As we continue the 2019 NFL regular season, NFL Network analyst and Super Bowl-winning former executive Charley Casserly provides five storylines to watch heading into Week 3.
Kyle Allen will be Carolina's starting quarterback in Sunday's game against the Cardinals. The team announced Friday that Cam Newton would miss Week 3 due to an injured foot.
Of all the quarterback changes across the league -- and there have been a lot -- backup Allen is one of the bigger mysteries. Here's what we do know: In his one start in Week 17 last season, he looked poised in the pocket, showed the ability to escape pressure and had nice touch on deep throws. Granted he played mostly against New Orleans' backups, Allen got the job done and walked out of the Superdome with a win, going 16-of-27 for 228 yards, three total TDs, no picks and a 111.3 passer rating. Allen's win is the team's ONLY win in the past 10 games.
So what can we expect from him Sunday against the Cardinals? The Panthers will stick with their offense because the 23-year-old can run it. He's a mobile quarterback so there's a good chance we'll see some designed runs off zone reads, while run-pass option and play-action plays will help Allen throw the ball downfield for chunk plays. I think Allen will play well Sunday if he has time to throw the ball, but that's been an issue the last two games. Of 35 quarterbacks with a minimum of 30 pass attempts, Newton ranks second to last in time to throw (2.37 seconds) ahead of only Russell Wilson (2.26), according to Next Gen Stats. The Panthers' offensive line, which has given up six sacks in two games, must give Allen time in the pocket.
The hits just keep coming for Tom Brady's offensive line. Before the season even started, he lost his starting center David Andrews due to a blood clot. Then Tuesday, starting tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on injured reserve after he suffered a toe injury in Week 2, forcing him to miss a minimum of eight weeks. The Patriots' other starting tackle Marcus Cannon was sidelined last Sunday with a shoulder injury but has a chance to play against the Jets.
The health of this unit is concerning but the group has generally played well without many premier offensive linemen. That's a credit to an excellent coach in Dante Scarnecchia. He drills his players relentlessly, demands repetition on techniques and does a great job of getting the group to play together. I expect well-travel veteran Marshall Newhouse to start in place of Wynn against the Jets. Newhouse is a smart player with good instincts and technique but average ability. The Patriots won't put him in a position to fail and will help by sliding the protection to his side or double-teaming defenders. The key to keeping Brady upright is by not allowing inside pressure, so Newhouse can't get beat inside.
With good coaching and scheme, Newhouse and the rest of the Pats' offensive line will have success.
Ahead of the 2018 season, the way to beat Mitchell Trubisky was to make him beat you from the pocket. The thinking was he was not consistently accurate and didn't often make good decisions. What saved Trubisky was he made a ton of plays running the football. It's now 2019 and teams have taken that away. The third-year quarterback has just four attempts for 19 yards in two games, and his production in the pass game is equally poor (58.3 completion percentage, 0:1 TD-to-INT, 65.0 passer rating). This week against the Washington Redskins, Matt Nagy has to get his young quarterback running the ball early, even if it's a designed run. By getting Trubisky involved in the run game, he'll feel more confident. I am also sure Nagy will try to find a group of pass plays that Trubisky is comfortable with and use them to get his passer into rhythm early.
I'd like to see Nagy get Tarik Cohen more involved, but the player this offense might be missing most is tight end Trey Burton, who is coming off a career-best season in 2018. He had sports hernia surgery during the offseason then suffered a minor groin strain this preseason, causing him to miss Week 1. Still working is way back to game shape, Burton played 26 offensive snaps in Week 2 and had two catches for five yards on three targets. Plain and simple, Trubisky needs this guy on the field.
Lamar Jackson has improved as a passer because of his footwork. He's more balanced and stepping into his throws, which has made the Ravens' offense very tough to defend with Jackson's throwing ability and their use of multiple formations in the option game. And the addition of Marquis Brown has been huge, especially after missing on so many receivers in the draft. The Chiefs must have a plan for Jackson's runs, whether option runs, RPOs, draws or scrambles. The key to stopping him is defensive players must know their assignments and be disciplined. The Chiefs have got to take away tight end Mark Andrews, especially on third down (Ravens rank fourth in the league on third down), and be aware of rookie Brown's big-play ability.
This matchup will be one of the biggest tests of the regular season for the Chiefs' 19th-ranked defense. The best thing it can do is keep Jackson off the field and Patrick Mahomes on it. He's the best quarterback in the game right now, so you better believe he'll find ways to give his opponent fits, even if it is the No. 2 overall defense in the league. But he'll need protection. The Chiefs must have a plan to block Baltimore's pressure packages and help backup tackle Cameron Erving, who's filling in for Eric Fisher (core), versus Matt Judon on pass plays.
The Chiefs' offense ranks fourth in big plays -- even without Tyreek Hill last week -- so expect Mahomes to attack the secondary and test cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Anthony Averett deep downfield. Even safeties Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson struggled at times against the Cardinals' Air Raid attack in Week 2. Andy Reid knows how and when to take advantage of an opponent's weakness.
The one area where the Ravens have a significant edge in their game vs. the Chiefs is when their offense is on the field. The Chiefs' defense ranks 19th overall and has yet to face a top-10 offense. Baltimore's offensive success starts with having a plan for pass rushers Frank Clark and Chris Jones. The Ravens must double-team Clark or have the running back or tight end chip him before hitting their routes. The best way to contain Jones is giving the guard some help and run right at him inside the tackles. He has a tendency to hit gaps at times and gets too high to play the run. If Lamar Jackson is protected, he can pick on the Chiefs' secondary by throwing deep on CBs Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, who can be beaten on sudden moves. The best thing the Ravens can do is execute a balanced offensive game plan. That will keep the reigning league MVP on the sideline.
I'm extremely interested to see what Baltimore's defense, which ranks in the top five in several categories, has planned for Patrick Mahomes. Nobody has been able to limit his production since he took over as the Chiefs' starting quarterback. The Ravens' best bet is varying coverages and keeping Earl Thomas deep in the middle of the field to help take away the deep ball. Containing Travis Kelce is extremely important in this contest, especially on third down. The Ravens have a chance at limiting the tight end if they use a cornerback on him whenever possible along with jamming him at the line of scrimmage.