1 Player Every NFL Team Must Bench Immediately

Alex KayContributor ISeptember 29, 2021

1 Player Every NFL Team Must Bench Immediately

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    With Week 4 on the horizon, it's time for NFL coaches to assess their rosters and adjust based on September player performances.

    Even with an extra game tacked on to the regular season, most clubs cannot afford to give underperforming talent a chance to bust out of a slump lasting this long. They instead need to shake things up, sending a starter to the bench or taking snaps away from a rotational player who hasn't met expectations.

    Here is a look at one player from each team who fits that description.

Arizona Cardinals: WR A.J. Green

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    The Arizona Cardinals signed 10-year veteran A.J. Green this offseason, bringing in the experienced pass-catcher to augment their exciting offense. After three games, though, it's becoming apparent that the 33-year-old no longer resembles the player he was in his prime.

    Despite seeing 18 targets, Green has caught just 10 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. His 55.6 catch percentage is far and away the lowest on the team, a sign that he is struggling to get open and in sync with quarterback Kyler Murray.

    Green has earned a middling 63.2 Pro Football Focus grade through Week 3, but his biggest infraction is holding back a pair of dynamic young wideouts in Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore. These two receivers, grading out at a 90.5 and 71.8, respectively, have both seen significantly fewer snaps than Green this year.

    Head coach Kingsbury must consider scaling back Green's 80.7 snap percentage.

Atlanta Falcons: OT Kaleb McGary

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    The Atlanta Falcons have won one game and have issues up and down the roster.

    One of the most pressing is the lack of pass protection afforded to veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, who has been pressured on 24.6 percent of his dropbacks. Ryan has had an average of just 2.3 seconds of pocket time this season, down from last year, when he had 2.6 seconds.

    Starting right tackle Kaleb McGary has been one of the more glaring problems, already allowing two sacks and committing a penalty to start the season, per PFF.

    Before he was drafted in 2019's first round, scouts and analysts had doubts about his ability to continue playing on the end of the offensive line, concerns that proved valid.

    Possessing extremely short arms and limited athleticism, McGary has had issues protecting in space. He's earned a 54.7 PFF grade and could sink lower if the Falcons don't make changes—such as shuffling McGary to guard—in the offensive trenches.

Baltimore Ravens: LB Malik Harrison

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    The Baltimore Ravens have a reputation for producing some of the game's great linebackers, but Malik Harrison has been abysmal in the middle of this defense, earning a putrid 30.1 PFF grade. The 23-year-old has accumulated a mere eight tackles and little else despite playing 95 snaps.

    It's hard to envision Harrison improving unless he starts to give more effort. His tackling has been suspect and soft, as he's allowed defenders to blow by him or through him with ease.

    He's at his worst in coverage, conceding a perfect quarterback rating when targeted. Five of six passes thrown his way have been completed for 92 yards and a score.

    Head coach John Harbaugh seems keenly aware of how poorly Harrison is performing.

    The Ohio State product saw just 17 snaps in Sunday's win over the Lions, down from 34 in Week 2 and 44 in the opener. Getting Harrison off the field entirely and giving more work to the other linebackers would be Baltimore's best move until he figures things out.

Buffalo Bills: RB Devin Singletary

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    Third-year Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary hasn't put up terrible numbers in his first three contests. But he hasn't taken advantage of what the offensive line is providing the way backfield mate Zack Moss has. That disparity was most notable in Week 3, when Moss posted 91 total yards and Buffalo's offense exploded for 43 points against a hapless Washington defense.

    Even though the team put up 481 yards, Singletary couldn't get much going with his 11 totes. He gained just 26 yards on the ground and failed to gain a yard on his lone catch.

    Moss has been the much more electrifying back these last two weeks, shrugging off a healthy scratch in Week 1 to put up great numbers. He's up to 86 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 36 yards and a score through the air.

    With Moss earning a 69.5 PFF grade compared to Singletary's 45.0, it's apparent which running back Buffalo should feature. 

Carolina Panthers: TE Ian Thomas

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    While Sam Darnold has been shining under center with the Carolina Panthers, once-promising tight end Ian Thomas has barely made an impact in the improved passing attack.

    Although Thomas has played 124 snaps this year, he's only caught two of his four targets for 24 yards. He was completely phased out this past Thursday, failing to draw a single target in a win over Houston.

    Even after Carolina traded top pass-catching tight end Dan Arnold as part of a package for cornerback C.J. Henderson, it's still unlikely Thomas will do anything of note this season.

    The future is bright at his position, however, as 2021 third-rounder Tommy Tremble is waiting in the wings.

    The Notre Dame product showed out in limited action last week—scoring his first professional touchdown on the ground and adding an impressive catch—and should usurp Thomas quickly.

Chicago Bears: C Sam Mustipher

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    The Chicago Bears offensive line has been brutally bad this year, starting with allowing a trio of sacks in each of its first two games.

    These woes came to a head Sunday during Justin Fields' first career start. The Browns defense feasted on this patchwork unit, sacking the rookie an eye-popping nine times and hitting him on over half his dropbacks.

    247Sports' Andrew Freeman tweeted the pass-blocking win rates for all five starters, with Cody Whitehair being the only one who beat his man at an 80 percent clip or better. It's clear the line has multiple issues, but the biggest problem is at center.

    Sam Mustipher has looked downright lost at times, earning a 38.3 PFF grade over 179 snaps. He's given up a sack and has been manhandled by opposing linemen, resulting in collapsed pockets and little room for Chicago's backs to work.

    Expect head coach Matt Nagy to make some major changes soon, one of which should be giving backup Alex Bars a chance to fulfill the center duties.

Cincinnati Bengals: C Trey Hopkins

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    One of the Cincinnati Bengals' primary goals this offseason was upgrading quarterback Joe Burrow's protection after last year's No. 1 overall pick went down with a torn ACL.

    Despite major changes—including signing a veteran right tackle Riley Reiff and drafting Jackson Carman in the second round—Burrow is still taking a beating. He's being pressured on 24.1 percent of his dropbacks, the same rate as 2020.

    It's not helping that center Trey Hopkins has offered almost nothing in the way of pass protection. The sixth-year veteran has been terrible in pass protection through two games and is grading out at an abysmal 42.4 overall at PFF after Week 3.

    Hopkins has already allowed a pair of sacks and committed two penalties on just 171 snaps, which aren't starting-caliber numbers.

    Cincinnati should consider rookie center Trey Hill as a replacement.

Cleveland Browns: TE David Njoku

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    David Njoku started the year with a big game—hauling in three of his five targets for 76 yards—but has since fallen off hard. He was a non-factor in Week 3, failing to draw a single look from quarterback Baker Mayfield despite playing 50 snaps.

    The Browns have another highly capable tight end in Austin Hooper, who scored his first touchdown of the season this past Sunday.

    It's time for the Browns to unleash Hooper more often. He has earned a 77.1 grade on the year—ahead of Njoku's 66.5—for a reason. The 26-year-old provides a big target at 6'4", 255 pounds and has sure hands and a huge catch radius, hauling in all but one of his 11 targets in 2021.

    With wideout Jarvis Landry sidelined for at least two more games, the Browns could benefit heavily from Hooper emerging as an elite receiving threat to complement Odell Beckham Jr.

Dallas Cowboys: TE Blake Jarwin

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    Tight end Blake Jarwin was one of the few Dallas Cowboys who didn't have a big game against the Eagles on Monday night, catching just two passes for 14 yards.

    During the season, he has caught eight of his nine targets for 71 yards, ho-hum numbers for a player logging 120 snaps in a dynamic offense. 

    The fifth-year pro missed all but one game last year with a torn ACL, and the injury may be limiting his ability in 2021, resulting in his earning a middling 60.2 PFF grade over three contests. 

    Dalton Schultz deserves to be the clear No. 1 tight end in Dallas after his performance against Philadelphia. The 25-year-old caught six of his seven targets, exploding for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

    Schultz logged 53 out of a possible 76 snaps in the game, just 10 more than the ineffective Jarwin. He's up to an impressive 82 PFF grade on the year and could improve with more work.

    The Cowboys have plenty of stars in their receiving corps, but Schultz adds a dimension that this offense has lacked for much of quarterback Dak Prescott's career. 

Denver Broncos: S Justin Simmons

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    Although he has a bigger contract than all but two other safeties, Justin Simmons has been playing at a replacement level for the Denver Broncos this season.

    He started the year by recording six tackles against the Giants but was barely a factor in Week 2, notching just a single tackle against the Jaguars. Those tackle numbers remained low Sunday, when he recorded only two against the Jets.

    Simmons forced his first turnover of 2021 in Week 3, but it wasn't all that notable considering it came against a Jets team that features one of the league's most abysmal offenses.

    It's not time to panic yet, but Simmons seems to be slipping from the level that made him a second-team All-Pro member in 2019 and a Pro Bowler last year. He's earned a mediocre 65.2 PFF grade.

    Rotating in rookie safety Caden Sterns—who has graded out at a 70.2 on his limited snaps—more often could give Simmons the jolt he needs to regain his star form.

Detroit Lions: LB Derrick Barnes

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    The Detroit Lions are undergoing a full-blown rebuild but have put up some admirable performances despite starting the year with three straight losses.

    The team kept things close against the 49ers in the opener and would have beaten the Ravens on Sunday had Justin Tucker not set an NFL record with a 66-yard game-winning field goal. Had its linebacking corps played better in these contests, Detroit could have been 2-1.

    And rookie 'backer Derrick Barnes is off to a rough beginning to his NFL career. He made his first start against Baltimore, logging 28 snaps but coming up with just four tackles.

    His coverage was the most concerning, as Barnes allowed three completions for 48 yards, per PFF, giving up first downs on each one. He's earned a poor 25.0 grade and can't be trusted if he continues down this path.

    The Lions have other options at the position, including Anthony Pittman, a special teamer who could play interior linebacker if necessary.

Green Bay Packers: CB Chandon Sullivan

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    The Green Bay Packers have hopes of getting back to the NFC Championship Game for the third straight year but need better play from their secondary to accomplish this goal.

    Chandon Sullivan has been the team's worst defensive back through three contests. With outside corner Kevin King (illness) out in Week 3, Sullivan was tasked with covering the slot full-time despite his struggles.

    He almost cost his team a win against the 49ers, allowing three catches for 67 yards while missing two tackles. He's grading out at a paltry 36.2 at PFF, abysmal numbers for a player participating in 51 percent of his team's snaps.

    Green Bay has something with the outside duo of Jaire Alexander and rookie Eric Stokes, but Sullivan shouldn't be trusted in the nickel. The team could try moving King into that role or giving Shemar Jean-Charles a crack after he exclusively played on special teams in his Week 3 debut. 

Houston Texans: RB Mark Ingram II

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    Despite a surprisingly strong start under quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Houston Texans have fallen off since his Week 2 hamstring injury.  

    While rookie backup Davis Mills hasn't shown much in his first professional action under center, his backfield hasn't provided much support. The combination of Mark Ingram II and David Johnson offer little in the way of playmaking ability and are taking up snaps the team could be using to see what it has in some younger running backs.

    One of those is 23-year-old Scottie Phillips, who cracked the 53-man roster thanks to his contributions on special teams but could be part of the running back platoon.

    Ingram sung Phillips' praises recently, telling Aaron Wilson of SI.com: "He's a back that can do a lot of things, so I've told him to keep working on his craft and I think he's going to be a good player, a good running back in this league for a long time. I think he can have a long career with his skill set and his mindset, so I am a Scottie Phillips fan."

    With the Texans soon to be out of playoff contention, the organization should give some totes to Phillips to see if it can develop him.

Indianapolis Colts: OG Mark Glowinski

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    Indianapolis' offensive line has been among the worst in the league.

    While injuries have hindered the team's ability to protect the quarterback, even its healthy starters have been struggling in the offensive trenches. PFF's Steve Palazzolo tweeted that Carson Wentz is being pressured on 47.5 percent of his dropbacks, a rate almost 30 percentage points higher than Philip Rivers experienced through three games last year.

    Mark Glowinski stands out as the weakest player on this line, as he consistently lets his man blow by him. He's offered little in the way of run blocking and has already given up a sack on his 203 snaps.

    To make matters worse, Wentz has been dealing with two sprained ankles, and Glowinski was destroyed by Aaron Donald in Week 2 before the Rams star took down the quarterback.

    A 43.4 grade further proves Glowinski is ineffective. The Colts have started kicking the tires on veterans, recently giving Isaiah Wilson a tryout. Whether his replacement comes from in house or off the street, the team needs to make a change at guard spot.

Jacksonville Jaguars: S Andre Cisco

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars started the season with a rotation at strong safety, utilizing both Andrew Wingard and Andre Cisco alongside free safety Rayshawn Jenkins.

    After three games, it's obvious Wingard should hold the job full time.

    Cisco had a crack at it, getting 30 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and 26 percent in Week 2. The third-round rookie failed to do much of note with the playing time, recording just two tackles in those contests. 

    Wingard has been one of the few defensive bright spots. The third-year man out of Wyoming has been zipping around the field and making plays, coming up with 21 tackles, a sack and a pass defended on his 173 snaps.

    Head coach Urban Meyer's faith in Wingard was rewarded in Week 3, when the safety created Jacksonville's only turnover of the year by picking off Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. Wingard played all 67 defensive snaps in the contest, a trend that should continue.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Demarcus Robinson

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    Patrick Mahomes is still thriving despite having few proven weapons outside wideout Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, but the quarterback could end up being even better with a change to the receiving corps.

    Kansas City recently picked up Josh Gordon after the NFL reinstated the veteran receiver following his latest suspension. The wideout is on the club's practice squad, but it shouldn't take long for Gordon to work his way onto the active roster.

    Although he is on the wrong side of 30 and hasn't been a fixture on one team's NFL roster for a full season since 2013, Gordon could take the Kansas City offense to new heights.

    The Chiefs haven't gotten much production out of Demarcus Robinson, their third receiver behind Hill and Mecole Hardman.

    Robinson has played 135 snaps over the first three games, catching just six of his eight targets for 72 yards and a score. He's earned a 57.8 grade, paltry numbers for a player with the good fortune to run routes for Mahomes.

    Gordon could quickly ascend Kansas City's depth chart and replace Robinson in three-wide receiver sets. 

Las Vegas Raiders: OT Alex Leatherwood

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    The Las Vegas Raiders are one of 2021's pleasant surprises, starting 3-0 behind a high-powered aerial attack and new-look defense.

    It hasn't been all good in Las Vegas, however, as the team has had luck on its side in the form of two overtime wins. Tightening up the pass protection should be a priority if Vegas wants to make a deep playoff run.

    Alex Leatherwood sticks out as the weak point in the offensive trenches. His 34.6 PFF grade is among the worst in the league at right tackle, ranking 28th in run blocking and 41st in pass blocking among players with 60 or more snaps.

    The rookie has given up three sacks and taken four penalties on his 200 snaps in just three games.

    While the Raiders used the No. 17 pick on the Alabama product this year, it's obvious he is not ready to start. Sending him to the bench while he develops should be at the top of coach Jon Gruden's to-do list.

    Jackson Barton is behind Leatherwood on the depth chart but clearly deserves an opportunity to replace the starter.

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Storm Norton

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    The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the league's most intriguing up-and-coming teams, but their offensive line still leaves much to be desired in protecting sophomore sensation Justin Herbert.

    The Bolts should find a replacement for right tackle Storm Norton. The 27-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup following a Week 1 back injury to Bryan Bulaga, but he is not qualified to continue in that role.

    He's earned a paltry 44.7 PFF grade over the last two games, having committed a holding penalty and conceded a sack over 173 snaps. In Week 2 alone, he was responsible for a mind-blowing nine of the 18 total pressures that L.A. allowed, per Chargers Wire's Gavino Borquez.

    Fortunately, Bulaga's injury isn't season-ending. The veteran tackle landed on injured reserve Sept. 17 but will be eligible to return soon.

    The Chargers picked up veteran lineman Michael Schofield following Bulaga's injury and should be willing to deploy him over Norton after these dreadful performances.

Los Angeles Rams: S Taylor Rapp

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    The strength of the Los Angeles Rams has been in their defense these last few seasons. The unit has some of the league's best players on that side of the ball and ranked No. 1 last year, but it still has weak links.

    One of those is free safety Taylor Rapp. He was thrust into the starting lineup this year, replacing John Johnson III after the star signed with the Browns in the offseason.

    Rapp, a second-round pick in 2019, hasn't performed at a high level. He's earned a cumulative 56.2 PFF grade after recording 23 tackles, one QB hit and one pass deflection while playing 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps

    Considering that the Rams have an intriguing second-year safety in Terrell Burgess waiting in the wings, Rapp must play better or risk losing playing time to his backup.

Miami Dolphins: OT Liam Eichenberg

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    It is no secret that the Miami Dolphins offensive line is a mess.

    Head coach Brian Flores knows it, as he shuffled the deck in Week 3 after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa spent the first two weeks getting battered before landing on the IR with fractured ribs.

    Against the Raiders, Austin Jackson played left tackle, Jesse Davis moved to left guard from right tackle, Michael Deiter lined up at center, Rob Hunt played right guard and Liam Eichenberg started at right tackle.

    This unit showed improvements protecting backup QB Jacoby Brissett, but it still has major flaws.

    Eichenberg's performances have been the most painful of the bunch, and he has become a liability as a starter.

    The rookie has begun his career with a 47.4 PFF grade, allowing a sack and incurring three penalties across his first 166 snaps. 

    With tackle Greg Little—who Miami traded for in August—yet to see a snap this year, Flores should find out if the backup can provide better protection.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Bashaud Breeland

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    Bashaud Breeland signed with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason to provide cornerback depth. He's since been put into the starting lineup and has struggled to produce at a high level.

    The 29-year-old has earned a pitiful 30.4 PFF grade for his three dismal performances to start 2021.

    Breeland had his worst game yet in Week 3. He was torched by Seattle's wideouts, allowing all eight of his targets to be caught for 87 yards and a touchdown while missing three tackles. It's rather puzzling that Breeland is still starting while Cam Dantzler—a serviceable starter last season—is yet to see a defensive snap since the opener. Dantzler seems to be in Zimmer's dog house, though.

    Regardless, it should be a priority to mend fences and get the second-year cornerback in the starting lineup before Breeland costs Minnesota a chance to make the playoffs.

New England Patriots: DT Lawrence Guy

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    The Patriots are struggling to stop the run in 2021.

    The team is giving up 122.7 yards per game on the ground, ninth-most in the league. They have now conceded 152 rushing yards to the lowly Jets and another 142 to the Saints in back-to-back weeks.  

    Most concerning, though, is the Patriots are failing to get stops when they need them most.

    New Orleans backs were able to impose their will Sunday. While it was obvious the Saints were going to run and kill the clock at the end of the game, they still rushed 10 times for 56 yards on a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended any hope of a comeback.  

    To make matters worse, this all happened behind a New Orleans offensive line that had three backups starting.

    It's a collective effort, but starting defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is one of the primary reasons for New England's failures right now. He's amassed a meager 14 tackles—none for loss—while playing 93 snaps.

    With an unsightly 35.3 grade, it's time for the Pats to rotate Guy out and get backups Carl Davis and Christian Barmore more reps.

New Orleans Saints: C Cesar Ruiz

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    The Saints shifted Cesar Ruiz from center to guard following a tough rookie season but have since returned him to his original position.

    After starting center Erik McCoy went down with a calf injury just five snaps into the 2021 campaign, Ruiz was tasked with resuming snapping duties on this offensive line. It hasn't gone well for the 2020 first-round pick, as he has already drawn a penalty and given up a sack over his first 168 snaps.

    Ruiz was one of the players who struggled in New Orleans' Week 3 win over New England. He gave up three pressures to Patriots pass-rushers and seemed lost at times in protection.

    McCoy was given a five-week timetable to return, but the Saints shouldn't wait that long to find another option at center if Ruiz continues to have issues keeping quarterback Jameis Winston out of harm's way.

    Moving Ruiz back to guard and trying out another lineman or signing a proven center may be the best move for this club.

New York Giants: OT Nate Solder

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    The Giants are still looking for their first win of the 2021 season. It's not unexpected, however, as the team's roster is rife with issues.

    Some of Big Blue's most conspicuous problems are along the offensive line. This club has put together a hodgepodge unit that lacks cohesiveness and talent. One of the most problematic spots is right tackle, where Nate Solder has returned to start after opting out of the 2020 campaign.

    Solder appeared toasted before taking a season off, and the break hardly did him any favors. The 33-year-old has already conceded two sacks and been flagged twice over his first 182 snaps since returning to the Giants.

    With a 51.7 grade through three games, Solder's play leaves much to be desired. The Giants coaching staff clearly didn't trust Matt Peart to become a starter in his second year, but the young tackle has graded out at a more efficient 63.3 in his 19 snaps this season.

    Considering this is already trending toward a lost year, Big Blue should send Solder to the bench and give Peart valuable reps and experience, potentially allowing him to evolve into a trustworthy starter for the club.

New York Jets: OG Greg Van Roten

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    The Jets drafted Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick in hopes he could turn this flailing franchise around. Unfortunately, Wilson hasn't had much opportunity to showcase his skills because of the sieve-like offensive line tasked with protecting him.

    Wilson has been sacked a league-high 15 times through three games, taking pressure on almost half of his dropbacks. There are several concerns in the offensive trenches, but the most egregious is the play of starting right guard Greg Van Roten.

    Van Roten allowed a team-high six pressures against the Broncos last week. Somehow, that was an improvement over the seven pressures he gave up to the Patriots in Week 2. He's now solely responsible for 41 percent of the pressures that Gang Green's offensive line has allowed over the past fortnight.

    Add in Van Roten's two sacks conceded and a penalty on just 192 snaps, and you are looking at a player who must be benched for this line to have any chance of righting the ship. Getting backup guard Isaiah Williams on the field in Van Roten's stead should be a priority for New York.

Philadelphia Eagles: LB Alex Singleton

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    The Philadelphia Eagles lost their second straight game this week, falling 42-21 in prime time against the rival Cowboys. The defense was largely responsible for this ugly showing, allowing the Dallas offense to dictate the contest.

    The blame can't be pinned on any one player, but Alex Singleton logged a team-high 57 snaps at the linebacker spot during Monday night's shellacking in Dallas. Considering Philly let Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combine for 155 yards and two scores on the ground, it was an embarrassing effort at the point of attack.

    The Cowboys game was the latest in a streak of poor performances for Singleton.

    The 27-year-old is grading out at a 40.3 and has done little else besides record 29 combined tackles on the year. If Singleton cannot step up and meet the opposition, it will be difficult for the Eagles to improve on their problematic 133.7 rushing yards allowed per game.

    Davion Taylor deserves a shot at usurping Singleton on the depth chart, as he has been the more aggressive linebacker during his nine defensive snaps. Taylor has earned a 75.1 grade in limited action and should get more playing time based on Singleton's shortcomings.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger

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    It's a sad time to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

    After nearly two decades of quality service to the organization, it's rather obvious that longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger no longer has the stuff that made him one of the game's great signal-callers. The future Hall of Famer is a shell of his former self, and it is costing his team a chance to win games.

    Big Ben hit a new low this past week after he averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt and threw two interceptions against the rival Bengals. He threw the ball 58 times in the contest but managed just a single touchdown pass on all those attempts. Roethlisberger took four sacks Sunday as well, looking sluggish and vulnerable against a rush he would've once evaded.

    Only six of Roethlisberger's passing attempts breached the 15-yard mark, a clear sign that the arm strength he once flaunted is now all but gone.

    Despite the prowess of his receiving corps—which features an armada of talent in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and a fourth wideout in James Washington who could start for many clubs—the quarterback has still been relying heavily on checkdown passes.

    Trailing late in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger failed to even attempt the type of heroic throws that helped him win two championships. Big Ben simply checked down to rookie back Najee Harris on 4th-and-10, getting swallowed up by Cincinnati's defense on a play that was doomed the second the ball left the quarterback's hands.

    While Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins have yet to prove they are even decent NFL quarterbacks, they offer the upside and potential that Roethlisberger lacks. The Steelers could make a playoff run in 2021, but they need to make a change under center to get it done.    

San Francisco 49ers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

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    The San Francisco 49ers went all-in on Trey Lance this offseason, trading up to the No. 3 overall spot to draft a player who could be their next franchise quarterback. Despite this, Lance has only seen sporadic action behind incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

    After three games, it looks like time to forge ahead with Lance under center.

    Garoppolo is coming off his worst performance of the 2021 campaign. As PFF's Anthony Treash noted, "He recorded zero big-time throws for the third straight week and committed three turnover-worthy plays." While Jimmy G kept San Francisco competitive with decent game management and a clutch go-ahead touchdown drive, his interception, four sacks and fourth-quarter fumble ended up proving costly. 

    Lance logged only three snaps in the contest—his first since Week 1—scoring a one-yard rushing touchdown. It's been a surprisingly low usage for a player who tossed a touchdown on his lone throw as a professional in the opener.

    While the Niners are still a respectable 2-1 going into Week 4, they lack the upside to compete with the league's best while Garoppolo remains the starter. San Francisco has only beaten the lowly Lions and Eagles by one-score margins, losing in its first true test of the season this past weekend.

    Lance adds a dimension to the offense that Garoppolo can't provide. The dynamic dual-threat rookie deserves more chances to show his stuff going forward.

    Even if Lance doesn't get a starting nod, he should see a larger volume of snaps and more packages to utilize his talents in the coming weeks.          

Seattle Seahawks: CB Tre Flowers

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    Once the strength and soul of the Seahawks defense, the Seattle secondary is an uninspiring unit that lacks talent across the board.

    There have been some poor showings by these defensive backs in 2021, especially at the cornerback position. Starting right CB Tre Flowers has been noticeably lacking in coverage lately, drawing a 50.5 grade against the Vikings in Week 3.

    Kirk Cousins picked on Flowers often, burning the fourth-year veteran for seven receptions on seven targets for 78 yards.

    Flowers now has a 52.9 overall grade on the year after contributing just 16 tackles and little else despite playing every snap. Those replacement-level numbers should result in head coach Pete Carroll giving someone else a shot at impressing on the outside.

    The team traded for Sidney Jones last month but has yet to give the fifth-year veteran any snaps. When asked what was keeping Jones from playing, Carroll said the following (per Gregg Bell of the News Tribune):

    "Not much. He's really close, close to be playing, helping us. The competition is on. This week I told him we might play him today and we just didn't get it done today. We are looking at everything."

    Carroll seems ready to make a change, and Jones is the logical replacement. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Dee Delaney

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    After suffering their first loss since last November, the Bucs may want to explore making a few adjustments.

    While they have no reason to panic, the secondary has been a weak spot for the defending champions in 2021. The team has now lost a starting cornerback to injury in each of its first three games, the most recent being Jamel Dean's exit on Sunday against the Rams.

    The rash of injuries has left Dee Delaney and Ross Cockrell as the top remaining outside options. Delaney was in over his head against L.A., giving up 70 yards while being targeted four times on his 29 coverage snaps. He's now grading out at a mediocre 58.0 on the season and should be replaced as soon as possible.

    While Tampa believes it may have some in-house options in journeymen Rashard Robinson and Pierre Desir, the team has also explored signing a veteran.

    Richard Sherman visited the Bucs on Tuesday, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The 33-year-old could end up playing a key role quickly for the Bucs if they can convince him to join them.

Tennessee Titans: TE Geoff Swaim

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans may be regretting letting tight end Jonnu Smith walk in free agency.

    Geoff Swaim, Smith's replacement, has had difficulty living up to the lofty bar set by his predecessor. The 28-year-old has been almost a non-factor in the passing game, catching just five of his seven targets for 37 yards.

    Swaim has earned an unpleasant 37.9 grade for his efforts across 133 snaps. While he's known as more of a blocking specialist, Swaim must improve as a receiver following star wideout A.J. Brown's hamstring injury.

    Backup Anthony Firkser should be more involved. The 26-year-old had a solid outing in the season opener, catching three of his four targets for 19 yards.

    Firkser has been dealing with a knee injury that has kept him sidelined the last two weeks. Once he's back in the lineup, Tennessee should give him more run as a much-needed pass-catcher while Brown is banged up.

    Swaim simply doesn't seem capable of giving this team more than some average blocking capabilities. Firkser possesses the versatility to be a much more dynamic weapon for Tennessee and should usurp Swaim on the depth chart when he's healthy.

Washington Football Team: LB Jon Bostic

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    Washington's linebacker corps has been dreadful in coverage.

    The Bills exposed the unit in Week 3, with Josh Allen completing 13 of 14 passes while picking on Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis and Jon Bostic.

    Holcomb allowed two touchdowns in coverage on his five conceded receptions last week, but Bostic has somehow been worse.

    Bostic has been covering at an inconceivably terrible level. He's now allowed 10 catches on 11 targets for 108 yards, with 45 of those coming after the catch. 

    Those numbers should make him unplayable.

    If the Football Team is going to avoid taking more blowout losses, it needs to reduce the eight-year veteran's playing time—especially in passing situations.

    While Davis hasn't been great in coverage as a rookie, his 59.7 grade is much more respectable than Bostic's 30.6. Davis has logged only 113 snaps, 33 fewer than Bostic, but that should shift in the coming weeks.

           

    Grades are courtesy of Pro Football Focus. Snap counts and stats via Pro Football Reference.

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