B/R Staff NFL Week 9 Report Card: OBJ Just Wants the Ball

NFL StaffContributor INovember 4, 2019

B/R Staff NFL Week 9 Report Card: OBJ Just Wants the Ball

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The NFL season isn't over until it's over. 

    Unless you're the Cleveland Browns. Then your season is definitely over after an embarrassing 29-14 loss Sunday to the previously inept Denver Broncos, who were down to their third-string quarterback making his first NFL start.

    Don't believe it? Only one team in the Super Bowl era has started 2-6 or worse and still made the playoffs, per ESPN Stats & Info.

    Freddie Kitchens could very well be a one-and-done head coach in Cleveland.

    He's not the only one. The New York Jets imploded against the previously winless Miami Dolphins. But what's there to be embarrassed about?

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, other squads are feeling much better about their prospects than they did a week ago. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders have been spurred by recent additions. The Washington Redskins also got an initial look at the future of their quarterback position.

    Bleacher Report's cadre of NFL writers certainly isn't embarrassed to hand out grades regarding these situations and more.

    Unsurprisingly, the Browns are failing, while the Steelers are passing.

Regrading the Minkah Fitzpatrick Trade

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Minkah Fitzpatrick trade didn't look good for the Pittsburgh Steelers at first, because the organization traded next year's first-round pick shortly after learning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to go on injured reserve with an elbow issue. 

    Pittsburgh lost two of its next three games, and the Miami Dolphins looked like they had a future top-10 pick from the deal.

    But the Steelers have won their last three contests with Fitzpatrick as a focal point of the defense. The defensive back has snagged three interceptions, including a 96-yard pick-six against the Indianapolis Colts, during the last two games.

    How does the deal look now at the halfway point of the season?

           

    Mike Freeman: Steelers, A+; Dolphins, F

    Fitzpatrick has four interceptions and, against the Colts, returned a pick 96 yards for a score. He has been a big reason why this Steelers defense has been a surprise. The Steelers took advantage of the Dolphins' firesale and it's paying off big-time.

    Mike Tanier: Steelers, C; Dolphins, B+

    He's a really good multi-purpose defensive back. He can be a building block for the future. And no one, not even the Steelers, has any idea right now what the team will need in the first round of next year's draft. Whereas, that Steelers draft pick is getting less valuable by the win, and Fitzpatrick could well have been a nucleus player by the time the team got good. But while the overall "tanking" philosophy remains suspect (and by that I mean utterly ridiculous), none of the Dolphins' individual trades were bad.

    Brent Sobleski: Steelers, C; Dolphins C+

    This deal is far more even today than when it occurred, but the same problem still exists: Fitzpatrick's addition doesn't solve Pittsburgh's biggest problem, the quarterback position. Even if the Steelers battle for a postseason spot, his value will always be juxtaposed with what Pittsburgh could have done with that draft pick at the game's most important position.

    Brad Gagnon: Steelers, B+; Dolphins, C+

    When we did this same exercise in September, I gave Pittsburgh a C and Miami a B, mainly because it looked like the Steelers would be sending the Dolphins a top-10 pick. But now, thanks partly to Fitzpatrick's play, the Steelers are a playoff contender in the wide-open AFC. This version of Fitzpatrick is certainly worth a pick in the bottom half of Round 1. 

    Gary Davenport: Steelers, C; Dolphins, B

    As the Steelers keep peeling off wins and the draft pick the Dolphins will get in return for dealing Fitzpatrick drops, this deal looks better for the Steelers. There's no denying the impact the young safety has had in Pittsburgh. But a first-round pick was still an awfully high price to pay, so I still like the deal more for a rebuilding Dolphins team that needs every high pick it can get.

Steelers' Playoff Chances After 3 Straight Wins

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    A 4-4 record keeps the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoff hunt. Only six AFC teams own records above .500, and Pittsburgh beat one of those squads (the Indianapolis Colts) Sunday.

    The Steelers' remaining schedule is manageable with games against the Cleveland Browns (twice), New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals still on the docket.

    The offense is doing just enough, while the defense has created 22 turnovers through eight weeks of play, which is the most by a Steelers team since the 1996 campaign, per Michael Bertsch of the team's official site.

    How likely is Pittsburgh to make a legitimate postseason run?

           

    Mike Freeman: A

    One of the best coaching jobs this season is by someone who isn't discussed as a Coach of the Year candidate, even though he should be. Mike Tomlin has done one of the best jobs of his career, and yes, this team's playoff chances are legit. The Steelers are getting hot, and they're dangerous.

    Mike Tanier: C+

    Football Outsiders gave them a 28.7 percent chance of reaching the playoffs entering Sunday, and I think the probability may be close to 40 percent after Sunday's win and losses by the Tennesse Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and (of course) the Colts. The Steelers face the Browns (twice), the Bengals and the Jets in upcoming games, so they can really control their own destiny.

    Brent Sobleski: C

    Basically, the Steelers have a 50-50 shot at the postseason (and a likely early exit) based on their upcoming schedule. A handful of cupcakes remain to keep this interesting. How Pittsburgh deals with the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens will ultimately decide its fate.

    Brad Gagnon: B

    The quarterback situation remains problematic. But the offense isn't completely anemic, and that high-flying defense can keep them in games. They have a forgiving schedule in the soft AFC. This could absolutely happen, but it'll be a crowded race with the Bills, Colts, Houston Texans, Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.

    Gary Davenport: D

    I'm not going to rule anything out completely in what's shaping up as a down year for the AFC. But Pittsburgh probably isn't catching Baltimore in the AFC North, and the Bills look to have a pretty solid grip on one of the two wild-card spots in the AFC. For Pittsburgh, nabbing the other isn't going to be easy.

Dwayne Haskins' 1st Start

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins made Dwayne Haskins the 15th overall pick in April's draft, but the team was wary of starting the 22-year-old signal-caller until he was ready. 

    Haskins made his first start Sunday in a 24-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The rookie completed 15 of 22 passes for 144 yards, and he didn't commit a single turnover.

    The performance might not have been inspiring, but it wasn't disappointing, either.

    How did Haskins rate as a first-time starter?

    Mike Freeman: C

    It will be difficult to truly tell how good Haskins is this season because he's playing for one of the great dumpster fires in all of sports. Washington doesn't have a lot of talent, but Haskins does. Against a good Buffalo defense, he wasn't good or bad. We don't know about him yet, and we may not until next season.

    Mike Tanier: D

    From what I saw, the Washington game plan was about ending the game as quickly as possible, not winning.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    Washington took the smart approach by protecting its rookie signal-caller in a run-first offense. Adrian Peterson carried the ball 18 times for 108 yards to take pressure off Haskins. As the season progresses and the rookie gets more chances, he'll be relied upon more as a passer. This is a tried-and-true approach to building confidence in young quarterbacks.

    Brad Gagnon: B

    He wasn't heroic, but for a one-year college starter who was abysmal in earlier appearances and had limited support against a good defense, I don't think you can be disappointed in his turnover-free performance.

    Gary Davenport: C-

    Haskins wasn't terrible throwing the ball, and the Buffalo pass defense is no joke. But he didn't clear 150 passing yards, the Redskins didn't find the end zone, and he was sacked four times. At this point, Washington might as well roll him out there next week against the New York Jets. They make everyone look good.

Mitchell Trubisky's Future as Chicago's Starter Past 2019

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears managed nine total yards of offense during the first half of a 22-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles

    Nine.

    Surprisingly, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has yet to establish any kind of rhythm for a year and a half in head coach Matt Nagy's offensive scheme, still took the field in the second half. He finished the contest 10-of-21 for 125 yards.

    The 2017 second overall pick sits on the precipice of bust status.

    What are the odds he remains the Bears' franchise quarterback beyond the 2019 campaign?

            

    Mike Freeman: F

    He's done in Chicago. That's it. That's all. That's the analysis. That's all that's needed.

    Mike Tanier: F

    Mitch Trubisky has a better chance of leading the first manned mission to Mars than he does of being the Bears' starter next year.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    NFL quarterbacks have more lives than cats. Organizations will do everything they can to squeeze every drop of talent from the position, especially if the team made a significant investment in the current starter. Trubisky is a former second overall pick, so the Bears aren't going to move on until they're 100 percent certain he's not the guy.

    Brad Gagnon: D-

    You never know how stubborn Chicago might be about a player it drafted so high, but I get the feeling this is a done deal. What's scary is how much worse he's been than the numbers indicate. A lot of his bulk stats have come in games that are out of reach.

    Gary Davenport: C+

    On one hand, even though Trubisky has struggled mightily in 2019, it's hard to imagine the Bears moving on after just three seasons. On the other hand, Trubisky has looked really bad this year, and there could be a fistful of veteran signal-callers hitting the open market in 2020. Andy Dalton, come on down!

Brandon Allen's Debut for the Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are feeling it after Brandon Allen led the team to victory Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

    "I feel like when Lil Wayne found Drake," Von Miller said, per DNVR Sport's Ryan Koenigsberg. "I called it."

    The 2016 sixth-round pick (of the Jacksonville Jaguars) has floated around the league, but he seems to have found a home at his third stop. In his first professional start, Allen completed 60 percent of his passes and threw a pair of touchdown tosses. He never looked overwhelmed and kept the Broncos from going into complete disarray.

    How well did Allen perform during his initial regular-season outing?

         

    Mike Freeman: B

    Allen didn't make many mistakes, and he had two touchdowns. The game plan was perfect: Run the ball and don't put everything on Allen. He was calm and made some big plays.

    Mike Tanier: B+

    Show up. Hand off. Let Noah Fant go John Wick on the Browns defense. Wait for the Browns to make multiple mistakes. Win game. Allen didn't show us much, but you can't argue with his recipe for success.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    Allen made a couple of really nice throws and runs to give the Broncos just enough to bury the disappointing Browns. He fit well in the scheme, especially when offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello called bootlegs and moved the pocket.

    Brad Gagnon: A

    You couldn't have expected much more than that: no turnovers and a couple of touchdown drives. He won't win Offensive Player of the Week or anything, but it was a strong debut.

    Gary Davenport: B

    Allen's numbers weren't especially impressive, but he didn't turn the ball over, threw two touchdown passes and made plays when he needed to. He's not the future starter for the Broncos, but if he keeps it up, he could carve out some job security as a backup, whether in Denver or somewhere else.

Davante Adams' Return for Green Bay

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Davante Adams returned to the Green Bay Packers lineup Sunday after missing the previous four contests with a toe injury.

    Prior to his return, the Packers offense finally found its groove and looked nearly unstoppable...until it met the Los Angeles Chargers. Green Bay managed only 184 yards of total offense in the 26-11 loss. Adams led the team with seven receptions, but they only went for 41 yards.

    Considering how dominant Aaron Rodgers and Co. looked recently, how did Adams' return impact the Packers?

           

    Mike Freeman: D

    He did little, but that entire offense did little. This game was the most baffling of the day. The Chargers defense is good, but it's not that good. This is one of those games Adams and the Packers should erase from their memories.

    Mike Tanier: D

    Was he there? Are you sure he didn't get stuck in traffic on the 405 or something? (Checks stat sheet.) Oh wow, seven catches for 41 yards. That's almost six yards per catch! I can't imagine how I missed that.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    One player shouldn't be able to disrupt an entire offensive scheme, but it usually takes time to work a top performer back into rhythm after an extended absence. The Packers tried to force things to the detriment of their previous success. 

    Brad Gagnon: D

    The Green Bay offense was far too focused on Adams, who failed to gain 10-plus yards on any of his 11 targets. He did more harm than good in his return.

    Gary Davenport: F

    Green Bay's terrible first half against the Chargers had to be the weirdest happening of Week 9. Since his return was the biggest change for the Pack this week, I've decided to blame Adams for it. Sure, it makes no sense. But neither did Green Bay getting pasted by a mediocre Chargers team.

Josh Jacobs' Chances at Offensive Rookie of the Year

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa already feels like a lock for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after dominating the first half of the season.

    The choices for Offensive Rookie of the Year are slightly more plentiful with quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Gardner Minshew II playing relatively well. However, the Oakland Raiders' Josh Jacobs has worked his way into true feature-back status.

    The rookie runner ranks within the top six overall in yards (740), yards per carry (4.9) and rushing touchdowns (six). He carried the ball 28 times for 120 yards and two scores Sunday in a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions.

    If this year's only first-round running back continues down this path, what are the odds he'll become a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year?

            

    Mike Freeman: A

    I don't know what his chances are, but I do know what they should be. They should be extremely high. He's made the Raiders a legit threat in the AFC, and it's completely fair to make him the top contender for the award.

    Mike Tanier: A

    Minshew Mania is over, Kyler Murray Mania can't get off the ground, and Danny Dimes Delirium isn't a thing. Maybe it's time to take a look at the guy on pace for 1,480 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Brent Sobleski: A-

    Murray still has a legit shot, but Offensive Rookie of the Year is one of the few general awards that's not quarterback-driven. In fact, the last seven players to hoist the trophy are either running backs or wide receivers. As long as Jacobs stays healthy, he should be positioned well to claim some hardware.

    Brad Gagnon: A

    Entering this week, Jacobs was one of just two qualified backs who have averaged 3.0-plus yards per attempt after contact. He's rushed for 120-plus yards in three of his last four games and is setting the tempo for a team that is surprisingly competitive. He's been more consistent than Minshew, too. He's running away with it.

    Gary Davenport: A

    Murray and Terry McLaurin have both made a big impact as rookies, and Murray has the advantage of being a quarterback. But the Oakland Raiders wouldn't be anywhere close to .500 were it not for Jacobs. After nine weeks, he's the OROY.

Odell Beckham Jr.'s Play in Cleveland so Far

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Odell Beckham Jr. isn't featured in the Cleveland Browns offense. He often becomes an afterthought for long stretches, and his mediocre production even has the wide receiver questioning himself.

    "I can't get the ball to save my life," Beckham said while coming off the field after he was open during a crucial fourth-down play in Sunday's 24-19 loss to the Denver Broncos, per CBS Sports' Jay Feely (h/t NFL Network's James Palmer).

    The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver did lead the Browns with 87 receiving yards on five catches, but he's not being used in the red zone or in crucial situations.

    Browns general manager John Dorsey traded for OBJ to provide his team with an elite offensive weapon. For whatever reason, the receiver has fallen well short of that status.

    How does his play reflect the expectations heaped on him and the Browns this season?

           

    Mike Freeman: C-

    The problem isn't Beckham. The problem is the quarterback throwing him the ball and the coach of the Browns. Baker Mayfield isn't an accurate passer, and Freddie Kitchens is overwhelmed. It's only a matter of time before Beckham speaks up.

    Mike Tanier: B-

    He made some highlight-reel plays Sunday, for what it's worth. Look: If you want to turbocharge an offense in which everything else is working at close to capacity, OBJ is your guy. If you want someone to pull your team out of a dysfunctional spiral, OBJ is almost certainly not your guy.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    Could Mayfield display better ball placement? Yes. Could Kitchens design a better scheme and call better plays? Absolutely. But this absolves Beckham for multiple drops this season when he had an opportunity to be a bigger part of the offense. Everyone is to blame for Cleveland's latest disaster.

    Brad Gagnon: C

    I know opposing defenses are taking him away and he hasn't been well-supported in that struggling offense, but those things didn't prevent him from going off consistently in New York. For the money he's making, the Browns should expect more. He has to make more plays.

    Gary Davenport: D

    Beckham has been a bust so far in Cleveland, and I'm past sick and tired of him making more news for wardrobe kerfuffles than what he's doing on the field. But his pedestrian numbers aren't totally his fault. Or even mostly his fault. He can't rack up YAC if he isn't targeted. The bigger question now is whether Cleveland's 2-6 first half and Odell's lack of numbers cause even more grumbling than they have to date.

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