Stevan Ridley was Rotoworld’s No. 9 running back for Week 1. David Wilson was No. 14. This week, they could both be No. 2 — on the depth chart.
That’s what four fumbles — three lost, two returned for touchdowns and one narrowly overturned on review — will do for you in the National Football League, particularly if you’re playing for coaches who have combined for five of the past 12 Super Bowl titles.
But it’s worth noting, even Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin were willing to forgive one fumble. But two? What is even the meaning of two fumbles? Are they mistakes worthy of the existential gloom hanging over Wilson, Ridley and their fantasy owners today? Unforgivable trespasses that must forever alter careers that were for all intents and purposes, bright, heading into Sunday’s games?
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Well, it depends on who is behind you, and what’s behind you. In both players’ case, the what that’s dogging them is the same: A history of putting the ball on the ground. The who couldn’t be more different, however. For Wilson, it’s Da’Rel Scott, a 2011 seventh-round pick who entered Week 1 with 11 career carries for 25 yards (2.3 YPC). He averaged 2.5 yards on his 15 preseason totes. In other words, he’s not a viable replacement for Wilson. Despite some post-game saber rattling, even Coughlin seemed to admit this, saying “(Wilson’s) still very much in our thoughts. ... He’s got to play.” Coughlin may never want to see Wilson again, but he knows he’s going to have to give him the damn ball. Bringing in a veteran free agent — of whom the Giants are working out many — isn’t going to change that. Wilson is going to get another chance, and will probably end up a high-end FLEX option for Week 2.
Ridley, on the other hand, isn’t being chased by a day-three career backup. He’s dealing with a player who went 17 picks ahead of him in the 2011 draft, and played like it on Sunday. All offseason, Shane Vereen’s role was the subject of intrigue. Would he monopolize third-down touches? Would he help fill the Patriots’ hole on the outside by occasionally splitting out wide? The answers were “yes” and “yes.” What we didn’t know is how he’d look between the tackles if given the chance. We have the answer: Damn good. Perhaps as good as Ridley.
It was only one afternoon, of course, but Vereen looked like a back who’d have little trouble playing all three downs if given the opportunity, and a fed up Belichick might do just that on Thursday against the Jets. At least for one more week, Ridley is probably going to have to think about what he’s done. More than likely, it won’t be from the bench, but rather a reserve role. It’s impossible to ever truly know what the iconoclastic Belichick has in store, but consider Vereen an RB2 for Week 2, with Ridley a boom-or-bust FLEX option. One thing working in Ridley’s favor? If there’s one thing Belichick would love more than sending a message to his fumbling running back, it’s humiliating the Jets. He’s not going to do anything that compromises that mission, i.e., giving run to LeGarrette Blount over Ridley.
At the end of the day, one bad game isn’t going to make or break either player’s year. But they have to break in some direction or other. Wilson’s circumstances suggest mercy. Ridley’s suggest tough love, and some extra time on the pine.
Update 1:45 PM ET 9/9/2013: Well, so much for that. Per FOX's Jay Glazer, Vereen will miss multiple weeks with a broken wrist. Ridley lives, wrecking my first "Morning After" in the process.
The Raiders/Terrelle Pryor
Despite what Raiders fans might think after Sunday’s near miracle, this is still a 1-2 win team. The talent just isn’t there. But the Raiders deserve a ton of credit for not only playing like they have no idea how overmatched they are, but not taking the easy way out. That would have been starting Matt Flynn, traditional pocket passer, and his $6.5 million salary. By going with hybrid quarterback Terrelle Pryor — an unproven pet project of eccentric departed owner Al Davis, and a Tebow-esque passer — the Raiders risked even greater humiliation, but also did something they desperately needed to do: Add some unpredictability to their ramshackle roster. Flynn’s noodle arm would have provided the predictable air of death to Oakland’s offense. Instead they went with Pryor, who is going to make spectacular mistakes — like the second pick he threw on Sunday — but also give the Raiders a fighting chance every now and then. No one wants to go full Tebow, but as the Raiders found out on Sunday, there are worse routes for teams whose talent is so predictably terrible.
Put simply, this guy is so good, it’s scary. Still wrongly perceived as more of a runner than a thrower, Kaepernick peeled away the final layer of the “running QB” onion on Sunday, dismantling a team that spent all summer preparing for the read option by throwing for 412 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 22 yards rushing were two more than Blaine Gabbert had against the Chiefs. Kaepernick can run, but he’s a passer first, and the 49ers can barely be defensed because of it.
There are three certainties with Danny Amendola: He will catch passes, he will get hurt and he’ll be tough as nails while doing so. Pats fans were treated to the full Amendola experience in his New England inaugural on Sunday, watching as he aggravated his lingering groin injury in the second quarter, only to return after halftime and make seven absolutely critical catches for an offense that was going nowhere. Amendola is going to miss games this season. That’s almost a given. But when he’s on the field, there will be no better safety valve for Tom Brady, who appeared without one for the first half of Sunday’s game.
1. In which part of Colts OC Pep Hamilton’s job interview did he pledge to funnel his offense through Vick Ballard and play Darrius Heyward-Bey ahead of T.Y. Hilton? Like the Nixon Tapes, these conversations need to see the light of day before we’re all dead and gone from this earth.
2. Do the Steelers practice offensive line and running game injuries? If not, they’ve got an innate ability worthy of scholarly study.
3. On what planet is having Brandon Weeden throw 53 times while Trent Richardson rushes 13 times a recipe for success? If the answer’s out there, it’s millions of light years away.
Stats of the Week
Larry Fitzgerald is already halfway to his 2012 touchdown total.
Anquan Boldin’s 200-yard afternoon was his first 200-yard effort since...his first career game.
Not including the playoffs, Adrian Peterson’s sub-100 yard game was just his second since last Week 6. Peterson ripped off a 78-yard run in the first quarter, but averaged less than a yard (0.88) on his 17 other carries.
Week 1’s leading rusher? Terrelle Pryor, with 112 yards.
The Following Tight Ends Scored Two Touchdowns in Week 1: Julius Thomas, Jared Cook, Vernon Davis and Jason Witten.
Fantasy MVP of Week 1: Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns Thursday. Not only was he the first player to do so in the “Age of Fantasy,” but the first since 1969. Manning had four fewer scores than Jake Locker had completions. Four career-threatening neck surgeries are the new market inefficiency.
The “It Gets Worse” PSA/He Is Who We Thought He Is Award: Forget Blaine Gabbert’s hand ouchies or the 30 minutes he happened to look good in an exhibition game against the Jets: This is the quarterback he is. The quarterback who starts a game his team loses 28-2. The quarterback who doesn’t get his offense across the 50-yard line until 52 minutes into the game. The quarterback whose yards per attempt (3.5) was lower than his yards per carry (4.0). The quarterback who’s going to make the Louisville Cardinals the second most popular team in Jacksonville this season.
The Not Yet Ready For Primetime Players: Zach Sudfeld and Kenbrell Thompkins entered Week 1 on a tidal wave of hype. They exit it via the undertow back to sea. That’s not to say they won’t swim back to shore — neither should be dropped just yet. But Thompkins turned in one of the most inefficient performances you’ll ever see, while Sudfeld made no impact whatsoever. Well no positive one, that is. He couldn’t haul in a catchable ball on his lone target, instead coughing it up to the Bills for an “interception.” Thanks to horrendous footwork and the utter failure to corral all but the purest of passes, Thompkins turned just 4-of-14 targets into receptions. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was bad luck. Whatever it was, it’s likely to have Thompkins with a much smaller role on Thursday. He belongs on fantasy benches for the time being.
Most Absurd Moment of Week 1: Danny Trevathan’s gaffe may well go down the most absurd moment of the season, but what happened on Thursday is already old news. That’s why we’ll have to go with Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud — who entered Week 1 with 86 career kick returns — fielding the ball, stepping on the goal line and retreating into the end zone to kneel. In other words, committing a safety on the first play of the game. The Titans were down 2-0 :03 into the season thanks to a play where no tackle was made. It doesn’t get more absurd than that.
Most Sublime Moment of Week 1: Geno Smith’s toe on the out-of-bounds line being the difference in a game between the dysfunctional Jets and toes-on-the-line Bucs.
Least Valuable Player, Non-Gabbert Division: What does Mark Ingram call nine carries for 11 yards? The performance his entire career has been building toward. It’s time to give up the FLEX ghost.
Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Peyton Manning, RB Shane Vereen, RB Reggie Bush, WR Anquan Boldin, WR A.J. Green, WR Danny Amendola, TE Jared Cook, TE Vernon Davis.
Just So We’re Clear on This: The Steelers not only lost their home opener to the Titans, they lost their home opener to the Titans when the Titans committed a non-contact safety on the first play of the game.
Early Waiver Look
QB: Terrelle Pryor, E.J. Manuel, Chad Henne, Geno Smith
RB: Joique Bell, Fred Jackson, Pierre Thomas, Da’Rel Scott
WR: Julian Edelman, Rod Streater, Kenny Stills, Rueben Randle
TE: Julius Thomas, Tyler Eifert, Kellen Winslow