Jeffrey Becker/USA Today

Week 1: Iowa Report Card

Derek Young of Hawkeye Insider grades the Iowa position groups following the victory over Miami (Ohio) in the season opener.


Iowa got a strong performance from Beathard who was very, very efficient in the first half, connecting on nearly every throw. The passing game was a bright spot as his ball placement was exceptional, he showed great arm strength, and no ill-advised throws were taken. It was a strong day through the air. However, his mobility was not showcased so it's a bit of an incomplete grade. Beathard's scrambling ability makes him the quarterback that he is and that wasn't on display. He didn't have to go to it but there was a couple instances where there was a lane that he chose not to pursue.


This was the top position group on the day in my estimation. They ran hard, they showed off top speed, their vision was on point, and even Akrum Wadley held up in pass protection a few times. Wadley and Daniels combined for over 200 yards before the reins were given to Toks Akinribade and Derrick Mitchell. I stayed away from an A+ because a couple more blocks could have been picked up and the running game, along with the rest of the offense, was put into a lull in the third quarter. We didn't see much of Derrick Mitchell, either. Was that by design? Is it going to be a two-horse tandem only? That remains to be seen.


I gave the standout to Jerminic Smith, though Matt VandeBerg may have been the most impressive and steadiest on the day. VandeBerg did what he always does. He showed reliability, dependability, great hands, unselfishness, and he was even more productive after the catch than normal. However, Jerminic showed great hands too and made some tough catches. He took a step in the right direction for his development and that was most evident by his willingness to deliver great blocks downfield on more than one occasion. But the overall grade was only a B- because they did lack a good amount of explosion for the most part and weren't consistently open for Beathard. He had to fit some throws into some tight windows and I'd like to think they can do better than that against Miami (Ohio). But it's only the first week and this is a young group for the most part that is only going to get better as the season goes on.


Some might expect a more harsh grade than this since they were barely involved in the passing game for the Hawkeyes against Miami (Ohio) but the opportunity did not present itself for the most part as it was an area that the RedHawks set out to take away. But the grade is still respectable because they did block very well and were important in that aspect. According to Pro Football Focus, George Kittle graded out as the top blocker for Iowa on the day in the run game. That's big and just shows how he can be productive and impactful even when he's not getting the ball. That's a nice development since we know how productive and how much of a playmaker he can be down the field in the passing game. 


Croston gets the MVP of the group for Week 1 and he was very good. He showed off how improved he is on the offensive line and particularly in pass protection. There were some miscommunication issues with this group but it didn't happen on the left side. A few hurries and sacks occurred but not due to Croston who held his ground all day at left tackle. The two sacks and hurries came from James Daniels falling down at one point, a miscommunication on the interior, and then a blown read pre-snap where the protection wasn't slid to the right and an edge rusher came off untouched and unaccounted for. It looks like Boettger's fault on the surface but the right call and blocking assignment wasn't handed out since Boettger clearly blocked down. That's not on him but the group as a whole for not recognizing the correct protection to be in. 


Anthony Nelson had the most productive day of the group, totaling 2.5 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles. That's a great debut but even he has to be a bit more consistent. He showed up and made some game-changing plays but at the same time there was a lot of other plays where he wasn't a factor. But you remember the good ones and they were very good. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day for the group. Hesse got hurt. Matt Nelson didn't flash a whole lot. The middle of the defensive line did not control the line of scrimmage at all in the run game. It was a disappointing day for the defensive tackles and they were probably better in every game last year than they were in the opener on Saturday. 


SUMMARY: They received a better grade than the defensive line but there wasn't one standout performance. Jack Hockaday forced a fumble and made a nice impact immediately after Josey Jewell was ejected but as the game went on his presence became less known. Ben Niemann had a good first quarter but it seemed like his play trailed off after that. It almost looked like he wasn't completely healthy as he wasn't moving as well as he usually does. Bo Bower had a decent day. There were no noticeable gaffes on his part other than needing to react quicker to the play in front of him on a few occasions. It wasn't an awful day from this group but nobody made a clear impact on the game and had more than an above average game. 


A lot of folks are probably expecting a grade much lower than this but they weren't all that bad when you go back and re-watch the game. They had a few errors that were clear on the tape but that's pretty minor when discussing an entire game's worth of plays. They weren't as repetitively getting beat as the defensive line was. The problem is that when you have an error on the back end, that's where big plays happen so their jobs are a bit more critical. When a defensive lineman and linebacker aren't performing well, you give up first downs. When a defensive back makes an error, it could mean an explosive play or even a touchdown. There were a couple and one was on Greg Mabin and the other was on Brandon Snyder not supplying the help quickly enough over the top. Most of the passes that were connected were actually in tight windows, and yes a lot of those were on Greg Mabin, but he was in position. He just has to finish the play and make a play on the ball. Aside from that, Miles Taylor quietly had a very, very good game. He was where he needed to be at nearly all time and he popped the back a few times in run support. He had the most impressive game in the secondary. 


Keith Duncan had a great debut as the kicker, connecting on his one and only field goal and nailing home all six extra points. It was a good sign but he wasn't particularly tested. Desmond King was impressive as a returner and flipped the field position a few times. But the clear standout was Ron Coluzzi who averaged over 40 yards on his punts and was excellent on the kickoffs. All of Coluzzi's kicks were touchbacks but one. This group was flawless for the most part, with the only negative coming a few minutes into the game when Josey Jewell was ejected for targeting.

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