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You could also listen to him Monday Night Football on Westwood One, and that is the great Kevin Harlan. Kevin, always great to hear your voice. Thanks for the time. How you been? Thanks for the kind words, Zach. Great to be out with you.
Hope you're doing well. Yeah, we're in week five already in the NFL season, and that's just moving right along for us. And let's be real, the season finally got underway on Monday Night Football because we had our first Kevin Harlan call of a streaker this year, and I saw that the guy that was running on the field that got laid out by Bobby Wagner is now somehow filing a police report against Bobby Wagner.
How the heck does that make sense? Well, I think there's been a mention to the players, maybe not even a mention, maybe it's in writing and it's part of their deal where they're not supposed to interact. If anyone would run out on the field, he did.
And it's going to be kind of a curious case, actually, to see. Now, number one, none of these players know these guys don't have a weapon. These people don't have a weapon or something to harm the player.
And the guy was running toward the bench, which kind of forced me to make the call because he was headed right to the bench. Now, a lot of times we have seen, in fact, like in the last couple of days, for whatever reason, maybe this is spurted on, people jumping out of the stands in Europe and around the world at soccer matches and going up to a player that they admire on the field and giving that player a hug. And the player has probably looked at this person running and thinking, uh-oh, what's going on? But then when they can just see it's a fan, they've returned the embrace and they've all ended well. But in the back of the minds, I'm sure, of security people is someday it may not end well.
And that has got to be first and foremost in the mind of NFL security. And it's shocking these guys were able to get out there with the people they've got on the ring of the stadium right by the stands. But, yep, another one came through. And this one had a device. They had the pink smoke bomb that was going off.
And then he was way late. Now he's going to take that one more step and try to get some money out of it, I guess, for his activism and for the injuries that he incurred. Anyway, yeah, it's too bad this happens, but it has. And hopefully this is the last event like this we'll see this year. It's just easier when a black cat enters the field is what I'll say. Yeah, when you got animals, animals and drunks are pretty harmless, really. But when you've got people that are gluing themselves to the basketball as we saw last year in Minnesota and you know, going out and just doing some really bizarre things to represent their cause, you seem to think, OK, is there a better way you could get your message across than doing something like this?
So, yeah, I guess we've always got to be on guard for anything that could happen. Kevin Harlan here with Dust. We've seen a lot of sloppy football through the first four weeks. Let me start you off with the team that we're talking about that you got to see on Monday Night Football, the LA Rams. Stafford doesn't look great. His offensive line looks to have a whole lot of problems.
What was your read on the Rams? Well, you know, Stafford came into camp Zack with the bad elbow. He had had some tendonitis and some issues. He had a procedure on the arm, on shoulder, on the elbow this past offseason.
I'm not sure where it stands. His numbers are big. He's always been kind of turnover prone and that has not changed this year. They've got a lot of turnovers. In fact, he threw a gigantic pick six the other night in Santa Clara against the San Francisco 49ers.
So that seems to be an issue. Probably more at the heart of it is the offensive line. They've only got one guy left on the line from last year's Super Bowl starting five.
And they've had the mix and match players on there. A couple are out for the season. They just had a myriad of issues on that line with injuries and that has been a significant problem.
They're trying to get the running backs up to speed. You know, they were both kind of injured in camp. They had soft tissue injuries and Akers and Henderson both.
And we know that Akers missed a lot of last year with an injury that he had in camp to his Achilles. So a quarterback's best friend is a running game. And right now the Rams just don't have that. And again, it goes back to the line.
There's not much room to roam because the line is not opening up much inside. And then defensively, I still think they're trying to figure out without Von Miller, how do they operate? They've had some injuries in the back end and the secondary. So and then and then above all of that is just how does a team respond to being a defending champion when you're the biggest game on everybody's schedule the following year?
How do you handle that? And then add to that, that they're, you know, they've lost seven straight regular season games to the 49ers. San Francisco's got their number. So it was a lot of things that kind of hit them. And they showed not all that well on Monday night. They're hoping you can bounce back here this weekend. I believe they take on a team from Dallas, if I'm not mistaken.
Yeah, you're right on that. And we're waiting to see if Dak is going to be there. I'm guessing they're still going to go with Cooper Rush. But I know that Dak Prescott is getting close to a return with the Cowboys. Yeah, it looks like it's going to be Cooper Rush for this week. That's what Jerry Jones said in one of his 9,000 interviews that he does leading up to a game.
Kevin Harlan here with us. So you gave me your read on the Rams. The team they go up against, the 49ers, that team is an even bigger enigma. Last week they looked like they set offensive football back 2,000 years up against the Broncos. And then they bounced back against the Rams. I can't get a feel on San Francisco this year. Well, in that game again, that Sunday night game against the Broncos, Denver's defense is phenomenal. They're great. Almost as good as San Francisco's. Maybe the equal of the 49ers.
Those are two great teams defensively. And so an 11-10 game, I can kind of understand. Also, in that game, Garoppolo came in and said afterwards that he's got arm fatigue. Remember, he did not have any offseason because he had shoulder surgery. He had no training camp because it was all based on Trey Lance. And then he was thrown in there. So he's really kind of going through preseason-like conditioning right now, which is weird to think.
More than a month into the year, but that's kind of where he is. And I thought looked pretty good. Listen, his record as a starting quarterback is incredible.
It's really, really good. And especially against the Rams, he's never lost to them. I think he's 6-0 against the Rams himself. So I think offensively they're only going to get better. They're loaded. They've had offensive issues too with line injuries. And they're still kind of working their way through. Like Trent Williams, the left tackle, he's out now for a month to two months with an injury. So they're going to kind of have to mix and match and use a patchwork offensive line. And on defense, they were without two starters, yet they looked dynamite against the Rams the other night. That defense is great. Listen, San Francisco is one of those teams to really keep an eye on. Everybody in that division is 2-2. It'll be a lot different a month from now.
My prediction is San Francisco is only going to get better. They're without Elijah Mitchell. Putting in Jeff Wilson is a running back. But Wilson has been fine. And Kittle just came back last Monday. Zach was only his second game back from injury.
And second game of the season as well. So give some breathing space to the Niners. I really like that team. They are every bit a contending team in the NFC.
Wow. You think contending for a Super Bowl even? Contending to get to where they were last year.
Gotcha. Championship team. They're definitely playoffs. And last year they made the NFC championship. And led the Rams in the fourth quarter in L.A. after beating them twice in the regular season. And had every reason to believe that they could have beaten them. And then L.A. got hot at the end of the game as Stanford has done.
And they pulled one out. But San Francisco I think is a terrific team. The quarterback thing is a little bit weird because of how it's been structured by their own doing.
By the Niners' own doing. But when that gets settled and Lance isn't going to come back probably until November. I don't know if it'll even play the rest of the year. And that's a problem because I think Garoppolo feels he's got a lot to prove. He's playing for another contract. Maybe for another team. Lance has not played a lot of football. He's been injured more than he's been on the field.
That's a problem. So they're lucky they had Garoppolo in the corner to bring on in. And they kind of pick up where they left off last year. Garoppolo will only get better as he stays healthy. Only get better as the season goes. But I really like the 49ers.
Talking to Kevin Harlan right now. You also got to see last week Denver and Las Vegas. I know Denver plays tonight as they're hosting the Colts. That offense has a lot of problems with Hackett and Wilson. How concerned should Broncos fans be? Because their record is 2-2 after the first four games.
But it seems like they're a worse football team than what their record indicates. Well they just lost their run in the back. Javonte Williams. It was kind of, even though he and Melvin Gordon had the same number of carries basically.
Williams in that game, he came out as kind of the late guy and was carrying the ball most of the time. And then he blew in. And so he's out for the season. I think they just signed Latavius Murray.
I think he got him off of somebody's practice squad. And so now Gordon becomes the guy. But Gordon has fumbled four times. Once inside the five at the goal line. And the other day in Vegas he fumbled.
And they returned at 69 the other way. So he's got an issue. And that's a concern. And again, Russ needs a running game to be a good quarterback. I've always felt that about him. He was at his best in Seattle when he had good running backs back there, including Marshawn Lynch. That's when Russ was at his best.
And that's when the offense was at its best. Because of his play action, his ability to run, the way he uses running backs, the way he reads the defense to use that running game and change at the line. He's just very adept at that. He's got great receivers. They're tied in situations so-so.
And I like the line, especially the left side. And like I said before, as you kind of talked about, defensively Denver's terrific. So they're a team to keep an eye on. I think they're more than anything just trying to kind of smooth things out.
You mentioned the communication issues, the game management issues. They've hired a longtime 18-year assistant, Jerry Rosberg. He is up out of retirement in the press box talking with Hackett. And the other day when we were in Vegas calling that game, you could see that Hackett was giving full lift of doing whatever he wanted to do, as much leeway as he wanted in managing the game from the press box.
When to take timeouts, when not to, when to accept penalties, when to decline, everything. So I think that is now in the rearview mirror. I think they've figured that out. Hackett was smart to admit it. Hackett was smart to hire this guy. George Payton, a brand-new GM from last year, but he's relatively new.
And he's the one who pulled off the Wilson trade with Seattle. So I think they've checked that box. I keep my eye on Denver as well. Raiders are a team that's dealing with a bunch of line problems where all these teams have offensive line issues.
And that really is causing it. Then that's trickling down to problems with time for the quarterback, getting the running game unlatched. But last week the Raiders did get Josh Jacobs off and running. He looked the best he's looked, I think, in a couple years.
He looked fabulous. So the Raiders, I don't think overall they're as strong as Denver. I can't tell you what I think about the Chargers and the Chiefs, even though they've lost a game. I still think Kansas City might be the class of the AFC, certainly of that good division. Them and Buffalo probably right at the top in the AFC, certainly. Yeah, it seems like it's Buffalo and then also Kansas City and then everyone else. People trying to figure out in the AFC, wrapping up with Kevin Harlan. So this weekend on CBS you will have the Jets and the Dolphins. The biggest storyline going into this game is to a won't be playing and what happened the last two weeks. How will you guys handle it on Sunday?
Well, I think it's going to speak for itself. I think the Players Association and the NFL are on the same page. The media, as they always do, has made this to be a confrontation.
There's no confrontation. The health of these players, especially concussion, where the NFL has spent tens of millions of dollars in helmet development, in putting layers of caution on the sideline and in the press box to evaluate players. The one area that was a little bit murky was motor skill. I think they're all in agreement what is the next step.
They knew this was a work in progress. They don't have all the answers. Both sides have admitted it. They only want the safety of the players. I think they have blown this into a position that's adversarial, and I don't sense that, who I've talked to, at all.
I think they're all going for the same goal, and I think the approach is the same. I just think there was probably, whether it was a lapse or the gray area, took effect very optically in that game that we did with Buffalo and Miami, with a staggering tongue of Bailoa, that it brought this particular issue more to a head, that it needed more definition. I think they're going to get definition, and I think it's going to be an enhancement, a much better way to approach it from this point on, that you would never see a player who optically looks like he's woozy, on rubber legs, is struggling, finding out where he is, and just the optics alone, without even the testing, or just what we're seeing on TV and with their own eyes at the game, would say, he's done for the day.
It's not going to happen. Now, in retrospect, out of the Buffalo game, it was probably more back-back spasms and ankle than it was the hit, but the optics told you it probably could have been something different with the motor skills. That will all be addressed now, I think sooner than later, by the Players Association and the league. They're lucky because they've got one of the best backups they could possibly want in Teddy Bridgewater.
So I think the story is going to handle itself. I think that Bridgewater will be an incredible bridge between what Tua was, where the offense was headed, and what Bridgewater can bring. I don't know if his long ball is as good as Tonga Bailoa, but I know that all the things that Tua did, and then you get the veteran leadership of a Bridgewater who is a class act. We talked to him, in fact, this afternoon. He is a wonderful person, let alone football player.
I think the Dolphins are full steam ahead, and they feel like they are, what their record says, they are 3-1, and they're going to take it in, I think against a very, very much improved New York Jet Ball Club. You can watch him each and every Sunday, NFL on CBS. Of course, this weekend he has that Dolphins-Jets game, and then you can catch him each and every Monday night on Westwood 1.
He is the legendary Kevin Harlan. Kevin, always appreciate when you carve out some time for us. Thank you. Love listening to you, Zach, and like it better when we visit. Thank you. Call again. Great to be on with you. Take care. We ought to see you out today.
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