Patrick Daugherty

The Morning After

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Alex Smith's Struggles

Monday, November 27, 2017


It’s impossible to know for sure when the Chiefs finally decided to draft their quarterback of the future. The best guess? Last January 15, when as a No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs they could manage just 16 points and one touchdown in an 18-16 home loss to a Steelers team that kicked six field goals. What good is game managing your offense through the regular season when your opponent doesn’t even need to find the end zone to beat you in January? It was a quintessential Alex Smith debacle.


The Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes and the clock started ticking on the Smith era in Kansas City. Then a funny thing happened: Smith started playing better. He passed for four touchdowns in Week 1, something he had done only one time in 136 prior starts. He followed it up with 11 more scores over his next six games, bringing him to within eight of his previous career high (23) with more than half the season to play.


Enter Alex Smith. Those four Week 1 scores? That’s what Smith has over his past four appearances. After entering Week 8 with an 8.68 YPA — a mark that would have been a new career high for a complete season by over an entire yard — that number has collapsed to 6.34 over the past month. The Chiefs have one touchdown over their past 28 possessions (thank you for that stat, Chris Wesseling).    


Smith isn’t the only culprit. The running game is in shambles. So is the defense. The offensive line is blocking poorly. Tyreek Hill has proven to be too easily contained. The shaky depth behind Hill has been further pruned by injury. Andy Reid’s inventive early-season play-calling hasn’t evolved. But the main problem remains the same: Smith. The league adjusted to the Smith it saw in Weeks 1-7. Smith’s adjustment back has been to revert to the quarterback who got Mahomes drafted. It’s horizontal football with a hard cap, a style of play that can’t get you to the postseason, let alone win there, without a top-notch defense. Any dreams of a top-notch defense went out the window with Eric Berry’s injury.


With the season circling the drain and Smith once again the player we’ve always known, there is no choice, only action: Start the rookie. Rip off the Band Aid. Finish the job last January convinced you to start. If you don’t, 2017 will have gone sideways faster than a panicked Smith outlet to Charcandrick West. Reid is adamant he won’t make the change for Week 13. He may have no choice by Week 14.       


Five Week 12 Storylines


Alvin Kamara stampeding the Rams for 188 yards from scrimmage. In a rookie season full of spectacular plays, none matched Kamara’s first carry in Los Angeles. Taking a simple handoff, Kamara got skinny through traffic and found the sideline. It was then off to the races for his longest gain of the year. What followed was a masterpiece of broken tackles, hurdles and Tyreek Hill-esque stop/start jukes. All in the span of 11 touches. Yes, Kamara’s season-best game actually came on a workload that matched his smallest since Adrian Peterson’s trade seven games ago. Averaging 7.09 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per catch, Kamara is delivering like some long foretold Tavon Austin or Christian McCaffrey. One of the game’s most dangerous talents is its most unique RB1 in recent memory.    


Greg Olsen immediately re-injuring his foot. Olsen missed 10 weeks. He made it 24 snaps before renewed soreness forced him to the sideline. Speaking afterward, Olsen insisted it was nothing serious, but he will undergo a Monday MRI. Although the Panthers have made it to 8-3 with only one full appearance from their star tight end — a 2/18 Week 1 — his loss for any further amount of time would be devastating. Olsen’s impending return was surely part of the calculation when the Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin. Since, they’ve lost rookie playmaker Curtis Samuel for the season. There are signs Olsen is not the player he once was, but he’s still not Ed Dickson. The Panthers desperately need competent targets. If Olsen is again sidelined, they won’t have nearly enough.   


The Jimmy Garoppolo era begins in San Francisco. Garoppolo did in two passes what C.J. Beathard couldn’t in 38: Throw a touchdown. The context, of course, matters. Garoppolo was mopping up an out-of-hand loss after Beathard exited with a supposedly minor knee injury. The larger context? The 49ers did not surrender a second-round pick so Garoppolo could ride the pine behind former Big 10 struggler Beathard. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is complex, blah blah blah. It’s time to see what Garoppolo can do in it, regardless of Beathard’s health. The Bears would be a stiff Week 13 road test, but isn’t that why the 49ers went after Garoppolo at the deadline in the first place? To see what he’s all about? Why not find out on the road against a well-coached defense.


Amari Cooper suffers concussion on nauseating hit. Trying to make a tough catch in traffic, Cooper lowered his head and braced for Darian Stewart’s contact. What he got was one of the worst blows you will see on an NFL field. Panicked teammates and Broncos alike immediately signaled for the training staff as Cooper lay on the field seemingly unconscious. Eventually, he was helped to his feet and then to the locker room. He seems likely to miss Week 13 against the Giants. If there’s good news, it’s that it’s Cooper’s first documented concussion as a professional. If Cooper misses only one game, he would return for an attackable matchup against the Chiefs in Week 14.


Doug Martin’s rough season gets worse with concussion. Off to his first decent start in weeks, Martin was forced from the field after only seven carries. The Bucs took a long time to confirm Martin’s diagnosis, but his final touch came with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter. In his absence, Jacquizz Rodgers took the lead, but it was Peyton Barber who lucked into the goal-line work. Still around, Charles Sims mixed in for four touches. Like Cooper, it's Martin’s first documented concussion as a pro. There would seem to be a chance he gets back for Sunday’s game against the Packers. If he does, he will be more RB3/FLEX than RB2. With bye weeks over, there’s nowhere to hide Martin in the ranks.    


Don't forget, for the latest on everything NFL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, or follow @Rotoworld_FB or @RotoPat on Twitter.



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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty



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