In Week 1, teams are still feeling out their rosters and tinkering with options on both sides of the ball. It’s by far the most difficult week of football to gauge and changes are certain to be made – some big, others small. Entering the second round of games, there are specific alterations we’d like to see a handful teams make. Not only will these adjustments help each respective team, but they should make fans happier, too. Here are seven changes teams need to make in Week 2.
Cardinals: Run the offense through David Johnson – not Carson Palmer
The Cardinals have one of the best young running backs – no, one of the best backs, period – in the NFL, and coach Bruce Arians knows it. He just has to show it going forward. Next to Larry Fitzgerald, Johnson was the Cardinals’ best player on the field Sunday night, carrying it 16 times for 89 yards, while also adding 43 yards on four receptions. Simply put, 20 touches aren’t enough for a player of Johnson’s caliber. He averaged 6.6 yards per touch, which is an outstanding clip for a running back. The Cardinals need to give Johnson the ball even more in Week 2 rather than having Carson Palmer air it out 37 times. There’s no question Palmer can handle that number of attempts, but there’s little reason to with a back like Johnson in the picture. Whether it’s outside zone runs or screen passes, getting him in space should be priority No. 1. Trust your gut, Bruce, and ride your future “all-time best” running back to a ‘W’.
Seahawks: Commit to Christine Michael as the No. 1 back
Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Thomas Rawls will start on Sunday against the Rams. Rawls is a capable back and showed that as Marshawn Lynch’s replacement last season, but Michael has the hot hand, and has for months. On Sunday, Michael averaged 4.4 yards per carry (66 yards on 15 attempts) compared to Rawls’ 2.7 (32 yards on 12 carries). Michael got the start last week, however the Seahawks still didn’t commit to him the way they should have. Now, he’s been demoted to backup, which is a mistake on Carroll’s part. Not many teams have the luxury of two starting-caliber running backs on the roster, but the Seahawks do. It will likely be a week-to-week thing to determine who gets most of the work, but Michael has showed he deserves the brunt of the carries. And with the Rams, who struggled to stop Carlos Hyde, next on the schedule, Michael’s quickness and one-cut running style would have a great deal of success.
Browns: Get Duke Johnson the ball
The Browns are thin on playmakers, but they have one in Johnson. The speedy back has already showed the impact he can have in the passing game, but he deserves more carries, too. In Week 1, he touched the ball only six times – three carries for 22 yards and three receptions for 28 yards. Johnson is one of the rare players who can find the end zone on any play, and he deserves far more touches on offense. With Robert Griffin III no longer in the fold, the Browns will likely rely more heavily on the run with Isaiah Crowell and Johnson, but it’s the latter who should be getting 15-plus touches – not six. Last season, Johnson caught 61 passes for 534 yards in limited action, so that should be the floor for him in 2016. If the Browns want to show any sort of excitement and explosiveness on offense, they’ll need to get Johnson the ball far more often.
Andrew Weber/Getty Images
Vikings: Start Sam Bradford
Mike Zimmer has played the Vikings’ quarterback situation weirdly close to the chest, keeping the starter to himself all week long. Zimmer plans to do the same this week, but I’ll make the decision for him: Start Samuel Jacob Bradford. Shaun Hill did just enough to avoid blowing it for the Vikings in a Week 1 game that was 100 percent won by the defense and special teams. Minnesota’s only two touchdowns were scored by the defense on an interception return and a fumble recovery, which Hill had nothing to do with. Sure, he wasn’t as bad as Case Keenum (no one was), but by no means did he win the starting job outright. Bradford has a better arm and is far more accurate, and let’s be honest: He’s going to be the team’s starter relatively soon. The Vikings are opening their shiny new stadium against the division rival Packers, and fans should be treated to watching the quarterback who will be leading them to the playoffs: Sam Bradford. He can open up running lanes – which were non-existent Sunday – for Adrian Peterson by pushing the ball downfield, something Hill isn't able to. Throw Bradford out there and never look back (until Teddy returns, of course).
Rams: Give Jared Goff a chance
Case Keenum is not the answer for the Rams. He proved that without the slightest bit of doubt in Week 1, throwing for just 130 yards on 35 attempts with two interceptions. The Rams offense is by no means explosive, but it’s hard to imagine Goff is worse than Keenum at this point. I’d like to see Jeff Fisher hand the keys to Goff in Week 2 and allow him to start over Keenum. Goff was taken first overall for a reason, and that’s because he’s more talented than any quarterback on the roster. There’s no way to see whether he’s truly ready for the NFL unless you put him on the field. Practice and preseason games aren’t the best gauges for success, and while that may sound contradictory given Goff’s struggles in both, he needs in-season, in-game reps. At the very least, he can push the ball downfield better than Keenum did, which will prevent teams from stacking the box against Todd Gurley. Fisher almost certainly won’t give Goff a shot this weekend, but he will before season’s end. Why not make it in Week 2 instead of Week 10?
WPMark J. Terrill
Cowboys: Take the reins off Dak Prescott
Prescott proved in the preseason that he can make throws deep downfield, and he can make them with exceptional accuracy. Granted, it was the preseason, when teams are playing vanilla defenses and don’t always have their best players on the field, but some of the throws he made were undeniably impressive. In Week 1, it was evident the Cowboys coaching staff wanted to keep the game plan simple for the rookie. Easy underneath throws to Cole Beasley and Jason Witten were the main reads Prescott was given, and he targeted them often. Dez Bryant was mostly used as a decoy, drawing double coverage deep down the field and allowing other receivers to get open. Not only do the coaches have to take the reins off Prescott and open up the playbook for him, but they have to get Bryant more involved early on. He can be Prescott’s favorite target if they just allow him to be. Get Bryant moving across the field on drag routes and quick slants, which will open up the passing game for the longer throws Prescott can make. If the coaching staff really wants to see what the rookie can do, let him make some high-risk throws in the direction of Bryant.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Redskins: Put Josh Norman on Dez Bryant
The Redskins didn’t pay Norman $75 million to be a No. 2 cornerback. On Monday night against the Steelers, that’s what he was. Norman covered Antonio Brown only twice, and he had success on both of those plays. When Brown wasn’t being covered by Norman, the Pittsburgh receiver torched Washington’s secondary – namely Bashaud Breeland. The Redskins will face another elite receiver this week in Dez Bryant, and they’d be incredibly foolish to use the same game plan as they did against Brown. Washington has to put Norman, their best cornerback by a mile, on Bryant for the entire game. Against the Panthers and Norman last season, Bryant had just two catches for 26 yards. Norman didn’t shadow him all game, but Bryant was completely shut down. Washington has a golden opportunity to make up for being the laughingstock of Week 1 for misusing Norman by sticking him on Bryant and not looking back.