The Miami Dolphins are the consensus choice to be the NFL’s worst team, and they looked the part Sunday. They couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, couldn’t tackle. And worse yet, the Dolphins want to be bad this year — tanking is their rebuilding strategy. Maybe they’ll be generationally bad.
And let’s be fair — maybe Lamar Jackson will be generationally great.
Jackson was one of the early monsters in Week 1, rolling up 33.56 fantasy points and beating all the other early-wave quarterbacks. And the shocking thing was that he did it with his arm, not his legs. Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in the 59-10 beatdown of Miami, while he ran just three times for six yards (meanwhile, his teammates rumbled 43 times for 259 yards).
Baltimore had 42 points at halftime, clicking on a handful of shot plays. And it all looked so easy, so cohesive. So fun.
It’s never easy to tell how much of a blowout is the good side being legit versus the bad side being terrible. But Jackson and the Ravens passing game could be a breakout show. Rookie Marquise Brown lived up to his Hollywood billing, premiering with a tasty 4-147-2 line, with both scores from distance. Mark Andrews (8-108-1) scored in garbage time (from Robert Griffin, in fact), but he nonetheless looks terrific. I’ll admit I looked at this passing game all summer and had questions — how much would the Ravens throw? How passer-developed is Jackson anyway? Now I’m forced to re-evaluate.
The only disappointing Baltimore thing was the play of the understudy running backs; when a match gets out of hand, often the backups run wild. While Mark Ingram answered the bell early (14-107-2), Gus Edwards (17-56) and Justice Hill (7-27) were underwhelming. It’s just one game, but it was disappointing to see.
There’s not much to say about Miami’s offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick never really had a chance (14-for-29, 185 yards, one touchdown, one pick). Rookie Preston Williams had a nice touchdown grab. Albert Wilson got hurt. DeVante Parker needed seven targets to get there, but he did have a 49-yard catch and 75 yards overall. Josh Rosen took off his tennis sweater and threw three late passes, one of them picked. Miami fans might be wearing bags over their heads before the end of the month.
No rest for the Dolphins, as they host New England (and a different cat named Brown) next week. Meanwhile, Jackson and the Ravens throw down (or run down) with Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.
Beware the Fantasy Obstructors
Rookie receivers got the best of it on Sunday, while the first-year backs weren’t as exciting. But sometimes these things are more about gridlock than they are about talent lock.
Consider players like Frank Gore and Darren Sproles — respectable veterans, but no longer fantasy staples. These days, I consider them Fantasy Obstructors. They’re good enough (or respected enough) to still command a share of the touches, but not good enough to be started in most fantasy teams. Basically what they do is get in the way of players we want to use for fantasy.
Perhaps Devin Singletary will nudge Gore out of the way soon. Singletary made 98 yards on his nine opportunities Sunday — sparking a classic Bills comeback or Jets choke, take your pick — while Gore was stuck at 11-20 on the ground. I’m all for Gore as an elder statesman and role model, but at some point talent should win out. Singletary should be rostered in even shallow leagues. (Of course, he also has to deal with Josh Allen taking some rushing production — Allen scampered, recklessly at times, for 38 yards and a score.)
Like Gore, Sproles is 36 — they were born about a month apart in the spring of 1983. And like Gore, Sproles got plenty of work Sunday, though he was more effective. Sproles rolled up 47 yards on nine carries in the comeback win against Washington, along with three short catches (16 yards). This usage got in the way of rookie Miles Sanders, who had to settle for 11-25 rushing, along with a two-yard reception. (Sanders also lost a 21-yard touchdown on a tacky-tack holding penalty.)
We worried about the width of Philadelphia’s usage tree all summer, and it came to roost here — five different players carried the ball, and eight different players had multiple targets. DeSean Jackson (8-154-2) was the star of the game, but we know he’ll have quiet days, too. Carson Wentz was sloppy in the first half — the entire team was — but he was letter-perfect in the second, finishing with 313 yards and three touchdowns. He’s still the safest bet in this offense.
If I had to bet this second, I’d take Singletary over Sanders. But much better days are ahead for both players, and I think they have good chances to be difference-makers in the 2019 fantasy season.
Everybody loses in Jacksonville
History will note Kansas City’s 40-26 victory in Week 1, but this game had more losers than winners. Myles Jack lost his mind, leading to a first-half ejection. The Jaguars lost QB Nick Foles to a broken collarbone. Tyreek Hill doesn’t need surgery on his collarbone, but he’ll reportedly be out multiple weeks.
And to put a wrap on this lost day, Jacksonville’s stadium lost power in the middle of the second half. The final third of this game was not televised. Maybe it’s the ending we deserved.
Sammy Watkins scored early and often, en route to a blowup game (9-198-3). Now the challenge is to prove he can be a star performer regularly, even with teams scheming against him (and not dealing with Hill). Some will push Watkins into the WR1 conversation while Hill is out, but I wonder if you can sell off that optimism and make a profit. Let’s not forget how injury-prone Watkins has been for most of his career, and how erratic his play has tended to be. If I rostered him, I’d at least make it known that he was available; see how the market reacts.
Patrick Mahomes managers are glad the game ended; that Jags defense is physical and it’s also, to put it kindly, aggressive. This game felt like a three-hour bar fight. LeSean McCoy outplayed Damien Williams, though Williams cashed a short touchdown. Travis Kelce did Kelce things. Kansas City gets Oakland next week.
• Although Dede Westbrook got his touchdown and QB Gardner Minshew looked good in his surprise debut, Westbrook’s value likely takes a drop with Foles out. Minshew clearly has taken most of his reps with other receivers, and Westbrook wasn’t anything close to the first option.
• It was a day of hit and miss for Todd Gurley. A 14-97-0 day on the ground is fine, even if he only caught one pass. And Darrell Henderson only had one touch. But Malcolm Brown, the back the Rams prioritized to keep right after the season, had two touchdowns and an 11-53 line on the ground. Gurley might have to accept being the head of a committee, and Brown looks too good to completely vanish.
• The Browns looked like a team that spent the summer being told how great it was. Not that it’s shameful to lose to an underrated Tennessee team, but to get dump-trucked at home in the opener is embarrassing. At least Odell Beckham Jr. was the priority in the passing game, absorbing 11 of 38 targets.
• Game script allowed the Vikings to unplug the passing game — 38 runs, 10 passes. Obviously there will be weeks where the team needs balance, but just keep in mind this is exactly how Mike Zimmer would like to play all the time; win with rushing (Dalvin Cook looks marvelous) and the defense.
Matt Ryan left town with 304 yards, but it was off a mediocre 6.6 YPA, and most of it came in garbage time. Austin Hooper did what he does; Hoops caught all nine targets, but made just 77 yards on them. I’ll still take it.
• I was shocked at how bad Sam Darnold looked. He was indecisive at times, had too many passes batted down, was late on throws. He didn’t make the big mistake, but a 4.3 YPA is terrible. Darnold also took four sacks. At least the connection with Jamison Crowder carried over (14-99-0, on 17 targets), though most of the completions were short, and many unimportant.
• The moment looked too big for Kyler Murray for about three quarters, but he settled down in the fourth and played out of his mind. Ah, DGAF, the best game plan. Detroit and Arizona took turns making curious decisions to push away victory, so a tie feels appropriate. Enjoy the Matt Patricia era while we can.
• I’m not positive Jimmy Garoppolo is the star he is made out to be. And although I had hopes that Bruce Arians could fix Jameis Winston, and maybe he can, the Tampa Bay offense was a nightmare in Week 1. Five of Tampa’s next seven games are on the road.
• The Seahawks passing tree was narrow as expected, and DK Metcalf (4-89-0, six targets) was a factor right away. But it’s criminal that the Seahawks allowed Tyler Lockett (1-44-1) to be targeted just twice. Although Russell Wilson had a 134.6 rating and a 9.8 YPA, he attempted just 20 passes. Four sacks were part of the problem.
Chris Carson collected 21 touches; he looked fine as a receiver. Rashad Penny had six uneventful runs (18 yards) and was not targeted. This is not 1 and 1A; this is bell cow and understudy.