Do you ever watch the Raiders and Titans and wonder why the play-callers can’t get Darren McFadden or Chris Johnson the ball in space more often? In fantasy football, as in the NFL, coaching can have a dramatic impact on a player’s production.
There are strong arguments to be made that neither McFadden nor Johnson, both reading and hesitating at the line of scrimmage, is a particularly good fit for a zone-blocking scheme. In 25 games with Tom Cable’s zone-blocking system from 2007-09, McFadden rushed for 856 yards on 217 carries (3.9 YPC) and just one game over 90 yards.
Enter Hue Jackson, a more creative schemer who installed McFadden’s favorite running plays in a power-blocking scheme. In 20 games under Jackson, McFadden exploded for 1,771 rushing yards at 5.1 per clip with 11 games over 90 yards.
I can’t put the disappointing Week 2 performances on the running backs. McFadden simply had no holes to exploit against a dominant Dolphins run defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in 16 games. Want a sign that problem lies in blocking, not McFadden? He’s getting first contact on average 0.7 yards downfield compared to 3.6 yards a season ago.
There is no shortage of theories on Johnson’s struggles, but he simply had no chance versus a Chargers defense that has completely shut down both backs in consecutive weeks. Johnson was hit behind the line of scrimmage on two of his first three carries, and the Titans were down 17-0 before they ran their sixth offensive play.
McFadden is confident the Raiders’ ground attack is “going to start popping.” Titans backup Javon Ringer tells us the coaches “want to get C.J. rolling” this week versus the Lions.
What to do in fantasy leagues?
If you can land Johnson for a Michael Bush, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Alfred Morris or even a WR3 type like Malcom Floyd (those small sample size panic offers are out there; I’ve seen them on Twitter), I would pull the trigger. The carry totals have nowhere to go but up, and with that comes the opportunity to add boom to the bust performance to date. As Evan Silva points, the optimal buying point may not come until Week 7, though. CJ401K’s Weeks 4-6 stretch includes daunting matchups versus the Texans and Steelers.
Already having faced two stout run defenses, McFadden draws the shut-down Steelers in Week 3 followed by a strong Broncos defense in Week 4. Coming out of the Week 5 bye, however, McFadden has a walk in the park versus the Falcons, Jaguars and Chiefs. That Week 4-5 window is prime buy-low real estate.
Week 3 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: Brees isn’t getting quality pass protection through two weeks, but there’s shootout potential in Kansas City versus a defense that has bent over backwards for the Falcons and Bills. … Keep an eye on Newton and the read-option Thursday night. The Panthers had over 130 rushing yards out of the option by halftime of last week’s game. … The Packers haven’t been the same on offense since Christmas night, with Rodgers struggling to move the ball consistently in four of their past five games. Playing in Seattle against one of the NFL’s fastest and most physical defenses is no picnic.
As we told you last week, RGIII is for real. He has the highest completion percentage in NFL history among players with 50+ career pass attempts, is excelling versus the blitz and completing a ridiculous 79 percent of his play-action pass attempts at 15.5 yards per. Baylor’s offense should continue to get it done for fantasy leaguers against a Bengals pass defense already shredded by Joe Flacco and Brandon Weeden.
The Eagles have been a sloppy, turnover-happy mess at times, but they marched up and down the field consistently against a traditionally stingy Ravens defense. Vick was sharp in Week 2, but he faces Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson -- two of the best defensive players in the league last week -- in Arizona. Some people will tell you Peterson isn’t yet a great cover corner. Those people are wrong.
Rivers isn’t holding the ball for long stretches like he did when he struggled at mid-season a year ago. It’s a good sign for his 2012 value. … Flacco made some beautiful throws versus the Eagles, but his accuracy went in the tank in the second half when he started habitually throwing off his back foot -- pressured or not. … Luck may not wow you with spectacular plays like Griffin does, but he excelled out of the shotgun on 77.1 percent of his snaps versus the Vikings.
Peyton faces the league’s toughest pass defense, led by J.J. Swat and legit lock-down corner Johnathan Joseph. … Struggling to nail down timing with his receivers, Palmer has been the picture of inefficiency so far. … Locker was downright brutal versus the Chargers, and his receivers aren’t helping. … Bradford, on the other hand, has been a changed man early in the season, showing a rifle arm and converting big third-down plays.
Ponder is not only leading the NFL in completion percentage, but his 75 percent mark is the third-highest after two games since 1960. Failing to threaten defenses vertically, though, he sorely misses Jerome Simpson. … Don’t get carried away with Weeden’s 300-yard game. While he did play with much more confidence and stood in against the blitz, the Bengals defense has been a hot mess.