Welcome to the pilot episode of a new weekly series by Tyler Forness, Austin Cunningham, and Anthony Smith. Every week, we will be bringing you our picks for offensive and defensive player of the week, breakout player of the week, as well as a disappointing performance and an under-the-radar storyline worth monitoring based on the previous week’s slate of games. Enjoy!
Offensive Player of the Week
Dak Prescott (25-32, 78.1%, 405 yards, 4TD)
Week one displayed a lot of great plays and big numbers from guys you would not expect. Week one’s award is going to go to Dak Prescott. The new offensive play calls from Kellen Moore appeared to better suit Prescott and the entire Dallas Cowboys offense. He threw to multiple receivers for more than 400 yards and had four touchdowns. It was an outstanding performance and it is the reason he deserves Offensive Player of the Week. He looked like the guy that will carry the Cowboys this season, not Ezekiel Elliott.
Andy Dalton (35-51, 68.1% 418 Yards, 2TD)
There were a lot of people, myself included, that thought the Bengals were going to draft a quarterback this year because Andy Dalton was done. After week one, it seems that he might not be after all. One game into the Zac Taylor era, Andy put up one of the best performances of his career, doing so without his best receiver in A.J. Green and a very poor offensive line. Playing in perhaps the most hostile environment in the NFL, Dalton went 35-51 for 418 yards and two touchdowns along with a 106.5 rating. If he can keep this up, the Bengals might be able to creep into the playoff discussion.
Austin Ekeler (12 attempts, 58 yards, 6 receptions, 96 yards, 3TD)
I can’t believe I drove seven hours to Los Angeles just to watch Austin Ekeler absolutely shred a solid Colts defense…every time he touched the ball it seemed like he was making a defender miss. While he rushed for just under 60 yards, as a receiver out of the backfield he was an absolute menace to my Colts. His three total touchdowns powered a short-handed Chargers team to victory, and he showed that the Bolts might not need Melvin Gordon after all.
Defensive Player of the Week
Cameron Wake ( 3 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QB hits)
The first week of the season is very important for several reasons, but for guys on defense, they want to get started early to carry momentum for themselves and their team. One guy who did that week one was Cameron Wake. Not only did he have a great game, but their entire team did in the win against Cleveland. Wake had two and a half sacks, a safety, two solo tackles, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. That is a fantastic way to start the year, especially for the Tennessee Titans who are competing in the wide-open AFC South.
Anthony Harris (3 tackles, 2 passes defended, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
In a game that felt dominated by the Vikings from start to finish, Anthony Harris was the one that stood out the most. Posting a 92.5 rating, per Pro Football Focus, Harris was responsible for three of the four turnovers on which the Vikings scored all 28 of their points. Harris, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia, has solidified himself as the long-sought-after safety opposite Harrison Smith.
Blake Martinez ( 7 tackles, 1TFL, 1 sack)
In what turned out to be a lackluster Thursday Night Football season opener, linebacker Blake Martinez shined for the Green Bay Packers. His range and sure tackling helped force Mitch Trubisky into an incredibly pedestrian performance. With Clay Matthews now out of the picture, look for the third-year linebacker to take the reins as the leader of that defense.
Breakout Player of the Week
Josh Jacobs (23 attempts, 85 rushing yards, 28 rec. yards, 2TD)
The breakout performance award is going to go to a player in the AFC West and it is not going to be the guy you may be thinking in Sammy Watkins. Instead, it is going to rookie running back Josh Jacobs from the Oakland Raiders. He joined some elite company Monday night by being the first running back to have over 100 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in his debut since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001. It’s a shame we did not get to hear his story or learn more about him during Hard Knocks.
John Ross (7 catches, 158 yards, 2 TD)
After missing his entire rookie year and only catching 21 passes in his second season, John Ross came on in a big way trying to live up to his top-ten selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Always known for his blazing speed, Ross showed that he could also separate from defenders in coverage. With the emergence of Tyler Boyd last season paired with a returning AJ Green in a few weeks, there will be more opportunities for Ross to continue to emerge.
Marlon Mack (25 attempts, 174 yards, 1TD, 2-point conversion)
It seems odd to list a third-year running back that has had success before as your breakout player but hear me out. Marlon Mack is hardly a household name, and that needs to change immediately. The shifty USF alum took full advantage of getting the second-most carries in his pro career to the tune of a career-high 174 yards (against a very good Chargers defense, mind you), good for the top of the totem pole in week one. Mack’s injuries last year forced him to miss some time, but with a full 16-game run he would have been on pace for 1300 yards rushing. Indianapolis has one of the best offensive lines in the league and if Mack stays healthy, he has the ability to be a dominant runner in this offense.
Disappointing Performance of the Week
Mitch Trubisky (26-45, 228 yards, 0TD, 1INT)
The disappointing performance for week one belongs to Mitchell Trubisky. Not only did he look sloppy, but it carried over to the entire offense. They started off the game with a fumbled pitch to Tarik Cohen. Then followed that with multiple ‘delay of game’ penalties and an array of boneheaded mistakes. Though Trubisky threw 45 times in a close game, he missed several reads and open targets, eventually costing them an opportunity to win by throwing a late interception after staring down his target. It was not a hot start for the third-year quarterback, but maybe some of this blame belongs to Matt Nagy and his play calling.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (6 receptions, 75 yards, 0 TD)
While it is only week one and we really shouldn’t overreact to any one performance, JuJu’s was by far the biggest disappointment in the first game of the post-Antonio Brown era. In a game that never felt close, JuJu struggled to get open going against one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Stephon Gilmore. While it also didn’t help that James Conner and the running game couldn’t get going either, JuJu is going to have to show that he is a true number one receiver week in and week out in order for the Pittsburgh Steelers to have any sustained success this season.
Aaron Jones (13 attempts, 39 yards, 0TD)
As a self-proclaimed member of the Aaron Jones Fanclub, this one hurts. The Chicago Bears might have the best defense in the league, but this performance was incredibly disappointing. Jones has the tools to be a very good back — perhaps an Alvin Kamara-lite — in my opinion, but he just could not get things going against Chicago and that nasty front seven. We’ve already seen that Green Bay is not afraid to use a running back-by-committee approach, and this showing does not help Jones’ case for RB1 touches.
Under-the-Radar Storyline of the Week
A team worth watching here is the Cincinnati Bengals. They competed with the Seattle Seahawks all game and only lost by one. For a team that many projected to have a top-five pick in next year’s draft, they looked pretty dang good. Andy Dalton threw for over 400 yards himself and two touchdowns. The man on the receiving end of those two touchdowns from Dalton? John Ross. He had his breakout game too with over 150 receiving yards and averaged 13.3 yards per target. The defense even competed with Seattle and kept their offense in check for a majority of the game. If they keep this up, the rest of the AFC North better keep an eye out.
Chiefs Receivers Without Tyreek Hill
Let’s be completely honest, nobody is going to replace the enigma that is Tyreek Hill. He is the fastest player in the NFL and causes issues for a defense that nobody else can. However, the Chiefs still have a multitude of weapons and speed on the outside. Not only did we get the breakout performance from Sammy Watkins that we have been expecting for the last 6 seasons, but Kansas City still has Travis Kelce and two young players primed for big roles in Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman with Hardman being a player that could slide into the Tyreek Hill role. With the possible emergence of their young players, the Chiefs could conceivably become even more dangerous once Tyreek returns later this season.
Jacoby Brissett, QB1 of the Future?
Many Colts fans are still reeling from Andrew Luck‘s shocking retirement just a couple weeks ago. It’s time to move on though, and the team’s fans should be excited by what Brissett put together this past Sunday. Long hailed as the best backup in the league, after being thrust into the starting role, Brissett had the tall task of playing on the road against an uber-talented Los Angeles Chargers defense. He put together an incredibly efficient 21-27, 2TD, 0INT performance with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa breathing down his neck. He obviously is not the natural talent that Andrew Luck is (was, I guess…), but his decision-making and cannon of an arm should inspire hope for the city of Indianapolis.
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