The Monday Spotlight – Week 2

The second round of NFL games served as a reminder that not all is won – or lost – in a single week.

After opening day wins, several teams fell to Week 2 defeats, including Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit and Atlanta. And some who were in the doldrums in Week 1 are feeling better about life this morning. Those enjoying Week 2 turn-arounds include San Diego, Chicago and the Wembley-bound Dallas Cowboys.

As Week 2 stands one game from completion, here are 10 players you should be chatting about on Monday.

Giovani Bernard – Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals

The elusive and diminutive running back proved to be the perfect outlet for a Cincinnati attack that was missing wide receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, and tight end Tyler Eifert. Bernard is not normally a load-carrier for the Bengals but he notched up 27 rushing attempts on Sunday in a 24-10 win over Atlanta. Bernard also showed his versatility with 5 receptions for 79 yards.

Sammy Watkins – Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

The Bills gave up a great deal to trade up for Watkins in the 2014 NFL Draft and they will be pleased to see an early return on their considerable investment. Watkins looked smooth and comfortable in Sunday’s 29-10 victory over Miami. He caught 8 passes for 117 yards and his scored his first NFL touchdown. This is a young player who could grow into something pretty special in the coming years.

Matt Cassel – Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

You don’t have to play well to get talked about in the Monday Spotlight. Matt Cassel was pretty terrible throughout his team’s 30-7 loss at home to New England. Cassel completed 19 of 36 passes and tossed up four interceptions – I know he played four years in New England but that’s taking loyalty to Bill Belichick a bit far! Remember, the Vikings spent a first round draft choice on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Cassel’s next outing is on the road at New Orleans. The winds of change could be blowing soon.

Philip Rivers – Quarterback, San Diego Chargers

Rivers is the ultimate gamer and rather than be intimidated by Seattle and the best secondary in football, he rose to the challenge and led the Chargers to a 30-21 win. Rivers was under pressure for much of the game but made some tremendous off-balance throws en route to 284 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers is the kind of quarterback any team would love to have in the heat of a battle. He might make the odd mistake or two along the way, but he will never back down.

Kirk Cousins – Quarterback, Washington Redskins

The Redskins lost Robert Griffin III to a dislocated ankle on Sunday night but didn’t miss a beat when Kirk Cousins stepped into the line-up. Cousins threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. This could now get very interesting in Washington because Cousins was the better of the two passers in the preseason but the Redskins have a huge amount of time and draft picks invested in RGIII. The decision on who starts has been made for Jay Gruden now with Griffin sidelined, but it will be fascinating to see what the first-year head coach does when both his signal-callers are healthy.

James Jones – Wide Receiver, Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are in trouble and were never at the races as they fell to a 30-14 home defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans. And the perfect example of Oakland’s ineptitude came in the first half when wide receiver James Jones fumbled not once but twice on the same play. After making a big catch down the right sideline, Jones fumbled but then scooped up the loose ball and appeared set to race in for the touchdown. But he fumbled again near the goal-line and D.J. Swearinger recovered for Houston. If you think that bad things can happen in any sport, bear in mind it is quite hard to be bad that many times in such a short space of time!

Colin Kaepernick – Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers were in control in the big opening of their new home – Levi’s Stadium – on Sunday night and led the sputtering Chicago Bears 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter. But constant mistakes from Kaepernick (he threw four interceptions on the night) allowed Chicago back into the game and Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall took full advantage. The Bears loaded the box and dared Kaepernick to beat them through the air and he couldn’t get the job done.

Mike Pettine – Head Coach, Cleveland Browns

When I was in America during the summer, there was a lot of talk on the radio about how the Browns were working their way through a very physical camp and were doing a lot of hitting. That aggressive approach paid off on Sunday night as they out-lasted and out-muscled the New Orleans Saints in a 26-24 win. The Browns shut down the passing options for Drew Brees, sacked him twice, hit him six times and scored on a 62-yard interception return from safety Tashaun Gipson. Pettine has clearly lit a fire under the Browns and while they are not the most talented of rosters, they dig deep for their new coach.

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line

Okay, so this is five guys and not just one player, but this group is a cause for major concern in Jacksonville. I watched the Jags in training camp and the offensive line struggled in blocking drills that I witnessed. I thought that area of the team was a genuine cause for concern and I have, sadly, been proven right. In two games – losses to Philadelphia and Washington – the Jags have given up 13 sacks, including 10 to the Redskins. No wonder they are reluctant to throw rookie first round draft choice Blake Bortles into the firing line!

Marty Mornhinweg – Offensive Coordinator, New York Jets

This was about as painful a loss as New York Jets fans could endure and that’s saying something from a team that produced the Butt Fumble! The Jets jumped out to an early lead but found themselves trailing 31-24 with five minutes remaining. On fourth and four, Geno Smith lofted a 37-yard scoring strike to a leaping Jeremy Kerley. Tied ball game. Not so fast! Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg – with a healthy assist from defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was screaming in the official’s ear – called a time out just before the ball was snapped. Had Marty trusted his original call, the Jets would have been heading to overtime at Lambeau Field. Instead, Smith’s fourth down pass to Kerley fell incomplete in the end zone and the Jets headed home as gallant losers. Fine margins and all that!

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