Introducing a new segment called the “Reiding Between the Lines” mailbag where I will answer the five best questions from my Twitter followers every Friday. This is a great way to interact with you guys and a platform to get out some of my thoughts about a few of the best topics in sports.
1. The Le’Veon Bell and Steelers Saga Continues..
This saga has gone on much longer than anyone could have anticipated. After Bell told Steelers management and teammates that he would return prior to Week 1 and went back on his word about it, the relationship between all parties seems to have been damaged. There’s no question that Bell is one of the best players in the NFL when healthy, but he plays a position that doesn’t have a long career span and that’s easily replaceable.
This was exhibited even by his own team during James Connor’s Week 1 performance against the Browns. I’m not saying that Connor will ever be Bell, but his production can nearly by replaced by a running back by committee backfield.
Bell has to report to the team byWeek 10 in order to be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so there’s no question that he will play this year, but as the weeks pass by, I’m starting to believe that it won’t be in Pittsburgh. The Jets, Colts and 49ers are all teams with holes at running back, but would any of those teams surrender high draft capital for a potential one-year rental or for a high marquee player that plays a disposable position? That is the twist in this entire situation.
2. Will Aaron Rodgers play Sunday vs. the Vikings?
I’m of the belief that Aaron Rodgers is going to play regardless of what Mike McCarthy and the media are trying to convey. It’s not hard to believe that he’s been waiting all offseason to face the Vikings, especially considering they are the team that resulted in him breaking is collarbone. Even though he’s again not practicing today, I think he will be out there on Sunday to face off against Mike Zimmer’s defense in a very important divisional game.
3. Will Grier’s NFL Draft Status
Will Grier is one of the more interesting prospects entering the 2019 draft. After a promising start to his career at Florida came to a sudden halt after testing positive for a banned substance that resulted in him being suspended for an entire 365 days, he has bounced back nicely and revived his career at West Virginia. Similar to Baker Mayfield, he will test a lot of NFL teams thresholds.
He’s a smaller QB, but shows many characteristics of what it takes to succeed on Sunday’s. Now that Grier has moved on from Florida and the incident that took place there, teams will do their homework and due diligence on what exactly led up to that point. It’s too early to tell if the positive test and ban will ultimately hurt his draft stock, but his pre-draft interviews leading up to the 2019 draft will be huge.
4. Box Score Scouts
This is a really good question and one that’s hard to determine. There isn’t necessarily just one stat that paints an entire picture of a game, but if I had to choose one to look at it definitely would be turnovers. The teams that win the turnover battle within games are usually the teams that comes out on top with the victory. It’s extremely hard for a team to win games if they constantly are turning the ball over and giving the other team repeated chances to score.
5. Are the Jets For Real?
I said it all offseason and I don’t think that it was just a Week 1 fluke. The Jets are going to be a bit better than we all were expecting. I’m not saying that they’re going to make the playoffs or win the division, but they have a very solid young core in place. Led by Jamal Adams, who I thought the world of during the pre-draft process and now with the encouraging signs from Sam Darnold, this team has a solid foundation already constructed.
It isn’t just Adams though on the defensive side of the ball. Leonard Williams, Marcus Maye, and the promising emergence of Darron Lee are all great signs for this franchise. Alson, add in the positive free agent additions of Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne and Avery Williamson. They want defense to be the identity of their team and that’s exactly how this team has been constructed thus far.