By C. Jay Jones
We’re through Week 4 of the NFL and we have no idea which teams are strong this year (except the Patriots and the Packers), but a few teams that were projected to finish last in the league are showing some potential. Nevada alumni tried their best to lift their team to a win while others struggled with their performances.
Joel Bitonio is in his second season with the Cleveland Browns at left guard, and it’s been a rough start for him. He’s already been flagged three times this season (two holds and a clip), and the Browns’ offensive line is unable to run the ball effectively through three games. Cleveland continued to struggle running the ball against the Chargers and Bitonio was flagged once again. The passing game, however, was the bright spot for the Browns offense and they nearly won the game (lost 27-30). It may be Bitonio’s second season, but he needs more discipline, so he won’t hurt his team with penalties.
Tight end Virgil Green did what he could to solidify his position at the two spot, but he hasn’t been targeted much this season. He didn’t receive a catch nor was he a factor in the Broncos 23-20 win over the Vikings, but he will have other opportunities later on in the season.
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews has slowly emerged as a slot target for the Miami Dolphins. He currently leads the team in receiving yards, touchdowns, and yards per game and had back-to-back 100-yard games. He’s on pace to matching his career reception yards and passed his touchdown reception total from last season. The game against the Jets wasn’t too good for him, as he dealt with cornerback Darrell Revis and the Jets’ tough coverage. Matthews managed to nab a reception late, but that was it. The Dolphins have a bye week before facing the Titans. That gives Matthews time to develop his skills and become more of a factor since Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills aren’t showing promise as key receivers.
Colin Kaepernick has been in the spotlight since taking over for the 49ers in November 2012. He’s on pace to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 2,000 in five years of his career, but the last two games haven’t been friendly. He was productive when San Francisco traveled to Pittsburg to take on the Steelers, as he threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in a bad 43-18 loss. Unfortunately, he was unproductive and indecisive against the strength of the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coverage and pressure throwing a career game-worst four interceptions.
Kaepernick played slightly better against the Packers and he moved the ball well during parts of the first half (81 pass yards and 21 rush yards). But it didn’t go his way and ended with 160 pass yards and one interception. It’s been a struggle for him since winning the first game of the season. The team has had to rely on him throwing the ball more since throwing a 300-yard game against Pittsburgh, but going away from the run (third in the league rushing yards this season) won’t do much to help his team.
It’s only four games into the NFL season, but progress and improvement have to be made for the Nevada alumni if they want to keep their job and stay on the team.
C. Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.