1 Player Every NFL Team Should Demote

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2020

1 Player Every NFL Team Should Demote

0 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    When an NFL starter is struggling, the backup often becomes the most popular player on the roster. Just ask a Cleveland Browns or Chicago Bears fan who has watched their team trot out the likes of Brandon Weeden, Craig Krenzel and Mike Glennon as starting quarterbacks over the years.

    Contrary to popular belief, spending plenty of time on the bench doesn't give a player superpowers. However, it's sometimes in a team's best interest to bench a player.

    Whether a starter or key role player is struggling with the playbook, battling an injury or just downright playing poorly, a team may have a better alternative.

    Here, you'll find a look at one player each team should consider benching ahead of Week 4. Most of the players have performed poorly recently or up to this point in their respective careers. Others have been outperformed by players at the same position who deserve more opportunities.

    All of them should be in line for reduced roles moving forward.

Arizona Cardinals: WR Christian Kirk

1 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk has shown flashes of his potential over the past two seasons, but he's been inconsistent since the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins this year.

    Though Kirk has played 49 percent of the Cardinals' offensive snaps, he's hauled in only three catches for 59 yards and one first down. He's failed to get open consistently and has struggled to snag passes when he does. His three catches have come on nine targets.

    While Kirk has the physical talent to be a valuable offensive contributor—he finished with 709 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season—Arizona needs to give more reps to fellow wideout Andy Isabella, who has six catches on seven targets for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

    Kirk is currently week-to-week with a groin injury, but the Cardinals need to consider reducing his role permanently.

Atlanta Falcons: CB Isaiah Oliver

2 of 32

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons have had some serious defensive issues this season. They failed to contain the Seattle Seahawks in a 38-25 loss in Week 1, and they blew big fourth-quarter leads in each of the past two weeks.

    Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has been one of the biggest liabilities on the back end of Atlanta's defense. Though he has defended four passes, he has also allowed 17 completions on 27 targets for a ridiculous 245 yards and two touchdowns.

    Oliver has played 100 percent of Atlanta's defensive snaps and has been getting picked on. The Falcons need to consider alternatives at cornerback or at least find a way to reduce his workload.

    Bringing in a free agent like Prince Amukamara might help, but Atlanta can't afford to continue leaning so heavily on Oliver.

Baltimore Ravens: RB Mark Ingram II

3 of 32

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Is Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II still a productive player? Absolutely. The 2019 Pro Bowler is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, has caught two passes and has 136 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

    However, it's time for the Ravens to reduce Ingram's workload and give more opportunities to Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins.

    The two have been far more explosive than Ingram—they've averaged 7.2 and 7.6 yards per carry, respectively—and have less wear and tear on them. Yet Ingram has nearly as many carries (26) as Dobbins and Edwards combined (28) this season.

    The Ravens should have little trouble rebounding from Monday night's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they'll still be a playoff team this season. But to maximize their offensive production, they need to pull Ingram from the starter's role and make him more of a short-yardage and pass-protection back.

Buffalo Bills: WR John Brown

4 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Buffalo Bills receiver John Brown exited the team's Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Rams with a calf injury, allowing rookie Gabriel Davis to shine. The rookie drew a pass interference penalty that helped set up Buffalo's game-winning touchdown and finished with four catches for 81 yards on four targets.

    "That's John Brown's route," quarterback Josh Allen said, per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. "John goes down and Gabe steps up and makes a huge play there and runs the route how he's supposed to and gets held and allows us to be in contention to make that touchdown at the end there."

    Buffalo needs to consider giving more of Brown's reps to Davis moving forward. Brown was a fantastic field-stretcher for the Bills last season, but Stefon Diggs is now occupying that role. While Brown has still been productive—he has 10 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns—he's also been inconsistent.

    Brown has been targeted 18 times this season, and his catch rate of 55.6 percent is the second-worst on the team. Davis, meanwhile, has caught all seven of his targets for 103 yards and a score.

Carolina Panthers: DE Yetur Gross-Matos

5 of 32

    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    While the Carolina Panthers have gotten sound contributions from rookie defenders like Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn and Bravvion Roy, second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos has been more of a liability so far.

    Gross-Matos missed Week 2 with an eye injury, but he has played 20 percent of the total defensive snaps. In that time, he has missed a tackle, made three tackles and produced only one quarterback pressure.  He's largely been ineffective as an edge-rusher and has struggled to set the edge in run support.

    In Week 3, Gross-Matos' most notable play was a facemask penalty that extended a potential game-winning drive for the Los Angeles Chargers, although Carolina's defense held and notched the win.

    While Gross-Matos isn't an every-down defender, it's time for Carolina to consider sitting him almost entirely and allowing him to learn from the sideline.

Chicago Bears: WR Anthony Miller

6 of 32

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears already made one significant switch this week, replacing Mitchell Trubisky with Nick Foles at quarterback. Now, it's time for them to make another swap and replace Anthony Miller with rookie Darnell Mooney as the primary slot receiver and No. 2 option behind Allen Robinson II.

    Miller does bring some big-play ability to the table—he's averaging 19.5 yards per catch and has two touchdowns—but he's also been wildly unreliable. He's been targeted 14 times in three games and has only six receptions with two drops.

    Mooney, on the other hand, has caught eight of 11 passes and has not been credited with a drop.

    Foles needs a reliable receiving corps to guide the Bears on a deep playoff run this season. Miller does not provide that type of consistency.

Cincinnati Bengals: OT Bobby Hart

7 of 32

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow has looked like the real deal through the first three weeks of the season. Although he has yet to guide the Bengals to a win, he's completed 64.5 percent of his pass attempts for 821 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception.

    However, Burrow has been sacked a league-high 14 times, which puts him on pace for roughly 75 sacks through the season. That's a huge problem which Cincinnati should look to address immediately.

    One of the biggest culprits on the Bengals' underwhelming line has been right tackle Bobby Hart. According to Pro Football Focus, he's allowed two sacks and has been flagged once in 233 snaps.

    While Cincinnati might not have an obvious replacement for Hart on its roster, it should consider all avenues to upgrade its line. Calling about potential trades and considering free agents like former Bengal Cordy Glenn would be a good first step.

Cleveland Browns: S Andrew Sendejo

8 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    When rookie second-round pick Grant Delpit suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles during a preseason practice, it forced the Cleveland Browns to rely on veteran Andrew Sendejo at safety.

    Unfortunately, that backup plan has not yielded positive dividends.

    Sendejo has played 100 percent of Cleveland's defensive snaps this season, but he's also allowed eight completions on 11 targets while giving up 141 receiving yards and a touchdown and missing three tackles. Not so coincidentally, the Browns rank 22nd in pass defense and 24th in points allowed.

    To become a playoff team, Cleveland needs to bolster the back end of its defense, whether that means giving more reps to a player like Sheldrick Redwine or bringing in a free agent like Earl Thomas.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Trevon Diggs

9 of 32

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Undrafted rookie tackle Terence Steele was not benched for poor play in Week 3. According to Jane Slater of NFL Network, he left the game due to food poisoning. Steele has been serviceable since being forced into action in Week 1.

    Rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs, on the other hand, has had his issues.

    The second-round pick out of Alabama has allowed 14 completions on 22 targets for a whopping 219 yards and a touchdown. He's also missed two tackles, although he does have a forced fumble and two passes defended.

    The issue is that Diggs has played 100 percent of the defensive snaps this season, and opposing passers are picking on him. The Cowboys need to consider rotating in more experienced defensive backs and getting Diggs out of so many unfavorable situations.

    Bringing in a free agent like former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne could also help take some off the rookie's plate.

Denver Broncos: CB Michael Ojemudia

10 of 32

    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are in danger of falling out of the AFC West race within the first month of the season. A loss to the New York Jets on Thursday would all but cement a lost season for the Broncos, so some drastic steps might be necessary.

    Rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia has shown flashes—he has two passes defended and has allowed a completion rate of only 52 percent—but he's also made too many mistakes to justify playing 91 percent of the defensive snaps.

    Ojemudia has given up 13 completions through three games for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He dropped an interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what was ultimately a five-point game. He has also missed four tackles and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a 104.7 passer rating when targeting him.

    It was never fair to ask a third-round pick to take on a starting job. but the Broncos need to fix their mistake. They may have to turn to free agency or the trade pool to do it, but asking Ojemudia to play nearly every down could prove too costly to overcome.

Detroit Lions: RB Kerryon Johnson

11 of 32

    Daniel Mears/Associated Press

    Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson has shown glimpses of greatness during his tenure with the team, but he's also struggled to stay healthy. That's why Detroit used a second-round pick on D'Andre Swift and why it signed 35-year-old veteran Adrian Peterson in free agency.

    Three weeks into the season, it's becoming clear that Johnson should no longer have a role in the offense.

    Peterson has taken hold of the ground game, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and just under 70 yards per game. The Lions are happy with him as the lead back.

    "I don't know when it's going to happen, but he wants [the ball], we want him to have it and we'll just keep continuing to go there and spell him with Kerryon, spell him with Swift and kind of go from there," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said ESPN's Michael Rothstein.

    Swift, meanwhile, has provided value as a receiving back, catching nine passes for 94 yards, although he had a key drop in Week 1 on what would have been a game-winning touchdown.

    Johnson, meanwhile, has only one reception and is averaging a mere 3.4 yards per rush. He does have a rushing touchdown, but it's time for the Lions to split his touches and targets—he has 20 through three weeks—between Peterson and Swift.

Green Bay Packers: LB Christian Kirksey

12 of 32

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Players shouldn't lose their starting job because to an injury. That's an unwritten rule in the NFL.

    But when Green Bay Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey returns from his shoulder injury—he'll miss at least one game, according to ESPN's Rob Demovsky—the Packers should consider keeping him in a reduced role.

    Kirksey is an experienced linebacker, is well-versed in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's system and will produce big tackle numbers. However, he can also be a liability in coverage at the second level.

    So far this season, he's allowed nine receptions on 10 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown. While he's racked up 27 tackles, he's also missed two of them while producing no impact plays—interceptions, forced fumbles, quarterback hits or tackles for loss.

    Green Bay should instead consider giving more opportunities to linebackers like Ty Summers and rookie Krys Barnes, or perhaps scoping out the free-agent market.

Houston Texans: OG Zach Fulton

13 of 32

    Brett Coomer/Associated Press

    Though they won the AFC South in 2019, the 0-3 Houston Texans are now in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

    Part of the problem has been a defense that has allowed the fourth-most points in the NFL. Part of the problem has been a lack of offensive chemistry and a line that still cannot seem to protect Deshaun Watson.

    Watson has been sacked 13 times through three games, second only to rookie Joe Burrow.

    The Texans desperately need to improve their line, and they should start with guard Zach Fulton. He has allowed three sacks in only 165 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That is far too much pressure coming at Watson from the interior.

    While Houston might not have any quality internal options, experienced starters like Ron Leary are available in free agency.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Jack Doyle

14 of 32

    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    This has far less to do with Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle and more to do with fellow tight end Mo Alie-Cox.

    When Doyle was out with knee and ankle injuries in Week 2, Alie-Cox's role jumped significantly—he went from playing 39 percent of the snaps to 67 percent. This resulted in a huge five-catch, 111-yard day.

    Though Doyle was active in Week 3, Alie-Cox still played 60 percent of the snaps and caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Doyle was held catchless, and he doesn't seem to have the same chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers that Alie-Cox has.

    As such, the Colts should strongly consider phasing Doyle out of the passing attack to provide Alie-Cox with more opportunities.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Chris Conley

15 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    With DJ Chark Jr. dealing with chest and back injuries, Keelan Cole has emerged as the Jacksonville Jaguars' top receiver through three weeks. He's been targeted a team-high 17 times and has caught 15 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

    Chris Conley is right behind Cole with 16 targets, but he's been far less reliable and productive. He's caught only half of the passes thrown his way for 88 yards with two drops.

    Conley has played 54 percent of the offensive snaps to this point, but it's time for Jacksonville to reduce his workload. Giving more opportunities to players like rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. and Dede Westbrook might help the team's offensive chemistry.

    Jacksonville has shown it can be competitive with Gardner Minshew II under center, but Minshew would benefit from more reliability at wide receiver.

Kansas City Chiefs: RB Darrel Williams

16 of 32

    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs don't have much to complain about after dominating the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night and emerging with a 3-0 record. They've been solid on both sides of the ball and currently rank fourth in points scored and sixth in points allowed.

    If the Chiefs want to increase their efficiency, though, they should consider removing backup running back Darrel Williams from the game plan and giving more opportunities to second-year man Darwin Thompson.

    While Williams has averaged an underwhelming 3.2 yards per carry, Thompson has averaged 5.3 yards per rush. The LSU product has caught five passes but has averaged just four yards per reception, and his longest run of the season has been for seven yards.

    Theoretically, replacing Williams with Thompson would help improve the team's explosiveness when starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire is off the field. Are we nitpicking here? Yes, but a team with title aspirations should be looking for an edge wherever it can get one. 

Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Clelin Ferrell

17 of 32

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    To be fair, this pick was originally going to be cornerback Damon Arnette, though he's now expected to miss a month or more with a thumb injury, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    With benching Arnette no longer an option, the Las Vegas Raiders should turn to Clelin Ferrell as a candidate for demotion. The 2019 fourth overall pick has played 69 percent of the defensive snaps thus far but has been largely ineffective as a pass-rusher.

    Ferrell has no sacks and just four pressures through three games.

    As a team, Las Vegas has just three sacks on the season. That number needs to improve dramatically if the Raiders are going to be relevant in the AFC this year. Perhaps they could give more opportunities to guys like Arden Key and Carl Nassib, or perhaps they could examine the trade and free-agent markets.

    One thing is fairly clear, though: Ferrell is not getting it done.

Los Angeles Chargers: QB Tyrod Taylor

18 of 32

    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has started the last two games for the Los Angeles Chargers because veteran Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung during a pregame injection.

    The Chargers initially insisted Taylor will return to the starting lineup when he's ready. Head coach Anthony Lynn also won't rule out Taylor for this week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, either.

    Taylor should not reclaim the starting job. While it's unfair for him to be benched because of an injury—one caused by the team, no less—putting him back into the lineup is the wrong move for the long-term success of the franchise.

    Herbert is the future, and he's played well enough to be the present, too. He's passed for at least 300 yards in each outing while completing 69.5 percent of his passes.

    If he appeared overwhelmed or was being battered like Joe Burrow is with the Cincinnati Bengals, then going back to Taylor would make sense. But he doesn't and isn't. It's time for Los Angeles to keep putting the ball in his hands and let him grow on the field.

Los Angeles Rams: RB Cam Akers

19 of 32

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams may have rookie running back Cam Akers in uniform this week against the New York Giants.

    "With Cam, we'll see if he's ready to go and how he kind of progresses throughout the course of the week," head coach Sean McVay said, per Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire.

    It would be good to have him available, but Los Angeles should keep Akers on the bench once he's healthy.

    The rookie out of Florida State has struggled to adjust to the pro game and has not shown the same burst and elusiveness he flashed as a Seminole. He's averaged a mere 3.1 yards per carry and has just one reception for four yards.

    There's no reason to give Akers touches when second-year back Darrell Henderson Jr. is averaging 5.7 yards per run and backup Malcolm Brown is averaging a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. Each has caught three passes on the season.

Miami Dolphins: RB Jordan Howard

20 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    When the Miami Dolphins signed running back Jordan Howard in free agency, it seemed logical that he would take over as the team's new starter. After all, he had thrived in a committee situation with both the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

    But he is not thriving in Miami.

    While both Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida have been effective—they've averaged 4.0 and 4.2 yards per carry, respectively—Howard has been dreadful. He does have three rushing touchdowns, but he's averaging less than a yard per carry and has contributed nothing to the passing game.

    Howard's longest run this season has gone for four yards.

    It doesn't make sense to continue taking touches away from backs who are actually contributing just because Howard is a serviceable goal-line back. He clearly isn't part of this franchise's future, and the future is what Miami should be focused on.

Minnesota Vikings: WR Olabisi Johnson

21 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    As was the case with Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle, this has less to do with Minnesota Vikings wideout Olabisi Johnson and everything to do with rookie receiver Justin Jefferson.

    Jefferson finally caught fire in Week 3, catching seven passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He now has 12 catches for 245 yards and the score on the season. Johnson, who has played 46.8 percent of the offensive snaps compared to 67.8 percent for Jefferson, has just four catches on seven targets for 80 yards.

    No. 1 wideout Adam Thielen has played 93 percent of the offensive snaps, and this is the sort of usage Johnson should be seeing. It's time for Minnesota to get its rookie phenom onto the field as much as possible.

    Johnson can be a fine No. 3 receiver, but the Vikings should not be taking away Johnson's reps to get him on the field.

New England Patriots: TE Ryan Izzo

22 of 32

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots may be more competitive this season than some expected, but they've still struggled to find a reliable pass-catching tight end. Ryan Izzo has logged the majority of the reps—he's played 86 percent of the offensive snaps—but he is not the playmaker New England has been missing.

    Izzo has caught three of five targets for just 44 yards through three weeks.

    It's time for New England to either give opportunities to other tight ends, like rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, or to explore other avenues of upgrading the position.

    "If Asiasi or Keene can't pass him soon, the Pats may explore options on the trade market," Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald wrote.

    While new quarterback Cam Newton may not favor tight ends as much as his predecessor, the Patriots offense would be more balanced with a legitimate threat at the position.

New Orleans Saints: CB P.J. Williams

23 of 32

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    It is not time to bench quarterback Drew Brees yet. While he hasn't looked like his usual Pro Bowl self, let's see how he fares against the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers and after star wideout Michael Thomas is back in the lineup first.

    Instead, the Saints should look at reducing the workload of cornerback P.J. Williams.

    While William has played just two games and 18 percent of the total defensive snaps, he's allowed 102 receiving yards on an 80 percent completion rate. That's alarming for a part-time player, and the Saints should consider alternatives.

    Whether that means an opportunity for a player like Patrick Robinson or a shopping trip to the free-agent or trade markets, pulling Williams from the lineup might give New Orleans some much-needed defensive relief. 

New York Giants: CB Darnay Holmes

24 of 32

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The 2020 season is slipping away for the New York Giants, who were completely outclassed by a banged-up San Francisco 49ers squad in Week 3. If they have any hope of getting back into the NFC East race, they may need to make some dramatic changes.

    Pulling rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes off the field might be a good first step. He was a surprise starter in Week 1 and did a decent job limiting big plays in that game. However, though his role has diminished—he went from playing 73 percent of the snaps in Week 1 to 35 percent in Week 3—quarterbacks continue to pick on him.

    Holmes has now allowed nine receptions on 14 targets for 108 yards while also missing three tackles.

    New York isn't exactly loaded with quality depth, so bringing in a free agent like former Giant Prince Amukamara might be the right call here.

New York Jets: CB Blessuan Austin

25 of 32

    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    While some fans might be ready to see the New York Jets bench quarterback Sam Darnold, the team needs to let him at least play out the season. As is the case with the New York Giants, they need to know if he can be redeemed or if it's time to consider draft options.

    Instead, the Jets should take a long look at benching starting cornerback Blessuan Austin. While he had a promising start to the season—eight tackles, one for loss in Week 1—he has evolved into one of the biggest liabilities on the defense.

    Austin has allowed 14 completions on 22 targets for 151 yards. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that he's missed a whopping eight tackles through three games.

    The Jets are going nowhere this season, so it wouldn't hurt to give more playing time to a guy like Pierre Desir to see if the veteran can be a better long-term answer than Austin.

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Avonte Maddox

26 of 32

    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles insist that despite his struggles, benching quarterback Carson Wentz is not an option.

    "No, you don't go there," head coach Doug Pederson told 94 WIP Radio.

    If a quarterback change isn't in the cards, Philadelphia should strongly consider shaking up a defense that ranks just 23rd in scoring and has yet to log an interception. Benching cornerback Avonte Maddox might be a good place to start.

    Maddox has played 80 percent of the defensive snaps and has often been a liability when he's been on the field. He's allowed 14 receptions on 19 targets for 187 yards and a touchdown. He's also missed two tackles.

    Whether the Eagles give more reps to Nickell Robey-Coleman or audition a free agent like Morris Claiborne, they need to consider alternatives here.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR James Washington

27 of 32

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Though he's done it in spurts, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wideout Chase Claypool has dazzled in his first three games. He's caught six of nine targets for 151 yards and a touchdown.

    Pittsburgh needs to get him involved in the offense more often.

    The question, of course, is how to find the snaps to give to the former Notre Dame standout. Well, taking some away from No. 3 receiver James Washington would be a good start.

    Washington has played 56 percent of the team's snaps this season, and while he does have 10 receptions and the same 66.7 percent catch rate as Claypool, he's done far less with the ball in his hands. He's averaging just 9.2 yards per reception.

    This isn't to say Washington is playing poorly enough to warrant a benching. He's not. However, Claypool adds a downfield element to the passing attack that Pittsburgh's other receivers cannot provide. Someone has to make room so he can get onto the field.

San Francisco 49ers: LS Kyle Nelson

28 of 32

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    While some San Francisco 49ers fans may be eager to see Nick Mullens replace Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, we have a less juicy suggestion here—and perhaps an obvious one. The 49ers need to bench longtime long snapper Kyle Nelson, who had several bad snaps against the New York Giants in Week 3.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan has already suggested that Nelson could be on his way out.

    "He understands it's a business," he said, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He understands how the league works."

    San Francisco needs to pull the trigger on this move and try to find a replacement.

    The Niners are banged up and fortunate to be in the middle of the cupcake portion of their schedule. However, tougher games against the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks loom, and San Francisco cannot afford to let a game or two slip away because of questionable special-teams play.

Seattle Seahawks: CB Shaquill Griffin

29 of 32

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks are 3-0, but they're undefeated almost exclusively because of the heroics of quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle is a mess defensively and ranks dead last in passing yards allowed.

    Cornerback Shaquill Griffin has been part of the problem. He has played 98 percent of the defensive snaps and has been burned in coverage regularly. He has allowed 22 completions on 29 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns.

    If the Seahawks hope to improve their pass defense, they're going to have to bench Griffin—or at least reduce his role.

    Whether this means giving more playing time to Tre Flowers or working a trade for a proven veteran is irrelevant. Griffin is not playing well enough to justify a starting role.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Donovan Smith

30 of 32

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to ride quarterback Tom Brady to a Super Bowl in 2020, they need to upgrade their offensive line. While Brady has only been sacked five times, he has been pressured 14 times and has been hit an additional seven.

    Those aren't the most encouraging numbers, especially when a 43-year-old signal-caller is involved.

    Tampa needs to at least look into replacing left tackle Donovan Smith, who has been responsible for two sacks and four penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Perhaps the Bucs can audition rookie Tristan Wirfs on the left side, or maybe they'll have to examine the trade market. However, they need to do something because Smith is shaping up to be a liability.

Tennessee Titans: CB Johnathan Joseph

31 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans are in relative control of the AFC South at 3-0, but they have some legitimate defensive concerns. The team ranks 23rd in pass defense and 29th in total defense.

    Taking some snaps away from 36-year-old Johnathan Joseph might help give Tennessee a bit of a boost. While he is a savvy vet still capable of making big plays—he has one interception so far—he's also been inconsistent in coverage.

    Through three games, Joseph has allowed seven completions on 12 targets for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He's also missed two tackles.

    While it makes sense to keep Joseph in a defensive role, it may be time for him to cede more playing time to Kristian Fulton. The rookie out of LSU has also logged an interception while allowing completions on just three of five targets for 48 yards.

Washington Football Team: QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.

32 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    To become relevant in the NFC East, the Washington Football Team must consider benching quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.

    The Ohio State product had his ups and downs as a rookie, but he showed promise near the end of the 2019 season. So far in 2020, though, it's been almost all downs.

    Haskins has completed just over 56 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, three interceptions and four fumbles (three lost). He's consistently buckled under pressure and is making it difficult for Washington to win games—and head coach Ron Rivera knows it.

    "There were a lot of guys that put their heart out on the field, and truthfully, they deserve better," Rivera told reporters

    It's time for Washington to give Kyle Allen a crack at the starting job to see if he can do better. Allen played for Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina last season. Veteran Alex Smith could also be an option, though he hasn't played since suffering a gruesome leg injury in 2018 that nearly ended his career.

        

    All advanced stats via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.