Well, week one is now behind us and I think the most of us have come away with mixed feelings about last Saturday's game against ULL. Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns), Justin Blackmon was unable to get in the endzone, and the offensive line had trouble at times both protecting the QB and opening holes for the running backs.
Wait, aren't these supposed to be the strengths of our offense? Yup, sure are. Now I can be a Negative Nancy right now (Sam would love that) but there are explanations for all three along with a bunch of positives to take away from the game as well.
Join me after the jump for what might be my most serious post in a while (weird, right?).
First and foremost, let's hit on those first three anomalies (Matrix wood) starting with Brandon Weeden. Here's a guy who has had the media tell him for the past nine months what a stud he is and how he has made this high powered offense what it is. I'm not the least bit surprised that he felt like he had to live up to those expectations right off the bat. Two of the picks he threw were just bad decisions where he tried to make something of nothing instead of throwing the ball away or just taking the sack. Now then, with all that said, I'm not worried in the least bit about it. I think Weeden will be more composed from here on out and the decision making will get much better. The first game jitters will be gone and he will return to "MDM: Business As Usual" status.
As far as Blackmon not getting a TD goes...oh well. Seriously, in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter. He still caught eight balls for over 140 yards so it isn't as if he was completely shut out of the game. To be honest, the coaches did the right thing by opting to run the ball at the goal line rather than try for a fade to Blackmon in the corner of the endzone (sidenote: I didn't feel this way directly after the game but that's fandome for you). The offense needs to be able to punch the ball in when they are that close and getting those opportunities early will pay dividends when the conference games come around.
That brings us to the offensive line. Coach Wickline is a genius...and he is also a bit of a mad scientist in his own right. Just when you think he has the starting lineup set in stone, he goes and throws it out the window. Michael Bowie didn't start. Several linemen shuffled around throughout the course of the game. Starters were thrown in with backups and vice versa. As we all know, the O-line works as a cohesive unit and when the coaches are playing musical chairs with the positions, it makes it a bit difficult to effectively protect the QB and open up holes for the running backs. But there is method to the madness. With Wickline, there always is. My guess is that he still wants to see what his guys can do best and who can thrive in unfamiliar territory. Would he have done this in a conference game? Definitely not. But I don't think he was worried too much about ULL and figured this would be a great opportunity to keep his players on their toes. I expect a more cohesive and solid unit against Arizona.
So now that that is settled let's talk a little bit about the good things to take away from the game.
2. Markelle Martin may be even better than I thought (which is saying a lot). Nine tackles, three pass breakups, one fumble forced. He was everywhere. Having that kind of safety is going to be huge with a young linebacker group.
3. Alex Elkins is every bit as good as advertised. Six tackles and a fumble recovery. He probably had the most impressive defensive play of the game. He chased down the running back from the other side of the field and made a touchdown saving tackle. That's extremely impressive for a Will Linebacker.
4. Desmond Roland is going to be a stud. Who saw this coming? I was sure he was going to redshirt--and then I saw him play in the fourth quarter. This kid has vision and the ability to make cuts in a split second. Eight carries for sixty one yards. His most impressive carry had him facing a dead end in the backfield, improvising, switching directions and grabbing 10+ yards on what should have been an insignificant play.
5. The offense is in good hands with Clint Chelf. The kid is smooth and operates the offense with poise and confidence. There was absolutely no drop off when he entered the game as he led the offense down the field for a filed goal and then a touchdown pass. He finished a perfect 4 for 4 passing with 70 yards and a TD. He isn't on Brandon Weeden's level but not many are. With that said, if Weeden has to come out for a couple of series for some reason I have full faith Chelf can get the job done.