NFL 2019: Five things we learned from GW1

Luke Bradshaw
Sports Writer

We run through the main talking points from the opening game week of the 100th NFL season and road to Miami on February 2nd.

Obviously Lamar Jackson can play quarterback

Given what Lamar Jackson produced against the Dolphins it seems ludicrous, even offensive, that people questioned his ability to play the quarterback position. Calls for him to try out as a wide receiver or running back before his NFL draft and questions marks over his ability to throw, seem laughable now.

His Ravens set a franchise record for points in a first half (42), points in a game (59), total yards in a game (643) and equalled a franchise record for touchdowns passes in a game (five) – he was so good that fans in Florida were booing their side long before half-time came along. The caveat is, of course, it was against the Dolphins. Speaking of which...

The Dolphins might be even worse than predicted

Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

No one thought the Dolphins would be good, but their dismal opener should set alarm bells ringing in Miami. They’ve been pretty awful for close to 20 years, but the “Tank for Tua” is in full effect (or even Trevor Lawrence if they want to go longer term).

At least there is a clear plan, building draft picks for 2020 and 2021 through practically giving away their best players to the first interested party that comes along. While adding some young superstars is an exciting prospect, that’s all they are, prospects, and the demoralising process to get there will be a long, arduous one, particularly for the current players whose careers are on the line.

The Packers “have a defense”

Za'Darius Smith now with the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Aaron Rodgers looked pretty pleased when he uttered the above line in his post-game conference. His offense may have had an off night on this season’s opener, but it’ll be fine given the fact that it’s him who’ll be conducting it. After years of being a liability, however, his defense – that now includes Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith – might finally be good enough to keep them in a game while he watches on from the side.

Yes, the Mitch Trubisky-steered Bears offense won’t put up great numbers this season, but that said, the Packers will be serious contenders if they can finally play properly on both sides of the ball. Scoring just 10 points still being able to win hasn’t always been the case in Green Bay, let alone on the road.

Injury concerns eased for Super Bowl contenders

Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The LA Rams and Philadelphia Eagles both opened their cases for Super Bowl LIV with less than spectacular wins over the Panthers and Redskins, respectively, but what will have pleased both franchises nearly as much will be that their key attacking threats came through unscathed.

Sean McVay’s men were drastically less explosive with Todd Gurley sidelined last season, while the Eagles have gone all in on Carson Wentz at quarterback despite his consistent injuries. Ironically, the man they traded instead, Nick Foles, broke his collarbone on his first appearance for the Jags. Gurley was limited to 14 carries after a shaky start but came good, while Wentz was 28 off 39 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Both will need to be fit and firing if they are to try to topple the Patriots in the new year.

The league denied the fans the best drama possible.

Antonio Brown left the Oakland Raiders (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Antonio Brown suiting up and taking to the field against his former employers would really have been something. Not that the Patriots needed him, of course – they looked worryingly good - for everyone else - in their 33-3 blow out of Pittsburgh.

Brown’s insane time at the Raiders had barely ended when the Pats finalised a deal for the wideout, but he’s now gone from sport’s biggest circus, to the NFL’s most professional outfit. Today, Tom Brady has the best weapon he’s had since Randy Moss, it’s just a shame that the league didn’t allow him to play at the weekend – just seeing a single snap from Brown against his old team would have been more than enough for pure drama.

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