Now that the NFL regular season is in the books and Wildcard Weekend is a wrap, let’s review the season’s highlights. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of this season’s biggest disappointments and bright spots. We’ll also address some looming questions facing teams entering the offseason. An exciting postseason is already upon us, but let’s not close the books on the regular season without reflecting on some of the season’s biggest stories.
Disappointment: Green Bay Packers
Once again, the NFL playoffs are underway without the Green Bay Packers. And no, Packers fans can’t blame this one on Olivia Munn, a curse, a failed Hail Mary or any other laughable excuse. It’s plain and simple, the Packers are missing their second straight playoffs because of a lack of talent and poor coaching.
Green Bay Lacks Talent
This season the Packers finally invested in high-level talent with the acquisition of tight end Jimmy Graham from the Seattle Seahawks. However, the trade isn’t enough to overcome years of a failed draft-and-develop strategy.
Mike McCarthy’s Poor Coaching
Speaking of Graham, exhibit number one of poor coaching is his misuse. From past seasons, we see that Graham clearly has offensive potential. In 2016, Graham logged 65 receptions and 923 yards. According to NFL Communications, this was a franchise-best in the tight end position. Graham also made the Pro Bowl three times during his time with the New Orlean Saints.
While 2017 was a more low key season for Graham with 9.1 yards per reception and 10 touchdowns, the Packers still expected more from Graham as he joined Aaron Rodgers in a more pass-friendly system. Pumped full of motivation to perform for the season, Graham looked ready to reignite his game especially with a non-guaranteed contract looming.
However, Graham’s year ended up a bust. He logged only two touchdowns and 55 receptions. We learned from Packers Wire, that coaching is to blame for Graham’s underwhelming performance. The site points to a recent Mostly Football Show where former Packers tight end Martellus Bennett claims that Coach Mike McCarthy’s offense wasn’t good for tight ends. And even more damning, according to Pro Football Talk, Mike McCarthy said after a critical loss to the Vikings, “I didn’t do enough. I need to coach better.”
Surprise: Seattle Seahawks
During the first half of the decade, the Seattle Seahawks seemed to be one of the best rushing teams in the league. However, over the last three seasons, the Seahawks have really struggled to maintain their dominance. Last year, the Seahawks missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season. Then, they parted ways with the last of the old guard, Richard Sherman.
It would have been easy to dismiss the Seahawks this season as a mediocre team that continues to rely on quarterback Russell Wilson for everything. However, when looking at the team’s 2018 season from a rebuilding point of point of view, there is a lot more to be excited about.
Chris Carson’s Breakthrough Year
The team is developing two stellar running backs. Chris Carson had a standout year, running for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Carson also ended the season by being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for December. Carson has surely earned his ranks on the depth chart, but don’t sleep on rookie Rashaad Penny.
Rashaad Penny’s Potential
Penny joined the Seahawks with a lot of promise and huge shoes to fill, especially with the exit of Marshawn Lynch. While Penny didn’t produce the yardage and double-digit touchdowns the Seahawks were used to getting with Lynch, he did make a strong impression with his speed.
After a November 10, game against the Los Angeles Rams, coach Pete Carroll applauded Penny for his explosiveness and ability to read the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks have also hinted at using him as an every-down back in their heavy-rushing offensive systems.
However, Penny must avoid injuries and continue mastering the system in order to earn his spot as a regular in the Seahawks offense in 2019. Penny’s raw talent, combined with Carson’s momentum coming off a standout year, are a positive sign for the Seahawks as they enter the offseason.
Biggest Question Mark
Alex Smith and the Washington Redskins
Following his trade from the Kansas City Chiefs, Smith looked to be cruising and enjoying his game more than ever. Smith’s stats showed nothing but promise for the Washington Redskins. Before Smith’s December injury, the Redskins stood at a formidable 6-3 in the standings, with Smith averaging a touchdown per game. More importantly, the veteran quarterback commanded respect as a leader.
With the seriousness of Smith’s injury, it’s uncertain whether the Redskins quarterback will be ready to play in 2019. While we all hope and pray that Smith’s injury isn’t career ending, the big question still remains, who will take the helm as the Redskins quarterback next season?
This NFL 2018 season brought us some major surprises, disappointments and unanswered questions. As an NFL fan, the 2017 season left me underwhelmed. Yes, Nick Foles’ cinderella story and amazing Super Bowl finish brought some redemption to the season. However, overall, it was a lackluster season riddled with controversy and injury.
In contrast, this regular season got us thinking about the future. For the Green Bay Packers, the major acquisition of Jimmy Graham couldn’t overcome a lack of overall talent and poor coaching. Will the recent hiring of Titans coordinator Matt LaFleur be a step in the right direction towards bringing the Packers back to the playoffs? Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks have two potential star running backs in Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Add Tyler Lockett’s playmaking ability to the picture, and the Seahawks could go even further in the playoffs as an offensive force next season. Lastly, Alex Smith’s leg injury left the Redskins not only questioning when their quarterback will return, but how he will return. Will Smith be the same player he once was? More importantly, are the Redskins willing to take the risk or will they begin looking for their quarterback of the future in potential draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray?
With Super Bowl LIII only a few weeks away, NFl fans have a lot to anticipate. Regardless of who ends up hoisting the trophy, we have a lot to look forward to in both the offseason and the upcoming 2019 season.
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