Week 2 TNF and Injury News

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Week 1 is in the books and we’re ready for another round of excitement. We’ve accepted all of the season-ending injuries, made our roster claims, and our only question is if Elijah Mitchell was worth all of our FAAB. But, before we start a debate over the next San Francisco running back, I dove into the storylines before us for Thursday Night Football along with the major injury news from practice ahead of Week 2.

TNF Preview: Jones vs. Heinicke

The Giants are who we thought they were. A team without any sort of offensive identity but one that makes enough personnel moves to keep us interested. Their offense appeared formidable over the summer. At least, on paper it did. Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley is quite the list of headliners! But we made it to Week 1 with about two and half of those guys. However, it wasn’t a complete disaster.

New York was 7th in Offensive Yards per Drive on Sunday. Daniel Jones was just at league average in terms of overall efficiency (19th in EPA per Play). Except, he couldn’t turn the yards into points. The Giants had two 60+ yard drive that ended without any change to the scoreboard. But Jones was still able to show flashes of the pocket passer we saw his rookie season.

Jones was 13th in EPA per Play on all throws from a clean pocket his first year. Even last season, his deep-ball throws rivaled elite passers like Josh Allen or Dak Prescott. He’s just been unable to pull it all together. But he’s got the personnel to challenge Washington’s defense later tonight.

Jones faced pressure on just 25.6% of his dropbacks. It was part of the reason why he was able to have even a pedestrian boxscore to start the season. Justin Herbert, who just played Washington, faced even less pressure. The Chargers came to Maryland with the right blueprint on offense. Protect the quarterback and keep him looking downfield away from primary strength of the opposing defense. It worked like a charm.

If you’re facing a defensive front featuring Chase Young with Cole Holcomb or Jamin Davis in the middle of the field, why force the ball in that direction? Look at Herbert’s passing chart from Sunday. Does it seem like the Chargers’ coaching staff identified a weakness?

Week 1 passing chart for Justin Herbert.
Week 1 passing chart for Justin Herbert.

Herbert threw just 10 passes at or near the middle of the field. Otherwise, he looked to the perimeter to move the chains. Mike Williams’ aDOT dropped to 10.0 as a result. Daniel Jones has at least two receivers in Golladay or Shepard that could duplicate LA’s approach. However, we still need Washington’s offense to create a competitive environment and keep both teams on a passing script.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury is a big loss for fantasy and real football. He makes the game fun to watch as we collectively hold our breath every time he lets a ball fly downfield. But, we kind of did the same for Taylor Heinicke the last time he took the field. The backup that nearly derailed Tom Brady’s Super Bowl run retakes the field and it’s thrown off our expectations of Washington’s offense. But, at first glance, it could be fun!

Heinicke showed a similar ability to create on the move during the Wild Card game last season. He also didn’t show any rust after coming off the bench. He didn’t throw any interceptions nor did he take a sack. He was 7th in CPOE while finishing 14th in EPA per Play. Both marks were higher than Justin Herbert that played opposite him in the same game. However, Heinicke’s overall volume was something of a concern.

Week 1 PROE chart.
Week 1 PROE chart.

Washington was 31st in Pass Rate Over Expected (PROE) in a game with a one-score differential the entire time. Last season, they finished 9th in neutral pass rate despite using three different quarterbacks. The prevailing thought for this season was that with stability at quarterback, they could rely more on their aerial attack. Fitzpatrick opened Week 1 with a 58.3% passing rate, but Heinicke closed it out with just 15 attempts. The hope is the injury short-circuited whatever plans they had for the offense and they had to condense the playbook on the fly. With time to prepare, Heinicke can navigate the offense with a larger command of passing weapons.

Points of Interest in TNF

I tried to think of a main storyline to highlight for the Giants and I couldn’t. There are too many. Their offense is like a GIF of an old wrestling match. Chaos everywhere and, if you rewatch the clip, you’ll find new things that’ll make you giggle. Like Daniel Jones fumbling for the 30th time in 27 starts. Or Nate Solder blocking his own teammate. But, if I had to choose, Saquon Barkley’s involvement has to be the main appeal for Giants’ fans.

His 48% snap share in Week 1was his lowest mark as a starter since his rookie season. He did garner 10 of the 16 running back rushes along with 3 targets, but 13 touches won’t cut it for an early-round draft target. Their quick turnaround for TNF was a logical reason for his limited use on Sunday. We can only hope the Giants turn him loose in their first divisional game.

For Washington, the spotlight is on Heinicke. And, really, on Ron Rivera and Scott Turner. With just a few days to plan, the question remains if they’ll change their game plan. Washington erred on the conservative side once Heinicke was forced into action. But this is the same staff that turned Heinicke loose for 44 pass attempts against the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions in the Wild Card match not eight months ago. You might not be starting Heinicke, but you are starting the players on the other end of his pass attempts. However, he’s shown enough to keep our fantasy assets afloat even on a short week.

Injury Slants

First, he was made inactive right before the game. Now this.

The first reaction most folks had was panic. Beckham appeared close to playing in Week 1 and he gets declared out for Week 2 early. But there’s some hope. Cleveland is a 12.5-point favorite in their home opener against Houston and the rest of the offense is healthy negating any need to rush him back to action. Plus, Beckham has continued to practice and was listed as limited on Wednesday. There’s no report of a setback, but we’ll need to be ready for Week 3. Meanwhile, Houston is dealing with their own problems.

Pharaoh Brown quickly became a name to know after the Texans’ stunning performance on Sunday. Brown was second in targets and receiving yards behind Brandin Cooks. He left Week 1 early with a shoulder injury and is still receiving treatment. For those looking for tight-end help, you may need to look elsewhere until he returns. Unfortunately, Philadelphia doesn’t look like an option.

Zach Ertz was taken to the locker room with a hamstring injury on Sunday. He returned to the game, but was used sparingly as a precaution. His absence this early in the week is likely a combination of caution and much-needed time to rehab. Nick Sirianni used a similar approach with Miles Sanders who’s ankle injury warranted a limited practice to start off the week. Dallas Goedert is the obvious beneficiary should Ertz miss time, but there’s nothing to suggest it as of Wednesday. For Gabriel Davis, it’s a different story.

The sophomore receiver tweaked his ankle on a route and is considered day-to-day. Davis caught the lone touchdown from Josh Allen but only earned 5 targets on the day. His lack of routes (34) compared to the primary trio of Stefon Diggs (55), Cole Beasley (55), and Emanuel Sanders (52) suggests his role may be volatile each week. Regardless, having a player attached to a pass-first offense is typically worth a flex start. Baltimore is dealing with a similar issue.

Brown was in on the final play for Baltimore in overtime and the team had travel back across the country to prepare for the home opener against Kansas City. His absence is likely precautionary given the team’s recent slew of injuries. Without any other information, expect Brown to be back in practice by the end of the week. But Seattle can’t expect the same of one of their receivers.

Dee Eskridge looked to be the third receiver for Russell Wilson despite competing with Will Dissly and Gerald Everett for targets. However, it was encouraging to see the second-round rookie get at least one target in the team’s first game. However, Eskridge got knocked out of bounds on a play and the team soon announced he was in the concussion protocol. While he wasn’t a primary fantasy asset, Wilson’s targets, and how they’ll be distributed are a constant source of fantasy goodness should Eskridge miss Week 2. But we did get some positive injury news on Wednesday.

Will Fuller returned from his one-game suspension and joined his teammates for practice. Miraculously, he practiced in full after injuring his foot injury in late July. Miami could definitely use the help after an uneven performance from Tua Tagovailoa in Week 1. Fuller would instantly become the team’s best receiver with a tough test ahead of them against Buffalo in Week 2.