but the Silver and Black walked off the field with a 20-19 loss. 

    As Gruden suggested in the past, per Tafur, Guenther may have to dial up some blitzes. The Raiders no longer have a top-level talent capable of drawing double- and triple-teams to open pass-rushing lanes for others. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Lack of Wide Receiver Options

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    Quarterback Carson Wentz will return to action Week 3 against the Colts. He's been cleared to play after a long recovery from an ACL tear suffered in Week 14 last season. However, he's coming back to a thin wide receiver unit. 

    The Eagles lost Mack Hollins for the season because of a groin injury. Mike Wallace suffered a broken fibula in the last outing; the team placed him on injured reserve. Alshon Jeffery continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery. Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews will serve as the top perimeter assets at wide receiver. 

    In 2017, Agholor put together a breakout season, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns following two frustrating terms marred with drop issues.

    Matthews rejoined the team Wednesday. The Eagles traded him to the Bills last offseason. He hauled in 25 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. The 26-year-old struggled with knee, ankle and hamstring injuries over the last year. Now healthy, he'll need to produce right away in this offense.  

Pittsburgh Steelers: Roster Unity and Direction

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    There's too much going on away from the field that may affect what's happening on the gridiron. One NFC South assistant coach called the Steelers' situation "a circus" and suggests head coach Mike Tomlin doesn't have a handle on his players, per Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman.

    Through two weeks, the Steelers lead the league in penalties with 24. The undisciplined style of play speaks to the team's poor execution. 

    Pittsburgh has high-quality talent on the defensive side of the ball, a group that ranked seventh in scoring and fifth in yards allowed last year. However, the unit looked out of sorts in Week 2. The Steelers gave up 42 points and 449 yards in a loss to the Chiefs.

    Running back Le'Veon Bell's holdout took a personal turn when multiple offensive linemen chided the 26-year-old for his decision not to report for Week 1.

    It's strange to see this unfold between a star running back and offensive linemen since they work so closely together in the ground attack. If the Steelers opt to keep Bell for the season, how will this situation play out in the locker room when he returns?

    Two games into the year, wideout Antonio Brown had a heated exchange with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Players arguing with coaches is not uncommon, but the clear discord among the players and within the team ranks could tear down a perennial AFC contender.

    Team unity often goes overlooked as an important component in pushing for a Super Bowl title. A lack of cohesion and order could derail the Steelers' season.  

San Francisco 49ers: Generating Consistent Production in the Passing Attack

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    Life comes at you fast.

    Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo received all the praise after he led the 49ers to a 5-0 finish in December last season. In Week 2 this year, he had a solid statistical outing but stood out for some of the wrong reasons.

    Garoppolo has been sacked nine times, third-most in the league. But for the most part, his offensive line wasn't to blame for the six sacks he took in the last outing. He held onto the ball long enough for the Lions to take him down on multiple occasions. 

    Garoppolo's inability to make snap decisions with the football isn't the only issue. The 49ers passing offense isn't moving the ball up and down the field at will, ranking 27th in total yards. The Vikings defense can take a portion of the credit for the fifth-year signal-caller's 55.9 pass completion rate.

    Nonetheless, Garoppolo's early missteps should cause some concern when San Francisco plays top-notch defensive units. He must improve his play to put the 49ers in postseason contention. 

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson's Pass Protection

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    According to Seattle Times reporter Mike Vorel, head coach Pete Carroll said quarterback Russell Wilson was "over-trying" following the team's 24-17 loss to the Bears, but the offensive line hasn't done enough.

    Opposing defenders have sacked Wilson 12 times, which leads the league. The Broncos and Bears logged six sacks apiece against the Seahawks. 

    Wilson doesn't have wideout Doug Baldwin on the field because of an MCL injury, but it's a moot point if the signal-caller is constantly on the run from pressure. 

    The Seahawks ground attack hasn't been effective since the 2015 campaign, yet the team remained competitive behind Wilson's arm. With the pass protection seemingly getting worse, Seattle could miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.

    If offensive line coach Mike Solari can't find a way to keep his unit together for some strong performances, the Seahawks will struggle to put up points with average talent at running back and wide receiver. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Establishing the Ground Attack

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    At some point, Ryan Fitzpatrick will play a formidable defense, and the Buccaneers will have to find another way to win.

    Running back Peyton Barber claimed the starting job with a strong preseason, but he's averaging 2.6 yards per carry through two games. As a team, Tampa Bay averages 2.7 yards per rush attempt, which ranks last in the league. 

    The Buccaneers can't turn to rookie second-rounder Ronald Jones because of his disappointing outings in exhibition play. He appeared in all four games but finished with 28 carries for 22 yards and a touchdown. Clearly, he isn't quite ready for a bigger role. 

    The coaching staff will have to roll with Barber and hope he turns it around as the season progresses. Until then, the offense will go as far as Fitzpatrick takes it. 

Tennessee Titans: Lacking Offensive Continuity

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Under former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, the team played the exotic smashmouth offense. The approach seemed a bit old-school, but the unit understood its strengths.

    The Titans haven't quite figured out their strong suit under new coach Mike Vrabel two weeks into the season. Tennessee ranks 26th in the passing attack and 16th on the ground. The new coaching staff has also dealt with injuries to key players.

    Quarterback Marcus Mariota's Week 2 absence due to an elbow injury is one reason for the slow offensive development. The Titans also took the field without starting tackles Taylor Lewan (concussion) and Jack Conklin (ACL) against the Texans last week.

    Tennessee won the game 20-17, but play-caller Matt LaFleur needed to dig deep into the playbook for a safety-to-safety touchdown pass from Kevin Byard to Dane Cruikshank.  

    We'll have a better idea of how LaFleur wants to shape the offense once Mariota, Lewan and Conklin return to action. Right now, the Titans will have to scrape for wins with a strong defense and a creative game plan. 

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith's Rapport with Wide Receivers

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    Quarterback Alex Smith went through the entire 2014 campaign without throwing a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver when he lined up under center for the Chiefs.

    It's way too early to worry about a scoreless season for the Washington Redskins wide receivers, but the top three pass-catchers at the position are off to an underwhelming start.

    Paul Richardson leads the wide receiver corps with eight catches for 85 yards. He's fourth among all pass-catchers on the roster behind Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed and Adrian Peterson. Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder have five receptions apiece, and they're averaging less than 10 yards per catch.

    It's a bottom-line business, so winning matters more than style. However, the trio at wide receiver may not see a high number of targets or big numbers in the passing game. Defenses may feel comfortable with single coverage on the perimeter and focus on taking away Smith's options out of the backfield and down the seam.

    The Redskins have a young core at wideout with high potential. Smith should find a way to get his perimeter playmakers the ball to elevate the offense. 


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