George Pickens, Dameon Pierce, and Other Problems

Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens
Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 1 - Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens is gonna be a problem.

Pickens hauled in a corner-of-the-end-zone, over-the-shoulder, toe-tappin' teardrop from Mason Rudolph against the Seahawks on Saturday night. He caught two other passes in the Steelers' 32-25 preseason win, one a high-degree-of-difficulty sideline snare. Also: he did some blocking. The impressive debut comes at the end of what has been touted as a monstrous training camp for the second-round pick from Georgia.

George Pickens? He's HIM.

How on earth did Pickens fall into the second round? you ask, as if such information were not readily available from multiple sources. Oh wait: Walkthrough IS a source. Pickens missed most of the 2021 season with an ACL tear, catching just five passes in four games late in the year and in the BCS playoffs. His 2020 season, like just about every 2020 collegiate season, was COVID-truncated. He caught just 90 passes in three years at Georgia.

"Pickens has not played much football, so evaluating him requires a bit of projection," we wrote in the FO 40, where Pickens ranked 15th among all skill position players. All of Draft Twitter swears they ranked Pickens a hair below Randy Moss, because Draft Twitter loves stanning for boom-or-bust I-loved-his-middle-school-film sleepers. General managers, with actual money and careers on the line, are a little more cautious. Pickens was drafted roughly where most analysts expected him to be drafted, by a Steelers team that did not need urgent, immediate wide receiver help.

The Bears probably should have been a little less risk-averse when Pickens was on the board early in the second round (twice), but don't despair…

Chicago Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker is gonna be a problem. Brisker enjoyed one three-play sequence against the Chiefs on Saturday where he sent receiver Skyy Moore spinning backwards after a short catch, ranged across the field to finish a tackle on Derrick Gore, then jumped a route underneath intended for Noah Gray. Brisker ranked 37th overall in the FO 40, where we noted that he "reacts quickly to action in front of him, sheds blockers effectively, and can deliver a thud." He staged a brief hold-in at the start of camp but has been receiving boffo reviews since he took the practice field.

Jaquon Brisker? He's him. Just ask Bryan Perez of TheBearsTalk:

You're doing the lord's work, sir. Lord Ryan Poles, that is. Brisker looks like a potential impact player, but thou doth protest a little too much about how all of the organization's plans have been vindicated. Let's not anoint him Brian Dawkins just yet.

Wait, speaking of Philly fan favorites…

Philadelphia Eagles rookie defenders Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean are gonna be a problem. As Friend-of-Walkthrough Doug Farrar noted on Friday, the Jets essentially triple-teamed first-round defensive tackle Davis on Friday night. And Dean, who slipped into the third round because Trent Baalke's cousin's barber's roommate heard he had a super-secret injury or something, recorded four solo tackles and was fast, instinctive, and physical against a Jets team that looks ready to throw in the towel a little earlier (?) than usual in 2022.

A protege/replacement for Fletcher Cox and the first linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter who won't have the Boo Birds ripping their hair out? Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean: They're THEM.

All of these cliches are gonna be a problem. Walkthrough is indeed high on Pickens, Brisker, Davis, and Dean. But as you may have noticed, we came away from this weekend a little damaged by two of the NFL Internet's most obnoxious new catchphrases:

"He's gonna be a problem" is perfect for the busy Tweeter on the go who doesn't have anything meaningful to say about a prospect and doesn't want to commit to any specific observation but still feels the urge to comment about a highlight. Search "gonna be a problem" or "going to be a problem" on Twitter and you will find it applied to all the players mentioned above, plus Aidan Hutchinson, Logan Hall, Ray-Ray McCloud, Travis Etienne, Sam Williams, Tim Settle, and many others. You'll also find this article, but whatever.

As for "He's HIM," players and coaches have begun using that as a non-committal, non-specific compliment to get through long interviews. The rest of the world has adopted it because it's short, easy-to-type, sounded cool and hip a few months ago, and, like "gonna be a problem," is utterly disposable.

"He's got that dawg in him," is another player favorite, but no one over 30 can repeat that without instantly turning into the Steve Buscemi "How do you do, fellow kids?" meme.

Yes, Walkthrough also uses stock phrases and cliches; no one has enough clever, unique metaphors or synonyms for "great athlete" or "fine play" to get through a football season. But gosh, stock phrases go stale fast these days. Remember "[Superstar QB] is good at football"? That lasted about a year before you wanted to reach into your phone and atomic-wedgie the person who typed it after every 40-yard touchdown pass. "The Real Deal" lasted, what, 30 years? "Gonna be a problem" is already a toddler kicking our seat on a long flight.

At least Perez made a bold commitment to Brisker in the Tweet above, not just a variation on "let me validate the fact that an NFL player did something good." Please, dear colleagues and social-media savvy readers: say something substantive about the player, like "George Pickens is gonna salvage the Steelers quarterback situation," or "Nakobe Dean could be the best Eagles linebacker since Trotter." Or just say "I like this guy!" Or, I dunno, just let a highlight scroll past without comment now and then.

In that spirit, Walkthrough will roll through the rest of this opening segment about some of Preseason Week 1's biggest winners with as few cliches as we can muster.

Houston Texans rookie Dameon Pierce looks like a fantasy RB1. "Three Pitbulls" Pierce (Imma force that nickname to stick), a fourth-round pick from Florida, has long been a Walkthrough fan favorite, and he ran for 20, 6, 9, 7, and 7 yards in his five carries on Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints.

Pierce lacks a third gear in the open field, and he was part of a crowded committee backfield for his entire collegiate career. But he's a careening rusher who manages to fall forward for 3 extra yards at the end of every play, he can catch a little, and he has a loves-the-grind personality coaches adore.

Marlon Mack is ahead of Pierce on the depth chart, but Mack has made a career out of losing opportunities to more dynamic runners. The Texans being the Texans, there are about 20 other veteran running backs loitering on the roster—coulda sworn BenJarvus Green-Ellis got a few third-quarter carries on Saturday—but it's hard to imagine anyone but Pierce getting the bulk of the short-yardage and goal-line touches.

Green Bay Packers rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs is almost as good as advertised. Doubs dusted 49ers safety Tarvarius Moore on a slot fade for a 33-yard touchdown, caught two other passes, and got a step on his defender on deep targets that Jordan Love couldn't quite complete several times. He also dropped one pass on a crossing route and had a contested catch ripped from his hands by Sam Womack for an interception.

"He's well built, runs tight routes, can catch the ball in traffic, and track [Carson] Strong's deep moon launches in the air," we wrote in the FO 40, where Doubs ranked 34th at the skill positions. "Pure speed and a tendency to body-catch are concerns at the NFL level." Cross pure speed off the list of concerns, but the hands might not be all the way there yet. Walkthrough assumed that 50% of the Doubs hype this summer came from the fact that the Packers press pool needs someone to talk someone up with Christian Watson out, the need to reassure fans that the Packers receiver corps wasn't the Bears receiver corps smothered in cheddar cheese, etc. It appears that 25% is probably more accurate.

Doubs could grow into a Marquez Valdes-Scantling role in 2022. Keep in mind that MVS' best statline was 33-690-6 in 2020; that will help Aaron Rodgers and company but won't solve their WR1 problem.

Baltimore Ravens rookie tight end Isaiah Likely will find his way onto the field. Likely caught four passes for 44 yards, including a leaping snatch away from a defender up the seam and a tough catch when going to the ground during a two-minute drill before halftime. "I felt like a little kid at Christmas," Likely said after the game.

Likely was also flagged for holding twice, once negating a 15-yard Justice Hill run on third-and-short. He currently blocks the way a middle schooler slow-dances, meaning Likely may have a hard time siphoning playtime away from hard-blocking Nick Boyle behind Mark Andrews. On the flip side, the Ravens use some 13 personnel packages (and 22 packages with a tight end in the backfield) and may deploy Likely as a heavy slot receiver in 12 packages if he keeps playing like he has throughout training camp.

Kansas City Chiefs rookies George Karlaftis and Skyy Moore will help chart the path to the post-Tyreek future. Karlaftis, a first-round pick from Purdue, recorded a sack and two quarterback hits in 24 snaps. Here he is wheel-barrowing Bears fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones, who—yikes!—is apparently Chicago's starting left tackle. Moore, a second-rounder from Western Michigan, caught three passes for 23 yards. Moore excelled at catching short passes in traffic over the middle in college, and that's just what he did on Saturday.

Moore cannot replace Tyreek Hill, obviously, and Karlaftis will probably rotate with Frank Clark and Carlos Dunlap. But they provide proof of concept for the Hill trade: one superlative player was exchanged for several young prospects who can bulwark/upgrade need positions while the team rebuilds on the fly.

The Chiefs have a coherent plan moving forward. And that, indeed, is gonna be a problem.

Rookie Quarterbacks and Quarterback Competitions

Walkthrough rounds up this weekend's rookie debuts and quarterback controversies.

Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

Trubisky ran the first-team offense efficiently, threw some crisp passes, and turned a would-be sack by a defender straight up the gut into a productive scramble in his first series against the Seahawks. Rudolph took over and nearly lost a fumble on his first dropback, then threw a touchdown to George Pickens a few plays later. Rudolph was scattershot but effective enough for the rest of the first half to move the ball against a Seahawks defense that could not cover, tackle, and chew gum at the same time.

Pickett entered the game to the sort of ovation Bruce Springsteen gets at a Southside Johnny concert (Rudolph was booed by the home crowd). He built a touchdown drive out of quick throws on his first series, showing some ability to look off defenders, but his touchdown pass to Jaylen Warren was dangerously high and fast in the front of the end zone. Pickett later got chased down from behind by Boye Mafe on a fourth-and-short rollout, but the Steelers got the ball back, and Pickett built a game-winning touchdown drive out of quick throws, short scrambles, and defensive lapses.

As outlined in past Walkthroughs, Mike Tomlin doesn't want a real quarterback competition. Trubisky looks capable of game-managing his way to wins on a YAC-and-sacks team, and Tomlin would prefer to slow-baste Pickett for the future. Pickett spent much of the fourth quarter handing off, as Tomlin had probably seen enough and just wanted to go home injury-free; only after Drew Lock's fumble did he say, fine, let's do some real two-minute stuff.

Trubisky will be the Steelers' Week 1 starter. It won't be a popular decision.

Geno Smith and Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks

It's impossible to take Geno Smith seriously as a starting quarterback in the year 2022. He dinked, dunked, and step-slow scrambled his way through an unproductive first half on Saturday, finally leading a touchdown drive on a two-minute drill against the future substitute teachers of Allegheny County. Smith's one deep shot led Noah Fant too far out of bounds, and he's just nimble enough at this point in his career to run his way into trouble. Forget weak-tea Alex Smith. Smith is weak-tea Gardner Minshew.

Lock has a better arm and is quicker-footed than Smith. At first, the Seahawks offense appeared to open up with Lock operating it. Then came the flutterballs into traffic, the garden-hose accuracy and, damningly, a fourth-quarter fumble on a blindside sack. Lock is a fourth-year veteran with 21 NFL starts who still looks like a rookie in August. Walkthrough would still start him over Smith, because at least he has a wisp of upside. Trubisky looked like Terry Bradshaw in comparison to both of them.

It's worth noting that the Seahawks playbook appears to be chock full of RPO-quick-game stuff that didn't work on Saturday and is unlikely to work when teams actually gameplan against them; it's not like the Seahawks roster is teeming with slot jitterbugs. It's early, etc., but the Seahawks offense is likely to be horrendous this year.

Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons

Mariota scrambled his way through his lone series on Friday night, completing both of his pass attempts but rushing three times (plus a fourth run negated by a penalty). Mariota took substantial wallops at the ends of several of those runs. Everyone knows how that story ends, and Arthur Smith should order Mariota to stop acting like it's the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game and slide at the ends of preseason (and regular-season) runs.

Ridder threw a fourth-quarter UDFA-fest touchdown pass that would have been an interception in a real game. He had a pick-six nullified by a roughing-the-passer foul and threw high several times to open receivers in the middle of the field. On the plus side, Ridder's tools were evident, his release was quick and smooth, he looked like he was executing a robust playbook, and he made some good decisions with the football.

Ridder would benefit from starting the season behind a veteran who has some real starter's attributes, which is why it would be lovely to see Mariota make it to Columbus Day in one piece.

Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

Mayfield started the opening series and looked like a competent veteran with lots of B to B+ attributes, because that's who he is.

Darnold came in after a Commanders fumble, threw a short touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins, mostly handed off through a subsequent three-and-out, then gave way to P.J. Walker, because the best way to choose the winner in this epic competition is to have both quarterbacks play as little as possible.

"I have to really watch the tape to see exactly what they did, but I thought they were both in command," Matt Rhule said after the game. "They made the right checks, so I was pleased," Darnold played six snaps and threw three passes, but they must have been six commanding snaps against the Commanders.

The main takeaway from the Panthers performance on Saturday afternoon is that the Panthers' 1.5th strings on both sides of the ball looked solid and played fast and hard. Rhule hasn't counter-motivated the team into a mutiny by making the offense run gassers after practice-field touchdowns yet. Lotta August left.

Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans

You have seen the highlights. Look beyond the scrambles and that deep over to a wide-open Racey McMath and you'll find a rookie quarterback who holds the ball forever, drifts out of clean pockets, and escapes out of the back of a collapsing pocket a little too readily. Willis is better than the typical third-round rookie, and the Titans have the right idea by giving him lots of meaningful preseason reps. But Willis would be a 10-sack-per-game risk if he plays anytime soon.

Sorry if that sounds pessimistic, but Walkthrough could feel the Willis hype machine revving up on Thursday night and needs to test the ABS. In a similar vein…

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Fields completed deep sideline shots to Darnell Mooney and Tajae Sharpe, scrambled productively once, and led three series that ended in punts. His offensive line looked like balsa wood against the Chiefs starters, and while it was nice to see Sharpe's one-handed toe-tapping catch, the Bears receiver corps didn't answer any real questions.

Fields' appearance was short and semi-encouraging but not very illuminating. At least he didn't get injured on a field that looked like a goat pasture after a spring flood.

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Again, you saw the highlight-reel touchdown to rookie Danny Gray. Everything else was short-game stuff, with Lance still putting a little too much mustard on the ball at times. Lance has better coaches and receivers than Fields, so there's less reason to worry about him, but 49ers fans were wiping their brows when Lance launched that touchdown after a shaky first series.

Other analysts and websites appear to have gotten more out of Lance's and Fields' 2022 debuts: signs that they have made significant progress, mastered some nuance of decision-making or footwork, or whatever. Walkthrough simply lacks the subtle observational precision to glean such wisdom from five to seven pass attempts against mixed-bag defenses. Or perhaps we're reluctant to see what we hope to see and tell fans what they hope to hear. Either way, we apologize.

Preseason Week 1 Awards

A Walkthrough tradition unlike any other!

Offensive Line of the Week

The Detroit Lions starting offensive line (Taylor Decker, Josh Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Penei Sewell) easily manhandled the Atlanta Falcons starting defensive front (six randos Arthur Smith himself would have a hard time identifying and Grady Jarrett) in the opening series on Friday night. Folks seeking a Dan Campbell has this team playing HARRRDDDD narrative can find it here.

Defender of the Week

49ers defensive back Samuel Womack III, a fifth-round pick out of Toledo, intercepted Jordan Love twice on Friday night, ripping a contested catch away from Romeo Doubs for the first and undercutting a crossing route for the second.

"He's just real scrappy in there," 49ers linebacker Fred Warner told The Athletic's David Lombardi. "The way that he covers, he uses his feet really well to just cover guys instead of trying to be too grabby. I think the length (of his arms) really helps him, kind of being a shorter guy. But I love his tenacity, the way he competes."

Womack is currently the No. 2 nickelback behind Darqueze Dennard in a crowded 49ers secondary.

Special Teamer of the Week

Have you ever noticed that hordes of experts on any subject spontaneously generate on Twitter when that subject starts trending?

Like, if sea otters started attacking people in the streets, and if you were to post something like, "Perhaps we should lay some humane sea otter traps," Todd709789676 and hundreds of his friends would appear in your timeline explaining otter biology, otter behavior, the exact firepower needed to neutralize dozens of feral otters, and other strong, probably hostile, erroneously stupid opinions about your otter theory before going off to harass some epidemiologist about masks.

Welp, Buffalo Bills rookie Matt "Punt God" Araiza boomed an 82-yarder against the Colts, and suddenly Twitter was awash in special teams coordinators. Umm, actually, he should be trying to pin his opponent. And what about hang time? Or holding for field goals? Only sheeple like you are impressed by punts that net 62 yards. True connoisseurs know better.

There's a chance that all of these trolls are Joe Judge burner accounts, and always have been: all Internet trolls for the last 20 years have actually been Joe Judge secretly opining on various subjects. In any case, Araiza is special, everyone has known he was special since last year, and the teams that drafted other punters instead of him (Browns and Ravens) outsmarted themselves out of getting their hands on a player who could redefine his position. The end.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight

Amari Rodgers has had a quiet training camp in which the Packers appear to have relegated him to return duties. At least Rodgers broke a big return against the 49ers on Friday night. He only had one man to beat: 39-year-old kicker Robbie Gould, the kind of reliable veteran a team with deep playoff aspirations would find irreplaceable. Don't do it, Robbie! Let Rodgers score! Don't stumble into his path, dip your shoulder, and hope you don't get run over…

Sigh. Gould survived the collision and will probably be carried off the field immediately after kicking off by a teammate for the remainder of the preseason. Sounds like a perfect duty for Jason Verrett!

Preseason Week 1 News 'n' Notes

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson suffers knee injury

Wilson avoided an ACL tear; he suffered a bone bruise and meniscus injury and is reportedly out two to four weeks, though the Jets keep signaling that that timetable may be a little optimistic.

And now the bad news, besides the potential that doctors open up Wilson's knee and find a gremlin. Wilson threw an ugly interception before getting hurt. Mike White looked more like the guy who threw four interceptions against the Bills in 2021 than the guy who threw three touchdowns against the Bengals. Developing Wilson was the Jets' primary goal for 2022. If Wilson hobbles back on limited reps to start the season opener, well, that's how you build a Sam Darnold. If he sits out a week or two behind White or Joe Flacco, that's how you create in-house doubt about a quarterback-of-the-future who has done nothing to quiet any doubters.

Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Trevor Lawrence all put some positive plays on film this week and get to do it again next week. Mac Jones is above such things. Davis Mills was meh for two series, but no one really takes him seriously as a franchise quarterback. Wilson's the only second-year starter to face a major setback this weekend. In general, second-year starters can only endure so many setbacks.

Matt Patricia and Joe Judge: The New England Patriots Play-Calling Debacle Scenario

Patricia called plays for Bryan Hoyer on Thursday night against the Giants. Judge took over for Bailey Zappe. Patricia huddled with the offensive line when the defense was on the field (he's officially the offensive line coach), Judge with the quarterbacks (he's ... lol … the quarterbacks coach). Bill Belichick responded to postgame questions about the play-calling process by literally saying "Don't worry about it."

This whole situation is profoundly, indefensibly stupid. If Patricia calls plays while coaching the line, he'll have minimal ability to communicate with Mac Jones in between series. If Judge calls the plays, then Joe Freakin' Judge is calling plays AND supervising Jones' development. Both Patricia and Judge illustrated during their head coaching tenures that they would slip a knife into a rival's back to acquire/maintain power, so Darkseid must monitor Kalibak and Steppenwolf carefully. Oh, and how the f*ck is Belichick supposed to evaluate which toady is the best playcaller when they are calling plays for two different quarterbacks?

Patricia will probably win the play-calling job, at least temporarily. Belichick should find some trustworthy old soul (Charlie Weis, Jeff Davidson, someone outside the family such as Gary Kubiak) to serve as a "consultant" in the booth and/or a buffer for Jones when the children start squabbling for his favor. Either that, or he can just have Patricia signal plays into Jones' left ear and Judge into Jones' right simultaneously. It would be like having a little angel and devil on Jones' shoulders! And the once-mighty Patriots offense can look like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Deshaun Watson Starts for the Cleveland Browns, 'Apologizes'

Watson played three series and completed one pass, with two of his passes wildly off target. Few other Browns starters played, though center Nick Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury on the second play of the game. Harris was probably only out there because Watson was. If that's all we actually see of Watson on the field for 2022 (and 2021), it will both be fitting and satisfying.

Watson only played on Friday because the Browns needed a backdrop for his mealy-mouthed, carefully contrived, apology-flavored interview. The Browns PR team really wants to push the "remorse" angle: the Browns claim Watson has shown remorse, Judge Robinson wrote that he didn't, and Watson is still researching the word's meaning. It would really help with the whitewashing efforts if Watson expressed something relatively contrite, but heaven knows the Browns don't want Watson in an unscripted sit-down interview situation with anyone. But what about a brief, semi-informal sideline-reporter interview with the starting quarterback? Perfect. Friend-of-Walkthrough Aditi Kinkhabwala asks the tough question Columbo-style after a few softballs, Watson answers with all the sincerity his legal team and malfunctioning conscience allow, and then everyone rushes off because there's an ever-so-important football game to play.

What a PR coup! Except that it leaves us with the image of Watson looming over a woman who doesn't quite reach his shoulders, a clear illustration of why someone his size might not need to make explicit demands to be intimidating or coercive.

Watson's statement probably was not an attempt to appease the commissioner's office; that would have been a savvy move during the offseason trade circus, when it might even have brought another nervous bidder or two to the table. It was just half-hearted, tone-deaf Browns CYA logic designed to give local sponsors and partners safe harbor.

Now that they wasted a preseason game on spin control, it's time for the Browns to actually get Jacoby Brissett ready to play so that the entire 2022 Browns season doesn't turn into a fetid cesspool of comeuppance.


54 comments, Last at 25 Aug 2022, 12:02pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 15, 2022 - 10:08am

Between Talib and Cook, what the hell is it with brothers of NFL players murdering people this week?

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 15, 2022 - 10:11am

Face it Mike, you’re a closet PPG fan.

Points: 0

#9 by Harris // Aug 15, 2022 - 12:41pm

He's referenced PPG before, so I don't think it's really a secret anymore. Personally, I'm waiting on him to mention Johnny Bravo or Dial M for Monkey.

Points: 0

#3 by serutan // Aug 15, 2022 - 10:20am


Wow.  A New Gods reference. 

I'm also disappointed that you didn't say Isaiah Likely will likely find his way onto the field. Sometimes the obvious route is the right route. :)

But Willis would be a 10-sack-per-game risk if he plays anytime soon.

Another way of saying he'll get himself a lot of quality hospital time if he doesn't learn to get rid of the ball faster/run mostly defensively..


Points: 0

#4 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 15, 2022 - 11:09am

There may be a sort of brilliance to having two Starscreams on your staff.

Points: 0

#5 by DGL // Aug 15, 2022 - 11:16am

"the future substitute teachers of Alleghany County"

You mean "Allegheny County".  Unless you're envisioning the defenders not good enough to crack the Steelers' third string being exiled to the mountains north of Roanoke, VA.

Which, come to think of it, never mind.

Points: 0

#6 by MJK // Aug 15, 2022 - 11:46am

"If Judge calls the plays, then Joe Freakin' Judge is calling plays AND supervising Jones' development."

I know it's fashionable to make fun of Joe Judge because the Giants kind of failed the last few years, but I think Patricia is the one that I'm more afraid of.

Joe Judge was a pretty highly thought of assistant coach for the Patriots.  Then the Giants hired him, and sucked, largely because Daniel Jones never developed.  But if I recall correctly, a lot of people were never high on Jones even when he was drafted, and I wonder how much of his failure to develop is Judges' fault and how much is just that Daniel Jones isn't very good and probably shouldn't have been drafted to be the Giants starting QB.

Patricia, on the other hand, was terrible as a Patriots assistant coach, and then was terrible in all aspects of his job in Detroit.  The Patriots got demonstrably worse (while he was the DC and improved after he left. 

Points: 0

#14 by dmb // Aug 15, 2022 - 2:27pm

In the year of our lord 2022, in the second quarter of a game that had been competitive until the following events transpired, Joe Judge's team faced a 2nd-and-11 from their own 2. Judge elected to call a quarterback sneak. Not a QB draw, mind you -- he brought out heavy personnel in a condensed formation, and had his QB take the snap from under center and immediately plow ahead for two yards.

OK, so that was slightly unconventional, but it did at least give their punter a bit more space in the event of an incomplete pass on third down, and provided the offense with a bit more room to run their third down play. So, what would that third-down play be?

The exact same QB sneak that had been called on second down. That's right: On 3rd-and-9 in the middle of a game where his team faced a three-point deficit, Judge elected to run a second consecutive QB sneak. When inevitably asked about it afterward, Judge doubled down on the decision.

As much as I hate to criticize someone for being willing to go against expectations, after that display Joe Judge is probably the last person in the NFL I would want to have calling plays for my offense. That includes Kyler Murray, any random coaching intern currently in camp with a team, and yes, Matt Patricia.

Points: 0

#19 by BigRichie // Aug 15, 2022 - 4:22pm

Joe's 2 ordered QB sneaks were one of those few moments in my 65-year sports fan history where I thought 'this guy ought to be fired just right now'.

Genius is where you're right when everybody else is wrong. Idiocy is when you're absolutely the only one wrong.

I'm sure Belichick will be making all the 4th down decisions for the Pats. So if Judge does wind up playcaller, that wouldn't actually worry me. He'll really be making minor, somewhat arbitrary decisions within Belichick's game plan.

But boy, was he terrible in New York. Anyone who wrote a '10 Worst Coaches Ever' book, they would have to include Joe.

Points: 0

#26 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 15, 2022 - 9:02pm

lol but felt like not getting into it about how big brained that sequence was.

I certainly wouldn't blame Daniel Jones for all of Judges problems, and I wasn't a fan of Jones either. But...lets not act like Judge was also some revered hiring at the time either. NE didn't exactly have their WRs improve that one year he had em! Hm, maybe we aren't idiots... 

His ST also jumped from 11th in 2019 to 1st in 2020 without him. And the ST remained 5th when he was promoted in 2015. There were plenty of questions about the hiring of yet another Billy B disciple. 

Points: 0

#7 by Someolebears // Aug 15, 2022 - 12:09pm

Hey Mike 

I thought (hoping)  this was a Watson free zone?

Points: 0

#13 by OmahaChiefs13 // Aug 15, 2022 - 1:56pm

In reply to by Someolebears

It's hard to find Watson-free zones when the Browns put him in the interview and on the field.

Sure, Tanier could have skipped the whole thing, but root cause is really on the Browns.

Points: 0

#42 by LionInAZ // Aug 17, 2022 - 12:26am

Yeah, it seemed insincere, but robotic apologies are de rigeur in sports and business.

On the other hand, there are people who have commited multiple crimes and ethical violations who have never apologized for anything.

Points: 0

#8 by Pat // Aug 15, 2022 - 12:29pm

"Nakobe Dean could be the best Eagles linebacker since Trotter."

I mean, this is a ludicrously low bar. If he goes to one Pro Bowl in his entire career he's the best linebacker since Trotter. I mean, jeez, if he practically gets a second contract he's the best linebacker since Trotter.

Kendricks is currently the best Eagles linebacker since Trotter, with zero accolades and six years as a starter. I don't even know who I'd pick as the third best! 

Points: 0

#12 by Tyler S // Aug 15, 2022 - 1:50pm

I think you can also make an argument for Bradham over Kendricks, although a lot of that is probably based on Bradham having his best season with the 2017 SB team versus Kendricks having his best with the Chip teams. After that, it's either 4 oft-injured seasons from Jordan Hicks or 4 post-peak seasons from DeMeco Ryans. Not great!

Points: 0

#15 by Pat // Aug 15, 2022 - 2:32pm

That's just scheme, though. Kendricks was better for the Eagles with Kelly compared to how Bradham was with the Eagles. Kendricks wasn't even that bad in '17, he just really ticked off Roseman (and really shouldn't have, considering what happened).

Points: 0

#10 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 15, 2022 - 12:57pm

Hopefully it goes...badly!

Points: 0

#16 by serutan // Aug 15, 2022 - 2:41pm

If it does go badly, the dogpiling will likely be a similar magnitude to what Man United are currently experiencing.

Points: 0

#17 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 15, 2022 - 3:40pm

More like if you combined Bayern and RB Leipzig, and they got relegated.

Points: 0

#25 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 15, 2022 - 8:52pm

Many would have to rethink Billy B being infallible. But eventually they will still just be drawn to the ringz and tell us to shut up because we're idiots. 

Points: 0

#54 by jonsilver // Aug 25, 2022 - 12:02pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

" ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them..."

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#11 by big10freak // Aug 15, 2022 - 1:33pm

Regarding this comment:  “Walkthrough assumed that 50% of the Doubs hype this summer came from the fact that the Packers press pool needs someone to talk someone up with Christian Watson out, the need to reassure fans that the Packers receiver corps wasn't the Bears receiver corps smothered in cheddar cheese, etc.”

Many Packer fans online have complained for some time that the primary beat writers who cover the team are too negative.  I find them working to be reasonable providing appropriate qualifications for anything that is negative OR positive.  Even a major blog like CheeseheadTV which initially carved out a niche by being overtly upbeat has matured over time to be more pragmatic.  

So when the typically somewhat downbeat Tom Silverstein says multiple good things about Doubs I took notice.  Now Silverstein will never approach Bob McGinn who made grouch an art form.  But TS is slow to gush about a young player.  So it was noteworthy.   

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#18 by big10freak // Aug 15, 2022 - 3:48pm

Elgton Jenkins was removed from the PUP list over the weekend, and when interviewed said he was ready to go several weeks ago but the medical staff wanted to take more time.  


That would be a pretty amazing recovery from an ACL injury.  Basically nine months from the date he was injured.   If he 'is' ready to go week 1 (which would be miraculous if you ask me) then this really helps the o-line.  Jenkins can play either tackle position but in his first two practices has been taking sets at right tackle.  So that suggest Yosh Nijman would play left tackle.  Runyan Jr is already confirmed at left guard as is Josh Myers at center.  So that just leaves right guard which apparently is one of Royce Newman (last year's nominal starter), Jake Hanson (what, really?), and some other lineman as the Packers seem to like surprising the masses with their line combinations.  


Glad for Jenkins and lucky for GB

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#20 by almon // Aug 15, 2022 - 4:32pm

Anyone still has the link to the original robopunter thread?

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#21 by tjb // Aug 15, 2022 - 7:07pm


The comments are a de-threaded mess, though

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#22 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 15, 2022 - 8:18pm

Did we ever do a real analysis about what Robo-Punter’s value would be?

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#23 by tjb // Aug 15, 2022 - 8:39pm

Robopunter - being able to punt the ball out of bounds at the 1 from anywhere on the field - would be the highest paid player in the league.  You could have an entire defense of rookie contracts and replacement level vets and still have the best scoring defense in the NFL.  Drive outcomes from the 1 are just that insanely terrible for the offense.

A more realistic player, like an idealized version of Matt Araiza that can punt for a touchback from anywhere on the field but otherwise has mortal-level ball placement is a more interesting question.  

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#30 by Pat // Aug 16, 2022 - 10:05am

You could have an entire defense of rookie contracts and replacement level vets and still have the best scoring defense in the NFL.  Drive outcomes from the 1 are just that insanely terrible for the offense.

First point:

Starting at the one, for all teams in the league, leads to like, 50% punts. Turnovers are like 15% (*). I'm not saying it wouldn't still be a plus situation, just not for a crap defense. You wouldn't want a scrub defense, you'd want a great defense and a great kicker.

I mean, for instance, any penalty on the 1 is massively penalizing for a defense. So you can't just have garbage players, they have to be very disciplined. 

Second point:

You're forgetting what happens after ROBO-PUNTER's team scores! You scored. Now there's a kickoff. Not a punt. And the other team is back in neutral position. And your scrub defense is going "uh... guys?"

*: I actually don't know how often the team with the ball scores when they start at the 1, because I just realized I don't know if stathead distinguishes between the end result of a drive being a TD for the offense or the defense.

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#37 by dryheat // Aug 16, 2022 - 3:01pm

Well, the salary floor would prevent you for going rookies and vet minium contracts.  So you would throw big money at defenders, and have the greatest statistical defensive season ever, and probably win a bunch of 10-6 games.

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#38 by Pat // Aug 16, 2022 - 4:15pm

Well, the salary floor would prevent you for going rookies and vet minium contracts.

Well, not if ROBO-PUNTER demanded like, 100M/yr. That's the really interesting question there, though... is how do you split up the money? Is the punter really the most important feature of that team, or is it the rest of the defenders?

I mean, obviously, ROBO-PUNTER replaces the offense but the defense (at least to me) is the critical cog. It feels like ROBO-PUNTER would end up being like, quarterback-scale. Maybe. You can actually think about it from a Hidden Game/EP perspective and basically ROBO-PUNTER's worth ~2 points-ish every drive, which is... actually only an average offense in the NFL. So, I mean... it feels like you need a significantly better-than-average defense.

The great thing about thinking about "oh, if I were that team, I'd just punt immediately on first down! Who needs an offense?" is that this is... really just where football started in the first place. Back in the 40s people would've thought ROBO-PUNTER would be the absolute ultimate football player ever, and here I am saying "is he really that important, though?"

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#39 by Tracy // Aug 16, 2022 - 4:48pm

Yeah, ROBO-RUNNER, who scores a touchdown in every goal-to-go situation less than 3 yards out, and otherwise gains exactly 3 yards on every run while never fumbling seems a lot more valuable to me than ROBO-PUNTER.

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#40 by KnotMe // Aug 16, 2022 - 5:48pm

Well duh. A 3 yard auto run could march down the field and score on every possession since you get 4 downs. And get the 2 every time. The only way it's even possible to lose is to get to OT and lose the coin toss or possibly trade TD's and run out of time. 

Would either have to make it not work on 4th down (it's made by microsoft and it's a b..feature) or reduce it to 2 yards to make the question even interesting.

2 yard one would still be crazy as you could go for 2 every time.  

I don't get the whole ROBO-PUNTER replacing the offence however. (thread is hard to read, lol)

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#41 by Pat // Aug 16, 2022 - 8:25pm

What I meant by that is that I could imagine a replacement level offense + ROBO-PUNTER, coupled with a high level defense (and kicker). But not a scrub level defense, I don't get how that would work.

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#50 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 17, 2022 - 4:59pm

Incidentally, Robo-Hoard is a monster.

While he's not a huge DVOA success, due to the high failure rate, he's good for 105 rushes for 311 yards and 4 TDs per game. His team averages about 34.5 ppg (the odd drive will end in a longish FG attempt) and is conceding maybe 21 ppg. Also, opponents only get to run around 30 plays per game for 150-ish yards, so their defense is super-fresh even if their totals are depressed. His team will run up 102 drives over the course of the year.

Robo-Hoard will run for 1785 attempts for 5,287 yards, with 68 TDs and 544 points scored. He will incur the curse of 370 about halfway through week 4.

The 5300 yards is actually pretty normal, although the drive and play totals are completely wackadoodle.

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#44 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 17, 2022 - 9:18am


The 1940s wrinkle is Robo-Punter would play both ways.

\the origin of shotgun is “short punt formation”

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#47 by Noahrk // Aug 17, 2022 - 2:08pm

The salary is an important matter -obviously to be negotiated with the manufacturer, since RoboPunter itself would have no desire for money-, but if you draft him in the first round you have him locked up for 5 years at an affordable salary. So that's your window of opportunity.

On the other hand, I hadn't thought about what you mentioned before: every time you score you have to kickoff. That's a big disadvantage to this entire system. Unless RoboPunter handles kickoffs as well? If so, I think it's totally worth the first overall pick.

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#48 by Pat // Aug 17, 2022 - 3:45pm

but if you draft him in the first round you have him locked up for 5 years at an affordable salary. 

The linked thread was 2006, so first-overall draft picks could demand their own salary at the time (which often was comparable with established starters at the position, hence the fixed rookie salaries in the newer CBA).

First overall now is quite different. I still think it's hard to imagine a real punter (regardless of talent) hitting first overall, although I could imagine a super-talented punter hitting first round. I'll be honest, I actually don't understand why punters aren't better than they are given how freaking good kickers are. Although kickers appear to be hitting a wall in terms of performance.

Unless RoboPunter handles kickoffs as well?

Oh no, there's a whole bit in the original thread about how ROBO-PUNTER just isn't capable of doing kickoffs. No cheating, we're talking about a pure punter here. That's how we got on ROBO-PUNTER 2.0, I think, and it was like, guys, c'mon. Plus there's the whole problem with botched long snaps, too - your punter may be awesome, but you've still got a long snapper who can screw up. And just like support contracts, ROBO inc. kills you with ROBO-LONGSNAPPER costs.

Like I said above, it's weird to realize that a punter who nails your opponent at the 1 every time is probably really only worth ~2 points/drive at most. It seems crazy, but the problem is that giving up possession really sucks, which is the entire reason going for it on 4th down is becoming more common.

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#51 by Noahrk // Aug 18, 2022 - 1:49pm

Oh, no, I'm not falling for ROBO Long Snapper. The chance of a bad snap is much lower than the chance of a blocked punt. You might as well sell me the entire ROBO ST team. An ST TO will still cost the opponent far more than ROBOs team, so I'll take my chances with that.

In any case, I imagine maintenance is included in ROBO's salary? I'm not paying extra for that, either. "Why, here's the reason for your bad punt, mister, you don't grease him up after each game, do you?"

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#52 by Pat // Aug 18, 2022 - 4:55pm

The chance of a bad snap is much lower than the chance of a blocked punt. You might as well sell me the entire ROBO ST team.

quietly puts those brochures back under the table

In any case, I imagine maintenance is included in ROBO's salary? 

It ain't included in anyone else's salary! You pay for your other player's ice baths and medical professionals, you better dang well have proper maintenance techs for ROBO-PUNTER.

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#53 by DGL // Aug 19, 2022 - 12:25pm

The problem now is that ROBOFootball Inc. has transitioned to a service-based business model, so instead of signing ROBO-PUNTER to a normal contract, it's a subscription-based service.  You're not actually drafting ROBO-PUNTER, you're drafting a limited license to make use of the ROBO-PUNTER hardware, software, and related intellectual property, subject to the terms and conditions of the license agreement.  The normal license applies only to regular-season games; should the team make the playoffs, you have to purchase the postseason plug-in.  ROBO-PUNTER is only certified on natural grass surfaces, and use on artificial turf may void the license agreement.  Normal maintenance releases are included in the license, but major upgrades are additional cost and may require ROBO-PUNTER to be taken offline.

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#24 by ImNewAroundThe… // Aug 15, 2022 - 8:48pm

on something that isn't real. 

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#29 by Theo // Aug 16, 2022 - 1:59am

Of course you can have real analysis on something that's not real, what kind of nonsense is that?

Or we need a semantics game about the word "real"... (no thanks)

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#31 by [Very] Special Teams // Aug 16, 2022 - 10:28am

LOL.  As a former (recovering?) engineer, most of my job was doing real analysis of things that didn't exist.  It's called "design".  Check out What If? books from Randal Munroe for real analysis of ridiculous, unreal scenarios.  Hilarity ensues.

OP may want to give Twitter a try.  I'm sure they'd better appreciate clever-sounding inanities.  

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#33 by Pat // Aug 16, 2022 - 12:12pm

most of my job was doing real analysis of things that didn't exist.  It's called "design"

Or mathematics, or theoretical physics. The reason you do analysis on things that don't exist is to figure out the bounds of what can exist.

Which is literally the exact reason for ROBO-PUNTER in the first place - to figure out the bounds on the value of a punter. In hindsight, I was probably way too aggressive in the original thread (I had a much higher opinion of draft picks then, first overall is not that valuable), although I would say that "highest-paid player in the league" is probably a stretch. Although I think I do agree with my original opinion that no real punter could hit #1 overall. 

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#34 by KnotMe // Aug 16, 2022 - 1:05pm

It's a fun exercise. Although some is what assumptions you make. (I.e. a kicker that could perfectly handle all non-fg kicking duties and kicking OOB at the 1 each time would be immensely valuable. You could even just assume it drop-kicks so no holder. ) Might actually be worth a #1 pick as there is basically no bust potential. 

In a practical sense, your defense would get tired(could throw money at them). 

I wonder if you could actually test with Madden or something.(Does it have mods or situation setup modes?) The FG version might be a funny secret-boss fight. (I.e. it starts you at the 1 every time and scores 3 every possession. )

Fun exercise at least.

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#35 by almon // Aug 16, 2022 - 1:59pm

amazed how much we all remember from 2006!

whoever Pat is -> (s)he should trademark “robo punter” right now. It’s still available

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#36 by almon // Aug 16, 2022 - 1:59pm

amazed how much we all remember from 2006!

whoever Pat is -> (s)he should trademark “robo punter” right now. It’s still available

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#45 by Aaron Brooks G… // Aug 17, 2022 - 9:29am

I agree they likely never will. (Not a full-time punter anyway; a Cunningham, White, or Tupa could)

The real question is whether they should.

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#49 by Pat // Aug 17, 2022 - 3:55pm

I think I could imagine a super-talented punter+kicker being first round, but I kinda don't actually think that person's actually possible. Kickers seem to be hitting a limit and punter yardage seems pretty asymptote-ish as well.

Part of me also thinks that domed stadiums are limiting it as well. Punts hitting the Cowboys' stadium scoreboard are probably pretty practical for a lot of kickers in the league now, which means the only way they can increase distance is with speed, and that's just going to have you outkick the coverage. So from a realistic point of view I don't think punters are ever really going to have significant value to teams, regardless of how "good" they actually are.

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#27 by Slobis // Aug 16, 2022 - 12:23am

I enjoyed this installment of Tanier’s _Elements of Style_. But I’d reconsider using “burner accounts.” It’s somewhere between past its sell-by date and hairy with mold. 

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#28 by Theo // Aug 16, 2022 - 1:50am

Pickens missed most of the 2021 season with an ACL tear, catching just five passes in four games late in the year and in the BCS playoffs. His 2020 season, like just about every 2020 collegiate season, was COVID-truncated. He caught just 90 passes in three years at Georgia.

Pickens tore his ACL 9 months earlier than Jameson Williams. Williams tore his in the championship game. And then, only 4 months after his injury happened ... was drafted 12th in the first round.

His total amount of college catches? Just 94.

So, for some reason Pickens fell to the second because of his ACL tear 18 months before the new season will start, but that complete same reason doesn't matter for Williams who tore it 9 months later than him?

There must be more to it. Is Williams a much better player?

There must be other red flags for Pickens, because teams decided that 10 other receivers were a better choice than him.


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#32 by joe football // Aug 16, 2022 - 11:21am

He definitely had character questions.  The prevailing wisdom seems to be that Tomlin is really good at keeping those in check(at least for a while), which might be why the Steelers were willing to go for him

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#43 by LionInAZ // Aug 17, 2022 - 12:28am

Lions OL winning this week's award is great, but frankly they are the least problematic unit on the Lions.

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