News Or Noise: Week Five Edition

Derrick Henry, Titans run over reeling Jaguars
I hope the defender is okay

Derrick Henry is a force of nature.

Over the first four games of the season he is averaging 127.5 yards per game on the ground. In the age of the timeshare, Henry stands alone, getting 28.5 rushing attempts per game. That’s more than some teams are averaging per game this season. The guy is a monster even if he is only averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Now consider this. Not only does Henry run all over anyone he wants to, the guy catches passes as well. He has 14 receptions on 15 targets on the year for 125 yards, good for slightly over 30 yards per game through the air. I wonder how defenses prepare for Henry. Do they practice with a steamroller? Do they work on how to land when you get run over? Do they give up on it before the game has started and focus on taking everything else away?

I’m gonna have to go with the last one. There’s no stopping Henry. The guy could go full Kool Aid Man and bust through a brick wall. He’s a cheat code. Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. I know I sound like a fan boy, but if you know anything about the modern day NFL you know this isn’t normal. Henry brings back a bruising bell cow style running back rarely seen since the late 2000s. He IS smashmouth football.

What blew my mind was the receiving numbers. They aren’t gaudy, but when you add them in with everything else, it’s kind of mind blowing. The guy has missed one catch all season, averaging just under four targets a game. His 8.9 yards per catch is a solid number as well, showing he can make things happen as needed through the air as well as on the ground. Just by looking at him you can tell he’s special. Most running backs are low to the ground to get leverage hitting the hole. They also carry some modicum of speed, like a Raheem Mostert type, or are known for their physicality like a Nick Chubb or Dalvin Cook. Raheem Mostert can still hit a hole, and Dalvin and Chubb are quick in the open field, but none of them are Derrick Henry.

Henry is 6’3″, 247 pounds. You know who else is that size? Khalil Mack. While most running backs are still at a size disadvantage when they break through the line, Henry is bigger than the linebackers that can keep up with him. He puts the defense on their heels (or their backs) and is just an all around problem for them. Henry rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns last season on a 5.4 yards per tote average. Over the past three seasons he has 45 touchdowns on the ground. He has improved his yards per game every season of his career. His high on receptions for a season coming into this year was 19. This season he has already caught 14 balls. He’s getting better.

Considering the fact there are now 17 games in a season and you have video game numbers. Henry will be a 99 in Madden next season. He’s showing he has no flaws in his game. Stopping him is not an option. You can only hope to contain him. Even that is an almost impossible feat. Ask the defensive players that have had their souls stiff-armed right out of their bodies.

Without further ado, here is your News or Noise!

Patriots to trade CB Stephon Gilmore to Panthers for draft pick
The landing place surprised me, but should it have?

The Stephon Gilmore Trade Was About The Panthers Secondary

I’m not saying this didn’t have something to do with it, but I’m going noise here. The Carolina Panthers are on a tear this season, and their defense has been a huge part of that. While the Bucs are atop the division at the moment, The Panthers are also 3-1 and have big aspirations this season. Adding the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year for pennies is obviously a good move for any organization. I don’t think that was the major impetus behind the move though.

Gilmore played with a guy in the NFC South before. A guy that was there for his 2019 season. A guy that he went against in practice that helped him achieve those incredible heights. A guy that is incredibly driven, charismatic, and one if not the biggest draws in professional football. A guy that’s not afraid to recruit talent. I think we all know who I’m talking about here.

The Tampa Bay Bucs have been lead by Tom Brady to a 3-1 record and the lead in the division. They’ve averaged almost a touchdown a game more than the Panthers. No matter what the case, the Bucs have been able to shuffle players in and out of the offense regardless of injury or COVID protocol and still dominate on the offensive end. The Panthers don’t have the offense that the Bucs do, and they know it.

The problem for the Bucs definitely isn’t their offense. It’s their defensive backfield. They brought in Richard Sherman off the street mid last week and we saw him getting burnt by the Pats receivers repeatedly Sunday night. He’s going to get up to game speed and be an acceptable DB for them, but he’s not a number one guy anymore. Probably not a number two at this point in his career.

The Bucs are deperate for defensive backs. They’ve lost their top three for at least portions of the season thus far. At a position that was already thin, they’ve become emaciated. The fact that Sherman came in out of game shape with less than a week to prepare and got major run is a telling sign. The Bucs are floundering on pass defense. While they’ve been stout against the run this season, teams have just abandoned that aspect and have been shredding them through the air. The Bucs have given up 105 points this year. For comparison the Panthers have given up 66. That’s a huge differential. It also shows the Panthers were already solid on D and didn’t necessarily need to add to that.

Keeping Gilmore off of the Bucs was the number one reason for trading for him. Had Gilmore made it to the Bucs and even played good not great, they would at least have someone to mark the best receiver on the other team. Their defense in general would increase in ability tremendously. They’d be a lock for the division, their chances for a Super Bowl repeat would increase dramatically, and the Panthers would have been on the outside looking in. Brady has recruited other players to the Bucs. He brought Gronk out of retirement. He was the major catalyst behind the Antonio Brown signing. Players want to play with him. I guarantee when news of the release came out, he got on the phone and started that recruiting process. I also guarantee the Panthers knew about it and had to stop it. If for nothing else but to give the rest of the NFL hope.

3 quarterbacks the Steelers should replace Ben Roethlisberger with
Big Ben is not feeling so good…

Ben Roethlisberger Is Done

How can I put this gently? NEWS NEWS NEWS NEWS NEWS NEWS! Big Ben has been off to a rough start this season. It actually goes back to the second half of last season. He has sucked. There’s really no other way to put it. If the Steelers had anyone other than perennial back up Mason Rudolph or perennial disappointment Dwayne Haskins behind him, I think his career would be officially over.

At the same time, I think one of the other bums should start anyways. I also think it should be Haskins. He’s not good. We’ve seen that. He’s also young and not tied to the team long term. Let him go out there and get knocked around a bit and let Ben avoid some of the hits on his way to retirement. With every Haskins start, you know you’re one step closer to the top pick and a new quarterback.

Just to illustrate how bad Ben has been over the past 10 games, he is completing less than 64 percent of his passes for a measly 6.1 yards per attempt. His air yards per attempt aren’t much higher, sitting right above the 7.1 yard mark. He simply is not able to get the ball down the field.

Some of that has to be contributed to having a garbage offensive line. He’s getting beat up back there, which is something he has always had held against him. Ben has never been any kind of mobile, but it’s getting to where he can barely drop back and plant to get his throws downfield. Getting crushed in the pocket isn’t a recipe for success regardless of who you are, and his lack of mobility just makes it worse.

Rookie running back Najee Harris was supposed to come in and help keep the rush off of Roethlisberger by establishing the run game as well as catching passes out of the backfield. This has not been the case thus far in the season as he’s averaging 46.3 rushing yards per game with a 3.4 yard per rush average. He has caught 26 balls already, but is only getting 6.8 yards per catch on those.

He’s simply not making big plays to scare a defense into respecting him. The Steelers have to be hoping that’s due to the good parts of the offensive line being allowed to age as well as leave in free agency. This has allowed other teams to form a queue into the backfield to both stop the run and sack the QB.

Even if Roethlisberger was able to stay upright, his arm strength decline is noticeable. There is just nothing behind his throws. For a guy who used to air it out, he just can’t do it anymore. He’s a smart quarterback that has a track record of success and will end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but he’s outlived his expiration date. He needs to step away before he gets a significant injury.

I’ve read so many stories about former players who have a hard time getting around their house due to taking too many hits. The repeated trauma to the head and the body carries incredible long term risk to a football player, or anyone for that matter. Ben needs to start thinking about his life after football and hang it up sooner than later. The Steelers aren’t going anywhere in the standings this season. He needs to worry about simply standing 20 years from now.

Why are the 49ers hanging on to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo?
Has Garappolo lost the starting job for good?

Jimmy Garappolo Has Started His Last Game For San Francisco

I’m not comfortable with this, but I’m still going to go noise. Jimmy G has an injury. We got to see some Trey Lance last week and he did exactly what we expected him to. He didn’t have a high completion rate though he did take care of the ball. He threw for a couple touchdowns. He also ran for 41 yards and a two point conversion. Definitely better in fantasy than real football, so as a 49ers fan I’m not rooting for this necessarily.

Thing is, I don’t love Jimmy either. He’s throwing for a 66 percent completion rate with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s only averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. Not the worst, but we all know he’s not going downfield consistently. He doesn’t have the confidence to get the ball down the field. Or the arm to be honest.

He’s trending to not play this week as he hasn’t practiced. That doesn’t mean he’s out forever, but if Lance performs then this could turn into an Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick situation. Smith, an underneath passer with some scramble to him gets injured and the significantly more mobile, younger, and bigger arm guy comes in and all bets are off. Kaep then took that team to the Super Bowl, and should have won (Boldin got held in the end zone at the end of the game going up for a pass. To the point his jersey was completely untucked at the end of the play. No call). Smith was deemed expendable and went to…Kansas City. Pretty sure the same thing happened before that with a guy named Joe and a guy named Steve where the former incumbent also went to…Kansas City. But I digress.

Do I think Lance is going to be the guy that leads us to the Super Bowl this season? I guess there’s always that outside chance. I think it’s more realistic that he just makes Jimmy G expendable. But even that carries it’s own concerns.

Jimmy G has a no trade clause for this season. In my opinion, that’s the only reason they didn’t move off of him sooner. Lance would have had an incredibly difficult time as a rookie in the league as a starter, but at least he has a team around him, unlike a Zack Wilson. With the defense they have, the running game that would have been installed with Lance as the unquestioned starter, and Shanahan having an off-season to prepare the offense for the change, anything could have been possible.

As is, Jimmy G isn’t going anywhere unless he wants to. Pittsburgh would make sense for him. He’d be walking into an offense that is in need of fresh blood under center (see above), and would give them consistency if nothing else. He would also have plenty of targets to throw to, and offers enough scrambling ability to at least slow down a pass rush a bit. There is a good head coach out there in Tomlin who would build the offense around his strengths, much like what they’ve attempted to do with a declining Roethlisberger for years now. I could think of worse landing spots.

It’s all a pipe dream for the moment. Jimmy G will probably get back in the driver’s seat once his injury heals up and I’ll right in my prediction. As a fan, I’d like to see our shiny new quarterback out there making things happen with his huge arm and great speed. Shanahan would probably prefer to go with more consistency while we’re in the playoff hunt. Either way, it’s going to be tough making it out of the division.

I’d almost be surprised if Jimmy G is on the team by the end of the season. If he is, it’s gotta be due to either injury to Lance, gross ineptitude from him or most likely the no trade clause. Hopefully Jimmy G agrees to go somewhere and we get some solid compensation. If not by the trade deadline this season, before training camps open next year. Either way, wish him the best.

Houston Texans: Will Fuller ACL injury leaves questions for offense
This picture has probably been placed on the IR.

Will Fuller Plays Nine Games Or More This Season

So totally noise. 14, 10, 7, 11, 11. Those are the games played by season for Fuller since coming into the league. He did manage 14 as a rookie, which is incredibly impressive looking back. So far in 2021, Fuller missed two of the first four games and then was placed on IR prior to Week 5. Fuller has always shown up when he actually takes the field, until he gets hurt again. Never a No. 1 receiver (playing behind DeAndre Hopkins will do that to you), Fuller has seen his share of single coverages. He’s also seen the highs and lows of quarterback play. All told, the guy is pretty talented.

His problem has never been talent though. Always durability. As a number two or three option over the past three years, he did well with what came his way, averaging more than 60 yards per game. He was Miami’s big off-season signing. A place where he could have a legitimate shot at being the No. 1 that has escaped him his whole career.

Instead, he sat out his first game due to a suspension. He missed the second game for personal reasons. He was back for game three and four, amassing a whopping 26 yards on four receptions. That’s not an average per game. That’s the total. A complete afterthought in a sputtering offense looking for someone to step up.

Instead, Fuller reportedly broke his finger and was placed on the IR as a result. This keeps him out at least the next three games. Playing in the NFL causes bumps and bruises. Playing any of the big three sports have their own occurrences of injuries. Broken bones happen. Finding a way to play through it has always been something people look up to. Just Kobe Bryant’s injuries and how he handled them are enough to look at for the NBA. It’s been a while, but there was a pitcher that got struck by lightning and finished the game. He was out cold for five minutes, but when he came to he got right back on the mound and finished the ninth to earn the win. Alex Smith almost died due to complications from a horrific leg injury he sustained in a game, and he came back to play again. He even was able to be a starter.

We know this is a 17-game season so there is the potential that Fuller gets back from the IR and somehow stays on the field for the rest of the games this season. That would put him at 12 potential games played. Fuller is none of those guys I mentioned above. Fuller is fine china and this game is full of bulls.

In order for Fuller to play more than half the season, he can only miss three more games all year. With most players, you’d never imagine they would have a problem with getting to nine games, even missing five of the first seven. Unless that player is Jalen Hurd. Or Rashaad Penny. Or Alshon Jeffrey. Or, in this case, Fuller.

5 keys to beating the Jacksonville Jaguars - Cincy Jungle
TLaw is going to have this look when checking the score often this season

The Jacksonville Jaguars End Up With The First Pick In The Draft

This is absolutely a possibility. Having said that, I’m going to go with noise. Jacksonville is one of two teams without a win in this young NFL season, going winless thus far. The other is the lowly Lions. Jacksonville’s point differential through four is -41, good for fifth worst in the league. The four with a worse differential are the Falcons (-50), the Texans (-49), the Dolphins (-47), and the Jets (-47).

The Jags drafted Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the draft expecting him to save the franchise. Lawrence has thrown 142 balls and 81 of them were caught for a completion percentage of just 57 percent. He has five touchdowns and seven interceptions thus far. He does have 82 rushing yards and a score on the ground. While he hasn’t looked very good, he’s a rookie. It will take some time.

Jacksonville also had a shake up from some off the field activities by coach Urban Meyer. He was filmed essentially getting a lap dance and feeling a girl up at his bar in Columbus, Ohio. This was definitely not his wife and additional information continues to pop up surrounding it. Shahid Khan and his fantastic handlebar mustache sat Urban down and apparently got the apologies necessary for him to keep his job. There have been rumblings of how he doesn’t command the locker room or connect with the players. I don’t know the validity of this, but the way they’ve been playing up to now could definitely cause some locker room strife for a head coach.

Long story short, the Jags are bad. But are they bad enough to end up picking number one? Nah. Their division isn’t the toughest in the league by any means. Playing against the Colts, Titans, and Texans two games a piece isn’t the nightmare scenario for NFC West or even AFC North teams. They did already lose to the Texans but that was with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. The Jags don’t get the Texans again until mid-December so there is a good chance Taylor will be back.

The majority of this call comes from other teams being really bad. The Texans will probably hold firm with one win at least until Tyrod comes back. Davis Mills is not the answer and they came into the season expecting to be bad. I haven’t seen anything to disprove that notion.

The Falcons are a different story. They’ve got an established quarterback, even if it is Matt Ryan. Their defensive woes have caused them to accumulate three losses with little to have a positive outlook about. If they can’t find a way to stop teams when it counts, they’re going to be drafting Ryan’s replacement with the top pick.

The Lions are horrible. The talking heads all agreed they would be. They committed fully to the rebuild this season and it shows. With their star tight end not performing up to expectation due to being keyed in on by defenses, the lack of offensive talent really shows. They aren’t better on defense. Plus they are also 0-4 so it’s one less win to stay even with the Jags.

The Jets are bad. Just bad. Rookie quarterback Zack Wilson was not given the tools to succeed and was thrown off the boat with an anchor instead of a life jacket. They did stun the Titans last week, but it was a fluke and they’ll be searching for their next win for a while.

With all these other teams vying for the top spot in the 2022 draft, Jacksonville’s chances look slimmer. I think they’re slim enough that it’s not going to happen. I’ll take the field here.

Looking for a lineup question to be answered? Got offered a trade you’re just not sure on? Think fantasy football is neat and want someone to talk to about it? Get in touch with me @IHeartCaravans on Twitter. Hope to hear from you soon!

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