B/R Staff NFL Week 2 Report Card: Eli Manning's Time Coming to an End
Trends begin to develop during the NFL's second week of play.
One week isn't enough to make any firm assessments. Sweeping generalizations run rampant, but they're useless. Two weeks of performances stack up and paint a better picture, like Bob Ross when he adds a little tree long after viewers think he's already created a masterpiece.
A few things are blatantly obvious so far this season:
- The Miami Dolphins are beyond terrible and the clear front-runner for the 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick.
- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson isn't a one-hit wonder and has the potential for an MVP-caliber season.
- The Indianapolis Colts' season isn't over without Andrew Luck.
More examples are taking shape, while the formation of others has just begun.
Quarterback is at the forefront, of course. Multiple squads are still trying to figure out what they're going to do at the game's most important position.
Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers banded together to tell these teams what to do and graded their approaches so far.
Eli's Ability to Hold Off Daniel Jones
The New York Giants can't quit quarterback Eli Manning.
"I think his play is indicative of how our team played," head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters after Sunday's 28-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. "There were some really good plays in there, and then there's some things that we need to improve on."
He added: "I don't think [starting rookie Daniel Jones is] a conversation for right now. I think everybody's gotta play better."
Manning did well during the scripted portion of the contest but then struggled, finishing with 250 yards passing, a touchdown and two picks.
Is the 15-year veteran doing enough to keep this year's sixth overall pick off the field?
Ty Dunne: F
Eli was bad. Really bad. While it's worth noting that his receivers aren't getting open—and when they do get open, they're often dropping passes on the money—it doesn't make any sense that the Giants wouldn't turn to Jones very, very soon.
Mike Freeman: F
It was always only a matter of time before Manning's horrible play forced the Giants to play Jones. We are nearing that time. We might already be there.
Mike Tanier: A+
Eli has really found his niche, playing just well enough to not be the one to blame for Giants losses. The Giants defense and receiving corps are so terrible that Eli can just be blandly bad for months and still not take the blame for any losses. It takes a veteran to find that sweet spot and stay there for (checks standings) three full seasons.
Brent Sobleski: F
Stop the charade. Start Jones. Manning does nothing to make the Giants a better team. At the very least, the rookie will provide hope (and shots down the field).
Brad Gagnon: D
Manning played worse than the numbers indicate. His touchdown pass to T.J. Jones was vintage, but everything else was football vomit. He should have had more than those two interceptions and got away with a fumble because the Bills forgot about replay review. The Giants are 0-2, and with every Big Blue loss, we move closer to the start of the Jones era.
Gary Davenport: Z-
There's only one reason I can think of not to start Jones moving forward. It rhymes with "the Giants are idiots."
Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur's Early Marriage
The relationship between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur got off to a rocky start. Green Bay managed a meager 10 points and 213 total yards in Week 1, albeit in a Thursday night victory against the Chicago Bears.
The pairing looked better in stretches during Green Bay's 21-16 victory Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers threw a pair of touchdowns, while the ground game chewed up 144 yards.
How has the Rodgers-LaFleur pairing looked so far?
Ty Dunne: C
Two games, two wins for the Packers, but it's been all about the revamped defense. Many other offenses and many other quarterbacks have looked a heck of a lot better through two games. However, if Rodgers is content to lean on this defense and on Aaron Jones and the ground game (33 runs, 34 passes on Sunday), maybe the Packers can, in fact, win games with this new formula.
Mike Freeman: B-
It's far from perfect, and it hasn't been pretty. Yet the Packers started the season against two of the best defenses in football in the Bears and Vikings and are 2-0. That's mainly because the Packers defense has been so good. The offense remains a work in progress, but it will get better.
Mike Tanier: C-
Right now, it looks like 20 percent knockoff Rams stuff, 80 percent of Rodgers doing whatever he wants. Which is still an upgrade over several years of 100 percent of Rodgers doing whatever he wants.
Brent Sobleski: C
The unstoppable Rodgers has yet to make an appearance so far this season. Thankfully, the 35-year-old signal-caller doesn't need to carry the entire team anymore. A better rushing attack joined an already improved defense to make the Packers a more complete squad. Eventually, Rodgers will find his groove.
Brad Gagnon: B-
It's a good sign the Packers' best portion of the game was the part that is typically scripted. That offense has yet to put it together, but it has also looked unstoppable for short stretches in each of the first two games. It's only a matter of time.
Gary Davenport: C+
The Green Bay defense has been better than expected, but the offense has been hit-and-miss. We're also already starting to see Rodgers and LaFleur butt heads. But the team is 2-0, so all is well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, only played the first half Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. At some point, Roethlisberger injured the elbow of his throwing arm. Roethlisberger tried to play through the pain, but he clearly suffered from significant discomfort. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Steelers starter will undergo an MRI on Monday.
Second-year signal-caller Mason Rudolph made his debut and completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 112 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (a deflection off Donte Moncrief's hands) in the 28-26 loss.
How did both quarterbacks rate during Sunday's contest?
Ty Dunne: Roethlisberger, INCOMPLETE; Rudolph, B
Rudolph's 92.5 passer rating is about as good as the Steelers could've asked for in a tough spot. He just couldn't keep up with Russell Wilson, who was almost perfect and remains criminally underrated. Pittsburgh has had a stranglehold on this division for most of the 2000s but is in danger of falling behind the Baltimore Ravens. Fast.
Mike Freeman: Roethlisberger, D; Rudolph, C
Roethlisberger has looked terrible so far this season and didn't look good against a porous Seattle defense before he left the game with an injury. The 15-year veteran looks creaky and slow.
Mike Tanier: Roethlisberger, B; Rudolph, C+
It was your basic Big Ben Tries to Play Hurt Game. Whereas, Rudolph played just good enough to make Big Ben want to come back three weeks too early from an injury. Only this year, no one will care.
Brent Sobleski: Roethlisberger, C; Rudolph, C
The Steelers knew Roethlisberger suffered from elbow inflammation throughout the week and still played him, according to ESPN's Dianna Russini. It's hard to knock the veteran's resolve, but he's not helping his team by being on the field. The game was close at the end because of a Devin Bush fumble recovery for a near-touchdown, not anything Rudolph did.
Brad Gagnon: Roethlisberger, D; Rudolph, A
Even before leaving the game, Roethlisberger looked abysmal for the second consecutive week. He sort of looks like he's ready to tap out and start a new life featuring Cheetos and Letterkenny. It doesn't help his cause that Rudolph looked strong in his debut. He was Donte Moncrief'd on his only interception, so that's not his fault, and he kept Pittsburgh in the game against a tough opponent.
Gary Davenport: Roethlisberger, C-; Rudolph, B
Roethlisberger already wasn't playing particularly well before leaving with an elbow injury. Rudolph was better, but if Ben misses much time, this team is toast—if it isn't already.
Gardner Minshew II's First Start
The Gardner Minshew II era in Jacksonville almost had a fairy-tale ending as the rookie sixth-round quarterback drove the team for the potential game-tying touchdown. Instead, head coach Doug Marrone decided to play for the win with a two-point conversion and took the ball out of Minshew's hands by calling a failed Leonard Fournette carry.
Minshew completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 213 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars' 13-12 loss to the rival Houston Texans.
Despite the loss, how did Minshew perform in his first start?
Ty Dunne: C
He didn't have a great feel for the pocket (see: three fumbles, one lost) and didn't stretch the field much. For three-and-a-half quarters, Minshew and the Jaguars offense did a whole lot of nothing. Then he came to life. Minshew showed some guts in giving the Jaguars a shot at the end.
Mike Freeman: B+
He showed poise, particularly at the end of the game, and did well in a difficult spot. You see why Jaguars players said entering the game they weren't worried about the spot being too big for him.
Mike Tanier: C-
If people are going to fall in love with a quarterback who has a high completion rate but doesn't produce many points simply because he wears a groovy mustache, then Sam Bradford is going to come back to the NFL wearing a groovy mustache and demand $10 billion per year.
Brent Sobleski: B
Minshew did more than enough down the stretch with 11-of-16 passing for 122 passing yards to place his team in position to win. He also scrambled twice for 22 yards during Jacksonville's final three plays to keep the offense moving. Is Minshew going to elevate the Jaguars offense? No. But he can be a competent cog.
Brad Gagnon: B+
There were some growing pains in the first half, but he got through that against a talented defense and was at his best with the game on the line. He also led the Jaguars in rushing and gave them a chance to win on the road. Can't ask for much more from a rookie sixth-round pick.
Gary Davenport: B
Minshew actually outplayed Deshaun Watson statistically and had the Jags in position to force overtime (at least). Maybe Doug Maroon (Marrone, whatever) should have let him throw it on that two-point-conversion try at the end.
Year 2 of the Jon Gruden Experience
A reality check came to Oakland on Sunday in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders looked competent in the first quarter in building a 10-0 lead. But the league's reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, took over in the second quarter and threw bombs to score 28 points. The Raiders never recovered.
The Raiders are now 0-3 against the rival Chiefs in the Jon Gruden era and have been outscored by 57 combined points. The "rivalry" serves as a microcosm of the Raiders' current standing.
How has Gruden done trying to rebuild the famed Raiders reputation?
Ty Dunne: D
Oakland's second-quarter implosion is about as bad as it gets and has become routine under Gruden. The Raiders will be light-years behind Kansas City as long as Mahomes is playing quarterback. An Antonio Brown-less locker room should bring a sense of calm and order, but this remains a rough roster everywhere you look—and that's on Gruden.
Mike Freeman: C
Some of this answer we still don't know yet. One huge problem Gruden faces remains Derek Carr. No matter what Gruden does, no matter how much talent he puts around Carr—like running back Josh Jacobs—games will still come down to Carr. It's still not clear he can match the challenge.
Mike Tanier: F
Let's see—he wasted last year on a bunch of 30-something has-beens and then tried to play it off as "Moneyball" after the Khalil Mack trade. He wasted this whole offseason on the Antonio Brown Experience, damaging his relationship with Mike Mayock and doing who-knows-what to locker room chemistry. Surprising the Broncos on Monday night and jumping out to a 10-0 lead on the Chiefs feels like the high-water mark. It's all downhill from here.
Brent Sobleski: F
Owner Mark Davis got his man, and the Raiders are now paying the price. Gruden's offense looks competent for stretches, but the defense can't defend the long ball. One unexpected win to open the season doesn't absolve Oakland's organizational sins.
Brad Gagnon: C
I really wanted to believe Carr and Co. were turning the corner based on a strong Week 1 performance, but then they put up just 10 points at home against a bad Kansas City defense. They've made progress, and both Jacobs and Darren Waller look good, but that unit will lack consistency all year.
Gary Davenport: B-
The Raiders took it to Denver and looked really good in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs. Too bad the game had a second quarter too. But still—these Raiders are quite a bit better than the 2018 iteration.
Todd Gurley's Performance Despite Knee Issues
The Los Angeles Rams continue to closely monitor Todd Gurley's workload. According to NFL Media's Michael Fabiano, Gurley received 63.9 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps against the New Orleans Saints—down from 70.8 percent last week.
Gurley remains effective, though. He has carried the ball 30 times for 160 yards through the first two weeks and scored his first touchdown during Sunday's 27-9 victory.
Considering the amount of concern regarding Gurley's knee issue, how has he looked?
Ty Dunne: A
To the massive disappointment of fantasy owners everywhere, Sean McVay is going to play it safe with Gurley. It's clear he wants to save Gurley's legs for December and January by incorporating Malcolm Brown right now. That's a smart play. If Gurley would've been Gurley in last year's Super Bowl, no way do the Rams score only three points.
Mike Freeman: B
Gurley looks fine, but the biggest thing with the Rams is how they're protecting him and using Brown. Gurley had 16 carries, and Brown had six. That ratio may be more Brown-heavy as the season progresses. Whatever they do, it's working for the 2-0 Rams.
Mike Tanier: B
He's fine: looks healthy, running hard, helping the team. If his name were Matt Breida or Carlos Hyde, no one would even be mentioning him after two weeks.
Brent Sobleski: B
Gurley certainly didn't have a hitch in his giddy-up when he turned the corner for a four-yard scoring scamper. The bigger concern is Los Angeles' offensive front, especially with Austin Blythe's ankle injury.
Brad Gagnon: C+
It's a good sign they got more use out of him this week, and it's not as though he's been ineffective. He's about as good as he was before, but we just have to accept that we'll see less of him going forward. He loses points for the fact he's hardly been a factor as a receiver. That hurts.
Gary Davenport: B-
The Rams are obviously playing the long game with Gurley, much to the chagrin of fantasy football enthusiasts. But so long as they keep winning, it's hard to argue with it, even if you think it's keeping Gurley from getting into a rhythm.