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RGIII Rusty in Redskins Return

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Fantasy Watch: NFC East
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Adam Levitan breaks down the top targets, players to avoid and late-round fliers in the NFC East

Operation Patience was complete with Robert Griffin III’s return to game action Monday night against the Eagles. However, the second-year quarterback looked awfully rusty for much of the night. The Redskins turned the ball over on their first three possessions. RGIII threw a ball late over the middle into triple coverage to Santana Moss on the second drive. It was picked off by Brandon Boykin. The pass didn’t have much behind it. Later in the game, Griffin tried getting a third-down pass to Pierre Garcon on an out-breaking route near the sideline. RGIII threw the ball late, and Cary Williams made a diving interception. Griffin also looked tentative in the pocket. He didn’t step into many throws, often throwing off his back foot. This led to a lot of passes behind, high, and wide to his intended receivers.

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These things were to be expected from Griffin, though we may have overlooked them in anticipation of his return. He was a superhuman athlete as a rookie, and we just expected him to put the cape back on immediately and play as if he hadn’t just undergone major reconstructive surgery. RGIII did look good on the move, though. He didn’t look hampered by his knee. He was just a bit behind in his reads as a passer. RGIII turned things on in the second half against Philadelphia. OC Kyle Shanahan dialed up plenty of short, quick-hitting passes to get his quarterback in a rhythm. The Redskins’ comeback attempt fell short, but RGIII looked more comfortable as the game progressed. He’s locked in as a top-eight fantasy passer for 2013. The Packers are his next test.

On the other side of the field, Chip Kelly was making his NFL coaching debut for the Eagles. The big question was whether his high-octane, up-tempo, get-to-the-line-as-quick-as-possible offense would be able to function and keep defenses off balance in the pros. From the looks of Monday night’s game, it sure seems like Kelly and the Eagles are going to be the fastest-working offense in the league. Philadelphia rattled off over 50 plays in the first half. The Washington defense was noticeably gassed as they appeared to resort to faking cramps just to try and get a breather.

LeSean McCoy looked like a human joystick out of the backfield. He fell one yard short of a single-game career-high for rushing yards. Michael Vick read the defense well, displayed a strong arm, and even laid a couple blocks to help spring McCoy for extra yards. DeSean Jackson showed his patented speed as he abused DeAngelo Hall for seven catches, 104 yards, and a touchdown in the first half. You’re going to want to play your Eagles every week. Vick is a legitimate QB1 as long as he stays healthy. McCoy is locked in as a top-six back, while Jackson is a high-upside WR3 with serious WR2 potential.

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Texans at Chargers Notes

Philip Rivers threw four touchdowns in a game for the first time since the middle of the 2011 season. He looked like he had been brought back from the dead in coach Mike McCoy’s quick-hitting West Coast offense. San Diego was up comfortably 28-7 early in the third quarter. The high Chargers’ fans were experiencing didn’t last throughout the night, however. Rivers threw one of his patented pick-sixes midway through the fourth quarter to Brian Cushing. It tied the game at 28-28. The Texans later completed the comeback on a last-second field goal from Randy Bullock.

Ryan Mathews reeled in the first receiving touchdown of his career on the Chargers’ opening play from scrimmage. Mathews beat Brooks Reed on a wheel route up the right sideline for a 14-yard score. The fourth-year running back averaged just 2.5 YPC on 13 rushing attempts against Houston. He simply doesn’t possess game-breaking running skills. Mathews is still coming off the field on all passing downs, making him a two-down back behind a shaky offensive line. He’s going to struggle to put up consistent RB2 numbers in 2013.

Arian Foster out-touched Ben Tate 24-11 in the opener. The two rotated in and out of the game for much of the first half, but Foster was the guy coach Gary Kubiak trusted late in the game. Tate looked like the better player on Monday night. He displayed more burst and explosiveness, while Foster left some yards out on the field and looked rusty after missing the entire preseason with calf and back ailments. He couldn’t convert on third-and-one or fourth-and-one on a first-half drive, and he also dropped two third-down passes. Though Tate looked like the more talented back, Foster is certain to carry the load for the Texans this season unless he gets hurt. Foster is a mid-RB1 in Houston’s run-heavy offense, while Tate remains the top backup running back to own in fantasy. We don’t advise putting Tate in lineups unless Foster breaks down and ends up on the shelf with an injury.

News Nugget #1

Shane Vereen broke a small bone in his wrist in Sunday’s opener against the Bills. He needs surgery and is going to be sidelined for a “few weeks.” It sounds like he’ll only miss 2-3 games, but there hasn’t been any official word. We can’t expect the Patriots to clear it up for us, either. Stevan Ridley, who was benched in Week 1 for losing a couple of fumbles, will reclaim his starting job after Vereen had been in position to at least run with it for Week 2. Look for Ridley to carry a full load and put himself back on the RB1 radar after a rough start to the 2013 season. Fantasy owners need to hold onto Vereen, obviously. As soon as he gets back, he’ll be thrust back into his Darren Sproles-type role.

News Nugget #2

Coach Tom Coughlin was noncommittal when asked if David Wilson would start in Week 2 against the Broncos. Wilson, of course, lost two fumbles in Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys and was benched in favor of Da'Rel Scott.

"Not going to get into that," Coughlin said. "Give us a little time to work on this thing. He's still very much in our thoughts. He's got to play. He's a very talented young man but you just can't do that. Every time they touch the ball you're going to turn it over? The plays looked like they were over to me."

As of right now, we fully expect Wilson to get another chance to be the Giants’ No. 1 running back. Scott is a mediocre talent, and the G-Men know that. The only thing that could get in the way of Wilson earning another shot is if the Giants sign a running back off the street. New York hosted a tryout of sorts Tuesday afternoon. Free-agent running backs who were in attendance included Willis McGahee, Brandon Jacobs, and Joe McKnight. The Giants have also shown interest in Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower recently. McGahee still has some juice left in the tank. Plus, he’s a trustworthy pass protector, which is something else Wilson struggled with in the opener. If McGahee were to sign with the Giants, that’d give Wilson owners some reason for concern. Currently, though, we’re still high on Wilson. He has loads of talent.

News Nugget #3

Dez Bryant has been diagnosed with a sprained left foot. He suffered the injury in Sunday night’s game against the Giants. X-rays came back negative, but Bryant will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. We just hope the dreaded mid-foot or Lisfranc sprain issue doesn’t arise. Bryant says he’s going to play in Week 2, but we won’t know for certain until results of the MRI come back. He’s unlikely to practice much this week and will likely be listed as questionable on the injury report. Bryant has gutted through pain before. Just look back to last year when he played with a broken finger. Foot injuries are tricky for backs and receivers.

Injury Slants

Rob Gronkowski (back) is “unlikely” to play in Thursday night’s Week 2 tilt against the Jets. A Week 3 or 4 return is most likely. … Jeremy Kerley suffered a concussion in Sunday’s win over the Bucs. He passed protocol and re-entered the game, but couldn’t pass tests Monday morning. Kerley may not be able to suit up on Thursday night. … Zach Sudfeld suffered a hamstring injury against the Bills. He was limited in Monday’s practice. … Danny Amendola (groin) was limited on Monday. He likely won’t practice ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Jets, but should play. … Lance Dunbar (foot) is expected to return as the Cowboys’ No. 2 running back this week. … Steelers RB La’Rod Stephens-Howling was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL, ending his season. … Dwayne Allen’s (hip) MRI came back negative. We’d expect him to play against the Dolphins. … Marcedes Lewis is still being bothered by a calf injury and may need another week or two of rest. … Blaine Gabbert has been ruled out for Week 2 with a lacerated throwing hand. He needed 15 stitches to close up the cut. … The Titans say Shonn Greene’s knee injury isn’t serious. … Bills rookie WR Marquise Goodwin is out indefinitely with a broken hand. … Rob Housler is expected to remain sidelined for Week 2 with his bum ankle. … X-rays on Tony Romo’s ribs came back negative. … Roddy White admitted that he does have a high-ankle sprain. The Falcons had previously denied that White’s sprain was severe.

Depth Chart Slants

The Steelers re-signed Jonathan Dwyer after La’Rod Stephens-Howling tore his ACL in the opener. Look for Dwyer to split the load with Isaac Redman next Monday night. … Ahmad Bradshaw played just 15 snaps in Week 1. Expect his role to grow, though it may take a few weeks for him to get back up to speed. … Julian Edelman played 83 snaps against Buffalo. He needs to be owned in all formats. Edelman can line up inside and outside, and the Patriots love him. … Kendall Wright played behind Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, and Damian Williams in the Titan’s opener. … Cordarrelle Patterson played just five snaps in his debut. He’s behind Jerome Simpson at X receiver, especially after Simpson’s big Week 1. … Rex Ryan confirmed Geno Smith will start Thursday night’s game against New England. As if he had another option. … Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith played 27 snaps behind Rashard Mendenhall against the Rams. Rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor played eight and zero snaps, respectively. … Dwayne Harris is the Cowboys’ No. 4 receiver. He’s behind Terrance Williams for No. 3 duties. … Chad Henne will start the Jaguars’ Week 2 game against the Raiders. His insertion into the lineup should be a boost to Cecil Shorts’ stock. … Lamar Miller played 36 snaps to Daniel Thomas’ 32 in the opener against the Browns. This is an even timeshare until one separates himself from the other. Our money is still on Miller. … Coach Dennis Allen confirmed Terrelle Pryor will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback moving forward.

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