Paul Gallant recaps EVERYTHING you need to know from the NFL's first Sunday of 2019

NFL Sunday Week 1: In a nutshell

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Sup peeps. I host NFL Rush Sundays from 3-6 CT on SB Nation Radio. And since I'm keeping tabs on all of Sunday's games on the 9 TVs we have in studio, I'll be giving you an NFL cheat sheet every Monday...

Titans 43 - Browns 13

The Titans are a decidedly average football team. Still, they deserve credit. After all, scoring 40+ points with Marcus Mariota at quarterback is like scoring a single touchdown with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Having Delanie Walker back (5 catches, 55 yards, 2 TDs) certainly helped, as did Derrick Henry (159 all purpose yards including a 75 yard screen and scramble, 2 TDs) picking up where he left off at the end of last season.

The Browns SHOULD be different than the Titans. They've got star-power and a potential star at quarterback. Unfortunately, one of these names is not like the others:

  • Baker Mayfield
  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Nick Chubb
  • Freddie Kitchens
  • Myles Garrett
No matter how his tenure plays out, we all have to agree that Freddie Kitchen was an EXTREMELY underwhelming head coaching hire. Especially for a young team like Cleveland. And it showed Sunday.
Baker Mayfield - who threw 3 picks, was sacked 5 times, and closed the game with 5 straight possessions ending in turnovers / turnovers on downs - stunk. But the Browns were penalized 18 times for 182 yards. And they were flagged for 2 MORE penalties that were declined. They were called for 4 on the Titans first TD drive. They had 5 personal fouls in the first half, and 6 total on the game. Myles Garrett took a shot at Delanie Walker's face. Greg Robinson KICKED Kenny Vaccaro in the face. Cleveland was the epitome of undisciplined Sunday.

Chiefs 40 - Jaguars 26

Jaguars fans have gotta be throwing Myles Jack-esque temper tantrums after Nick Foles broke his clavicle. Now they'll be starting Gardner Minshew for the forseeable future. In Minshew's defense, he didn't play poorly. But it's hard to take any quarterback that looks like Uncle Rico seriously.

The Chiefs offense - as expected - looked unstoppable in this one. And even though they've got a gimpy Patrick Mahomes (ankle) and no Tyreek Hill (shoulder, out for a few weeks) after this win, they've got to be feeling great about the offense:

  • Newly acquired running back Lesean McCoy had 10 carries for 81 yards
  • Travis Kelce had 3 catches for 88 yards, and could have had a 4th for a TD if Patrick Mahomes had been looking where he was throwing
  • And Sammy Watkins stole the show, with 9 catches for 198 yards and 3 TDs
The Jaguars defense might be a little undisciplined and always trying to start fights. But they are actually talented. And they were no match for KC Sunday.

Rams 30 - Panthers 27

Never change Cam Newton.

The Rams did get the road victory. But they can't be feeling great coming out of this game.

First off, they were unsure of Todd Gurley's knee (per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, they were "going in blind" into Sunday's game) and used him sparingly (just 14 carries, though he was effective late).

Second, newly acquired safety Eric Weddle got kneed in the head and was bleeding PROFUSELY.

Third, Jared Goff - who L.A. just gave $110 M guaranteed - did not look worth anywhere close to that. He was just 23-39 for 186 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.

Vikings 28 - Falcons 12

This was a very Gary Kubiak (the Vikings offensive advisor) feeling asskicking. Kirk Cousins only threw the ball 10 times, and Minnesota's zone blocking scheme helped Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison combine for 160 yards on the ground against a supposedly decent Falcons defense. At the very least, Atlanta was healthy on that side of the ball. Combine that with:

  • Their defense
  • The Packers offense looking inept
  • The Bears featuring Mitchell Trubisky as QB
And HOW are the Vikings NOT NFC North favorites?

On the Falcons front:

  • Sell all your Matt Ryan stock. He isn't a top level QB anymore.
  • Dan Quinn (+1200) is an EXCELLENT bet for first coach fired

Eagles 32 - Redskins 27

The Eagles got off to a VERY slow start. But Carson Wentz is an MVP candidate (and my MVP choice), especially with burner Desean Jackson back in green. Jackson had 8 catches for 154 yards and 2 TDs (51 and 53 yarders).

PS - Shoutout to Case Keenum for helping Washington look respectable out there. "The Wanderer" was 30-44 for 380 yards and 3 TDs despite throwing to 100 years old Vernon Davis and someone named Terry McLaurin.

Ravens 59 - Dolphins 10

The Dolphins are the worst team in the NFL, could EASILY go 0-16, and actually may be about to follow through on that whole mutiny thing they suggested. But...

I'm SO PUMPED for Lamar Jackson. He's one of my favorite college football players ever. And for those who watched him at Louisville, YOU KNEW he can throw the football. So it was great to see him show off that arm with a 17-20 day for 324 yards and 5 TDs. Even more promising? Jackson only ran the ball 3 times on the game.

Also important: the contributions that the Ravens got from their 3 biggest offseason acquisitions:

  • Earl Thomas had an interception
  • Mark Ingram had 14 carries for 107 yards and 2 TDs
  • And first round pick Marquise "Hollywood" Brown had 4 catches for 147 yards and 2 TDs (47 and 83 yards respectively)
After the Steelers and Browns embarrassing themselves Sunday, the Ravens look like the class of the AFC North.

PS - shout out to Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception for an 8th NFL team, a record!

Bills 17 - Jets 16

NOBODY circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills, who rallied from a 16-0 second half deficit FTW.

And NOBODY disappoints the Tri-State area like the New York Jets. The Bills have a great defense. But you can't feel good about the Jets regressing offensively in Sam Darnold's second season.

Seahawks 21 - Bengals 20

The Bengals might have stumbled into something by hiring Zac Taylor. Who knew that Andy Dalton had a 400 yard passing game left in the tank? Or that John Ross (7 catches for 158 yards and 2 TDs) actually might not be a first round bust?

The Seahawks are SOOO lucky to have walked away with a win. Their offensive line struggled to protect Russell Wilson (4 sacks allowed) AND pave the way for Chris Carson (15 carries for just 46 yards). Worse? It's GLARINGLY obvious how badly they miss safety Earl Thomas. ANDY DALTON JUST THREW FOR 400 YARDS.

Cowboys 35 - Giants 17

I don't want to overreact to a win over the Giants. But it's hard not to after Dak Prescott had perhaps his best game ever. With a full compliment of weapons (Amari Cooper, offseason signing Randall Cobb, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott) Prescott ALSO had a perfect passer rating. He threw for 405 yards, with 4 TDs and just 7 incompletions on the game. He was so effective that the Boys only needed to give 'Zeke 13 carries.

Prescott had a strong finish to the season once Dallas traded for Amari Cooper. And now with Randall Cobb in the fold, he's got one of the strongest offensive supporting casts in the league. If he's still looking for $40 M a season, he might be able to statistically justify it.

The Giants? Until they take Eli Manning out back Old Yeller style, they're a waste of your time.

Chargers 30 - Colts 24 (OT)

Well, the Juice is right. The Chargers didn't miss a holding out Melvin Gordon at all. In fact, his backup Austin Ekeler IS a better running back. Ekeler had an Alvin Kamara esque day at the office (12 carries for 58 yards and a TD, 6 catches for 96 yards and 2 TDs) and gave the Chargers the W with the final score of the game.

As for the Colts, don't sleep on them. Jacoby Brissett is likely nothing more than a plus game manager. But Indy's O-Line is no joke, helping Marlon Mack run 25 times for 174 yards and a 63 yard touchdown.

49ers 31 - Buccaneers 17

If you've got stock in "Jameis Winston / Jimmy Garoppolo are going to be good quarterbacks...some day [gulps at latter]" takes, it's time to sell it. ALL OF IT. PANIC. PANIC. PANIC.

You can't fully appreciate Jameis if he's not making dumb throws, so you've got to thank Bruce Arians for keeping unintentional comedy in our lives. But Jimmy G picked up right where he left off in the preseason - Schaubing - and the 49ers have got to be regretting giving him $74.1 M. He might need another "learning experience" with an older adult film star to get him back on track.

Lions 27 - Cardinals 27 (OT)

WHY WOULD YOU WATCH THIS GAME? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Kyler Murray and Arizona's offense looked completely lost in the early going of this game. Sure, Murray eventually rallied the Cards back from a 24-6 deficit. But don't be too impressed. After all, how many Lions can you name after Matt Stafford?

Here's one: rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson. You'd have to be in a VERY DUMB fantasy football league for Hockenson to be available to you. Take a look anyway, and put in that waiver claim if he's available. He had 6 catches for 131 yards and a TD...the best debut by a rookie tight end since 1950.

Patriots 33, Steelers 3

Things I'm not surprised by:

  • The Steelers laying ANOTHER egg against the Patriots
  • Ben Roethlisberger saying "whatever." when asked for his reaction to the Patriots signing Antonio Brown
  • New England's defense looking like one of the NFL's best
Things I AM surprised by
  • The Patriots won THIS EASILY in a game where Tom Brady played a C game. Yeah, he didn't turn the ball over. But he had some bizarre throws over the course of the game. Best case scenario? He was rusty. If you're a Pats hater, I'd stay tuned to this.

Paul Gallant hosts the "Gallant Says" podcast (Tuesdays & Fridays), "Just Sayin'", Friday nights at 10:30 on Kube 57. He also hosts "NFL Rush", Sundays 3-6 on SB Nation Radio. Have any questions? Get after him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

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