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Target Practice, Week 9: Roy Helu had a rather busy day

OK, this couldn't possibly have been Washington's game-plan against the Niners: Roy Helu(notes) saw as many pass targets on Sunday (17) as all of the Redskins' wide receivers combined (Gaffney 5, Hankerson 5, Austin 5, Armstrong 1, Paul 1).

Washington quarterback John Beck(notes) seemed to be acutely aware — perhaps too aware — of the prior week's sack total. Beck was dropped 10 times by the Bills in Week 8, and many of the sacks were entirely his fault, as he held the ball far too long. He certainly wasn't guilty of that mistake in the San Francisco game (only one sack), but he rarely allowed anything to develop deep, instead checking down, Jason Campbell(notes)-style. That approach helped Helu's PPR owners in no small way, though it also eliminated the possibility of big plays for Washington's offense. The Redskins' longest play from scrimmage went for 17 yards.

So this is a team (and a quarterback) still searching for the right risk/reward balance. It's tough to expect double-digit catches from any running back, versus any opponent. Let's not assume Washington intended to pepper Helu with quite so many targets. But clearly his competence as a receiver played a role in the decision to elevate him to the starting role. (That, and the fact that Ryan Torain(notes) is not especially good).

Here are just a few of Mike Shanahan's postgame thoughts, via the Post's Mike Jones:

"You have to be disciplined enough to know where to dump the football," Shanahan said. "Those are the things you have to do as a quarterback. You have to understand the clock and John would probably like to have four or five throws back to actually throw a little bit farther downfield.

"It's a combination of all of those things. You can have some hot reads, you can have a four-man rush. You've got to know where your outlet is. I thought John did a great job on a number of throws getting the ball out when they did a good job on a couple of stunts and he dumped the ball off a lot quicker than the week before. Then, a couple of times, I thought he did a little too quick where, the week before, he was kind of standing in there because we were going against a team that wasn't known for a great pass rush and this team was a lot better. And it's a growing experience."

Helu is the Washington running back to own going forward, if you absolutely have to own one. Torain can be kicked to the curb. Washington's rest-of-season schedule isn't stellar for rushing purposes (Dal, Sea, NYJ, Min, et al), but Helu was either Plan A or Plan B in every passing situation in Week 9. He should have lasting fantasy value, even if he never sees another 17-target game. When a bad quarterback finds himself a security blanket, a PPR star can quickly emerge. Helu is a pickup of interest, no doubt.

(Appreciate the courtesy laugh from Danyelle. Total pro move right there).

Running Backs

It's just ridiculous how low our expectations have fallen for Chris Johnson. If he would have delivered his Week 9 stats last season (110 scrimmage yards, no TDs), you would have complained loudly that he was killing your team. But within the context of Johnson's miserable 2011 campaign, 11 fantasy points seemed like a breakout performance. Honestly, I didn't think any of his carries were unusually impressive, not if you still hold him to a top-tier standard. He managed to escape a defender or two on the early 20-yard run, but the 21-yard catch that followed was a layup, a nice playcall, easy yardage. CJ had a few other nice moments, double-digit gains where he didn't go down in the arms of the first would-be tackler, so I guess that's progress. But he was relatively quiet in the second half.

Target Practice, Week 9: Roy Helu had a rather busy day"What you saw in the first half is what we hope will continue the rest of the year," said Mike Munchak.

The fantasy community hopes for the same thing, coach. If Johnson is truly rounding into form, he'll have a monster day at Carolina in Week 10 — and yes, I can recall saying the same thing about his match-up with Indy in Week 8.

Bottom line: I'm not dropping Javon Ringer(notes) just yet, but we can't dismiss the faint pulse detected with CJ. If you've bought low, please share the trade details in comments.

Brandon Jacobs(notes) doesn't see many five-target games — he hadn't had one since '09, in fact — so it's nice to see him produce a little something when he gets an opportunity. He has a rough match-up at San Francisco in Week 10, however, and Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) is due back soon. ... Danny Woodhead(notes) returned to the Kevin Faulk(notes) role, at least for a week, while Faulk himself was inactive (knee). Nothing to get too excited about here. These are low-yield PPR options, not must-adds in all formats. ... DeMarco Murray(notes) flashed basically every skill you want in a feature back in the Seattle win, facing a tough run defense. Remember, that dude caught 71 passes at Oklahoma last year, and 157 in his collegiate career. He looks like an all-weather, all-situation back, and you have to appreciate the upcoming schedule. These are Murray's match-ups through Week 16: Buf, at Was, Mia, at Ari, NYG, at TB, Phi. Of those seven opponents, only one ranks in the top-half of the league in run defense, and it's a one-win team (Miami, No. 14 vs. the run).

Wide ReceiversTarget Practice, Week 9: Roy Helu had a rather busy day

Another week, another huge target total for Brandon Lloyd(notes). He's had no fewer than 12 targets in every game since heading to St. Louis. Obviously the lousy team context hurts him; the Rams average just 12.5 total points per game, and they rank dead-last in passing TDs (four). But the yardage and target totals help Lloyd hold his value. And c'mon, it's not as if you'd feel any better about him if he were still tied to Tim Tebow(notes).

Denarius Moore(notes) is clearly back on the fantasy radar after Carson Palmer(notes) gave the rookie receiver a shot at a big day. Moore finished with twice as many targets as Jacoby Ford(notes), though the latter player had the much better fantasy line (5-105-1). Moore's target total on Sunday actually equaled Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)'s snap count (not a joke), so we may need to rearrange the hierarchy in this receiving corps. Ford deserves more than a cameo role going forward, certainly, because he's a big-play threat who's proven himself capable of making difficult catches in tight coverage. (You might recall his ridiculous day against Brandon Flowers(notes) last season. If you don't, here's a clip). Suddenly, DHB feels like a dice roll.

Rams slot receiver Greg Salas(notes) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9, fracturing his left fibula in the loss at Arizona. Brutal news, clearly. He'd emerged as a reliable PPR asset. Austin Pettis(notes) likely takes over his role, and he's roster-worthy in any format where Salas was owned. ... David Nelson(notes)'s fantasy day was saved by the garbage-time touchdown against the Jets, and it seemed as if half his targets arrived on that late drive. Still, that guy does something impressive each week — might be a TD, or a badass block, or a painful catch in heavy traffic. Keep Nelson in mind when you have a need. ... Seems like Antonio Brown(notes) and Mike Wallace(notes) should have each received credit for half-a-target on this play. That's the way I woulda scored it. ... Malcom Floyd(notes) isn't expected to return for the Thursday nighter against Oakland, so rookie Vincent Brown(notes) should make another appearance in the box score for San Diego. He's coming off a six-target, four-catch, 79-yard game.

Bears receiver Earl Bennett(notes) didn't quite make the target leader board in his return from injury, but he clearly had a massive impact on the game's outcome. That guy is worth an add in many leagues, though perhaps not in your standard 10-teamer. (I'd make Laurent Robinson(notes) my first WR claim, just for the record, and Bennett my second). Earl finished with five catches on five targets against the Eagles, gaining 95 yards and finding the end zone late in the game. On Bennett's 5-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter, the Bears were actually supposed to run a shovel pass (which everyone always hates, unless it works). But Jay Cutler(notes) vetoed the play, made eye contact with his former college teammate, changed the play telepathically, and it resulted in this go-ahead touchdown — and that, my friends, is rapport between a quarterback and receiver.

And then Earl and Jay made sweet, sweet Twitter love after the game...

Target Practice, Week 9: Roy Helu had a rather busy day

That's lovely. Add @EBBennett80 as needed.

Target Practice, Week 9: Roy Helu had a rather busy dayTight Ends

We've spent a fair amount of time discussing Jake Ballard(notes) around here, because he's almost impossible to tackle. It usually takes 6-8 defenders and a tranquilizer gun to bring him down. He's just a fun player to watch. Ballard obviously had the key catch in the Giants' Week 9 win at New England, a 1-yard TD in the final seconds. But his 28-yard grab earlier in the drive was a genuinely difficult catch, above the coverage. In each of Ballard's last five games, he has either 50 receiving yards or a touchdown (or both). He's an asset, only 34 percent owned.

Dallas Clark(notes) reportedly has a "significant" leg injury, and it's likely to sideline him for multiple weeks. Jacob Tamme(notes) presumably takes over, just like last year. Or rather, just like last year, but without a Hall of Fame-level quarterback. ... Jermichael Finley(notes) now has touchdown catches in consecutive weeks, and he's tied to a quarterback who's playing the position like few ever have. Let's hope you didn't make a panic deal, selling-low on a TE with elite skills. You've got nothing to complain about, Finley owner. If his first-half performance is your biggest fantasy gripe, then you're probably doing just fine. ... Brent Celek(notes) had a third straight useful game — no huge surprise, since he was facing a Chicago defense that allows the most fantasy points to tight ends. Brandon Pettigrew(notes) gets the Bears in Week 10, while Celek faces the user-friendly Cardinals. Both will likely rank as starters on my board.

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