Faces in New Places 2018

With the 2018 NFL Regular Season opener behind us, it’s time to reflect on an action-packed off-season. With the excitement of major signings and trades far behind us, it’s time to see how they are playing out on the field.

  • Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
    • Robinson was the rare elite receiver to hit the open market. In my opinion, the Jaguars should have tagged him instead of letting him go. However, that didn’t happen, and he ended up in Chicago. Robinson is also the most talented receiver Mitch Trubisky has had at any level. The Bears are considered a dark-horse playoff contender, in large part because of the projected emergence of Trubisky and the new-look receiving group.
  • Khalil Mack, DE, Chicago Bears
    • Mack is the other reason for the Bears status as a playoff dark-horse. With him and former first-round-pick Leonard Floyd, the Bears went from having a hole across from Floyd to one of the best edge-rushing tandems in the NFL.
  • Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
    • Landry has some of the best stats of any receiver in NFL history through his first four NFL seasons. That’s the kind of thing that makes a team cling to a receiver like glue. Unfortunately, the Dolphins didn’t get that message. Instead, they traded him to Cleveland for almost nothing. This was probably the most lopsided trade in the NFL this off-season. At the least, Landry is an elite safety blanket for Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. At the most, Landry could continue his development from his already cemented status as the NFL’s premier slot receiver.
  • Tyrann Mathieu, S, Houston Texans
    • Mathieu is now yet another elite defender who calls Houston home. In addition to Mathieu, JJ Watt, and Jadeveon Clowney already made the Texans a fearsome defense, but with Mathieu on the back end, the team now has two elite pass rushers, and a man in the back who can prevent the big plays.
  • Andrew Norwell, G, Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Norwell, like Robinson, was a surprise to not get franchise tagged. He can play both tackle and guard with proficiency and proved to be by far the best player on Carolina’s offensive line. Instead, he will be very helpful in opening holes for Leonard Fournette and TJ Yeldon in Jacksonville.
  • Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
    • Watkins should immediately help young quarterback Patrick Mahomes make use of his big arm. With speedsters in both Watkins and Tyreek Hill, Mahomes should have plenty of opportunities to throw down the field, with Travis Kelce as an elite check-down or red-zone option.
  • Kendall Fuller, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
    • Acquired in the Alex Smith trade, Fuller now gives the Chiefs a second elite defensive back, along with Eric Berry. With the team’s stacked offense this year, the defense needs to keep up to make them a true contender, and Fuller will be a big part of that.
  • Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams
    • With the loss of Sammy Watkins, the acquisition of Cooks gives the team a similarly athletic receiver who is much more consistent and productive. How it took a player of his caliber so long to latch on with a team is beyond explanation, but the Rams are reaping the rewards.
  • Ndamukong Suh, DT, Los Angeles Rams
    • Suh was clearly too expensive for the Dolphins to keep around, and the team was trying to change the locker room culture anyway, so Suh had to go. However, the Rams, who were also in the middle of an off-season makeover, brought in one of the most disruptive defensive lineman in the NFL to pair with Aaron Donald, the defending Defensive Player of the Year. That along with one of the best secondaries in the NFL, altogether make an elite defensive unit which should lead the team into the top tier of the NFC.
  • Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, CBs, Los Angeles Rams
    • Talib and Peters were perfect fits for the Rams new-look corner group. With two elite deep-zone safeties already on the roster, the Rams wanted a couple of ball-hawking corners help up the turnover numbers from last year’s group. Acquiring Talib and Peters did just that, especially for the low cost of their 2018 fourth, fifth and sixth round picks and a 2019 second. That sounds like a lot, but for two elite corners, not giving up a single first-round pick is amazing. Peters has produced 19 interceptions in his first three seasons, which is a great number. For a comparison, Talib had 15 in his first three seasons. And with the elite safeties behind them, they can afford to play aggressively, so they may produce even more than usual.
  • Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
    • Cousins was clearly the cream of the crop for any QB-needy team this past off-season. Many teams were rumored to be in the mix, but the Vikings won the sweepstakes with a completely guaranteed offer and a squad that made the NFC Championship last season. Personally, I think Cousins should be enough to push them over the top, but then again, the Eagles got much better too. Add to that the newly competitive Rams and 49ers, along with the Saints and Falcons, and the NFC is still up for grabs. This move basically makes it so that Vikings fans can’t use the ‘backup quarterback’ card if they lose again this season.
  • Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco 49ers
    • Former All-Pro corners don’t usually move teams in the off-season. That said, four did this year, which is way different than usual. The biggest question mark of the four, Sherman is coming off injury and hasn’t played as well in the past few seasons. However, on tape from training camp and the preseason, he appears to be back to the Sherman we are used to seeing. At the least, he will be a great mentor for the young 49ers cornerbacks.
  • Malcolm Butler, CB, Tennessee Titans
    • Butler, other than being benched for the Super Bowl, had an all-around solid year last year. With his signing, Tennessee has put together the elite secondary it set out for, with former Patriots Butler and Logan Ryan, and last year’s first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. Now with two shutdown corners, this may be enough to push the Titans over the edge to having a top-five defense.
  • Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins
    • Smith was probably the second-best quarterback that moved this off-season. While he isn’t the franchise quarterback who will put a team on his back and carry them to a Super Bowl, he is the kind of quarterback who will not stop his team from getting there. He might even have enough left in the tank to provide a nice little push. But unless Washington can get the team around him into better shape, they will be stuck in the cellar in a tough NFC East.
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