Patrick Daugherty

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Mathews Machinations

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Drafting Ryan Mathews at No. 11 overall.

It seemed like such a good idea on August 27. Yes, you’d likely be without your No. 1 pick for 1-2 games, but that’s what Peyton Hillis in the ninth round was for. Surely you could weather two weeks without your RB1, right?

24 days and an 0-2 record later, you’re not so certain. The good news is, you won’t be in for another week of “playing matchups” with Hillis and Isaac Redman. That’s because Mathews finally got in a “full” practice on Wednesday.  

He’ll suit up in full pads this afternoon, and barring a setback, will be good to go against a Falcons’ run defense that’s been torched for 270 yards through two games.

If coach Norv Turner is to be believed, you won’t even have to deal with any of this “easing in” nonsense, either. "As soon as that thing heals, he'll be ready to go," were Turner’s words on Mathews’ collarbone on August 29. Translation: there won’t be any training wheels for the Bolts’ feature back once he’s finally deemed ready for game action.

Trusting Mathews is not for the faint of heart. It’s a trust that’s yet to be reciprocated in the form of prolonged dominance. But patience is a virtue, and virtue always leads to good things. You've played the waiting game. Now prepare for the winning game.

Nicked Up Nicks

If Mathews’ return was Wednesday’s bright spot, Hakeem Nicks’ surprise deactivation was the lowlight.

Playing through pain in Week 1, Nicks gave fantasy owners reason for pause, catching just four passes for 38 yards. Then the Bucs came to town, and Nicks torched “shutdown corner” Aqib Talib for 10 catches and 199 yards.

Only Nicks got his troublesome right foot (inadvertently) stomped on near the end of New York’s 41-34 win. He played through the injury Sunday, but it apparently swelled up on Monday. Nicks didn’t make enough progress by Wednesday to even travel with the G-Men to Carolina for this evening’s game.

It’s bad news for a Giants team that could find itself in a shootout with Cam Newton’s Panthers, and an even tougher break for fantasy owners. The upshot, though, is that Nicks doesn’t appear to have suffered a “true” setback, and likely would have played had the Giants been on a regular week.

As ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk puts it, the Giants are opting to give Nicks two weeks of rest instead of making him play in two games in five days. Fantasy owners might hate it now, but it should pay dividends in the long run.  

Running Back Roulette

Another Wednesday, another day full of returns, surprise limited practices and cryptic updates. We’ll start with Steven Jackson (groin), who was held out of Rams practice even though an MRI revealed “no serious damage.”  

A nine-year veteran with 2,168 career carries, Jackson is the kind of player who can play on Sunday with zero reps Wednesday-Friday. A Thursday or Friday return would certainly be preferable, however.

The Rams opted for caution with their workhorse back in last weekend’s win. It wouldn’t be the most surprising thing if they did so again on Sunday against the Bears.

Jonathan Stewart

Stewart is officially a game-time call for tonight’s tilt with the G-Men, but coach Ron Rivera didn’t sound optimistic about his status on Wednesday.

"It's one those things where if we're playing on Sunday, he's got a much, much better chance than he does if we're playing on Thursday," Rivera said. "He came out (Wednesday) and it was still a little stiff, a little bit sore. They're going to continue to work it out and see how he is."

Hardly reassuring words about a player who’s now been a game-time decision three weeks running. Owners need to be making other plans at their RB2/flex spot.

Matt Forte

The Bears swear Forte doesn’t have a high-ankle sprain, but he still wasn’t ready to practice Wednesday despite being six days removed from last Thursday’s “Tumult on the Tundra.”

It’s, of course, a very poor sign for Forte’s Week 3 status, and likely an indication he’ll miss at least one game. A lot can change between now and Sunday morning, but owners need to be prepared for things to stay the same.

Running Back Quick Slants: Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) was ruled out for Thursday Night Football. Look for Andre Brown to get the start against Carolina’s still-porous run defense, and for rookie David Wilson to serve in a change-of-pace role. … Rashard Mendenhall (knee) got in a “full” practice for the third straight Wednesday, but still isn’t expected to contribute in the month of September. … Mendenhall’s teammate Jonathan Dwyer (toe) missed practice for the second consecutive Wednesday, but like he did in Week 2, he should return on Thursday and play on Sunday. … Coming off back-to-back 18-touch performances, Adrian Peterson (knee) appears ticketed for an even bigger workload against the 49ers. That could depend on game-flow, however. … Jamaal Charles is practicing in full this week despite experiencing soreness in his surgically-repaired left knee on Sunday. Although his reps may be monitored, he’ll be a borderline RB1 against the Saints’ pathetic run defense. … ESPN's Chris Mortensen believes Mikel Leshoure could receive as many as 15 touches in his NFL debut. That seems extremely optimistic, but if Leshoure looks good early, the Lions might not hesitate to give him a heavy workload. As evidenced by Sunday’s dabbling with Joique Bell and the recent workouts of Ryan Grant and Steve Slaton, Detroit clearly isn’t satisfied with Kevin Smith outside the passing game. … Jerry Jones insisted he’s not planning to release Felix Jones. Vote of confidence comes before the fall.  

Receiver Quick Slants: None of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders practiced Wednesday. All five are good bets to return this afternoon and be active for Week 3. … Jeremy Maclin (hip) sat out, while DeSean Jackson (hamstring) was limited. The lea leaves suggest D-Jax will play, Maclin won’t. … Steve Smith (knee) is probable for tonight’s game, but coach Ron Rivera calls his presence on the injury report a “formality.” He’s a WR1 for Week 3. … Kenny Britt is expected to play “a lot more” Sunday after taking the field for just 19 snaps in his 2012 debut. For now, consider Britt a boom-or-bust WR3 until his health is proven. … Britt’s teammate Nate Washington (calf) was “back at full strength” in Wednesday’s practice, and should be in for a much bigger role after being limited to 22 snaps Sunday. He’s still nothing more than a WR4, however. … Greg Salas rejoined the Patriots via the practice squad. … Austin Collie was “full-go"...just like he was last Wednesday. Believe it when you see it with Indy’s would-be No. 2 wideout.  

Depressing Chris Johnson Stats of the Week: Johnson has 21 total rushing yards through two games. Including two receptions, C.J. Spiller has six individual gains of at least 20 yards. … At Johnson’s current rate, it would take him 190.5 games to reach 2,000 yards. … 70 players have rushed for more yards than Johnson. Among them are Justin Forsett, Tashard Choice, Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jackie Battle. … 11 quarterbacks have rushed for more yards than Johnson. Johnson is tied with Aaron Rodgers. He has one more yard than Alex Smith, two more than Kevin Kolb. … The 25 yards Brandon Weeden gained on a Week 1 scramble remain four more yards than Johnson has gained all season. Weeden has 10 more total yards on the ground than CJ11-4K.

In Case You Missed It: Smokin' Jay Cutler. 

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

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