When this upcoming weekend comes and goes, the NFL season will have reached the halfway point (kinda…17 weeks and all). With it will come the opportunity for all parties to take a big step back and honestly assess where they’re at. What can we expect going forward from each team? Who are the legitimate playoff contenders? How can these bad teams get better?
Forgive us. But here at The Draft Network, fixing bad teams is kind of our thing. So allow us to get a jump on that reflection. Here are the five most glaring NFL team needs at the halfway point of the 2018 NFL season.
New York Giants Quarterbacks
As we were all reminded on Monday Night Football in Week 7, Eli Manning is abysmal. You want a poster child for the box score scouting dilemma, check out Eli’s season stats:
He’s on pace for over 4,000 yards. His adjusted yards per attempt (7.5) is the highest it’s been since 2011…when the Giants won the freaking Super Bowl. And he’s completing almost 70% of his passes on the year.
Thanks a lot, Saquon Barkley…your 8.7 yards per catch on one yard checkdowns are making non-film watchers think Eli isn’t bad.
The fact of the matter is this: Eli Manning is playing scared. He’s not seeing the field well at all and he’s not giving the Giants a chance to win any football games. The anti-Saquon crowd can put their pitchforks away, though. I respect the move to take an elite prospect like Saquon.
It was the rest of the lipstick this team put on a pig of a roster and had the gall to suggest they could contend in 2018 that’s offensive. This team won’t contend until they land a quarterback. It needs to be done this off-season.
Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
In the last two weeks, Minnesota and Denver have tagged rookie QB Josh Rosen ten times for sacks. The team’s young franchise quarterback has been under fire ever since he stepped in under center, and now he’s hurt.
The severity of Rosen’s toe injury is yet to be determined but one thing we don’t need to wait on any longer is the assertion that Arizona needs to protect their investment.
Left Tackle D.J. Humphries has been abused by rookie Bradley Chubb and Danielle Hunter over that span, showing he still hasn’t found the necessary anchor in pass protection to cut it as a starting tackle.
And as poorly as he’s played, he’s arguably been the most effective starter on the Cardinals front. Protect your investment, Arizona. Take the offensive linemen early and often next spring.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rush
Fun fact: through Tampa’s first five games, the Bucs allowed five teams to surpass 400+ yards of total offense. And five 300 yard passers.
And 34.6 points per game. Yikes.
The Bucs deserve credit for investing heavily in their defensive front this past off-season. New faces include Vinny Curry, Jason Pierre-Paul, Beau Allen, Carl Nassib and Vita Vea.
Just one little problem…this team still can’t rush the passer.
Former prized draft pick Noah Spence can’t even get on the field. Pierre-Paul is doing his part with 6.0 sacks, yet no other player on the team has more than 2.0. Just five teams (Miami, Oakland, New Orleans, New York Giants and New England) have less sacks than Tampa’s 14.
This team needs explosiveness and speed along the defensive front. With dynamic pass offenses in this division at every turn, it’s going to be hard to get out of the cellar without those qualities up front.
Buffalo Bills Wide Receivers
The wide receiver depth chart for the Buffalo Bills includes:
There are CFL teams with more impressive pass catchers than the ones we have in Buffalo. Bills receivers are averaging less than 7 catches per game…combined. Bills receivers are averaging 82 yards per game….COMBINED.
My personal thoughts on Josh Allen as a prospect are pretty well established. He wasn’t for me. But if you’re going to give this kid any fighting chance in the long run, you’ve got to make sure at least four of these five names are upgraded on your 2019 opening day depth chart.
Houston Texans Offensive Tackles
Can we please just put Deshaun Watson in bubble wrap and try this whole thing again next year? Listen…I know the Texans are red hot. But when I assessed NFL team needs at this juncture, the Texans OTs were the first thing to come to mind.
Watson, a year after tearing his ACL, has a partially collapsed lung from the barrage of hits he’s already absorbed. Things were so bad that Deshaun had to take a bus from Houston to Jacksonville because the team was afraid of him flying with the injury.
Please, let us have 16 games of this man playing quarterback, football gods.
The Texans tackle group? Julie’n Davenport, Kendall Lamm, Martinas Rankin and David Sharpe. Oh yeah, and Seantrel Henderson on injured reserve.
Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle had this depressing stat on the status of Houston’s tackle play:
168 offensive linemen have played 100 pass-block snaps this season, but only two of them have allowed pressure on 14.5% or more of their pass-block snaps.
HOU T Martinas Rankin (15.4)
HOU T Julie'n Davenport (14.5)
I can only imagine if they we're on the same tea… wait.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) October 18, 2018
Entering Week 7, Rankin had the second most pressures in the NFL…despite not starting a game since Week 4.
On one hand, I get it. Houston had to mortage the cast around Watson to, you know, draft Watson in the first place. But now is the time for offensive tackle to be the ONLY thing on the Texans’ mind offensively.