1 Change Each NFL Team Has to Make After Week 1
Football is a game of adjustments, so it's only right they come into focus after Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
Teams make adjustments of all sizes, whether it's defensive coordinators desperately trying to adapt to the Lamar Jacksons of the world or week-to-week changes based on opponent.
Coming out of Week 1, some teams need to correct a weakness or replace a player on their depth charts. Others may only need to make slight tweaks to an otherwise successful formula to keep opponents off-balance.
The Change: Go slower with Isaiah Simmons
The Arizona Cardinals might need to pump the brakes a bit with No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons.
Arizona got a shocker of a win over the San Francisco 49ers on the road while limiting the Niners to a 2-of-11 mark on third down, but Simmons was a sour point for the defense.
Simmons got called for a horse-collar tackle on the first play of the game and got badly beaten by 49ers running back Raheem Mostert on a 76-yard score a few minutes later.
Those sorts of miscues should be expected for rookies playing without a preseason, but the Cardinals might want to ease off relying on the first-rounder right away, especially against contenders with playoff implications hanging in the background.
The Change: Play-calling balance
The Atlanta Falcons put up a befuddling stat line in their 38-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at home.
Matt Ryan threw for 450 yards and two scores. Three of his targets had 100-plus receiving yards. His offense outgained the Seahawks 506-383.
And yet, they found themselves down 31-12 early in the fourth quarter before staging some garbage-time fireworks.
With Falcons head coach Dan Quinn seemingly on the hot seat entering the season, his offense passed 54 times compared to only 21 rushes. Todd Gurley finished with 14 of those carries, and the offense posted an 0-of-4 mark on fourth down. The Falcons nearly won the time-of-possession battle anyway, so a better job controlling the pace—especially early when it was still close—could've kept Russell Wilson and Co. off the field.
If the Falcons don't find more offensive balance, Ryan's video game-esque numbers will continue not to matter.
The Change: Stick with Skura
Good luck finding fault with the Baltimore Ravens coming out of a 38-6 dismantling of the Cleveland Browns. Lamar Jackson threw three touchdowns, a committee approach gashed the Browns on the ground, four players had at least three catches, and the defense forced three turnovers.
If there is a question mark moving forward, it's probably along the offensive line after longtime starting guard Marshal Yanda retired this offseason.
Matt Skura returned from a knee injury last year and started at center next to rookie guard Tyre Phillips. However, the Ravens removed Skura from the game at the same time D.J. Fluker went in for Ronnie Stanley, who suffered an ankle injury.
While it might've been load management in a blowout, the Ravens need to keep Skura on the field so the offensive line can continue developing chemistry. This might come off as a nitpick, but it's one that could prove important against better teams.
The Change: Josh Allen's usage
One of the bigger criticisms of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen over the past two years was his inability to hang onto the football.
After fumbling 12 times over his first two seasons in the pros, Allen coughed it up two more times Sunday against the New York Jets.
That didn't stop the Bills from blasting the lowly Jets. But it's clear he still hasn't resolved the issue going into year three, which makes it problematic he carried it 14 times, more than any running back on the roster.
The Bills can get away with Allen's lack of ball security against the Jets, but it isn't sustainable. Part of what makes Allen so good is his versatility—but not if he prevents his offense from keeping possessions alive.
The Change: Better tackling...or find players that will.
The Carolina Panthers had a chance to beat the Las Vegas Raiders to start the season, but they instead fell 34-30 at home.
Perhaps the biggest culprit was an inability to bring down opponents, which defenders openly talked about after the game.
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs carried it 25 times for 93 yards and three touchdowns, while four players caught at least three passes. Two of them averaged at least 15 yards per catch.
Maybe this wouldn't look like such a problem if the Panthers didn't play in the NFC South, home of Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. But finishing plays is a must, and if it takes depth-chart shuffles or even outside additions, so be it.
The Change: Fewer Trubisky attempts
Before the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, the change was simple: yank Mitchell Trubisky for Nick Foles.
It was a shocker the Bears named Trubisky starter at all after trading for Foles, and a change seemed imminent as Chicago headed into the final quarter down 23-6.
The Bears ended up winning, but Trubisky was still scattershot against a defense that lost two corners to injury. He finished his day with a 20-of-36 line with three scores, but he still might have found himself in hot water had Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift not dropped a game-winning touchdown late.
While game flow dictated some of the 36 attempts, Trubisky shouldn't be that involved in the offensive game plan when the David Montgomery-Tarik Cohen combo out of the backfield is quietly one of the NFL's best.
The Change: Better for Burrow
The Cincinnati Bengals dropped the ball in Joe Burrow's debut. In the 16-13 loss, they had multiple chances to put away the visiting Los Angeles Chargers and came up short.
Head coach Zac Taylor's game plan raised some eyebrows throughout, such as the lack of targets for Tyler Boyd in the first half even though he was the team's No. 1 wideout in each of the last two seasons.
The decision at the end of the game to kick a field goal and play for overtime was also questionable. Burrow had just marched down the field with roughly three minutes left on the best-looking drive of his debut, only for the staff to take the ball out of his hands with less than 10 seconds left instead of giving him a chance to take another shot at the end zone and win the game outright after an offensive pass-interference call on A.J. Green.
Burrow watched from the sidelines as Randy Bullock missed a chip-shot 31-yard field goal, and his debut ended in a loss. This could end up being an anomaly, or it could be part of a bigger problem depending on whether the coaching around Burrow improves.
The Change: Baker's comfort level
Besides just saying everything and calling it a day for a Cleveland Browns team that lost 38-6, committed three turnovers, got flagged eight times, missed an extra point and a field goal and even botched a fake-punt attempt, let's zoom in on the quarterback.
Baker Mayfield never looked comfortable en route to a 21-of-39 line with 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He couldn't take advantage of his strong supporting cast and a quality performance from a rebuilt offensive line featuring a rookie at left tackle and newcomer Jack Conklin at right tackle.
The coaching staff needs to emphasize rhythm with Mayfield from here on out. He had notable late or off-target throws all day, which scheme can potentially fix in the coming weeks.
The Browns need Mayfield to dial things back and fire the ball off faster on higher-percentage throws so he can establish a comfort level. They have to think about the long-term future under center along with the current week-to-week results.
The Change: Mix up play-calling
The Dallas Cowboys offense to start 2020 looked a lot like the 2019 version.
Dak Prescott threw for 266 yards and a touchdown, Ezekiel Elliott nearly 130 total yards and two scores, and rookie CeeDee Lamb's 59 receiving yards was second only to Amari Cooper's 81 yards on 10 catches.
But the devil is in the details.
New Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy didn't exactly win any awards for his approach that included 17 runs and 12 passes on first downs despite the passes dramatically outgaining the runs. Things got worse the longer than game went on, including an odd rushing attempt on a third down before an unsuccessful 4th-and-3 attempt with about 12 minutes left. Dallas had only 15 total yards over its final 10 plays.
McCarthy is a veteran coach and the Dallas roster is loaded with talent, so being more unpredictable is a must to compete in the NFC East.
The Change: Ball security
The Denver Broncos got the benefit of three missed field goals from the Tennessee Titans on Monday night in a two-point outcome—and still lost.
Part of that has to do with fundamentals. Drew Lock looked good under center, the running game was predictably solid, and other names played well with Von Miller out.
But Denver just couldn't hang on to the football. In front of an offensive line with two new starters, Lock fumbled snaps twice. Rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy fumbled once and Melvin Gordon III lost one. It was about as sloppy as it gets (and to be fair, looked like a preseason outing), which included getting stuffed three consecutive times at the goal line.
While ironing out issues with the fundamentals is a poor reason to lose, it's also not too hard to fix, at least.
The Change: More D'Andre Swift
The above probably isn't what Detroit Lions fans want to hear right now.
Rookie back D'Andre Swift just had one of the worst "welcome to the NFL" moments possible by dropping a would-be game-winning pass with roughly 10 seconds left in regulation after a miraculous Chicago comeback.
To make matters worse, Swift got only three carries and five targets. He scored a rushing touchdown, but 14 carries going to new arrival Adrian Peterson and seven to Kerryon Johnson likely isn't sustainable—all while Matthew Stafford attempts 42 passes.
The Lions will have a big predictability problem on their hands if they keep Peterson as their workhorse. Swift deserves a quick shot at redemption and needs a bigger role moving forward.
Green Bay Packers
The Change: Dip into free agency
The Green Bay Packers offense looked good as Aaron Rodgers responded to the drafting of Jordan Love with four touchdowns and 364 yards in a 43-34 dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings.
The defense...not so much.
Green Bay coughed up 259 yards and two scores to Kirk Cousins and 134 yards and two scores on a 6.1 average to Minnesota ball-carriers. Vikings wideout Adam Thielen caught six passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns, and to make matters worse, the Packers lost star defensive lineman Kenny Clark to an injury.
A win-now team like the Packers can't rely on the defense going through growing pains. Their depth chart could use reinforcements in the middle with a lineman like Damon Harrison or even at linebacker with a Todd Davis to provide a jolt.
The Change: Better protection for Deshaun Watson
It's a little unfair to type "everything," but those are the vibes surrounding the Houston Texans coming off their 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the opener.
After receiving endless criticism for the DeAndre Hopkins trade this offseason, the Texans clearly missed his reliable hands. Will Fuller V ended as the only Houston player to catch more than three passes.
Houston went with a ton of speed at wideout, but Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks caught only two passes apiece. Kenny Stills didn't catch a ball at all because plays couldn't develop down the field because of the offensive line.
The Texans need to emphasize better protection and outright scheme changes to get more guys blocking so that plays can develop in the post-Nuk world.
The Change: Spotlight Jonathan Taylor
Philip Rivers' debut with the Indianapolis Colts didn't exactly go as planned. The veteran quarterback attempted 46 passes and threw only one touchdown against two interceptions in a 27-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And while the Colts lost running back Marlon Mack to an Achilles injury, Rivers attempting 46 passes to only 22 rushes is a red flag. The Colts had a 7-0 lead after one frame and led 14-7 at one point, so a little more balance could've helped in a game they weren't losing until the fourth quarter.
With Mack sidelined, all eyes are on second-rounder Jonathan Taylor, who received nine carries and six targets.
Now that Taylor has already silenced critics of his ability as a receiver, it's time to unleash him as a three-down workhorse and make life easier on Rivers.
The Change: Seek out depth
So much for the tank.
The Jacksonville Jaguars stunned the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 behind a youth movement led by Gardner Minshew II's three touchdown passes and only one incompletion.
But a team as talent-deficient as the Jaguars can't bank on such a performance across the board, especially when key defenders like Josh Allen suffered injuries. Seventh-round rookie Chris Claybrooks, for example, saw notable snaps.
It may go against the organization's current philosophy, but adding veteran depth via free agency or even claiming players from other teams' practice squads could provide a boon, both when it comes to winning games and helping the development of the roster's future core.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Change: More Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Any possible adjustments for the Kansas City Chiefs will feel like nitpicking. Andy Reid's offense made a mockery of the Houston Texans in their 34-20 blowout on Thursday Night Football.
Patrick Mahomes tossed three touchdowns, Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 25 times for 138 yards and a score, and three different players had at least five catches. Meanwhile, the defense held Deshaun Watson to only one passing touchdown and an interception.
That doesn't mean the Chiefs can't get better, though.
Edwards-Helaire carried it 25 times but had only two targets and no catches. He also got stuffed multiple times for no gains or short gains at best.
Better blocking up front and more Edwards-Helaire through the air can keep defenses guessing.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Change: Mix up the scheme
Winning permits a team to overlook some things, but the Las Vegas Raiders can't afford to ignore the lack of pressure that the defense generated during a 34-30 win over the Carolina Panthers.
The Raiders landed just one sack on Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 270 yards and a score with three different receivers tallying four or more catches. The Panthers seemed to expose the Raiders on the ground too as Christian McCaffrey went off for 96 yards and two scores.
Maxx Crosby had a quiet game and Clelin Ferrell struggled inside—just like he did last season, though he did make the game-clinching tackle. Maybe the solution is more Maurice Hurst. Something has to give, as a lack of pressure just won't fly in an AFC West boasting good offenses.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Change: More targets for RBs
The Los Angeles Chargers got the transitional era with Tyrod Taylor under center started with a win on the road over the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals.
Los Angeles was strong in most areas, too, with the pass rush beating up on a bad Cincinnati offensive line and the Chargers' weapons rolling well on the ground and through the air.
If there is a major critique, it might be Taylor's ho-hum outing that included a measly 16-of-30 line. The Chargers have been known in the past to pepper running backs with targets, but that wasn't the case Sunday afternoon, with Austin Ekeler only getting a single target.
That should change in the coming weeks as a means to keep opponents guessing on their approach as well as to merely help along Taylor against better opposition.
Los Angeles Rams
The Change: Linebacker adjustments
The Los Angeles Rams kicked off life at a new stadium with a 20-17 escape of the Dallas Cowboys.
And while the outcome went their way, the Rams have some questions to answer at linebacker after Ezekiel Elliott bruised his way to 96 yards and a score on a 4.4 average and the pass rush didn't hit home as often as it could have.
Missed tackles were a notable issue, especially early, and Leonard Floyd tallied one sack but was otherwise quiet despite getting to line up over an undrafted rookie for the Cowboys. In fact, while Aaron Donald tallied four quarterback hits on the day, just three other defenders had one apiece.
The fix? Subbing out guys who aren't getting home and sending more pressure as a whole to disrupt an offense's timing. If Donald doesn't have to do it alone all year, the Rams could be elite on that side of the ball.
The Change: Create separation
It's easy to look at the Miami Dolphins' loss to the New England Patriots, shout "Tua time!" and be done with it.
But details beyond the surface level might hint at other problems. While Ryan Fitzpatrick did throw for just 191 yards with three interceptions in the 21-11 loss, he was also the tied for the league's most "aggressive" passer by trying to fit 36.7 percent of his throws into tight coverage, per NFL's Next Gen Stats.
Simply put, the Dolphins weren't getting enough separation. While that's not too shocking against the Patriots defense, the coaching staff needs to find a way to get speedier elements like Lynn Bowden Jr. on the field to better space the offense.
Because if that doesn't happen, Tua time isn't going to be a good time for the rookie passer regardless.
The Change: Spread it around
Minnesota didn't come alive until the fourth quarter of a lost game against the Green Bay Packers, and Adam Thielen ended up leading the team in receiving with six catches for 110 yards and two scores.
Thielen was the only Kirk Cousins weapon with more than four targets on the day. Had the offense been more diverse from the opening snap, perhaps Minnesota would have had more than 10 points through three quarters.
One of the big questions entering the season for the Vikings was how the offense would mask the loss of Stefon Diggs. Bisi Johnson and Alexander Mattison can't be the two receivers after Thielen on the receiving chart in a shootout with Aaron Rodgers—Cousins and the coaches have to get Irv Smith Jr. and Justin Jefferson more involved.
New England Patriots
The Change: Fewer Cam Newton rushes
It's hard to complain about Cam Newton's debut with the New England Patriots—unless an onlooker happens to be a Carolina Panthers fan.
Newton predictably looked good now that he's healthy, leading the Patriots to a 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Maybe the biggest nitpick was the long-term outlook. Newton attempted just 19 passes and led the team in rushes with 15 carries, which he turned into 75 yards and two scores on an average of five yards per tote. Sony Michel was second on the team in carries with 10.
That worked against a downtrodden AFC East rival, but it won't against better teams. And to make things even muddier, that sort of work rate for Newton likely isn't sustainable. New England checks the box as a team very deep at running back, so keeping Newton healthy needs to be the priority by having others absorb the punishment.
New Orleans Saints
The Change: Kamara the centerpiece
It's a good thing for the New Orleans Saints when the focus coming out of moving the needle to 1-0 is merely getting a star running back more involved.
The Saints did pretty much everything right in Week 1, securing a 34-23 win over rival Tampa Bay while shutting down the Buccaneers' running game, picking off Tom Brady twice and almost casually controlling the pace of the game.
While star back Alvin Kamara scored twice—once on the ground and once through the air on short-yardage conversions—he ran for just 16 yards on 12 attempts (1.3 average), and the ground game as a whole averaged just 2.4 yards on 34 attempts.
With Michael Thomas injured, Kamara is going to need more totes than Latavius Murray (15) and continue to out-touch all other weapons until Drew Brees' star wideout is back to 100 percent.
New York Giants
The Change: Revive Saquon Barkley
The New York Giants won't get far if 2018 No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley isn't making headway on the ground.
Barkley did anything but that Monday night in a 26-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing 15 times for six yards (0.4 average), with his longest run going for seven yards.
And while Barkley did recoup some of his losses with six catches for 60 yards, his inability to get going on the ground resulted in far too much pressure on Daniel Jones, who tossed two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a key goal-line mistake.
Whether it's shuffling the lineup up front, mixing up the scheme or something else, the Giants have to make it work with Barkley as the centerpiece.
New York Jets
The Change: Make permanent lineup shifts in secondary
Narrowing down the list for the New York Jets isn't easy.
The Jets flopped hard in a 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills, with Sam Darnold posting a 21-of-35 line with 215 yards, one score and one interception—with 69 of those yards coming on the touchdown pass. The defense allowed 300-plus passing yards, nearly 100 rushing yards and three Bills targets to crack 50-plus yards en route to 31 first downs.
Things were so bad the Jets benched starting cornerback Pierre Desir, and it's a move that should probably remain in place until the unit shows some fight and signs of life.
Things won't get any easier for the secondary in the coming weeks against San Francisco, Indianapolis or Denver, either, but the entire unit needs a quick jolt that makes life easier on Darnold and Co. or the team could fall into an inescapable hole.
The Change: Shorten the routes
On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles would love to stretch the field deep with DeSean Jackson and Jalen Reagor.
The Eagles took a 10-point loss on the jaw to Washington on Sunday, largely because newcomers like right tackle Jack Driscoll and right guard Nate Herbig were starting in their first career games—leading to eight sacks of Carson Wentz.
Immediate relief isn't necessarily on the way for the offensive line either. So while deep shots have a way of keeping defenses honest, getting the ball in the hands of Wentz's talented supporting cast quickly and letting them go to work after the catch could mitigate some of the issues up front.
The Change: More targets for big targets
It's hard to poke a hole in what the Pittsburgh Steelers accomplished Monday night during a 26-16 win over the New York Giants.
Ben Roethlisberger made his anticipated return from an elbow injury and did Big Ben things, throwing for three scores, while his running game averaged 4.7 yards per carry—and two targets caught six passes.
If there's a critique, it's that the offense could spread it out even more to bigger, safer targets such as rookie wideout Chase Claypool (6'4", 238 lbs) and tight end Eric Ebron (6'4", 253 lbs). The two new arrivals only combined for three catches on four targets, but the former put up one of the week's best highlights.
It's clear the Steelers have a deep cast of weapons capable of popping off at any time, but zeroing in on the bigger of those could keep things consistent for the veteran quarterback.
San Francisco 49ers
The Change: Add a WR
The San Francisco 49ers were the upset special at home in Week 1 at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals.
As a whole, the 49ers played OK. Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes, the ground game averaged 4.9 yards, and they were flagged only five times. But a 2-of-11 mark on third down goes back to the fact that a running back, tight end and fullback were the team's first three names on the receiving chart by game's end.
With Deebo Samuel on injured reserve and rookie Brandon Aiyuk ruled out before the game, the 49ers attack just didn't have a threat at wideout that much concerned the Cardinals.
And that's a theme that could continue into Week 2 and beyond if guys can't get back and healthy, so adding to the depth chart—maybe through free agency or even poaching off another team's practice squad—might be worth it.
The Change: Emphasize Chris Carson
A year ago, Chris Carson handling just six carries as his Seattle Seahawks put up 38 points in a win would've been baffling.
It's not too hard to complain about if it's an anomaly, of course. Russell Wilson tossed four touchdown passes and just four incompletions in a blowout win over Atlanta. What's a little concerning is his leading the team in rushing and Carlos Hyde technically winning the tote battle with Carson, seven to six.
Granted, Carson caught all six of his targets and scored twice through the air. When Wilson is cooking, he's frying defenses, but balancing out the attack and letting a workhorse like Carson (owner of 247 and 278 carries over the last two seasons) ease some of the pressure would make sense.
Call it a nitpick of course, but better balance will keep future opponents on their toes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Change: Dial in on Evans and Gronk
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went down hard in Tom Brady's debut, a 34-23 loss in which the team lost the turnover, time-of-possession and penalty battles. Brady threw two interceptions, and the defense couldn't match the offense's three turnovers.
And yet, Brady wasn't bad. But his ground game was while averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on 26 totes, an extension of a well-known problem from last year. Chris Godwin led the team in receiving with six catches for 79 yards but didn't have a major impact on the outcome of the game.
Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, combined for just three catches and 13 yards. The former entered with a minor injury, and the latter spent last season out of the sport entirely.
But the excuses can't carry over to Week 2—Brady needs quick-hitters to those big-bodied targets to compensate for a running attack that clearly isn't fixed.
The Change: Kicking
The Tennessee Titans were in cruise control Monday night against the Denver Broncos, minus the whole kicking thing.
Stephen Gostkowski was unexpectedly a weak point, as the new arrival missed three attempts and an extra point before hitting the game-winning field goal to help the Titans escape 16-14.
To put that into context, Gostkowski never missed three attempts in a game during 14 years in New England, where he won three titles, was the Patriots' all-time leading scorer and entered Monday ranked fifth all-time in terms of accuracy.
Considering Tennessee's miserable history with kicking, the team can't afford to overlook this and not bring in some competition heading into Week 2.
Washington Football Team
The Change: Better schemes against tight ends
It's clear Washington knows what it's doing on the offensive side of the ball as Antonio Gibson and Peyton Barber carried the team on the ground to a 27-17 win over Philadelphia.
And while No. 2 overall draft pick Chase Young was impressive while providing plenty of pressure, tight ends gave Washington fits defensively. Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led all receivers with eight catches for 101 yards and a score, and Zach Ertz scored too.
Washington will have to hit the film and make some adjustments to better account for the position moving forward, as future opponents will surely take note of the issue. Whether that's different coverages or throwing certain players at the position, solid tight ends are a staple of the NFC East.