As the 2019 NFL regular season rolls into Week 9, NFL Network analyst and former Super Bowl-winning executive Charley Casserly provides five storylines to watch on Sunday.
There has been a ton of discussion about Lamar Jackson vs. the Patriots' defense, but not a lot has been said about Tom Brady and the Pats' No. 1 scoring offense vs. the Ravens' defense? That's what I'm looking at. There isn't much room for error for the Ravens, but they do present challenges of their own. They must pressure Brady from the interior -- which bothers the six-time Super Bowl champion most -- and continue to mix up blitz packages in an attempt to make him uncomfortable. The area where the Ravens' defensive line can take advantage is against Patriots tackles Marshall Newhouse and Marcus Cannon, who are vulnerable against outside speed. Marlon Humphrey poses the biggest threat to limit Julian Edelman, who's on pace for career highs in every major receiving category this season. The Ravens CB is a physical player who can disrupt the timing of the route and prevent Edelman from gimmes. Running back James White could be a problem in the pass game as linebackers often struggle when trying to cover him one-on-one. Doubling him is Baltimore's best option. With all of the weapons New England's offense presents, the Ravens can't afford to miss assignments or commit penalties. They must be disciplined all game long, something that's hard to do against the Patriots.
The Eagles' secondary has played 23 consecutive games with at least one of their starters missing. In that span, the Eagles have put out 18 different starting lineups, including 16 total starting DBs, and they have not used the same starting secondary more than two games in a row. But this weekend against the Chicago Bears, Philly has everyone back, including a healthy cornerback group featuring Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones. How will this group play together? The jury's still out on that one. The secondary has been a weakness this season with all of the injuries, and I don't expect play to instantly look like the unit that helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, especially since it isn't getting the same help from the pass rush. I'm not sold on this trio quite yet, as they can be beaten with double and quick moves, but the potential is certainly there.
In just his second season in the NFL, it feels like Sam Darnold may already be at a crossroads. He unquestionably has the talent -- I mean, he was taken third overall for a reason -- but there are so many concerns surrounding the young passer since his return from mono. Darnold has eight giveaways since Week 7. Eight! It's not entirely his fault as the New York Jets' porous offensive line has allowed a league-high 34 sacks this season. Although Darnold has often been pressured with missed assignments in pass protection, he has also made his share of bad decisions. The offensive line can't be fixed overnight, but Darnold must begin to clean up the mental mistakes and footwork. Options that could help Darnold evade some pressure and improve his accuracy are targeting Jamison Crowder, using Le'Veon Bell in the screen game, moving the pocket could buy more time to throw for the young passer. Darnold has a legitimate shot to improve across the board in Sunday's meeting with a Dolphins defense that has struggled all season.