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Patrick Daugherty

The Morning After

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Duke Johnson's Revival

Monday, November 5, 2018


One game. That’s how long it took new Browns OC Freddie Kitchens to repudiate ex-coach Hue Jackson and ex-OC Todd Haley’s usage of Duke Johnson. After closing out 2017 with 196 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches over his final two games, Johnson entered Week 9 having never touched the ball more than six times this season. He surpassed that in the first half against the Chiefs, with his sixth catch going for a 19-yard touchdown.


When the dust settled, Johnson handled the ball 10 times, catching a team-leading nine passes for 78 yards and a pair of scores. Johnson led the Browns in every receiving category. That’s not always something you want to see, but the Browns needed to prove to themselves it was possible — this safety valve still exists as an option — as well as put it on film for other teams.


You do not want Baker Mayfield to get addicted to checking down to running backs. But with the Browns’ offense stuck in neutral, it’s good for him to get in rhythm on anything. Johnson can be a building block for further refinements. The Browns have an abysmal receiver depth chart. Instead of forcing targets to Rashard Higgins and Damion Ratley, Mayfield now knows he has a reliable, productive pair of hands in Johnson. Getting Johnson going could take pressure off Antonio Callaway and David Njoku, lessening defensive attention on Mayfield’s inconsistent young pass catchers while perhaps increasing their confidence.


Fantasy owners should count on this being an every-week thing. It’s quite possible Kitchens was just exploiting the Chiefs’ well-known vulnerability over the middle of the field. Thankfully for Johnson, Week 10 opponent Atlanta has the same vulnerability, and is somehow even worse than the Chiefs at policing running back receptions. No team has hemorrhaged more catches to enemy runners.  


Johnson is not about to become a featured fantasy option. He is ready to contribute. That he wasn’t earlier is a stain on Jackson and Haley’s atrocious record. That he is now is a case of “better late than never” for both the Browns and PPR players.        


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Five Week 9 Storylines


Chris Carson departs early with thigh injury. Playing through a hip issue, Carson reeled off a 15-yard gain on the Seahawks’ first play from scrimmage. He quickly piled up 40 yards on eight carries before mysteriously departing. When he was next spotted, it was with a heavy wrap on his left leg and without his helmet. Deemed “doubtful,” he did not return as a heavily-pressured Russell Wilson turned in a shaky performance. Producing has not been much of a problem — Carson entered Week 9 with three 100-yard rushing performances in his past four games — but staying healthy has been. Whatever the Seahawks say he is, Carson should be considered unlikely to suit up against the Rams. Carson’s absence would make Mike Davis a plug-and-play RB2, and Rashaad Penny a risk/reward FLEX in what will likely be a high-scoring affair.     


Tevin Coleman finally has himself a ballgame. Coleman entered Week 9 having eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage just one time in seven games. Allowing the league’s second-fewest rushing yards and sixth-fewest running back fantasy points, the Redskins seemed like an unlikely opportunity for 100-yard day No. 2. Alas, Coleman had his best all-around game of the season, posting new 2018 bests in YFS (156), touchdowns (two), catches (five), receiving yards (68) and yards per carry (6.76). It was a needed big day for a player who has been disappointing in Devonta Freeman’s absence. Although Ito Smith is going to remain in the picture, Coleman could rapidly ascend from shaky RB2 to high-end option with another big game. Week 10 opponent Cleveland has been pillow soft against the run.    


Dalvin Cook reasserts No. 1 status in Minnesota. Ticketed for anything from 8-20 snaps, Cook ended up playing 28. Buoyed by a 70-yard run, he took the rock 10 times for 89 yards. That, of course, means he gained just 19 yards on his other nine carries. There is still much work to be done, but the Vikings’ Week 10 bye is well timed for a player who has never really been healthy this season. Cook now gets two weeks to further heal and progress toward 100 percent while knowing that his legs are legitimately back underneath him. The Vikes come off their bye to a tough Week 11 matchup with the Bears. Cook will be a risk/reward RB2, with Latavius Murray falling back to FLEX-only status.   


A.J. Green gets a worrisome update on his toe. Some of the biggest news of the day broke before the games kicked off. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Green visited a specialist during the Bengals’ bye week and that “everything” is on the table, including surgery. ESPN’s Adam Schefter quickly confirmed that Green is expected to miss “some” time. It sounds like “some” could easily turn into “a lot,” potentially even injured reserve. Although they are a solid 5-3, Green joining Tyler Eifert and John Ross on the shelf would probably cook the Bengals’ season. With Green set to miss Week 10, Tyler Boyd will be in for a huge workload against the Saints’ porous pass defense.    


Joe Flacco’s slump deepens. After starting the season on a high note by his standards — five touchdowns in two games — Flacco has gone off the Flacco deep end. The 33-year-old starter has a depressing four touchdowns over his past five starts, while his yards per attempt has fallen all the way to 6.50. That’s not the way to hold off your first-round rookie backup. John Harbaugh is a traditionalist, a coach not prone to rash actions. But with talk of his job security beginning to surface, even Harbaugh could be ready for drastic action in Ozzie Newsome’s final year as general manager. Lamar Jackson will be raw. At this point, that would be much preferable to Flacco’s “cooked.” Harbaugh has the Ravens’ Week 9 bye to think it over.   


Don't forget, for the latest on everything NFL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, or follow @Rotoworld_FB or @RotoPat on Twitter.



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



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