B/R Staff NFL Week 13 Report Card: Drew Lock Flashes Franchise Potential

NFL StaffContributor IDecember 2, 2019

B/R Staff NFL Week 13 Report Card: Drew Lock Flashes Franchise Potential

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Some teams are giving thanks after the NFL's Week 13 slate, while others will be more thankful when the season mercifully comes to an end.

    A team's current mindset depends on its situation. A winning squad isn't always overly hopeful, as the Dallas Cowboys can attest while sitting atop the woeful NFC East with a 6-6 record. Alternatively, the Miami Dolphins locker room should be thrilled with a 3-9 record after many expected a winless season.

    Others are caught in the middle:

    • The Denver Broncos might have found their franchise quarterback, even in a lost season.
    • The Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting at 7-5 with a third-string quarterback leading the way.
    • The Cleveland Browns are stacked with talent yet can't seem to get out of their own way with a head coach who may not make it past his first season.
    • The Washington Redskins are struggling, but they appear to have a foundational building block in running back Derrius Guice.

    Positives and negatives are found among each of these instances even if the postseason isn't a lock—or even realistic at all.

    Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers gathered to grade each of these situations and more.

Drew Lock's Debut

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    Drew Lock made his first start for the Denver Broncos and provided the organization with hope beyond the 2019 campaign. 

    The big-armed second-round draft pick completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 134 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception in a last-second 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

    "It's been a roller coaster, but that was one of the most fun times I've ever had playing football," Lock said in a postgame interview with CBS.

    The Broncos had to wait for Lock because he began the season on short-term injured reserve with a thumb injury. Lock waited for an opportunity after the Joe Flacco experiment failed, which followed disappointing performances by Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum during the previous two seasons.

    Was his first showing enough to believe the Broncos finally have the right man for the job?

    Ty Dunne: C+

    Not many quarterbacks will make a living throwing for 134 yards per game, but Lock had the two touchdowns to Courtland Sutton and found a way to win in his first game. John Elway has been whiffing on the quarterback position nonstop since Peyton Manning retired. Why not see if Lock is any different?

    Mike Freeman: A+

    This was one of the more shocking moments of the day. This same Chargers defense humiliated Aaron Rodgers, and Lock looked like a veteran against it. He's got a long way to go, but is it possible that after a long and frustrating search, Elway has found his quarterback?

    Mike Tanier: C+

    Really, it was one bomb to Sutton and lots of coleslaw. Then again, that also describes peak Flacco and Keenum in Denver and is more than Lynch ever accomplished, so Broncos fans have reason for cautious optimism.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    Lock may have fallen into the second round, but he displayed legit first-round talent during his collegiate career. After all, he broke the single-season SEC record with 44 touchdown passes. He also displayed fantastic arm talent. He's capable of doing such things at the NFL level and showed promise in his first start.

    Brad Gagnon: B

    The Chargers had to go full Charger for Lock's debut to be a victory, but it wasn't a bad performance for a player who, until a few days ago, was on injured reserve. It's definitely not enough to write him off, but obviously the jury has barely begun deliberating.

    Gary Davenport: B-

    Lock made some nice throws, but he also looked like a rookie making his first start at times. At the end of the day, he made enough plays to get the win. He earned four more chances to show he can be the team's starter in 2020.

Is the DeVante Parker Year 5 Breakout for Real?

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    For four years, DeVante Parker flashed but never realized his potential after the Miami Dolphins selected the wide receiver with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft.

    Parker set career highs Sunday with 159 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Miami's 37-31 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Everything everyone expected Parker to be when he entered the league came to fruition in one contest. He physically overwhelmed Eagles defensive backs with multiple spectacular catches.

    Parker now has two 100-yard performances in the team's last three contests. How likely is it that he's finally turned the corner and developed into a legit No. 1 wide receiver?

    Ty Dunne: A

    Let's go. Yes. That's the power of #Fitzmagic. Right when you think a once-promising receiver was disappearing into NFL oblivion, Parker catches fire. He's a player the Dolphins—in total rebuild—can build around.

    Mike Freeman: A

    Yes. Absolutely. Hell yes. And he's doing it with Fitzpatrick at quarterback, who is not exactly Joe Montana. Parker is also symbolic of the fight in this Dolphins team. The front office may be tanking, but the players are not.

    Mike Tanier: D

    Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me about 15 times over five years? Shame on me. Fool Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby over and over again? Shame on Jim Schwartz.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    The breakout may not be real, but the talent is there to make it a strong possibility. Besides, the Dolphins don't have any options; they must re-sign Parker since he can help build long-term stability with no other significant targets on the roster. 

    Brad Gagnon: B-

    On one hand, there aren't many other options in that offense, and Miami has trailed a lot. On the other hand, he's not well-supported in that offense, and he came up big Sunday without any garbage time. He still has to become a little more efficient and consistent, but it's now safe to say he isn't a bust.

    Gary Davenport: B-

    There have always been flashes of first-round talent from Parker, but this is the first season he's been able to produce consistently. Still, were I Miami, I'd be wary of making a long-term commitment to Parker in the offseason.

Return of Minshew Mania

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars chose to replace Gardner Minshew II when Nick Foles was healthy enough to be inserted into the lineup. Previously, the Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million free-agent deal.

    In his third start since returning, Foles was benched for Minshew after another slow start. He's managed 661 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in three losses over that stretch.

    Minshew entered Sunday's contest during the second half and threw for 147 yards with a touchdown and interception.

    "I also know how this goes," Foles told reporters after the 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The Jaguars now have a quarterback conundrum. Where does everyone stand regarding Minshew Mania taking over as Jacksonville's starting signal-caller?

    Ty Dunne: B

    Turning back to the 'stache was a must. Foles just hasn't been able to recapture that Super Bowl magic, which, considering how much the Jags paid up, is an absolute killer for this franchise. His interception on the first drive Sunday was as bad as it gets. The good news? You have a 23-year-old on the roster who may or may not be your future.

    Mike Freeman: B-

    He wasn't great, but he was far better than Foles. That's the bigger part of this story: not what happened to Foles today, but how the Jaguars proceed with Foles and Minshew moving forward. It seems difficult to see how the team, and organization, stick with Foles moving forward this year and beyond.

    Mike Tanier: D

    The Jaguars are 4-8. He threw an interception at the goal line in garbage time. Stop trying to make this a thing.

    Brent Sobleski: C

    Minshew wasn't great, but that doesn't really matter since the Jaguars never should have benched him for Foles in the first place. The Jaguars are in a brutal position because Foles holds a $33.875 million dead cap hit if he's cut next season when he's not clearly better than a rookie sixth-round option.

    Brad Gagnon: D

    He was certainly better than Foles, and we saw that magic on a couple of occasions. But he still led just one touchdown drive on six possessions against a vulnerable pass defense. I don't think Jacksonville's quarterback of the future is on the current roster.

    Gary Davenport: D

    It's not like Minshew played particularly well against a terrible Tampa pass defense; he just played better than Foles, who was well and truly awful. That $50 million in guaranteed cabbage for Foles is looking like quite the investment.

Derrius Guice's Breakout Game

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Injuries marred the start of Derrius Guice's career, but one of the best running backs from the 2018 draft class finally showed what he could do Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

    Guice exploded for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries during a 29-21 victory.

    "I've always had confidence. Just had bad luck and couldn't really show it," Guice told reporters after the breakout performance.

    Prior to the Sunday's effort, the second-round running back had managed 74 yards during his previous three appearances. How did Guice's latest performance rate, and is he a star in the making?

    Ty Dunne: A

    This was the explosive weapon we all remember from LSU and we all heard about through his first offseason. Wow. Guice shredded Carolina for 12.9 yards per carry and, for a brief moment, supplied Washington fans with a glimmer of hope. Now the trick is staying healthy.

    Mike Freeman: A

    Guice had one of the nastiest stiff-arms of the season. He has a promising future. In fact, this entire offense does. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was sharp, and Guice is proving to be one of the bright young stars in the sport.

    Mike Tanier: B+

    I'm happy for him after all he has been through. He could be Washington's running back of the future. Now all they need is an everything else of the future.

    Brent Sobleski: B

    As exciting as Guice's effort was and knowing how good he was during his collegiate career—he was the best between-the-tackles runner in his class—a nagging feeling won't go away because 34-year-old Adrian Peterson gained 99 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry in the same contest. 

    Brad Gagnon: B

    It was a fantastic performance, but I don't think it means Guice is a star just yet. Carolina's run defense is a joke, and 97 of his 129 yards came on two plays (one in which he was barely touched). Those count, but that's not sustainable. He'll have to prove he can stay healthy and become more consistently productive.

    Gary Davenport: B

    Carolina's horrendous run defense is the only thing stopping me from giving Guice an A here. In a season that's sorely lacked good news in Washington, the second-year back looks like a bright spot.

Duck Hodges' Chances as More Than an End-of-the-Year Fill-in

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to win and position themselves for yet another postseason appearance, and they're doing so with a third-string quarterback behind center.

    Head coach Mike Tomlin benched Mason Rudolph last week against the Cincinnati Bengals after a lethargic start. Devlin Hodges replaced him and helped lead the Steelers to a victory before being named the starter and doing the same against the Cleveland Browns.

    "He didn't kill us," Tomlin told reporters when asked about the rookie's performance, just like he did when asked why Hodges received the starting nod.

    The first-year signal-caller completed 14 of 21 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

    What are the odds the Steelers found something special in the undrafted free agent as a long-term option at the game's most important position?

    Ty Dunne: C

    It wasn't necessarily pretty, but Tomlin is right: Duck gives the Steelers a chance to win every week because he won't kill them. With that defense—one of the best under-the-radar stories in the entire NFL—he doesn't have to do a heck of a lot. It's hard to see him being the face of the franchise long-term, but right now, he can absolutely get this team to the playoffs.

    Mike Freeman: D-

    He's a nice story, but if you think he's anything more than just a fill-in until Ben Roethlisberger returns next year, you're a quack.

    Mike Tanier: D

    Two words: Ducky Minshew.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    A distinct difference exists between not killing a team and actually playing quality football. Hodges does enough to keep the Steelers in games mainly because they feature the NFL's best defense over the last 10 games. Pittsburgh doesn't want to be placed in a position where the rookie must win a game for it.

    Brad Gagnon: B-

    I don't think it's completely ridiculous. I mean, the odds are still against him becoming a franchise quarterback, but he did complete four of seven deep attempts in a performance that was pretty clean aside from a late pick. He's well-suited for that Steelers team, and he's certainly less of a liability than Rudolph.

    Gary Davenport: C-

    Hodges is a good story, and he may well have played himself into a role as Pittsburgh's long-term backup over Rudolph. But wins over the blah Chargers and meh Browns had as much to do with Pittsburgh's defense and run game than Hodges himself.

Freddie Kitchens' Job Security After Falling to 5-7

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    The Cleveland Browns are a mess, and the team's inability to play with any consistency or discipline is a direct reflection of the head coach.

    Freddie Kitchens received plenty of flak during the week for his attire, but his team's inability to beat a rival, who was down to its third-string quarterback coupled with injuries to its starting running back and top receiver, basically ended the possibility of a strong finish to Kitchens' first season as head coach. The playoffs are now a distant dream.

    "The T-shirt didn't cause us to give up 40-yard passes, and we were ready to play," Kitchens told reporters after the 20-13 loss. "That's the only thing people need to be concerned about. We were ready to play."

    That's a problem. The response speaks to how poorly the team has performed throughout the season despite all the talent found on its roster.

    At 5-7, the Browns need to win out just to sniff the postseason, which seems unlikely. What's the likelihood of Kitchens being anything other than a one-and-done coach in Cleveland?

    Ty Dunne: D

    So much for running the table. The uber-talented Browns couldn't beat a team without its No. 1 quarterback, running back and wide receiver. From poor challenges to questionable play-calling to failing to get Odell Beckham Jr. rolling, it's been a rough year for the first-time head coach. If the ship keeps sinking, it's hard to see John Dorsey and Co. giving Kitchens another season.

    Mike Freeman: F

    He's gone. It's only a matter of when. Likely at the end of the season. His lack of coaching skills become more apparent the more they are needed.

    Mike Tanier: C

    Kitchens has done little to keep his job, but the Haslams love to prove how "patient" they are by giving head coaches a vote of confidence at the end of a season, then getting impatient in the middle of next season and firing everyone but the cleat-scrubbers. Kitchens should know that. It's how he tumbled into this job in the first place.

    Brent Sobleski: C

    The Browns sit at a crossroads: They've been a disappointment, to say the least, but they also might post the franchise's first non-losing season since 2007. They can realistically reach 8-8. If not, Kitchens is definitely a goner. 

    Brad Gagnon: D-

    If the Browns miss the playoffs with that much talent, they have to admit the Kitchens experiment was a mistake and move on immediately. And right now, it looks as though they'll miss the playoffs.

    Gary Davenport: D

    It's not Kitchens' fault the Browns lost in Pittsburgh after scoring the first 10 points of the game, but Damarious Randall not even making the trip is another indicator of just how undisciplined they are. That is Kitchens' fault.

Rams' Playoff Chances

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    The Los Angeles Rams made a late-season statement against the Arizona Cardinals with a dominant 34-7 victory.

    The offense clicked, and the defense harassed Kyler Murray throughout the contest. It's as good as the Rams have looked since last year's Super Bowl run.

    But it may not be enough.

    With a 7-5 record, the Rams are a game-and-a-half behind the Minnesota Vikings, who play the Seattle Sunday on Monday Night Football, to earn the NFC's sixth playoff seed. The Rams still face the Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Cardinals (again) over the next month.

    How possible is another Rams postseason run based on where they currently stand?

    Ty Dunne: C-

    It'll be really, really tough for the Rams to work their way into the dance given the top-heavy nature of the NFC this year and the fact they still need to play the 49ers and Seahawks again. But for one game, Sean McVay, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley II reminded the entire league what they're capable of.

    Mike Freeman: D

    It's too late. A win against a terrible Cardinals team almost doesn't count. The one piece of good news for the Rams was that quarterback Jared Goff, for the first time in weeks, didn't look lifeless.

    Mike Tanier: D

    Their hopes ride on either a dual-forfeit in the Vikings-Seahawks Monday-nighter or the ultimate humiliation: relegation to the NFC East.

    Brent Sobleski: D

    The 6-6 Cowboys are mucking everything up because some team must come out of the NFC East, I guess. Once the Vikings get past the Seahawks, they have an easier schedule than the Rams. Advantage Minnesota.

    Brad Gagnon: C+

    Don't look past Minnesota's ability to completely choke down the stretch, especially with a tough schedule. L.A. could finish 3-1 and sneak in. Say what you will about this team, but it is battle-tested.

    Gary Davenport: D

    The good news is that the Rams finally looked like the team that won the NFC last year. The bad news is it's probably too late. Three of L.A.'s last four are against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and in a best-case scenario, the Rams will enter Week 14 a game out of the No. 6 seed.