Around the League – Week 1

by Tommy Lawlor  –

* The best defensive player I saw this week was Packers LB Clay Matthews. He was simply outstanding. They moved him around throughout the game so it wasn’t like Clay was benefiting from some favorable match-up. He showed up all game, all over.    

Matthews led the team in tackles, added a pair of sacks, and was a disruptive force all game long. He beat a pair of blockers on the 4th/1 play late in the game to seal the win. He dropped into coverage early on and almost picked off a pass. He stuffed RT Winston Justice on a run play and moved him backward, despite giving up about 75 pounds. Matthews is quick off the ball. He is fast and is deadly in pursuit. He really hustled on the play where he chased down Kevin Kolb and sacked him, causing a concussion for the young QB. Matthews isn’t just an athlete. He’s a skilled LB. He does the little things well. Clay can sell you that he is blitzing and then drop. He can sell you that he’s dropping and then blitz.

Maybe the funniest thing he does is constantly patting opposing players on the butt. Matthews plays with a lot of spirit and emotion. After a play he’s slapping the guy who blocked him on the butt. He’ll do that to the RB that he tackles. So many guys today have the Ray Lewis “me vs. my enemies” mentality that it is refreshing to see someone play hard, but still have a bizarre sense of fun mixed into his game.

* I love Anquan Boldin. I had him rated as a 1st round player back in 2003. His slow 40 didn’t bother me. If you watched him play in the Sugar Bowl vs Georgia, I didn’t see how you couldn’t be sold on him. He still has an incredible competitive spirit. He has great hands and is one of the strongest, most physical receivers in the league. He played really well against the Jets and will be a big help for the Ravens this year.

* One of the guys that Boldin picked on was Jets rookie CB Kyle Wilson. Giving up some big plays to Boldin is hardly something to be ashamed about. Kyle got called for PI in the end zone on a downfield pass and that set up a short TD run. CBs in college are allowed to be very hands-on. You can’t do that in the NFL. Some guys figure that out quickly, others don’t. Heck, Antonio Cromartie is in his 4th year and he was a penalty machine last night. Cro is a big time playmaker, but he can be burned in coverage.

* Texans Safety Bernard Pollard had a good game in the win over the Colts. He had 8 solo tackles and a FF. Pollard is a big guy, but has good speed and range. He’s able to play in the box and be good vs the run or cover the deep zone. Pollard has been a huge help for the Texans since they signed him. The Chiefs cut him. Ouch.

* KC did add a stud Safety when they drafted Eric Berry 5th overall in April. He played well in the preseason and the team views him as a key player, not just a rookie FS to protect. Against the Chargers they had Berry trying to cover Antonio Gates 1-on-1. That didn’t work well. Berry will be an impact player soon enough, but all rookies need time to grow. Berry was in on 6 tackles in his debut. He missed a couple of others, but overall he was okay.

The Chiefs defense got some contributions from former top picks in the win over SD. LB Derrick Johnson had a terrific game. He had 11 solo stops and a FF. He played fast and was all over the field. Glenn Dorsey actually helped to get a rush on Philip Rivers. Dorsey had half a sack. He added a TFL and was disruptive up front.

The Chiefs STs got big help from this draft. Dexter McCluster ran a punt back 94 yards for a TD. He showed great speed on the return. Javier Arenas added a couple of good PRs himself. He was more shifty than explosive. Great job by GM Scott Pioli and his scouts.

* I have to laugh at the Bengals struggles in the opener. I’ve got nothing against Cincy. I just find the team’s confidence a bit much. They had a terrific season in ’09, but also had a lot of things go right. They assume this is a Super Bowl team, but there are some definite holes on that team and I’m still not a big fan of the type of players they’ve collected.

* Washington ILB London Fletcher had another good game in the Skins win over Dallas. He was in on 11 total tackles. He flew around the field and knocked the crap out of everyone he could. I do love watching him play. He’s too small and too old to be any good…but he’s still good. He had great depth on the one pass play down the deep middle. Fletcher was right there on the inside of the WR to take away that throw.

S LaRon Landry had 13 total tackles and did some good things, but I still don’t trust him. He always looks a bit out of control.

* Giants WR Hakeem Nicks had a good game in the opener, catching 3 TDs. Nicks just looks like a stud receiver. He’s physical enough to handle big CBs, but athletic enough to stretch the field and make plays. He can make some tough catches as well.

* Great note from Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News:

• Who would have guessed that Eagles QB Michael Vick would outrush every NFC running back on the opening weekend, and that Bears RB Matt Forte would gain more receiving yards than every NFC wideout?

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