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Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey made a really nice one-handed catch on a screen pass Sunday. And cornerback Donte Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown.
And that’s it.
That’s pretty much all that feels solid about the Carolina Panthers in their first game under interim coach Steve Wilks now.
That all that feels even sort of acceptable about where this franchise is. Because players are wondering if they’re being traded, some are upset when they they’re not in the game and are openly challenging coaches about it. And, of course, the losses keep adding up.
Start with Sunday’s pregame because this story isn’t complete without it: Multiple reports surfaced of the Panthers fielding trade calls about McCaffrey and how the team might consider moving him for multiple first-round picks.
You know what that is? A joke, because no team is going to give multiple first-round picks for a running back with an significant injury history and a high salary.
So maybe McCaffrey gets traded but it would be with a much more modest return.
If this stuff continues this course, the Panthers are going to start missing Matt Rhule’s 11-27 record.
Then, of course, there’s the recurring reports, confirmed by OutKick, that receiver Robbie Anderson is on the trade block. He is, but based on what happened Sunday he might not be on the team long enough to be traded.
Anderson, you see, was pulled from the game multiple times in what he thought were plays he should be in.
So he sulked, staying away from other receivers on the bench as they talked to receiver coach Joe Dailey. Then, at one point, he got into a visible argument with Dailey. And then Wilks sent him off the field and into the locker room.
Anderson Speaks Out After Being Sent Away
“I made a comment, ‘Money down. Why am I being taken out?’ ” Anderson said afterward. “That’s that.”
That, of course, was not that. Anderson and Dailey were seen jawing on the sideline both in the first and second half before Wilks yelled at Dailey to apparently send the receiver into the locker room.
“It was a sideline-type situation that I felt like I wanted to try to get him in (the locker room) at the moment,” Wilks said. “That’s something that we’ll discuss as we further get into the week.”
The club this week will have internal discussion of trading Anderson to the highest bidder or simply releasing him if no trade partner emerges, a move which could save the team $12 million against the cap next year.
It will be practically impossible for Anderson to salvage his time with the team, although, to his credit, he tried to explain his thinking to reporters.
“I was confused, honestly,” he said. “Because I want to be in the game. I’ve never been told in X-amount of years to get out the game in the fourth quarter. So I was honestly confused and upset by it, as I should be.
“I don’t see nobody that’s a true competitor that knows the value they bring, and has true passion toward the game, that’ll be OK with being told not to do something or being taken out of something when they didn’t do nothing wrong.”
That might fly if Anderson were performing as he has in the past but he has 13 catches for 206 yards this year. If somehow remains on the team beyond this week it will represent the biggest comeback from the brink in club history.
Giants Mountain Is More Like A Hill
The Giants’ record is 5-1 now and that means they’ve already exceeded their 2021 victory total with 11 games remaining. This is, in fact, the team’s best start to a season through six games since they were 5-1 in 2009.
And after Sunday’s 24-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, coach Brian Daboll was talking about how his team is improving and needs to continue doing that.
“I’m just proud of the way they compete,” Daboll said afterward. “We talked about trying to play fast, trying to play physical, being resilient and finishing. Throughout the game, I thought those showed up – although obviously not perfect.
“There’s certainly a lot of things we can fix; that’s why we’ll be in tomorrow, to try to fix them. And I’m just proud of the way the guys competed.”
Now here’s a secret about where the Giants are that really is kind of mind-blowing: This team that seems to be improving, is getting players back into the lineup — such as Leonard Williams and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson on Sunday — merely has to hold serve to get in playoff contention.
If this 5-1 team plays around .500 the remainder of this season’s 11 games, that’s 10 or 11 victories in Daboll’s first year. And that is likely setting them up for playoff contention.
The Giants, of course, don’t see it that way. But the math is the math.
QB Controversy Possibilities
It’s always interesting when success or failure lead to a quarterback controversy. And there are three distinct possibilities for that now.
In New England.
In New Orleans.
The Patriots expect Mac Jones to continue making strides in his return from a high ankle sprain. But in the meantime, Bailey Zappe is capturing the heart of traveling Patriots fans who were chanting, “Zap-pe, Zap-pe” as the final seconds ticked off Sunday’s game at Cleveland.
The fans serenaded the QB who completed 24-of-34 for 309 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Zappe had a passer rating of 118.4.
“To be quite honest with you, I am just taking advantage of the opportunity and practice,” Zappe said afterward.
To be quite honest with you, how does coach Bill Belichick bench a guy who just helped him win two games in two outings for a player coming off an injury that was unimpressive before the injury?
The Saints, meanwhile, basically lit the flame of a controversy themselves when coach Dennis Allen declined to name Jameis Winston the starter for Thursday night’s game at the Arizona Cardinals.
Allen understands Winston is not fully healthy and so he stopped short of saying his starting quarterback will be the starting quarterback in the next game.
“Let’s get in the study on that and we’ll see where he’s at and then we’ll go from there,” Allen said.
Andy Dalton, who has had some ups and downs in the three games he’s started, also declined to comment.
“I’m going to let DA handle that, that whole situation,” Dalton said.
If that doesn’t sound like a controversy long-term it certainly sounds like one until Thursday.
Brissett Is Playing Like A Backup
Finally the Browns won’t have a QB controversy when Deshaun Watson returns from suspension in November but maybe they should have one now because Jacoby Brissett has been bad.
Brissett was solid and even good at times in late September. But the team has now lost three consecutive games. And over the last 10 quarters Brissett has regressed.
Against the Patriots he threw 2 interceptions and finished with a 54.5 rating while getting outplayed by New England’s rookie quarterback.
Coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game he didn’t consider a quarterback move to Joshua Dobbs. That’s fair. But if he doesn’t consider it going forward starting Monday, that’s simply showing blind loyalty to a player who has done precious little to earn it.
Cooper Rush Did His Job
Let’s just admit that, following Sunday night’s Eagles win over the Cowboys, we know Cooper Rush is good in small doses but he’s not ready to become Lou Gehrig to Dak Prescott’s Wally Pipp (Look it up, youngins.)
But he did his job the past five games.
The Cowboys were 0-1 when Rush took over for the injured Prescott and the Cowboys season seemed on the brink because how could they win without their starting quarterback?
Well, Rush won four of his five starts.
And with the Cowboys 4-2 today they are expected to get Prescott back for the Detroit Lions game Sunday in Dallas. The fact is the Cowboys play six games against teams currently under .500 in the final 11 games.
If Prescott is able to win games against sub-par competition at the same rate his backup did against better teams such as the defending Super Bowl champion Rams and defending AFC champion Bengals, the Cowboys will likely be playoff bound.
So Dallas doesn’t have a starter in Rush. But it has a guy who did his job when many were worried.
Quote of the Day
“Teams are either coming together or not and we’re coming together.”
— Eagles coach Nick Sirianni after his team beat Dallas 26-17 to improve to 6-0.