Neil Reynolds' Week 2 Mailbag

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season is in the books and Week 2 is already underway, so there is much to be discussed. Let's dig into my weekly mailbag as we find out what is on your minds heading into what should be yet another action-packed weekend.

Do you think the Baltimore Ravens will struggle on defense after the Monday Night Football loss to the Raiders? – Jonathan Charles Baker

There is some small part of me that feels Baltimore will tap into their rich history of defensive football and figure it out, especially with a couple of outstanding defensive minds on their staff in Wink Martindale and Rob Ryan.

But you need to have horses to win the Grand National. I think the Ravens are looking deficient on that side of the ball. The pass rush does not look great right now and blitzes were needed to create pressure against the Raiders on Monday night. And we saw what happened when they blitzed on the final play of the game.

The injury to Marcus Peters hurts the secondary which is already banged up. Even if that unit can get a little bit healthier, it will be exposed by a lack of pass rush up front. I am genuinely worried about Baltimore's D and next up is the Kansas City Chiefs.

Week 1 seemed less run-heavy than last year. Do you expect this to continue? – Joseph Hallam

I do expect that theme to continue until the weather turns colder and harsher across America. Even then, I would say the pass is going to remain king in today's NFL.

The season opener between Tampa Bay and Dallas was a perfect snapshot of the modern NFL as the Cowboys called 59 passing plays and 18 runs, while the Bucs called 50 passes and just 14 runs. No rusher had more than Ezekiel Elliott's 11 carries during the game.

Teams also use bubble screens and shorter passes to receivers now more than ever and they are serving as substitutes for runs. Come December and January, the run will make a return; but games will still be won and lost in the passing game.

Who's loss were you most encouraged by? – Gary Clarke

I would have to say the Cleveland Browns. They were outstanding for large parts of Sunday's 33-29 loss at Arrowhead Stadium and I think they can push the Kansas City Chiefs all the way in the AFC this season.

The running game is impressive behind the NFL's best offensive line, Baker Mayfield looks in very good form at quarterback and I think the defense will show it is an improved group as the season goes along.

I also think Week 1 losers such as Buffalo, Dallas and New England will get themselves back into the playoff mix. I am concerned about the poor showing from Tennessee and I do have worries about the ongoing drama around Green Bay.

Is there too much pressure on top drafted players to succeed straight out of the gate? – Jason Kelley

I really think that there is, Jason. It is a massive leap from high school to college and the jump from college to the NFL is even greater. And yet we expect these kids in their early 20s to come in and start dominating right away against grown men who have been at the higher level for years.

Some do it, of course. That's why they hand out Rookie of the Year prizes. But we should not give up on those who are slower to adjust. Plays unfold quicker, opponents are bigger and stronger; and seasons are longer. Add in the fact that the schemes are way more complicated and you have a dizzying array of things a young player has to get his head around.

This situation is exacerbated at the quarterback position. Quarterbacks need time to adjust to each level they rise up to.

Tom Brady sat at Michigan and then New England, Matt Ryan sat at Boston College, Ben Roethlisberger sat at Miami of Ohio. Patrick Mahomes sat for a year in Kansas City, Aaron Rodgers for three in Green Bay. All too often we throw the rookie quarterback in from day one and expect instant success. It can happen, but we should also recognise that some need time.

If the Green Bay Packers lose to the Detroit Lions on Monday night, is it just two games? – John Bell

I would say it depends how the Packers lose, but it's the Lions so any loss will be considered a disaster in Wisconsin. Green Bay should be careful because Detroit have played hard against them in the recent past.

Sunday's loss to New Orleans in Jacksonville offered up an indication of what will happen when things go wrong for the Packers in 2021. Cameras were trained on a disgruntled-looking Aaron Rodgers on the bench and the more mischievous punditry suggested the reigning NFL MVP was deliberately throwing the season away with his interceptions.

Nonsense, of course. But a reminder that Rodgers and the associated whispers of drama are going to take centre stage all year long. There should have been much talk about how bad Green Bay were on defense, but that didn't garner nearly as many column inches. I just have the feeling it's going to be a difficult season all around in Green Bay as Rodgers works his way through his final days with the Packers.

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