Black Quarterback: The Money Makers Episode
By Brandon Simmons
Le’Veon vs. The Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is still in a holdout with the team, but the drama seems to be worth every penny. Earlier in the week, a few of the Steelers’ offensive linemen criticized Bell for not showing up at all, especially heading into the season opener. His teammates explained that it was selfish of him to not explain what would be happening going into the season. Bell fired back with his own comment on the Instagram post. Fast forward to after Sunday’s game and the drama continues. After their 21-21 tie with the Cleveland Browns, Bell sent out a cryptic tweet that contained the magnifying glass emoji. The social media feud has now pit the Steelers and their star running back against each other; but who has the upper hand?
The Steelers should be feeling real nervous at this moment. Rookie running back James Connor put on a solid debut performance, running for 135 yards on just 31 carries. Despite that impressive stat line, the Steelers still could not beat the Browns, partly because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was having his own struggles. The Browns might have all the excitement of Hard Knocks to propel them to a near win, but Pittsburgh will be facing more competitive teams down the line, including the Kansas City Chiefs next week and long-time rival Baltimore Ravens, a few more weeks down the line. Their fanbase will not allow them to bank their playoff hopes on the legs on a rookie performing against a perennial bottom feeder when they have a all pro weapon that’s worth a few more millions. The only teams that are really in the Steelers’ way for a Super Bowl run are the New England Patriots and possibly the Jacksonville Jaguars; not to mention the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals could be serious contenders. At some point, the Steelers are just going to have to dig in their pockets now or pay for it later.
Whose Check Cleared Faster?
While Le’Veon might be still waiting on his deal, there were plenty of other teams that gave the bag to some players during free agency and around preseason time. The Detroit Lions extended quarterback Matthew Stafford to a 5 year $135 million extension. The Minnesota Vikings signed former Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed, 3 year $84 million contract; to help him succeed they gave Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs a 5 year, $72 million contract extension. The Los Angeles Rams also got busy with the money by signing running back Todd Gurley to a 4 year $60 million extension and made defensive end Aaron Donald highest paid defensive player with a 6 year $135 million contract extension. But soon after that, linebacker Khalil Mack became the highest paid on defense, when he was traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Chicago Bears and signed a 6 year $141 million contract.
With all these teams emptying the bag, whose check cleared faster? Cousins made his debut with 244 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Diggs received 43 of those yards and scored only 1 TD. Gurley ran for 108 yards on 20 attempts as well as 3 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. Among the disappointments was Stafford, who threw 4 interceptions and only one touchdown. Donald’s team won but he only finished the game with 1 tackle. Mack probably had the biggest debut with 3 tackles, a sack, forced fumble and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Mack and Gurley definitely earned their paychecks the first week of the season. Gurley was able to make big plays on the ground and keep the ball moving towards the end of the game. Mack’s success mainly came in the first half, but his impact made the Bears’ defense a force en route to commanding a 17-0 halftime lead. Of course, everything faltered in the 2nd half, but there was much potential shown in what damage Chicago can do now that they have Mack in their pass rushing arsenal. This is a division with quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins; QB’s who are not afraid to throw the ball and can sometimes hurt you with a deep ball. The best way to combat that, is send a former defensive player of the year through the opposing offensive lines and watch everything pay off for you.
The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles won their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons on a national stage Thursday Night, but it seems like that has taken a backseat to all the other action from this past weekend. This could be a good thing considering it was a performance that they might not want the league to look at. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw for a mere 117 yards on 19 completions while running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was an interesting night for the Eagles on offense but the defense had a more solid effort with 4 sacks and an interception.
The Eagles will be in a bit of trouble if they do not play better offensively, especially in the passing game. It was reported that Eagles QB Carson Wentz will be out “several weeks” which leaves Foles as the starter now. However, throwing for 119 yards might not win you many games, no matter how well the defense is playing. Philadelphia will be facing some explosive teams on their schedule which will include the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and, next week, will face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that dropped 48 on the Saints. They will have to match the defense’s energy in the game in order to remain competitive until their starter returns.
Shout out to New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who won his first career start on the road against the Detroit Lions. The Jets beat the Lions Monday Night 48-17 behind Darnold’s 198 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick. What makes this even more special is the lone interception he threw was his first ever pass from scrimmage and returned for a touchdown. Obviously, the young QB made up for it with the help of running back Isiah Crowell’s 102 yards on 10 rushes
Shut out to all the new coaches who debuted this weekend; they all lost. Seven teams brought out their new head coaches in Week 1 and took the L for everyone. This includes Lions’ head coach Matt Patricia, Indianapolis Colts’ Frank Reich and the much anticipated returning Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
Shout out to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 draft, made his debut as the new starter for the Chiefs and threw for 4 touchdowns to help Kansas City beat the Los Angeles Chargers on the road 38-28.
Shut out to the Buffalo Bills for continuing to believe in Nathan Peterman. Peterman was the QB who infamously named the starter over former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor for one game last season. He ended up throwing 5 picks in the first half and was replaced Taylor later in the game. This past Sunday, the 2nd year quarterback went 5/18 for 24 yards and threw 2 picks. He was then replaced by rookie QB Josh Allen.
That is all for this week, but things should really be picking up this weekend. The game of the week for Week 2 will belong to the New England Patriots going on the road to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams played to their identity in Week 1: the Patriots was able to secure a win through their effective offense while the Jaguars defense effectively stifled their opponents’ scoring chances. This rematch of last season’s AFC championship will be an early season clash of two Super Bowl favorites but until then…I’ll holla.
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