I'll caution readers for at least for the first few weeks of the season that we're dealing with incredibly small samples inside of an already small-sample sized sport. For example, Greg Olsen was tied for fourth in targets on the Panthers in Week 1. There is no reason to overreact to that data point. Without Kelvin Benjamin, we know that Olsen is going to be the focal point of the Panthers' attack this season.
With that short disclaimer aside, let's get to it.
Red zone Carries: Andre Ellington 2
Analysis: With Andre Ellington (knee – PCL) likely out Week 2, David Johnson and Chris Johnson will split touches. David Johnson certainly has more long-term upside, but I’m very interested to see how Bruce Arians uses both Johnson and CJ?K against Chicago. John Brown started hot in the first half against the Saints with 4-46-1 on 5 targets, but only saw 2 targets after halftime. Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, in the last 16 games Carson Palmer has started Larry Fitzgerald has 87 receptions for 1,080 yards and eight touchdowns on 123 targets.
Analysis: Tevin Coleman saw more snaps (45:28) and more touches (20:13) than Devonta Freeman in Week 1. I wouldn’t put it past Coleman to make Freeman a rotational, change-of-pace RB by Week 9. But, Devonta Freeman had four red zone touches to Coleman’s 1 against the Eagles, which is something I will have a close eye on over the coming weeks.
RB Touches: Jonathan Stewart (18 att., 4 catches) 22
Analysis: When Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery lead your team in targets in a game, you know you have a problem at wide receiver. Joking aside, the Panthers need rookie Devin Funchess to acclimate to the offense fairly quickly. Greg Olsen will see more than three targets per-game this year, so I’m willing to cast off his Week 1 performance as just as an aberration.
RB Touches: Matt Forte (24 att., 5 catches) 29
Red zone Carries: Matt Forte 4
Analysis: The Bears’ targets and touches breakdown for the opening game is as straightforward as an offense can be. Jeffery/Forte/Bennett accounted for 72.2% of Chicago's Week 1 targets. I’m not betting on Matt Forte seeing nearly 30 touches/game every week, but I do love seeing eight Week 1 targets including four inside of the 20-yard line for the 29-year-old Forte.
Analysis: Obviously Dez Bryant’s foot injury is a massive blow for Dallas’ offense to absorb for the next 6-8 weeks and possibly longer. Dallas loves to slow down the offensive pace in games and really grind the clock; the Cowboys had the slowest offensive pace in 2014 and were the third slowest team in terms of seconds/play Week 1.
They are going to be hard-pressed to grind clock without Dez Bryant’s drive-sustaining ability. I’m interested to see how the Cowboys’ scheme in Week 2 against Philadelphia but I’m expecting Romo to throw more often which helps elevate the per-game target floor of Cole Beasley, Jason Witten, Lance Dunbar and possibly Terrance Williams.
Red zone Targets: Eric Ebron 1
Red zone Carries: None
Analysis: Detroit only ran 47 offensive plays in Week 1 and they had a bit of an odd offensive game-script. They were up 21-10 at the half and only scored 7 more points the rest of the game, so I’m alright with writing off Detroit’s opening game as “just one of those weird weeks” for the Lions passing offense. Though, it's something I will have my eye on this week when Detriot plays Minnesota on the road.
One thing I’m not willing to write off is Ameer Abdullah. He out-snapped Joique Bell (21:18) and out-touched him (11:8) in his first professional game. Bell will still have a role, but I’m already clamoring for the day when Abdullah sees 60-plus% of the touches as opposed to 52.4%.
Green Bay Packers
Red zone Carries: Eddie Lacy 4
Analysis: Green Bay picked up right where they left off in 2014: as a hyper-efficient offense. They ran just 53 offensive plays and threw up four TDs. We've just become numb to Aaron Rodgers' stellar play. We expect it from him every week. James Jones won’t score 2 TDs on four targets every week, but I don’t think it’s absurd to think that he’s a big part of the Packers’ solution to make up for Jordy Nelson’s lost red zone production.
Red zone Targets: Jarius Wright 1
Red zone Carries: None
CBs Thrown At: Xavier Rhodes 6 (4-38) and Terrance Newman 4 (3-20)
Analysis: Minnesota was the only team to score fewer than 7 points in Week 1 and only the Vikings and the Jaguars scored single-digit points in their season opener. Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times in San Francisco and the offense as a whole averaged just 4.6 yards per play. Minnesota’s offense is seemingly primed for a leap-forward soon, but I’ll be monitoring the Vikes’ closely in the coming weeks.
New Orleans Saints
Red zone Carries: Mark Ingram 2
Analysis: Saints’ RBs were targeted 15 times in Week 1, accounting for 31.3% of team targets. That’s great news for C.J. Spiller’s role when he’s infused into the offense (hopefully) this week.
New York Giants
Analysis: There’s not much to analyze here on the Giants’ offense after Week 1, outside of their horrendous clock management in the fourth quarter in their SNF matchup with the Cowboys. There is one thing we can say for certainty: there’s no reason to trust Rueben Randle. He continually doesn’t produce in seemingly good matchups.
Analysis: Jordan Matthews was the focal point of the Eagles attack in Week 1, seeing 13 targets out of the slot. Matthews ran 46 of his 47 routes from the slot on MNF, which is a role I see no reason for the Eagles’ to mess with. If Sam Bradford continues to funnel the passing offense through Matthews, he may be a dark horse to finish inside of the top-5 leaders in targets this season. Nelson Agholor only saw two targets but was on the field for 59 of Philly’s 74 offensive snaps.
Philadelphia was extremely pass-heavy (76.5%) due to game-script in Week 1 and we all know about their offensive pace. Chip Kelly doesn’t take time to rotate players in and out when his offense is in hyper-speed, so I wouldn’t put too much weight into the Eagles’ backfield split after just one game. It's definitely something I will be watching very closely in Week 2.
San Francisco 49ers
Red zone Carries: Carlos Hyde 5
Analysis: I’d bet Carlos Hyde will wind up being one of my biggest “misses” of the offseason. He shredded a bad Vikings’ run defense for 26-168-2 (6.5 YPC) and an absurd 61.5% of Hyde’s rushes went for five or more yards. Vernon Davis saw 23.1% of the Niners’ targets in Week 1 after seeing only 12.5% of team targets in 2014.
St. Louis Rams
Red zone Targets: Tavon Austin 1
Analysis: With Todd Gurley (knee), Tre Mason (hamstring), and Brian Quick (shoulder) out of the lineup in Week 1, there isn’t much actionable data to parse through here. Tre Mason returned to practice in full for Week 2 on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Red zone Carries: Doug Martin 1
Analysis: Doug Martin had a favorable game-script to start the game – he saw eight carries in the first quarter – but only had four more totes in the final three quarters. With Mike Evans (hamstring) looking ready to return in Week 2, I’m betting Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson’s workload diminishes after a garbage-time-filled Week 1. I'm very interested to see how the Bucs' target split shakes out over the next couple of weeks.
Red zone Targets: Jordan Reed 2
Red zone Carries: Alfred Morris 2
Analysis: DeSean Jackson is dealing with a multi-week hamstring strain, leaving Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed as Kirk Cousins’ main targets for the next 3-4 weeks. Jordan Reed will flirt with mid-TE1 numbers for as long he stays healthy. Those touting Matt Jones’ sleeper status this offseason were shutdown quickly after Week 1 – Alfred Morris went for 25-121-0 (4.8 YPC) against a stout Miami front-seven.