As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
Isaac Bruce would return to form:
What do you call 4 catches for 153 yards after a non-existent
week one? A statement that screams, I never left football geeks,
I was just a bit rusty. Bruce averaged 38 yards per catch Sunday
against a Seahawks defense that most thought would make the Niners
receiver’s day more miserable than the Cardinals the week
before. It’s too bad I sat him for Mushin Muhammad and Joey
Galloway in two of the three leagues I could start him, because
I had a feeling I needed to give him another week.
Lesson Learned: When a QB tells you to watch the film, listen.
After week one’s loss, Niners QB J.T. O’Sullivan explained
Isaac Bruce’s conspicuous absence from the box score as
an issue with pass protection. O’Sullivan said he had Bruce
open for a 20-yard score, but he was blindsided as he was about
to release the ball.
Mike Martz labeled Bruce’s first week woes a product of
rust due to limited play in the preseason. I’m not sure
why people would doubt Martz on this matter. You don’t bring
in Bruce as a free agent and not expect him to be a productive
starter coming off 694-yard effort despite his starting QB getting
hurt. Remember, Bruce had a 1000-yard season in 2006 – the
expected drop off has been anticipated too early. Generally a
receiver’s skill begins to decline after a major injury.
Bruce has suffered minor injuries throughout his career, but there
hasn’t been a documented history of joint deterioration
in the knees or ankles.
Although I don’t expect Bruce to continue averaging 38 yards
per catch, I do believe those who wrote off the Reverend Ike in
the preseason would gladly have him as a number-three or number-four
receiver in most weeks.
Philly-Dallas Part I - DeSean Jackson
would both thrill and generate the ire of fantasy owners around
the country: With the amount of people playing fantasy
football in the country, I’m surprised we didn’t hear
a cacophonous din of epithets from Jackson owners as their rookie
wunderkind with an overdose of arrogance, tossed away the football
just a yard short of the end zone. Maybe it was because they were
in the middle of choking down the rest of that celebratory scream
that turned that suddenly didn’t taste so good. Because
I have Jackson in a contest league I normally would have been
one of them, but my opponent in another league has Jackson and
the rookie tossed away six points for him in a game close enough
that it would have made a difference.
Lesson Learned: Don’t
worry DeSean, you may have a reputation for being too stuck on
yourself, but Plaxico Burress is among the other successful players
who pulled similar stunts as rookies. Just remember, Donovan McNabb
is a big straw that stirs your drink. Another problem is that
classic story Mike Tirico told last night of Jackson doing a premature
swan dive at the five-yard line and landing a yard short of the
end zone in a high school game. The stunt not only cost him a
score, but it earned his team an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
I guess some lessons are more difficult to learn.
Jay Cutler would get a gift on the winning
drive and then earn it a couple of plays later… What
a roller coaster of a ball game in Denver. The Broncos QB starts
the game on fire, throwing for three, first-half scores and nearly
300 yards. But until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter,
he was missing in action. In fact, he gave away the game twice.
The first time was an interception in the red zone on a ball he
really shouldn’t have thrown. This resulted in a Darren
Sproles touchdown off a swing pass where he looked like was back
at Kansas State.
The second time he gave away the game, the officials gave it
back without the Chargers permission. The call on the field was
an incomplete pass, but the replay clearly showed Cutler fumbled
away the football. But because Ed Hochuli blew the whistle, the
rules state the play was dead and could not be reviewed. Two plays
later, Cutler squeezes a 4th down pass into rookie Eddie Royal’s
mitts on a crossing route behind the linebacker. And in a mind-blowing
follow up, The Broncos go for the win right there and do with
the same play!
Lesson Learned: If you don’t watch Broncos games lately
(which you will next year when the networks decided to go overboard
on what will likely be Cutler-mania in 2009), you should have
learned two things:
- Shanny will take risks –
this is not a risk adverse coach. Especially when he has a quarterback
he believes in. Remember, he’s been waiting over a decade
to replace John Elway. It’s why he rode Jake Plummer,
a big-time risk taker, to the AFC Championship Game. Cutler
is that guy with Elway-like capabilities. You don’t jump
several spots in the rookie draft to grab him if you don’t.
In Cutler, Shanny finally has that player who has shown the
athleticism and daring to make the game changing play and the
acumen to play consistently.
- Shanny will run the same play
consecutive times – NFL Films documented the head
coach’s propensity to run the same play multiple times
in a row until a defense proves they can stop it. When I saw
him giving Cutler the peace sign, I wish I could have been called
someone to bet it would be the same play. Technically, Royal
ran a short hitch and then went across the end zone on a cross,
catching the ball past double coverage and still holding on
after a big hit.
There are a few other lesson worthy points. One is that Eddie
Royal is for real. Coaches don’t call a player’s
number in the fourth quarter unless they trust him. Brandon Marshall
may have broken the single game reception record, but Cutler and
Shanny targeted Royal for the game winner – not veterans
Darrell Jackson or Brandon Stokley – but the Hokie rookie
who lead the league in receiving yards in week one.
I had a reader e-mail me a week before the season with a ‘you
didn’t list Royal – Oops!’ comment after reading
my Impact Rookie Receivers article.
He’s right, I missed Royal for this year. I was just too
cautious to mention him because I didn’t see enough games
to confidently list my opinion on him outside of what was in my
book. What I did see didn’t show me he could handle
press coverage or run a variety of routes that he demonstrated
against DeAngelo Hall in Oakland.
Another is Denver will be a pass-first offense this year. I don’t
care if Ryan Torain will be ready mid-season; the odds of him
being effective in the regular season are small. Now that Royal
is in the fold and Brandon Stokely can be a slot receiver, having
Darrell Jackson as the number four rather than a starter makes
this a deep enough corps for Denver to be competitive in every
A pass-first offense will be important this year, because we’ve
seen in recent seasons that Denver is a vulnerable defense and
the running game has two street free agents as their starting
backfield tandem. Neither Young nor Hall is impressive. Their
box score stats are decent in terms of yards per carry average,
but they have yet to prove they can consistently impose their
will upon a defense with the game on the line.
This is a team that will have to score to win and will be able
to score at will (with the exception of games versus elite defenses).
Cutler will be a top-five quarterback in the NFL this year. Count
Jason Campbell could light up the Saints
like a roman candle: This one is killing me, because I
dropped him too soon in a league where my starter is Jake Delhomme.
As bad as the Redskins looked in week one, they looked that good
this weekend. Campbell went 24 for 36 for 321 yards a great connection
to Santana Moss on a post pattern for a 67-yard score.
Lesson Learned: Campbell has a gun, he demonstrated this week
he could step up in the pocket and make a big throw, and he has
the weapons to operate a balanced attack. The issues are inexperience
with the west coast offense; the coaching staff’s play calling;
and Campbell’s continued quest to gain recognition of defensive
Jim Zorn’s staff will need the first quarter of the season
to begin learning how to best use their personnel in their new
offense. We heard from Clinton Portis last week that the play
calling was ineffective in week one and it took a 14-point, fourth
quarter for the offense to look like it was clicking.
The fact that Campbell has done a good job protecting the football
in his first two games is encouraging. If he continues to build
upon the fourth quarter of the Saints game, Campbell could turn
out to be a decent ‘match up’ play for fantasy owners
throughout the year.
Darren Sproles would be the back up to
LaDainian Tomlinson: Why does the fantasy media and football
media continue to mention Jacob Hester as the back up to LT? Can
we finally put this to rest after Sproles posted 317 yards from
scrimmage and two scores against the Broncos in relief of Tomlinson?
Sproles has the kind of acceleration to break a play open from
anywhere on the field. He also possesses the vision and balance
to exploit the type of lanes San Diego is capable of opening on
the offensive line.
Lesson Learned: Jacob Hester is a short yardage, between the tackles
runner with decent receiving skills. He’s a useful player.
Darren Sproles is a dynamic player, who is beginning to make a
habit of demonstrating the ability to change the game whenever
he touches the football. It’s like the difference between
a hammer and a nail gun. The hammer may be more versatile for
a variety of jobs, but when it comes to putting a nail through
a piece of wood, the nail gun is the way to go. Hester is the
hammer. I don’t need to tell you what Sproles is.
If you’re a Tomlinson owner, I would be worried about your
starter’s toe. Several players have never really been the
same once they deal with a toe injury. Look at Antonio Gates.
He has been serviceable, but no longer the stud after the catch
he was before the injury. Throw in Eddie George, Laveranues Coles,
Darrell Jackson, and several other skill players who never made
it fully back and there’s a good reason you may want to
begin looking for ways to improve your starting line up. Tomlinson’s
injury still allowed him to gain 96 yards, but I remember when
Eddie George was gutting out this type of injury, too. It may
turn out to be a less serious injury, but if it isn’t, LT
may never be the same.
Philly-Dallas Part II – I should
have known this game would be a points-fest: I actually
read this would be a low-scoring affair due to the defenses. Okay,
let’s get this straight: Tony Romo? Pro Bowler. Terrell
Owens? Pro Bowler. Marion Barber? Ditto. Jason Witten? Check.
Flozell Adams? Andre Gurode? Yep. Leonard Davis? First time was
last year. And the Eagles sport Donovan McNabb (who would make
your flag football team look like they earned a bust in Canton),
Brian Westbrook, and John Runyon. The only thing that could stop
these guys is Hurricane Ike.
Lesson Learned: Don’t overanalyze the situation. Jim Johnson
may have a great scheme and three starting grade corners, but
neither of these teams’ defenders possesses a clear athletic
and skill advantage to the opposing offenses that understand each
Ryan Grant was a bad play this week (even
if it were the Lions): What? Michael Turner put up 220
last week against the pussy cats. Then again, Michael Turner didn’t
have a bad hammy that limited him in practice. Grant was held
to 20 yards on 15 carries while his understudies Brandon Jackson
and Kregg Lumpkin had 8 carries for 80 yards. Jamal Lewis had
a seemingly less serious hamstring issue and he has been less
than impressive thus far.
Lesson Learned: Good match ups don’t equal good results
if you have a bum wheel.
Nagging Feelings—Week 3
The Detroit Lions will have to live and die with Kitna throwing
the ball at least 25-30 times a game this year. Their schedule
for the next month includes the Bears, Vikings, and Texans –
all much better against the run than the pass. I like that Detroit
threw the ball on first down early in the game. If they can get
4-6 yards when they run the ball on first and second down, the
offense will become much more dangerous. Right now, the running
game is holding them back. Kevin Smith may have averaged 4 yards
per carry, but gaining 2 yards on six out of seven first down
attempts in this game is a telltale sign the ground game isn’t
working right now.
Although it’s also a hope, I do have the feeling Jake
Delhomme will become a better fantasy quarterback when Steve
Smith returns to the lineup. I think it’s reasonable to add
five more attempts per game to Delhomme’s future efforts and between
the addition and subtraction of targets to Smith and his teammates,
I’d expect an additional 60 to 70 yards per game with another
8-10 scores. Last week, six of his twelve completions were to
backs and tight ends. Only two receivers caught passes and Muhmmad
caught over 80 percent of them. Of course it was the Bears and
they had a better distribution to receivers against the Chargers
the week before.
I might be ready to push the panic button on Marvin Harrison.
Remember all those quick strike plays to between Manning and Harrison
over the years? Many of them came in the red zone. We’ve
seen none of it in the first two games. The Bears and Vikings
have the kind of front seven that would predicate a quarterback
to throw short timing routes with a receiver that can get quick
separation. If Harrison were getting open, Manning would hit him.
If this isn’t happening now, I don’t see the all-time
great getting better once Manning can get his knee healthy enough
to execute the stretch play. Although I would give it another
week, I’m beginning to think Harrison might have lost a
Was it me or did Brad Childress change the play calling with
the rushing attack in the second half of the Colts game? Peterson
was lining up deeper in the backfield earlier in the game and
he was more effective than he was in the formations where he was
closer to the line of scrimmage.
Matt Ryan is going to be a viable fantasy quarterback down the
stretch with games against San Diego, New Orleans, Minnesota,
and St. Louis. He’ll also get another shot at Monte Kiffin’s
cover-two scheme during this period. Although he didn’t
produce this week, Ryan fought through it and showed good toughness