Studs & Duds: Le'Veon's Shade And Return of the NFL

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cue the Michael Scott GIFs. Okay. It's happening. It's actually happening! We are officially back in business, people. And what a glorious weekend it was. You had a wild, back and forth slugfest in College Station kicking off the drama, followed by several thrilling pro tilts on Sunday. With the big boys back in the fray, it's full speed ahead. Here on Studs & Duds, it's time to celebrate.

If you're celebrating your first #VictoryMonday of the season, here's to you. If your team didn't eat a "W" yesterday, my condolences. Here's to you, too. I guess.

STUD - Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Hello?! You play to win the game! And win, Arizona State did. The Sun Devils knocked off (then) #15 Michigan State in a tightly contested 16-13 football game. The Spartans made some brutal mistakes on the road, including a an ambitious pass by QB Brian Lewerke that hit the outstretched hands of a receiver in the end zone before being tipped into the air for an interception.

Arizona State's hiring of Edwards was widely criticized, given his long absence from the sideline and his lack of college experience. So far, so good. Edwards has Sparky back in the Top-25 rankings and rolling after a tough, hard nosed win over the Spartans. With Arizona, UCLA and USC stumbling out the blocks, perhaps Edwards will have Arizona State playing meaningful Pac-12 games late into November this year, too.

DUD - QB Khalil Tate, Arizona

While we're on the subject of the Pac-12, let's talk about Khalil Tate for a moment, shall we? The Wildcats are 0-2 after a home loss to BYU and getting boat-raced by Houston on Saturday.

Just a few weeks ago, I profiled Khalil Tate as one of my top-5 candidates to push from the 2018 Heisman Trophy. To borrow a line from Lloyd Christmas: "I was WAY off!"

Tate hasn't been anywhere near the player he was last year under former coach Rich Rodriguez. Instead, Tate has been boxed in the pocket and slinging the ball. Frankly, he looks terrible doing it under the direction of coach Kevin Sumlin.

With 79 passing attempts through 2 games, Tate has a 1:2 touchdown/interception ratio and is barely completing 50% of his passes. Tate had 179 pass attempts in 11 games last season and averaged a full 2 yards more per pass attempt than he has through two losses. As a matter of fact, in 2017 Tate had nearly a 50:50 ratio of rushes to pass attempts. Through two games, Tate has nearly 80 percent of his touches resulting in pass attempts.

That's...not...great. It's not even pedestrian. Perhaps Tate should have thought twice before he strategically went to Twitter to flex on the Arizona Athletic Department and indirectly told them to pound sand with their potential hire of Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo.

Players don't always know what's best for them, especially when they're 19 years old.

STUD - RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Andddddd we're off. Saquon took a few quarters to find a crease against a lethal Jaguars defense, but lo and behold...a big play!

Barkley's first career touchdown in the NFL was a doozy. His trends in this game were also pretty reminiscent of what the Jaguars got out of Leonard Fournette last season. At halftime, Barkley had 8 carries for 12 yards on the ground. But this explosive play was a big boom.

Barkley got north quickly out of the mesh point before breaking a tackle and bouncing to the sideline. One of the popular knocks on Barkley coming out was his eagerness to break runs outside, but here he does it in the proper fashion.

As someone who spent the course of the winter touting Barkley as a unicorn (he has the highest grade I've given in the last 5 years), it was great to see him show that same big play explosiveness that was a trademark quality at Penn State. Especially against a gifted Jaguars' D.

DUD - RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (?)

Listen. I've been very quick to defend Bell's approach his contract situation with the Steelers, both on this platform and in my personal conversations. But things have quickly derailed in the past week, specifically when Steelers teammates realized Bell wasn't going to be showing up for the team's Week 1 game against Cleveland.

Comments by his Steelers teammates have made it difficult to envision Bell stepping back into that locker room, at least without major complications.

Bell made things a little more complicated with his tweet after Pittsburgh's 21-21 tie with the Browns on Sunday.

Well then. The divide between Bell and the Steelers doesn't appear to be any closer to being bridged and at this point it's increasingly difficult to picture him back in that locker room at all. I'm all for someone handling their business to secure their money. But publicly poking the bear, regardless of who started the public barbs first, is a bad look and only exacerbates the situation.

This isn't going away any time soon.

STUD - QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay

This bearded stud helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly drop a 50-burger on the New Orleans Saints yesterday.

The team's 48 points ties a franchise record for points in a game, most recently logged in 2001 (also against the Saints). Fitzmagic was at the heart of the effort, with 417 passing yards and 4 passing TDs. Considering New Orleans entered this game on a stretch of less than 250 passing yards allowed in 9 of their last 16 contests, the math here doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Yet Fitzpatrick torched the Saints and won a duel against Drew Brees. Its pretty incredible that Fitzpatrick, on his 8th NFL team, continues to have these flashes in the pan. 36 year old career backups with 49-70-1 career records as a starter aren't supposed to drop this kind of production on Super Bowl contending defenses.

The football world left Fitzpatrick and the Bucs for dead when the suspension of Jameis Winston was announced. Perhaps some day we'll finally learn to not doubt #FitzMagic.

DUDS - Early Season TV Broadcast Comparisons

Stop the madness. Sun Devil WR N'Keal Harry is a terrific prospect. But Julio Jones and A.J. Green comparisons is where I draw the line. Yet those were exactly the comparisons given to Harry during the television broadcast of ASU's upset win over Michigan State.

Earlier in the day, Penn State signal caller Trace McSorley was liked to 2018 #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield because...well, I'm not quite sure, exactly. Both are tough, undersized and run spread offenses. That's about the extent of the similarities. Yet the superficial comparison will be a popular one throughout the fall.

Some other comparisons from the weekend heard on television sets across the country:

  • Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray - Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson 
  • Georgia QB Jake Fromm - New Orleans QB Drew Brees
  • Missouri QB Drew Lock - Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino 

STUD - QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Seriously? Seriously! Rodgers got an early jump on halftime last night, being carted off the field with a left knee injury that forced a Jugs machine DeShone Kizer into the game to end the half. Two sudden turnovers later and the Bears were up big, Khalil Mack had made Jon Gruden cry out into the night and disgust with a defensive touchdown and the route was on.

That is, of course, until Rodgers returned at halftime, hobbled by the injury but still able to...oh, you know...make every throw on the field without his legs to drive the football.

The Packers would win, 24-23. Rodgers, who crafted the entire 20-point comeback, was magnificent. Here's hoping the knee injury is a short term issue and not something that will plague him all year long.

Rodgers is one of the living and breathing legends of this generation. Even if you're a Bears fan, please acknowledge and appreciate him. Even if you have to hate him in the process.

NOTE: Trust me, I understand this moral dilemma all too well, Chicago. I'm a Dolphins fan in the Tom Brady Era. 

Threads Of The Week

A budding tradition here on Studs & Duds, here's a look at the hottest uniform from the week that was in college football. Cheers, Sun Devils. This weekend belonged to you. Coach Herm Edwards trotted his team out in these badass kits.

[caption id="attachment_21963" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]

The subtle hinds of the Arizona state flag on the chest plate are straight fire. As a lifelong proponent of the motto "You look good to play good", it's no wonder why the Sun Devils left it all on the field with their physical defensive showing to bring home the win.

Wear these again, Herm. Don't wait long to break them back out, either.

Written By:

Kyle Crabbs

Chief Brand Officer

CBO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Former NDT Scouting Overlord.