Analyst Rich Gannon shares his thoughts after the Dallas Cowboys defeated the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 with quarterback Cooper Rush under center. Rush completed 19 of his 31 attempts for 235 yards and 1 touchdown, earning a passer rating of 95.5.
When you have a player like Justin Jefferson, it’s very difficult to compare him to other players. He is just such a special player with what he has done in his first two seasons in the NFL.
It’s Lofty, but Justin Jefferson Reminds Me of Jerry Rice
Jefferson doesn’t have Cris Carter’s body, and he’s not as big a weapon inside the slot. Art Monk was a different type of player. He has better straight-line speed than Tim Brown had. I don’t think Jerry Rice, even in his heyday, had that top-end speed, but I think there are some comparisons there between him and Jefferson.
You can look at their body types, their athleticism when the ball is in the air and how they attack it in the air. You look at their short-area quickness, and their ability to stop and adjust. I think their ability to adjust to the ball whether it’s high, low or behind them.
Jefferson is good in traffic, outside the numbers and on the boundary; he’s got that spatial awareness. And the other thing he does very well is he’s a very confident catcher of the football. You don’t see many throws get in on his body. He does a great job catching the ball with his hands extended. He’s got great, strong hands. I think he’s gotten better at the line of scrimmage. The best receivers create instant separation at the line, and he does a great job of that. He has great first-step quickness, a stutter step and can get on top of corners quickly—and separate once he does.
His Teammates Deserve Some Credit
Let’s give a little bit of credit where credit is due: Jefferson also has a quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who’s very accurate, has been in that system and has a lot of confidence throwing the ball. That goes a long way. You can be a great receiver and not have a very accurate quarterback. Say what you want about Cousins, but he is extremely accurate and puts up good stats even in an off-year. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but he gives his receivers a chance to make a play on the football.
The other thing that benefits Justin Jefferson is Adam Thielen. He’s good for 10 touchdowns a season in the red zone. He’s another good target you have to respect from a defensive standpoint, so that takes some of the doubles off of Jefferson.
A New Offense will Help Jefferson, Too
Another thing that benefits Jefferson is this new-look offense Kevin O’Connell brings. They’re going to move Jefferson around a lot more than we saw his first two seasons in the league. I think that will free him up and give him opportunities in one-on-one coverage.
We are talking about a player who shattered every receiving record the Vikings had for a player’s first two years. When you consider that Randy Moss was once a Viking, Jefferson is in pretty good company.
Dak Prescott played all but one game last season after a gruesome ankle injury the season before. He threw for a career-high 37 touchdowns. He’s the cream of the crop in this division. If the Cowboys can just take care of business week-in and week-out, they should win the NFC East.
New York Giants
I’m a huge Brian Daboll fan. He had great success with Josh Allen in Buffalo, and that’s one of the reasons Daboll got this head coaching job. The Giants are trying to find a way to get Daniel Jones back up on the horse. He’s struggled with his confidence as he went through different play callers. Jones has some physical tools, but his decision-making has held him back. Jones is 12-25 as a starter, and this is really his last chance with the Giants. Daboll brings some stability and hired a great coaching staff, but they need to fix the quarterback room and that starts with Jones.
The Eagles will tell you that they’re “all in,” with Jalen Hurts, but right now Hurts is a better runner than a passer. This team made the playoffs last year because Head Coach Nick Sirianni realized they were better off being a physical, running team than putting the ball in Hurts’ hands 35 times a game. They have to determine whether or not he’s their franchise quarterback, and they’ve been stockpiling draft picks in case he’s not. This is an important third season for Hurts.
My big question is: How much better is Carson Wentz than Tyler Heinicke? I just don’t know if that’s such a huge upgrade at that position. They’re good enough in other areas. This team has improved in both free agency and the drafts, but there’s a good reason the Indianapolis Colts moved on from Wentz after only one season. Wentz was a huge disappointment in big games last season. The Colts lost their last two games and, shortly after, made the decision to move on from Wentz. I think that speaks volumes about where Wentz is in his career.
What does it take to get a quarterback ready?
Former NFL players Rich Gannon and Mark Schlereth and former NFL Head Coach Mike Martz discuss the difficulties that the Carolina Panthers and Baker Mayfield could be facing this year thanks to limited training camp reps. Mayfield was acquired by the Carolina Panthers late in the offseason. He is coming into camp and having it be his formal introduction to the team.
The former NFL MVP Rich Gannon discusses the advantages quarterbacks on new teams, such as Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz, have over Mayfield who comes in late. He discusses how they are in much more “fluid situations” due to being there for OTA’s and mini-camps. Gannon adds “the coaches get a better feel for who they (the quarterback) are as well…”.
Gannon also talks about how it is being in this situation and how having so many questions can make the learning curve steeper. Former Pro Bowler Mark Schlereth adds in some notes about the difficulties faced by the entire offensive line with a quarterback who isn’t comfortable in a system yet.
“Indecision to get the play in with 14 or 15 seconds,” Schlereth notes, “we had run up to the line and then snap the ball.” He went on to add offensive linemen can’t “get calls out, change protections, we can’t identify MICs…”.
It can be difficult for all parties involved. Hearing Mark Schlereth’s tone, one can sense the frustration that Carolina may experience.
Rounding things out, Mike Martz discusses how the offensive play caller can do Mayfield a ton of favors by handling different responsibilities. Martz did the same thing for Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner when he was thrust into the starting job in 1999.
Martz discusses how “all we wanted to do was have our quarterback get the ball and get back…we were always very, very specific on where the ball was supposed to go…”. The Rams kept it simple for Warner, Martz adding that they eliminated a lot of the mental stuff stating it “simplifies everything for him…he never called any protections…”.
All three parties have sound advice for the staff and Baker Mayfield in Carolina. Everyone that has been affected by the acquisition of a quarterback provides a unique explanation of the challenges that not only the Panthers face but Mayfield as well. The former Heisman winner has his work cut out for him in Carolina, but as these three point out, this is a situation that can be managed properly.