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After two weeks of NFL lessons being taught around the league, let’s take a look at what we have learned:
We’ve learned that Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden has the goods. Following a horrific debut that had local Dawg Faces calling for a return to what they somehow remember as the “good ol’ days” of Colt McCoy, Weeden went on the road against a division opponent and showed exactly what the Browns’ scouts and player personnel people saw in him when they took him in the first round. If the kid stays upright, the future is bright.
We’ve learned that even old curmudgeon Jim Brown can’t ignore the special qualities of Trent Richardson. Brown was notably unimpressed by Richardson leading up to the April draft, but has now joined the chorus of local and national analysts singing the praises of the Browns’ feature back after his 2-TD breakout performance against the Bengals.
We’ve learned that Jay Cutler may be an even bigger jerk now than he was when he wimped out on his teammates in the playoffs two seasons ago. Cutler cursed out offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb on national television, and then dismissively shoved him aside after being sacked by Clay Matthews. Cutler may be the worst team cancer at quarterback since Jeff George.
We’ve learned that Matthews, who now has six sacks in his first two games, would very much like to have his 2010 Defensive Player of the Year award returned to him in 2012.
We’ve learned that the 49ers are no fluke. Jim Harbaugh has completely transformed that franchise in just over a year’s time, getting more out of quarterback Alex Smith than anyone knew was in him, and turning the Niners into the most complete team — through two weeks — in the league.
We’ve learned that Michael Vick, for all his noted athleticism, is still a very flawed quarterback. With twice as many interceptions thrown as touchdowns in two games, Vick may actually be the biggest question mark on an otherwise Super Bowl-caliber roster in Philadelphia.
We’ve learned that quarterbacks lining up in the victory formation against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might want to consider taking the knee out of the shotgun.
We’ve learned that the Browns’ secondary is more dependent on shutdown corner Joe Haden than anyone realized. Haden’s absence on Sunday allowed Bengal wide receivers to run wild and free, making Andy Dalton look much more like an All-Pro than he actually is.
We’ve learned that the NFL’s locked-out union referees just gained a lot more leverage in their bitter contract negotiations with Roger Goodell and the league. The replacement officials were adequate, for the most part, during the preseason, but after two weeks of live game action, it’s clear that they are making a mockery of the game. Making mistakes in judgment are one thing, but not knowing simple football rules, telling players they wanted to draft them for their fantasy teams, and declaring fan allegiance on Facebook to teams in games you’re going to work … is quite another.
We’ve learned that Robert Griffin III, for whom the Browns offered a boat-load of picks on draft day, only to be out-bid by Washington, was worth the picks. The Redskins’ rookie has been sensational in his first two starts, showing a rocket arm, a soft touch, electric feet, and the poise and grace of a 12-year veteran. That’s not to say the Colts made a mistake in selecting Andrew Luck first overall, because Luck looks like the real deal as well, but I don’t think the Redskins would trade RG3 even-up for Luck right now.
We’ve learned that Peyton Manning, the man Luck succeeded in Indy, may be all the way back from four neck surgeries, and he may not be. He was his brilliant, methodical self in a season-opening win against the Steelers, but looked weak and confused in Atlanta. It may be safe to say that Manning will never be the 4-time MVP caliber player he was, but he’s still better than three-quarters of the starters in the league today.
We’ve learned — again — that Rex Ryan and his Jets are the most dysfunctional and overrated team in football, at any level.
We’ve learned that Ben Roethlisberger, for all his personal flaws, including his place of business, is still one of the five best quarterbacks in the game. No one, and I mean no one, turns should-be negative yardage plays into big plays better than Big Ben.
We’ve learned that Chris Johnson is stealing every penny he receives from Tennessee after negotiating his big payday two offseasons ago.
And finally, we’ve learned that we can’t really learn too much from just two weeks of action. Most teams have had a week of good and a week of bad, with just 6 teams sitting at 2-0. We’ll learn more very soon.