Defensive questions Air Force s offense will always be a problem

When Michigan has the ball The Wolverines have found plenty of success on the ground through two games with fifth year senior Ty Isaac, who has put together back to back 100 yard outings with 7.9 yards per carry. Michigan has a size advantage over the Falcons, who run an odd man front 272 pounds per player DeVondre Campbell Jersey with four linebackers who are active and pursue to the football. The Falcons have 10 new starters on a defense that has only been tested by Virginia Military Institute one of the worst teams in the FCS over the past four years. Quarterback Wilton Speight will need to take care of the football in this game, as Air Force s ball control offense feasts on turnovers. In the secondary, the Falcons had serious problems against the big play last year Air Force gave up 60 pass plays of 20 yards or more, tied for last nationally. This is a defense with an active front that plays the run well, but can give up chunks through the air.

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Lack of confidence in Wilton Speight shows lack of trust in Jim Harbaugh
Michigan s Ty Isaac runs for a first down against Cincinnati
Michigan s Ty Isaac runs for a first down against Cincinnati in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at Michigan Stadium. Photo Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press
When Air Force has the ball The triple option. And more. That s the book on Air Force and it s a complicated one. Quarterback Arion Worthman can be a problem. He s a prototypical player to lead this offense, as he has speed, agility and a great knowledge of the system. Worthman was a part time starter on last year s 10 win squad and also has the ability to drop back and throw in spread formations. His most talented back and he has a few is Tim McVey, a senior who had 708 yards 8.5 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns last season. Worthman and the system are the keys to everything, though. Stop dive. Stop quarterback. Stop quarterback pitch. Stop the option. At times, it s that simple. But Air Force runs a variety of formations and sets that take advantage of Worthman s quickness and put him in space. This is going to be a serious test for Michigan s pressure defense, as linebackers and safeties will have to walk the line of being overly aggressive and disciplined. One bad angle, one bad read and you re watching a guy run untouched for six.

Inside the helmet Mason Cole s value; why U M trusts Wilton Speight

Know the foe

A weapon under Worthman wasn t a full time starter for Air Force last year, but he was the team s best quarterback. He took over a 4 3 football team and won six straight, rushing for 674 yards and six touchdowns during that stretch. He s great in space and has the ability to bounce and cut into different gaps on his keeper runs. Arm tackles won t get it done with Worthman, and he has enough zip in his step to shake people in the open field.

Great coaching Air Force lost a slew of starters off last year s team , but Troy Calhoun s program always seems to keep churning. This roster is stocked full of juniors and seniors who have had their moments in big games over the years, as Calhoun has mastered the art of coaching a successful service academy program. He has won 28 games over the past three full seasons and always seems to find a way to plug in new faces when people graduate. He has coached in this system and has also been an NFL assistant, which is why his offense has morphed from straight triple option to a scheme with the ability to line up in a variety of looks and take advantage of his team s unique skill set.

Defensive questions Air Force s offense will always be a problem for teams, no matter how many starters it loses. The defense, though, could be a different story. Air Force as noted above always does a great job of replacing talent. But 10 new starters this year is a lot. The Falcons are always aggressive and active in the front seven. But how the entire unit reacts on this stage will be something to watch. The secondary is brand new. If Michigan can protect Speight, and if he s on target  the Wolverines should have some chances to make chunk plays through the air.

Two cents

Do your job This is what the game boils down to for Michigan s defense. This is not a game where flying out of your lane or worrying about something that s happening next to you will fly. Everyone has an assignment and everyone has to stick with those assignments. If one person freezes or has a hitch, problems happen. Michigan s young corners have to be physical and willing tacklers on the edge, and the safeties and linebackers must flow with disciplined angles. If Michigan can keep its discipline, then it has all it needs to slow the Falcons down.

Prove it Michigan has talked all week about how the offensive mistakes through two weeks are easy fixes. Now, it s time to prove it. Speight has dealt with plenty of external criticism early this season, but now he has to show people he can correct the minor details that have led to miscues early on. His decision making has been fine. His knowledge and understanding of this offense has been fine. If his execution rises to that level, this offense should start to find a groove.


Eagles need strong quarterback play to compete with Dallas

Week one in the NFL has come and gone! First, the Kansas City Chiefs embarrassed the defending champions to open up the 2017 regular season. Kareem Hunt broke out in a major way, leaving some question marks for the New England Patriots.

The NFC East kicked things off on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles went into Washington D.C. and showed why they were road favorites to open up the season. In an ugly game filled with turnovers, the Eagles pulled away from the Redskins after a controversial Kirk Cousins fumble to win 30 17. Carson Wentz had some impressive moments in the victory, but he also had some questionable decisions throughout it. The home team didn’t look particularly great, as both offenses had moments of struggle on Sunday afternoon.

Later in the evening, the Cowboys and Giants had their own ugly game of football. Dallas eventually won 19 3, but the game was largely dictated by each team’s defense. It was encouraging to see the offense move the ball against one of the better defenses in the NFL, but the red zone offense must be improved. The Cowboys’ defense, however, played brilliantly to open the season. The defensive line got into the backfield, forced pressure, and even brought down Eli Manning on more than one occasion. Odell Beckham Jr. was held out of the contest due to his ankle injury, but the defensive performance was impressive nonetheless.

Let’s take a look at the latest news and headlines surrounding the Cowboys’ rivals in the NFC BEast.

New York Giants 0 1
Last Game L 3 19 Dallas
Next Game vs. Detroit Lions 1 0 on Monday Night Football

The Giants traveled to Dallas, well Arlington, yet again to open the football season. After sweeping the eventual NFC East champs a season ago, the Giants struggled to move the ball against the Cowboys’ defense for the second consecutive meeting. Odell Beckham Jr.’s ankle injury prevented him from playing in the battle of the division s top two teams in 2016, but the Giants offense likely would have struggled to gain any momentum regardless.

Rod Marinelli’s squad played a helluva game on Sunday. DeMarcus Lawrence looks re energized and hungry to make an impact on the defensive line during his contract year. The former second round selection out of Boise State racked up five tackles, three tackles for a loss, and two sacks against the Giants to open the season. Sean Lee earned this week’s Game Ball, Jaylon Smith made an impact, and the secondary held their own against a solid group of receivers.

The Giants, however, played a poor game of football to open the 2017 campaign. The offensive line looks among the worst in the entire league, Eli Manning did not show any signs of improvement, and the offense looks stagnant without OBJ on the field. Dak Prescott had his best game against the Giants in his young professional career, and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for more than 100 yards after head coach Ben McAdoo exclaimed “all backs run the same when there’s nowhere to run” earlier in the week.

That said, how do things look in the Empire State following a 16 point divisional loss to the defending NFC East champions?

Paul Schwartz of the NY Post writes that “the Giants are adamant that they are not a one man team” after their loss to the Cowboys without OBJ.

The Giants are adamant they are not a one man team.

They had better hope they are wrong, and that they are a one man team and that one man, Odell Beckham Jr., can return to save the day and restore some sense of legitimacy to a downtrodden offense.

The 11 players on the field Sunday night, getting paid on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants James Hanna Jersey, might as well have stayed on the sideline with Beckham. He has a sprained left ankle but it is the unit he plays in that is hurting. It was as alarming an opening game showing as anything the Giants could have imagined and, as usual, their same as last season offensive line had its fingerprints all over this 19 3 loss to the Cowboys, a football atrocity.
However, they certainly appear to be a “one man team” at the moment. In last season’s second meeting, the winning score in a 10 7 ball game was a simple slant route that the Odell Beckham took the distance for six points. On Sunday night, the Giants could not get anything going. Now, some of that is because the Cowboys’ great game plan and the defensive performance, but it also shows that the Giants are reliant on Beckham Jr. to get them out of holes.

Newly acquired free agent Brandon Marshall and first round pick Evan Engram received just five combined targets. The offensive line looks disastrous. Eli did not look good at all. The Giants have failed to eclipse the 20 point mark in the team’s last six consecutive games dating back to the 2016 season.

Other News
Keidel Week 1 Exposed That Giants Offense Is In Need Of Serious Repair Jason Keidel, CBS New York

But that’s not the new beef with the new Giants, who added Brandon Marshall to take pressure off Beckham, on and off the turf, supposedly making Big Blue the Big Boys of the NFC East. Add Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram to the emotional chokehold they have on the Cowboys, and you moonwalk to the division title.


Perhaps the cynics were right. For all the cosmetic changes to the offense, they assert that none of it matters if you can’t run the ball. And if Sunday night is any indication, the Giants have one of the most inept rushing attacks in the sport.

The Giants had 12 rushes if you care to include Eli Manning for 35 yards. Elliott alone had 104 yards. Dak Prescott had more rushing yards 24 than Paul Perkins 16 or Orleans Darkwa 14 . Even in this era of frenzied passing, the ability to run the ball is more than symbolic. Even if the rush now sets up the pass, there’s still an essential place in football for it. And the Giants can’t.
The Eagles enter the 2017 season with high aspirations. After finishing the 2016 season at 7 9, Philadelphia is hoping to make some noise in Carson Wentz’s second season. Philly notched its first win on the season on the road after Kirk Cousins fumbled a way an opportunity to take the lead in the final minutes. Behind a strong defense, the Eagles may have the opportunity to challenge Dallas for the division crown.

In fact, defensive back Rodney McLeod says that “we are going to win the division”.

“Coach [Doug] Pederson is a great coach, man,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said on Monday’s 94WIP Midday Show with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie, when asked about the Gatorade bath his teammates gave the head coach.

“We rally behind him day in and day out. And, you know, that was a big time win for us to set the tone for the season. To let people know — to put the league on notice, as Malcolm [Jenkins] said, that we are gonna win the division this year. It’s a new day. That’s all we wanted to prove as players.”

“We look at the division, we feel like we can match up with any team,” Jenkins told the media in July. “We feel like we can win the division. Winning the division puts you in the playoffs, and a good spot in the playoffs.”
In order to do that, though, the Eagles need strong quarterback play to compete with Dallas. Carson Wentz did not have a great second half of last season, but many are still high on the former second overall selection. CSN Philly’s Derrick Gunn writes that Carson Wentz “has a little Aaron Rodgers in him.” Well, okay then.

Looks like Carson Wentz has a little Aaron Rodgers in him. His ability to shake tackles and buy time proved to be beneficial in this game see story . The 58 yard TD strike to Nelson Agholor was a direct result of Wentz staying on his feet until Agholor could free himself. Lane Johnson and Jason Peters both said what Wentz is able to do by scrambling is something you can t practice and that they just have to improvise. Now all Wentz has to do is be a little bit more careful with the ball and not try to force issues, which almost got him in trouble a few times
Other News
In the win against the Redskins, the Eagles saw one of its new additions fall in injury as cornerback Ronald Darby went down in the second quarter of the season’s opening game.

Ouch. Initially thought to be a season ending injury, Darby is said to be back in four to six weeks, according to a report from ESPN.

An MRI revealed that Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby s dislocated ankle will not require surgery, a team source confirmed to ESPN s Chris Mortensen.

Coach Doug Pederson would not confirm the report during his news conference on Monday, saying he is still gathering information.

A team source confirmed that Darby received the best possible diagnosis, and doctors believe he is in a 4 6 week timeframe to rehab and return. The team has encouraged Darby to get a second opinion, and Darby is expected to see Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle orthopedic specialist in Charlotte, North Carolina, the source added.
Good news for Darby. Here’s hoping he has a full recovery.

Washington Redskins 0 1
Last Game L 17 30 vs. Philadelphia
Next Game Los Angeles Rams 1 0

The Redskins are coming off of a season in which the team had the opportunity to reach the playoffs with a win in the final week of the regular season. However, Washington failed to defeat the Giants at home in week 17. Now, the Redskins are potentially in the last season of the Kirk Cousins era. Can the team from D.C. make some noise in the division this year?

Despite being a top 10 15 quarterback in the league, many in D.C. are suffering from “Kirk Cousins fatigue”, writes The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg.

Are you weary of wearing accounting eyeshades during the fourth quarter of every Redskins game? Do you dream of a day when your first thought after each pass isn’t how much money that attempt may have earned or cost the great grandchildren of Kirk Cousins? Do you find yourself envious of other fanbases that might view football games as something other than three hour referendums on the precise financial value of a slightly above average NFL starting quarterback? And did you find yourself walking away from Sunday’s disappointing loss thinking either “a franchise quarterback wouldn’t have thrown that red zone interception,” or “great, now people are gonna argue that a franchise quarterback wouldn’t have thrown that red zone interception”?

Then you, like me, might be suffering from Kirk Cousins Contract Fatigue. And there likely will be 15 more flare ups this fall. Better get some ointment. Or at least some earplugs.

Amid all the craziness of the offseason negotiations — Bruce Allen assuring us that Kirk Cousins was Washington’s long term answer at quarterback, Bruce Allen assuring us that reaching a deal with Kirk Cousins wasn’t as complicated as the pundits suggested, Bruce Allen assuring us that Kirk Cousins is actually named Kurt — this particular nightmare kind of eluded me. Until Sunday, when — with horror typically felt only by watching Daniel Snyder dance to House of Pain — I suddenly realized “Oh no, we’re actually doing this again.”
For all of the numbers Cousins puts up in the Redskins offense, he hasn’t been able to lead Washington anywhere. The instability in the franchise and the consecutive franchise tags make it difficult for Redskins fans to completely buy in.

Some of that likely escalated after Cousins’ fumble in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia. However, it looks like the referees may have gotten this wrong. You decide for yourself

Nonetheless, the officials called it a fumble and the Redskins are sitting at 0 1. Our own OCC breaks down why that is such a big deal.

Other News
The last two Redskins teams turned it around after an opening loss — will this one? Rich Tandler, CSN MidAtlantic

Will the Redskins be able to bounce back after an opening loss?

Will 2017 be more like the last two years with a decent recovery after the bad start? Or will things spiral out of control like they did in 2013 and 2014?

I think that this team is clearly more talented than the two earlier teams and arguably better at most positions than they were the last two seasons.

But talent is not the only factor.

In Week 1 in ’15 and ’16, they had the same talent in those losses as they had later in the year when they strung together some wins. It’s also a matter of being ready to play.

The Redskins weren’t yesterday and we’ll see if that turns around the rest of the season.


Abraham acknowledged that the visit was not a random

It s unclear if the skills transfer from football to frozen treats, but Le Veon Bell can at least now list some experience on his resume next time he applies for a job at an ice cream stand.

Ahead of a Sept. 4 deal that netted the running back 12.1 million for the year, Bell joked at the end of August through social media that he needed to find work and was applying for a job at Dairy Queen.

One way or the other, despite a franchise tender making his stay with the Steelers offense definite, his references must have checked out. On Tuesday, Bell walked into the Dairy Queen in New Kensington and started his training.

Bell learned the intricacies of the Dilly Bar, mixed a few Blizzards and dipped a cone alongside his mother, Lisa don t tell Bell, but his mom s cone dipping skills far outstrip his own . Bell even worked the drive thru lane, much to the surprise of waiting customers.

Jared Abraham, who along with his father, Kevin, opened the Freeport Road ice cream store about four years ago, said Bell was humble and clearly having a good time.

“I was nervous leading up to this — there were cameras everywhere, and I was shaking while making this stuff,” Abraham said. “But he was like another guy here He was cool, he joked, he loves Dairy Queen.

“He was excited to make everything he did.”

Abraham acknowledged that the visit was not a random occurrence, but rather a planned event orchestrated by Dairy Queen corporate. Still, he was happy to be in on the joke about the state of the running back s job status.

“Dairy Queen reached out to him after he did the social media post about applying for a job,” Abraham said. “But he still seemed very excited to be here. As excited as we were to have him, he seemed just as excited.”

So, maybe the event wasn t a spontaneous visit from a football giant to hang out with his otherwise none the wiser fans.

But even if it was a staged PR stunt, for the few diehard football fans handed an ice cream cone by a Steeler Maurkice Pouncey Jersey, it truly was a rare and unexpectedly cool treat.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune Review staff writer.


Griffin is still likely to split time with Lane

Before the first regular season game of his career, cornerback Shaquill Griffin had already earned the respect of the veterans in the Seattle Seahawks locker room.

That s not the easiest group to gain praise from right away.

Shaquill is probably one of my favorite rookies ever when it comes to the mental side of the game, wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. Nothing fazes him. It is pretty incredible for a rookie to come in at that position, to have that amount of poise, that amount of mental strength, he is phenomenal.

Griffin backed up the praise he received from his teammates in his debut last week. Facing Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, Griffin finished with 10 tackles and didn t give up any big plays in Seattle s 17 9 loss to the Packers. He was thrust into an even more prominent role in the defense after cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected in the first quarter. Suddenly Jarran Reed Jersey, Griffin wasn t on the field only when Seattle went with five defensive backs. He was out there all the time opposite Richard Sherman.

Rodgers knew it. The Packers knew it. And Griffin held his own against one of the top offenses in the league.

He honestly played just like he has been playing, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. He had been playing very consistent throughout the preseason and took it right to game time which is really a marvelous thing to see for the coaches.

Seattle had hoped to get this type of performance from Griffin when it drafted him in the third round out of Central Florida. Seattle needed options at cornerback after Deshawn Shead suffered a torn ACL in the playoff loss to Atlanta last January. And they needed someone with the right mentality — and confidence — to handle the attention that comes with being on the opposite side of the field from Sherman.

It s not an easy assignment. But so far Griffin has passed all of his tests.

The most important for Seattle s coaching staff came in the second preseason game against Minnesota. Almost as if the Seahawks had asked for this to happen, the Vikings spent the majority of the first half ignoring  Sherman and making most of their throws toward Griffin s side of the field.

It was the perfect prerequisite for taking on a more prominent role in the opener against Green Bay.

I learned a lot. First off the ball is coming to me most of the time, Griffin said with a chuckle on Wednesday. Mainly it was just adjusting to the types of pass patterns I was getting. … My main thing was some short little routes. I d rather have that than them going deep on me. The main thing is not letting them score. I feel like that s something I m adjusting to. It was great going against one of the best quarterbacks. That s a great way to start. … It was perfect and something I can build off of for the rest of the season.

Griffin s first game was so productive it even reinforced his film study. Griffin had written in his notes about having to play more chest to chest against Green Bay receivers because Rodgers liked to make back shoulder throws. True to his study, Green Bay tried to go that route.

The ball came to my side and my mindset was to act like the ball is going to come to you every play, Griffin said. So I was locked in every play thinking the ball was going to come to my side and that helped me a lot.

Griffin is still likely to split time with Lane, beginning Sunday against San Francisco. In nickel situations, Lane is expected to move to the slot cornerback and leave Griffin on the outside.

I want them to understand they can count on me, Griffin said.

NOTES RB Thomas Rawls ankle was a full participant in practice and is expected to make his season debut Sunday against the 49ers. … CB Richard Sherman hamstring , LB K.J. Wright ankle and LB Terrance Garvin shoulder did not practice Wednesday. Griffin was a limited participant, listed as having a concussion. LB Michael Wilhoite calf was also limited.