Inside The Huddle: Justin Herbert best of rookie class? Russell Wilson for MVP? What’s wrong with the Dallas Cowboys?

With the NFL season passing the midway point, on the latest Inside The Huddle, Neil Reynolds, Jeff Reinebold and Vince Young decided to take a look at the best and the worst performers through the first nine weeks – with more than a nod given to The Masters.

Taking inspiration from golf’s major championship currently taking place in Augusta, Georgia, Reynolds, Reinebold and Young picked out their ‘leaders in the clubhouse’, singled out which teams are ‘in the rough’ and who hit a ‘hole in one’ on their 2020 Draft picks.

Listen to The Masters-inspired Inside The Huddle podcast in the player above, while read on below for their thoughts on the MVP race for 2020, Justin Herbert’s impressive start to his NFL career and what’s wrong with the Dallas Cowboys…

Leaders in the Clubhouse

Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0), Kansas City Chiefs (8-1), New Orleans Saints (6-2)

Players: Patrick Mahomes (2,687 pass yards, 25 TDs, 1 INT), Russell Wilson (2,541 pass yards, 28 TDs, 8 INTs), Dalvin Cook (858 rush yards, 12 TDs)

Who is the front-runner for the league MVP award?

Jeff Reinebold: “I think it’s Russell Wilson. I cannot believe that anybody could vote for anybody else. Look at how he has elevated that team.

“They have a defence that is on pace to be historically the worst pass defence in the history of the NFL, and he has got that team to 6-2. That is a major accomplishment – and really, with very little running game.

“I don’t think there’s any question Mahomes will be in the conversation, and there’s still half a season left, but it’s ‘most valuable’, not ‘most outstanding’. What would Wilson do with those [Chiefs] weapons around him, with that kind of running game?”

Vince Young: “Patrick Mahomes is my Texas buddy, so it’s hard not to vote for him, but I’m with Jeff. Overall, Wilson definitely deserves it.

“He has never been in the running, never won it yet and I just think it’s his time. I’m definitely on the bandwagon – Wilson should definitely be the MVP this year.”

Reinebold: “I think Cook is in the conversation. Look at what he has done without a great passing game around him.

“When you face the Vikings, the first thing you’ve got to take away is Cook; he sees more eight-man boxes than anybody in the league right now, and the last two games he has lit it up. We’ll see this weekend if he can make that three in a row.

“But, for a running back – or anyone who is not at the quarterback position – to win Most Valuable Player, he has to have a season that transcends time, a 2,000-yard season. It’s just the way that award is.”

Hole in One

The 2020 NFL Draft picks that have been a ‘hole in one’ for their franchises…

Who has been the most impressive rookie quarterback this season?

Young: “Down there in Los Angeles, Justin Herbert is playing phenomenal right now – I have a lot of respect for him.

“Even though he’s not winning the games, he’s playing lights out as a rookie. They continue to lose games at the last minute but, the way he’s playing, they just need a win and then they’ll take off from there.

“It’s different from my era when I played. You had to sit back for a while and learn a little bit and they’d then throw you into the fire. These guys are coming in very smart, very accurate, building a good chemistry with their wideouts.

“I’m very proud of these young quarterbacks right now.”

Which of the defensive rookies has stood out the most?

Reinebold: “I like Patrick Queen. He can do it all.

“He has stepped right in to Baltimore’s demanding defensive culture – a very intricate, detailed blitz system – and the kid looks like he’s a six-year veteran. He’s playing at a very high level for a rookie.”

Amen Corner

Can any of the New England Patriots (3-5), San Francisco 49ers (4-5), Atlanta Falcons (3-6) or Minnesota Vikings (3-5) turn their fortunes around on the back nine of the season?

Reinebold: “I don’t think any of those teams are going to be playoff teams.

“San Francisco have lost more players than any team I have ever seen, the opt outs have badly hurt the Patriots, Atlanta have played better the last four weeks, but they’re in a division where they’re not going to catch Tampa Bay or New Orleans and it’s the same thing for Minnesota behind Green Bay.”

Young: “The only team I think might have a shot is Minnesota. I think they beat Green Bay earlier this year, and they always seem to turn the tables after the bye week and go on a little run.

“They’ve got a good team, their play-action on offence is hard to stop and, with Cook running the ball, they might have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.”

‘In the rough’

The teams currently struggling most for form or facing the toughest run-in to finish the season…

Which of these teams have been the biggest disappointment?

Reinebold: “That star weighs heavy in Dallas. This is ‘America’s Team’, but the reality of it is with the Cowboys, how many years has it been since they’ve gone to the Super Bowl? How many years since they’ve won more than one playoff game? This is a repetitive situation in Dallas.

“Compound it with injuries – they lose Dak Prescott – and they didn’t have a scheme fit defensively, with [defensive coordinator] Mike Nolan struggling to get his system in, and they also went out and spent money on guys who were not productive.

“It’s a recurring theme in Dallas; all the promise in the world, all the superstars and then no production. And this business is a production-orientated business. It’s not about hype, it’s about wins.”

Young: “I hate playing in the rough! But I’m really disappointed in [Cowboys running back] Ezekiel Elliott right now.

“He sat out the whole offseason, asked for money and got that money but then he has performed the way he has performed.

“I have a good relationship with him, and I thought he would bring more to the table, especially after Dak went down. He is the leader of that team and they can’t be dependant on the third or fourth-string quarterback.

“It’s time for him to step up and get the guys going, take a little pressure off the quarterback because a lot of people look up to him and look up to him as a player.

“He is not running the ball like he used to, he is walking back to the huddle and that is all just negative to me. If I was the quarterback there, I would be on his butt right now, trying to push him and motivate him. Where is the guy we know that can run the ball tough and hard?”

Reinebold: “With the Lions, let’s put it in golfing terminology: they go out to tee off and they bring their putter – they can’t even find the right club.

“Last week, one of Cook’s 60-yard runs for Minnesota, they had 10 guys on the field – that has happened multiple times in the last few weeks.

“It was made really clear before the season started that for Matt Patricia to keep his job, they had to go to the playoffs. This team is not going to the playoffs!”

Missing the Cut

The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) and New York Jets (0-9) are very much out of the playoff picture, seemingly battling it out for the No 1 pick in the 2021 Draft…

How good are Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, considered the two leading QB prospects out of college?

Young: “They’re both playing outstanding football.

“I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Lawrence a couple of times and he’s just a phenomenal athlete and a great leader. I know he probably doesn’t want to play for the Jets right now, but those two quarterbacks – Lawrence and Fields will do a great job whatever team they go to.

“Lawrence is the more talented guy and Fields need a little bit more work, but they’re going to be the future of the NFL.”

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