Steelers are already bringing out the best of Dwayne Haskins, Bill Belichick’s QB strategy, and more – .

Steelers are already bringing out the best of Dwayne Haskins, Bill Belichick’s QB strategy, and more – .

For the first time in his professional career, Dwayne Haskins is playing for a head coach ready to defend him. And so far, that brings out the best in him.

I’m not here to question his brief but troubled stay in Washington after being a first-round pick in 2019. Suffice to say he quickly became a human pawn in an ugly tug-of-war game between the owner. Dan Snyder and then- Coach Jay Gruden. The Gruden staff were not fans; it was considered the owner’s choice. Haskins has done more than his share of missteps and immature mistakes, but by the time Ron Rivera took over – with full control – he had already heard a lot from Haskins to start hedging his bets.

Lots of blame for everyone. It wasn’t going to work there.

But things are totally different in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers took the ultimate low-risk proposition of signing the youngster who had 50 touchdown passes in one season at Ohio State. And the main reason Haskins is there is because head coach Mike Tomlin went to bat for him. Tomlin, I was told by sources at the time and to this day, was in love with Haskins in the pre-draft process, with Ben Roethlisberger towards the end, and made it clear that he would like working with him after things fell apart in Washington. And that is precisely what Haskins was desperately looking for; he always saw Pittsburgh as the best place to try and get his career on the right track, precisely because of Tomlin and the culture he built there.

For now, it’s paying. Haskins looked better than Mason Rudolph throughout the summer and Thursday night, regardless of the value of the second preseason game, Haskins looked more comfortable and at ease than ever. He wasn’t nervous. He was in no hurry. It was stable and smooth and slipped around the pocket to find downstream side options. His ball placement, overall, improved a lot (yes, there are several shots the developing QB would want to reclaim) and he has shown a mastery of offensive concepts in place.

He looked, frankly, like a loose upside down QB that blossomed into a total change of scenery. He looked like someone who could play in this league. Will he one day be a full-time beginner or will he live up to his billing plan? Who knows, but he’s shown plenty of reasons to keep giving him a long look and stay open-minded about the possibility of him being a better quarterback and teammate.

Color Tomlin impressed (which in this case is what matters most).

“I thought he was in command tonight,” Tomlin told reporters after the game. “He did a great job communicating with people, following his progress. “

It’s easy to drop players quickly after a year or two, or write them off. And Haskins will have to rack up months of quality fieldwork on the pitch before this can be considered a success. But since arriving in Pittsburgh, he’s kept a low profile, avoided being his own worst enemy, and may well end up proving some people wrong.

Bengals’ new ‘D’ look overshadowed by Burrow buzz

Despite all the talk about Joe Burrow’s recovery, it’s understandable that this isn’t the only area of ​​concern for the Bengals going into 2021. In some ways, this has obscured their years of major trouble with that defense, and of course. As much as Burrow makes its way through the first few weeks and months of the season, this unit will need to be able to play better complementary football than they did a year ago.

The early returns were pretty solid – albeit against an offensive line with a lot to work on and with Burrow still struggling with the mental side of his recovery from knee surgery. Of course, we’ll know a lot more from this weekend with the current preseason schedule.

“It’s still early days, but the energy and confidence that the guys are playing with is something we’re looking to build on, without a doubt,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo told me. “We have guys playing with confidence right now, and it’s a long way to go but we’re building a good base, and that’s what’s important. “

One thing that works in the Bengals’ favor is that there seems to be a better esprit de corps, if you will, with this unit. There was an old veteran guard on that side of the ball that preceded the arrival of head coach Zac Taylor and this staff, many of whom had gripes and grudges against the organization from the start. . Guys like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap and William Jackson pretty much knew they weren’t ending their careers here, and some of them made it known they wanted to leave long before they finally did.

That dynamic is gone, and while I’m still wondering about the overall talent here (not holding back Jackson or Carl Lawson might come back and bite them), it’s a team game and the good vibes can’t hurt. .

“I just think all the guys we’ve signed have a little chip on their shoulder for one reason or another – to prove this or to prove that,” Anarumo said. “And it was a pleasure to deal with them every day. They’re smart players and they ask great questions, and have an internal drive to be great. “

If they manage to be acceptable – even slightly below average – then it could be a more interesting season in Cincinnati than many think.

The crows are already swimming in the problems in attack

The Ravens’ offensive line issues require significant monitoring this preseason, and, when paired with Lamar Jackson missing the first 10 days of camp as an unvaccinated player with a positive COVID-19 result , time may already be running out to really escalate this passing attack. before the regular season.

Star left tackle Ronnie Stanley has just undergone major midseason surgery and just started individual drills this week. At best, he might be ready for a bit of work in the third preseason game, but even then he’ll be working things out on his own by testing his body in a way he’s never done before. . It’s been a rotating cast of less than ideal candidates working as a starting left tackle without him (Tyree Phillips, Patrick Mecari, Andrew Smith), key veteran signings Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva haven’t seen much ground working. lately their own medical problems, and makeshift five-man units have been whipped quite regularly in training.

Which begs the question… would you play Jackson under these circumstances during the preseason? Is the potential reward of working on passing more to running back JK Dobbins and being more in the middle to incorporate more playing action and trying to extend passing efficiency off the mark? hash is really worth the bet of playing behind potentially just one bona fide offensive lineman (Bradley Bozeman, who goes from left guard to center)? We’ve seen teams keep far fewer QBs on the ice without such intimidating staff issues.

Take into account that top pick Rashod Bateman, who barely trained before requiring groin surgery that could delay his regular-season debut until October, and this returning wide receiver Hollywood Brown has to barely trained and the Baltimore receiving squad in practice this week was almost entirely made up of really raw rookies or bubble guys or dudes just signed on the street, and you must be wondering what real payoff can be made given the number of key figures for this offense that have been released.

And, if that is indeed the case, and Jackson largely ends up as a spectator of exhibition games, then that makes those eight lost early practices even more meaningful, when Bateman and Brown were at least somewhat available and before. the offensive line. mounted wounds. It could very well be that the Ravens don’t really see this overhauled attack all together (or almost all together) beyond Week 1.

More insider notes

  • I found it very interesting that Bill Belichick made a point of putting Mac Jones in a two-minute situation on his preseason debut (or forcing a two-minute situation when he isn’t. appeared naturally in the game). I could see a scenario where Jones and Cam Newton see a decent amount of work in the games, depending on the flow and trends of the game. Cam in the red zone, the kid in two minutes and some situations where the tempo and fast passes are necessary. Who knows? Belichick is certainly not chained to received ideas and has earned the right to try different things …
  • For as exhilarating as he is, and how long he’s been a band-aid or a QB keeper, I have to say Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be stunned by Miami watching Tua Tagovailoa last season still blows my mind. This team wasn’t winning anything major with either guy in QB, they were ultimately in a position to take a QB in the top five while obviously going through a deep rebuild. What did he think was going to happen? …
  • Go on a member and say that the lazy tale that WFT might take the wrong guy with their top pick in 2020 will be officially deleted by October. Chase Young in his sophomore year with a real offseason / preseason is very bad news for NFL quarterbacks.


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