Well…. Week 7 was a good one for some, bad for others. I know I yanked out my share of hair this weekend. Todd Gurley did his Todd Gurley thing so his owners can rest easy. What he is doing is insane by the way. If you haven’t heard, he now has 14 total TDs after his third three TD game of 2018. That’s a pace of 32 if he can keep it up.
So what about the rest of us. The fantasy owners who are left wondering. Wondering what do I trust moving forward? Was it just a down week? Should I be worried? Is there a change coming? Well in this weeks edition of Five Interesting Performances I’m going to go into a few RB situations we saw play out in Week 7. I’ll do my best to answer some questions you might have after some of these down weeks. Hopefully, your team was able to overcome these under-performers.
David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals
Denver Bronco’s Rushing Defense Heat Map
The Prime Match-up
The Denver Broncos last few games include performances like Todd Gurley gaining 225 Yards on 30 touches with two TDs. Another 200 Yard performance from Isaiah Crowell. 231 Yards to be exact with one TD on 16 Touches. Kareem Hunt with an only slightly less impressive performance gaining 175 Yards and added a TD. Even Alex Collins had 21 Touches for 76 Yards and a TD. Throw in a Marshawn Lynch 68 Yard, one TD performance and you have yourself a matchup you’re not going to shy away from.
David Johnson went up against this same Denver Broncos defense in Week 7. A defense that has been getting gashed on the ground all year until this game. So what went wrong? For starters, as you can see above Denver is a lot more susceptible to runs on the edge. Arizona didn’t seem to notice this as Johnson has been sent into the teeth of the defense not only in this game but all year. Johnsons few big plays were in the passing game and he was barely utilized there. This made a recipe for little success.
Changes On The Horizon…But Will They Help?
There is some light on the horizon though for David Johnson owners. Arizona fired its offensive coordinator Mike McCoy following the week 7 debacle against Denver. The man they chose to replace him is former quarterback Byron Leftwich. This should give Johnson owners a little glimmer of hope as Leftwich is a disciple of Bruce Arians. You’ll remember Johnson had his greatest success under Arians.
For the most part, as you can see above the Arians system generally produced a viable fantasy RB. The Cardinals have been running Johnson up the middle a lot this year. This is not the type of Back to thrive in that system. Johnson is at his best in the passing game and also on the edges.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys
How Did The Skins Contain Zeke?
I think my first take away from this game has got to be at the Washington football team has a pretty darn good defense. When you can contain the League’s second-leading rusher as they did you’ve got to be doing something right. The Skins have actually been doing a lot right when it comes to stopping the run. They haven’t allowed more the 61 Yards rushing to any RB all year. Also, the defense is ranked third in the league at stopping the run. Mark Ingram did score two TDs against them but was the recipient of two scores from inside the two-yard line.
Washington showed a clear “want” to slow down the Cowboys third-year back. His first carry of the day was a very hard-fought four-yard run. Elliott didn’t see anything more than this until the 9:10 mark in the third Qtr. Elliott had the longest run of his day here when he was able to fight through multiple defenders for six yards. Zeke would have two more attempts for six-yard gains and a seven-yard reception and that was about it for him. These four plays made up 59.5% of the production he had on this day.
With the other 40.5%, Zeke had 13 Touches averaging 1.3 Yards per Play (Y/P). He only was able to total 17 Yards.
Moving forward I wouldn’t sit a stud against the Skins but I would think of other options if you’re about to start a low-end RB2 or below.
What To Expect After The Bye
The Cowboys will enter their bye on a down note as they could have claimed the NFC East lead with a victory in Week 7. Elliott owners were, for the most part, left wanting as the Cowboys stud running back wasn’t able to get going against the skins. The Cowboys will now have a week to rethink their attack and try to acclimate their newest weapon to the team. on Monday the Cowboys made a trade that landed them Amari Cooper from the Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick. Cooper should be able to lighten up the box by drawing coverage to himself. This, in turn, will make things a little easier on Zeke.
If this game worries you, take a breath and forget about it. Chalk it up to any given Sunday and a tough division rival. Zeke is locked in your lineup every single week!
Austin Ekeler, RB Los Angeles Chargers
So the young Chargers running back that some people had been clamoring for received his chance to own the backfield on Sunday. Needless to say, his results were less than stunning but is there a reason for this outside of the obvious? Ekeler is smaller quicker Back of the two but does this mean he can take the beating like Gordon does week in and week out? Ekeler is never going to be the man on a 4th and one in a must-win situation.
So much of Ekeler big plays are brought on by the scheme as well as his athleticism. The Chargers love to get him into space where he can use his speed and agility. Ekeler did actually have a career-high 12 Carries and it wasn’t extremely productive.
The Chargers also only ran 44 plays in this game which is going to limit the whole teams’ upside. Teams this day and age are running 80+ plays a game. Also, they have huge TDs from Tyrell Willams and Mike Willams of 75 and 55 Yards This doesn’t exactly leave many plays for Ekeler. Also, this game was way farther east then Tennessee, This amount of travel, even though they arrive early has to take some toll on the players.
He’s No MG3
If you thought Austin Ekeler could do a Melvin Gordon does then week 7 should give you a pretty clear answer. A limited amount of plays and all. In my opinion, Gordon finds a way to make his fantasy owners happy. Ekeler I feel needs his normal 5 – 10 touch so he can stay fresh and explosive. Melvin Gordon is there to take the week to week abuse of a bell cow RB.
Peyton Barber (Ronald Jones), RBs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What Happened To Last Week
Barber was coming off his best game of the season. In Week 6 Barber had 17 total touches for 106 total yards and one TD. He was just about to earn some trust from owners but that was quickly disposed of. He still had 11 rushing attempts compared to 13 in Week 6. The Bucs veteran Back only had 4 fewer opportunities and even scored a TD… Until it was called back due to a flag. The Tampa rookie then got a crack at scoring and was able to punch it in for six. The snaps were split fairly evenly for the first time this season (Barber 35, Jones 30). If you just look at the box score this could seem like a big deal but Barber was injured during the game. Much of Jones’ work came after that. Also, Jaquizz Rodgers played a lot in O.T.
Is It Officially The Rookie’s Turn?
Ronald Jones officially scored the first rushing touchdown by a Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back of the 2018 season. Is this something we should look forward to going forward though? Should we take into consideration that Peyton Barber scored on the previous play but it was called back? In my opinion, we absolutely should but this still could be a sign of change in Tampa.
Jones is not a big bruising back that’s going to run over and through people. In Week 7 he only totaled 28 Yards on 7 Touches. But he did get that TD. This is generally a backfield I’m going to do my best to avoid. The offense is high powered but it runs through the quarterback and wide receivers in my opinion. I would stash Jones if you have the room though. If Barber’s injury is something that lingers, Jones’ value does rise.
Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans
Well… At Least He Scored
Sunday was a long time coming for Henry owners as the big Back was able to punch one in for six points on Sunday. I’m not exactly sure if you should feel good about this moving forward but it is a positive sign none the less. On this day though, Dion Lewis was the far better looking back statistically and visually. Lewis was fantastic in the game against the Chargers. In fact, Lewis has just plain been better all year. Also in the whole of their careers. I know Lewis has been in the league longer so that’s why we’re going to look at the percentage of games each player finishes inside as a WR1, 2, 3, 4 and below.
Should You Feel Good About This Game?
My opinion no, you shouldn’t feel good about this game. Dion Lewis was the far more effective running back and was on the field for all the most important moments or at least that’s what it seems like. He nearly doubled Henry in snaps (Lewis 45, Henry 24). The most glaring time came at the end of the game when the Titans had a fourth down and goal with a chance to take the lead. If this isn’t Derrick Henry time then when is? Isn’t this what you got the bruising Back for, exactly moments like this? This kind of told me all I needed to know about what the Titans think of their young back and how they view him in contrast to Dion Lewis.
In my opinion, Derrick Henry is droppable in any league 12 teams or smaller. The Titans didn’t show any faith in the young back when they didn’t give him the ball once from the goal line in a must-win game. Henry needs a huge hole and a head of steam which worked in college but all the players in the league are big and fast. Dion Lewis has just plain looked better but also fits the offense better the Henry. Lewis is the only Back worth starting here.