In many fantasy seasons, rookies are largely to be seen, not played. Oh, you scout them for the future, sure. And yes, you stash them on your dynasty rosters. And usually a few running backs become viable right away, a position where the ramp-up time can be next to nil.
But in 2019, it’s safe to say, the kids are alright. And that was especially the case in Week 8.
The Giants fell at Detroit, but don’t blame quarterback Daniel Jones, who rifled four touchdown passes. Gardner Minshew continued to mark his territory in Jacksonville, tossing three scoring passes (and rushing for 28 yards) as the Jags held off the Jets. And although the Bears had a gut-punch loss to the Chargers (imagine that, the Chargers winning a game like that), don’t pin it on rookie tailback David Montgomery. The Iowa State product rattled off 147 total yards and a score.
Jones, it should be said, had a better fantasy day than real-life day. He lost a fumble, and the Lions charitably dropped at least one interception. But 322 yards and 7.9 YPA, we’ll take those numbers. And Jones spread the ball nicely, using four primary targets against Detroit’s depleted secondary. Heck, fellow rookie Darius Slayton had two of the scoring catches.
The Giants aren’t going to the playoffs this year. What they’re looking for is hope, and a glimpse of the future. Jones’ best game remains the comeback victory at Tampa Bay in his starting debut, but this effort was at least a step forward. We’ll scout him up close a week from Monday, when the Giants host Dallas in a grudge match.
Nobody throws you a parade when you beat the Jets, but Minshew needed a step forward after a recent lull in his play. He came through nicely — 22-for-34, 279 yards, the three touchdowns. He only took two sacks and wasn’t intercepted, though he did lose another fumble. His poise in the pocket can be a double-edged sword at times; occasionally, he holds onto the ball too long.
Minshew’s touchdown collection once again came at the expense of Leonard Fournette, who handled 26 touches for 136 total yards but couldn’t get into the paint. One run was marked mere inches from the goal line. Positive touchdown regression is likely to come Fournette’s way, any week now. But Jacksonville’s passing game looms plenty formidable, with Chris Conley (4-103-1) and D.J. Chark (6-79-1) representing nicely. The only negative for the Jags offense — Dede Westbrook (neck/shoulder) was dinged up again, and didn’t play in the second half.
Nick Foles could be back in three weeks. Minshew has given the Jaguars plenty to think about. Jacksonville draws Houston next week, then it’s the Week 10 bye.
Montgomery was started in 36 percent of Yahoo leagues this week, which showcases just how desperate we can be at the running back position. After all, he barely played against New Orleans last week, and was sitting on a mediocre batch of statistics (3.3 YPC, a piddly 11 catches). He stood as the RB38 before Sunday’s play.
Matt Nagy said he wanted Montgomery heavily involved this week, and the head coach kept his word. Montgomery carried 27 times for 135 yards — including a 55-yard scamper in the second quarter — and added four short receptions (12 yards). Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen had seven touches and Mike Davis just three. For once, the Bears seemed to pick a lane on offense and stick to it.
The Eagles could be a challenge next week — a defense that basically gives away the pass but stops the run fairly well. But Montgomery’s handling of the bell-cow role should mark some territory. The Bears certainly don’t want their offense to be defined by struggling quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
If we were going to tackle every 2019 rookie of note, this column would never end. Miles Sanders had a breakout day working in Buffalo, exploding for 118 total yards and a touchdown on just six touches before a shoulder injury took him out of the action. Devin Singletary was also splashy in the same game, with 49 yards and a score on just seven opportunities. The future is bright for both of these backs, it’s just a matter of when their teams decide they’re ready for featured work.
DK Metcalf’s Week 8 was all touchdown deodorant — although he had just three catches for 13 yards, he scored twice. Red-zone work is always appreciated, and he might have more end-zone visits coming. Tampa’s chewed-up secondary is on tap for Week 9.
• Given the juiciness of the matchup, Chris Carson finishing at 90 total yards and one touchdown is a bit of a disappointment. Nonetheless, he’s one of my favorite watches. He routinely trucks the first defender who encounters him, runs angry, has such powerful legs. Rashaad Penny did fine in garbage time, but he’s zero threat to Carson.
• Matt Schaub basically did the Matt Ryan — an empty-calorie 460 yards, following a scoreless first half. The running game went nowhere when it counted. The receivers remained playable. Austin Hooper really wants to finish as the TE1.
• Carson Wentz made it clear this week, he wants to spread the ball around. No one had more than six targets at Buffalo, and his 24 targets went to six different players. The Dallas Goedert mini-emergence is definitely cutting into Zach Ertz’s value.
• Given how physically compromised he was, Keenan Allen deserves credit for gutting it out and absorbing 10 targets. He definitely wasn’t close to 100 percent. The Chargers only targeted Austin Ekeler three times, a gift to the Bears. Melvin Gordon rolled on some touchdown deodorant but doesn’t look dynamic at all.
• Tra Carson was Detroit’s starting back, not that he ran away with the opportunity (12-34-0). Detroit as a team averaged less than three yards a carry. Might as well let Matthew Stafford sling it to his deep group of receivers, the best he’s had since Calvin Johnson retired.
• Darren Waller did little with his opportunity, though a touchdown bailed him out. But take heart that Jon Gruden is always going to rely on his primary guys. Waller and Tyrell Williams saw 14 of Oakland’s 30 targets.
• Keke Coutee was benched and Kenny Stills did little with his opportunity (three short catches), but maybe Darren Fells (6-58-2) can be Houston’s second-best target. That is, since the team refuses to really feature Duke Johnson. Fells is a 33-year-old journeyman, but those 6-7, 270-pounders don’t fall on trees. DeShaun Watson not only trusts Fells, he looks to him when a play breaks down.
• I weep at every Ryan Griffin catch and touchdown, wishing that were Chris Herndon. Sam Darnold had an up-and-down day, but at least he shook off the scar tissue from Week 7.
• The Saints and 49ers play in Week 14, perhaps for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Taking nothing away from Kyle Shanahan’s job and the fun Niners roster and season, but New Orleans is the most complete team in football at the moment. They’re good at everything, can beat you any style you want to play.
It's great that today's result opens up things for Cam Newton to return, but he should be very glad he didn't play against this ridiculous 49ers defense.
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) October 28, 2019
• A win is a win, but it was a definite step back for Ryan Tannehill. Some turnovers were reversed on penalty, and 5.8 YPA usually isn’t enough to win. Six looks at Corey Davis resulted in a scant nine yards. Over 60 percent of Tannehill’s yardage came to tight ends; it’s great to utilize those guys, but you need throws outside the numbers, too. And Tampa Bay’s pass defense was a good draw; next week, it’s a trip to Carolina.
Still, no one misses Marcus Mariota.
• I’m not going to pile on Nick Chubb; one of the fumbles wasn’t his fault, and he was Cleveland’s best offensive player at New England. I think the Browns would be fools to give a chunk of Chubb’s work to Kareem Hunt, but it’s not like I have any faith in Cleveland’s decision-makers.
• Remember when you could have traded Sammy Watkins for someone like Mike Evans? Ah, those were the days.