There were no winners in Justin Fields’ starting debut, just blame to be passed around. Most of the fingers are being pointed in the same direction. Fields, to put it mildly, needed to play better. You could sign former Big 10 starters off the street and they would be more productive than 6-of-20 for 68 yards and nine sacks taken.
But my oh my did Matt Nagy need to coach better. That was the universal takeaway from anybody not wearing Bears gear. “(Browns DE Myles Garett) was surprised by the way that Justin Fields was used — or more accurately, the way he wasn’t used,” NBC’s Mike Florio relayed on Football Night in America. “They didn’t move him around, they didn’t get him out of the pocket, they didn’t roll him out, they didn’t take advantage of his mobility. It made it easier for the (pass rushers) to get home, to get him on the ground.”
To that point, it wasn’t just the nine sacks. Fields took hits on 15-of-30 dropbacks. “It kind of came to us easily after the second possession,” Garett said of figuring out Nagy’s “plan.” “We kind of figured out what they were going to do and how we were going to adjust to that.” Future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees quickly diagnosed as much on the same show of Florio, with his jaw dropping at the Bears’ inability to move Fields around and get him comfortable. There was scarily little play-action and almost no RPOs, no attempt to get Fields outside the pocket where he could get on the perimeter and “see throws” in Brees’ words.
With a raw pocket passer playing behind his second-string left tackle, Nagy did as little as possible to lower the difficulty level. Per ESPN’s Paul Hembekides, Nagy dialed up four instances of pre-snap motion out of 30 dropbacks. He max protected twice. He called two designed rollouts. He employed two designed quarterback runs.
Wouldn’t it have just been easier to put a target on Fields’ back, Matt? Again, not to go too far down the path of rookie excuse making, but if you have a quarterback playing this poorly, it is your duty to yourself and team to make their life easier, and Nagy truly did not even try. If that is the approach he is going to stick with, he will be packing his office and Fields will be headed down the road of so many other talented quarterbacks whose team insisted on square pegging them into round holes. Let the road to recovery begin with a Lions defense that lacks a Myles Garrett for Week 4 and let’s take it from there.
If you are thinking of going back to fantasy well, be advised that Detroit limited Lamar Jackson to seven carries for 58 yards in Sunday’s see-saw affair.
Five Week 3 Storylines
Mike Williams posts WR1 numbers for third straight week. The Chargers promised different usage for Williams this season. What they have delivered is a different player, a 6-foot-4 body-control artist finally being given the opportunity to use his size at every level of the field. It has resulted in 22/295/4 through three contests, and a third target hog for Justin Herbert to pepper behind Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. Allen and Ekeler’s reception-stacking ways could have 8-10 weekly looks feeling unsustainable for Williams, but there is reason to believe it’s not. For starters, this “X” receiver spot is what gobbled up the targets for OC Joe Lombardi’s Saints. Beyond that, this just isn’t a deep skill corps after Hunter Henry left and only Jared Cook and third-rounder Josh Palmer were added. This will be a narrow offense, and all involved need Williams to keep it up. Only Williams’ injury history could keep him out of the top 24 at this point, while even the top 12 isn’t a laughable possibility.
Sterling Shepard does the one thing he couldn’t: Get hurt. Don’t get hurt, Sterling, don’t get hurt, Sterling … andddddd he’s hurt. This has been the sad story of Shepard’s entire six-year career. His latest ailment interrupts a breakthrough campaign, one where he was wreaking havoc over the middle of the field for a quarterback in Daniel Jones who still wants to avoid the sidelines at all costs. Shepard does not necessarily have a “history” of hamstring issues, though he battled one in 2017. His latest will probably sideline him for at least Week 4 against the Saints. It’s a cataclysmic development for Jones, but there is unlikely to be much ripple effect in the Giants’ receiver corps. Kenny Golladay’s targets are of a different nature. Kadarius Toney isn’t ready. Collin Johnson is not a plug-and-play option. Keep Shepard stashed with the knowledge that byes begin in Week 6.
A.J. Brown catches zero passes before injuring hamstring. Brown’s nightmare start to the season got infinitely worse on Sunday, with his hamstring joining his knee as a body part of concerning going forward. The 24-year-old was already requiring weekly maintenance days. Now he probably needs actual maintenance, with absences a distinct possibility. Brown is as tough as they come, so that outcome is not guaranteed. We are just even further from knowing when the “real” Brown might show up. If it is not in the next two weeks, Brown will be missing dream matchups in the Jets and Jaguars.
Ben Roethlisberger continues to crumble in dismal loss. To put too fine of a point on it, Roethlisberger looks completely done. USA Today’s Steven Ruiz highlighted the point in an amusing yet shocking old timey video, one that shows Roethlisberger lacking any semblance of arm strength or athleticism. His receiver trio is one of the envies of the league and yet he has averaged more than 6.0 yards per attempt once in three starts. The Steelers have 27 total points over the past two contests, games that came against improved but far from powerhouse defenses in the Raiders and Bengals. As an industry, we have a habit of leaving quarterbacks for dead too quickly. That history is the only point working in Roethlisberger’s favor, as his film is one of a player who will not make it through 17 starts, either for performance or injury reasons.
Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster both come up hobbling for Steelers. It, of course, did not help Roethlisberger’s cause that Smith-Schuster (ribs) joined Diontae Johnson (knee) on the shelf, and that Claypool was forced to gut through something. Johnson did not seem particularly close to suiting up in Week 3, while Smith-Schuster’s early rule out was not promising. Smith-Schuster can still be considered genuinely questionable for Week 4 against the Packers, as rib issues are typically a matter of pain tolerance. Smith-Schuster is an extremely tough player. His bigger concern going forward is Roethlisberger, though even the Big Ben risk can be mitigated for Smith-Schuster considering the nature of his slot targets. Smith-Schuster will be a low-end WR3 if he goes vs. Green Bay.
Five More Week 3 Storylines
Ja’Marr Chase continues hot start with two more touchdowns. It turns out the best receiver prospect since Amari Cooper can catch the ball after all. Chase is up to four scores with just one drop through three contests, immediately putting his big-play ability on film and giving defenses nightmares opposite Tee Higgins. Chase is being used deep, with his average targeted air yards of 16.4 checking in sixth in the league. That will lead to volatility but also matchup-flipping upside in fantasy. Down weeks are coming. They will continue to be out-numbered by the good.
James Robinson continues to restore sanity to Jags backfield. After early production and snap issues against the Cardinals, Robinson put Carlos Hyde in the rear-view mirror, turning in by far his best game of the season. Robinson produced 134 yards and a score on 21 touches, decisively winning the running back snap battle. Hyde did still mix in for 23 plays. This is not going to be a one-man backfield. Coach Urban Meyer has simply identified his best back. It took him six months longer than everyone else, but we can’t worry about that now. Robinson is safely back in the RB2 mix ahead of Week 4 against the feisty Bengals.
Cordarrelle Patterson stacks up 102 more yards as Falcons’ top weapon. Patterson commanded seven targets for the second consecutive week, turning them into 6/82. He was Atlanta’s most productive pass catcher against the Giants and is just 22 yards shy of Calvin Ridley on the year. That is actually a disaster for the Falcons, but hopefully something that will produce change going forward. As Patterson proves he is someone opposing defenses have to take seriously, that will relieve some of the pressure on Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Patterson’s gangbusters usage the past two games will not be an every-week norm, but he has done enough to affix himself in the FLEX ranks until further notice. The Football Team and Jets are soft matchups before Atlanta’s bye.
Marquise Brown mars hot start to season with three dropped touchdowns. When two dropped touchdowns just aren’t enough, Brown is your man. Sunday’s performance was a vivid flashback to Brown’s bad old days, and a reminder of why the Ravens used a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman (core muscle surgery), who is inching closer to a return. It was not a reason to pull the plug on the third-year pro, who demonstrated in Weeks 1 and 2 why you put up with him as a WR3/4. Ideally, you would not have to start him every week. Realistically, you will. More often than not, his big plays will be a benefit. That is just the nature of the beast sometimes.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon remain mired in stalemate. Gordon won the overall touch battle 19-15, though Williams got him at the goal line 3-2. Unfortunately for Williams, the third of those scoring-area looks was a lost fumble. Williams produced a one-yard score and two-yard loss on his earlier red zone rumbles. Through three games, daylight does not exist between the two backs. Perhaps a stiffening of the schedule will finally provide some, as the Broncos will not be able to experiment against the Ravens the way they did vs. the Giants, Jaguars and Jets. Despite Gordon’s big-play ability, Williams is still who we would cast our RB2/FLEX lot with going forward.
1. Why do Kyle Shanahan’s buildings never look anything like his blueprints?
2. Remember when the Patriots traded a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu?
3. What was the deal with that Jake Funk rush?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Sam Darnold (@DAL), Daniel Jones (@NO), Taylor Heinicke (@ATL), Teddy Bridgewater (vs. BAL), Justin Fields (vs. DET)
RB: Chuba Hubbard, Peyton Barber, Darrel Williams, Giovani Bernard, Malcolm Brown, Royce Freeman,
WR: Emmanuel Sanders, Marquez Callaway, Tim Patrick, Sammy Watkins, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kendrick Bourne
TE: Hunter Henry, Pat Freiermuth, Tyler Conklin, Dan Arnold,
DEF: Titans (@NYJ), Dolphins (vs. IND), Saints (vs. NYG), Lions (@CHI), Colts (@MIA), Bears (vs. DET), Falcons (vs. WFT)
Stats of the Week
The Dolphins dialed up an end zone screen pass, resulting in a safety. Per Pro Football Reference’s unparalleled database, it was the first time in NFL history a team had taken a safety on a completed pass with no penalties or fumbles.
Jaylen Waddle’s 58 yards on 13 targets were the fourth fewest ever by a wide receiver with at least 10-plus catches. The Dolphins’ offense has no prayer behind this offensive line.
19. Najee Harris’ targets were the second most ever for a running back. Considering the Steelers’ wide receiver injuries, there could be more where that came from.
Two. That’s how many weeks in a row Clyde Edwards-Helaire has lost a fumble after previously never giving the ball away. The Chiefs thankfully stuck with him and he produced his first 100-yard game of the season. The Eagles’ defensive front will be a difficult Week 4 test.
The Seahawks have zero third quarter points this season. Seems hard to do.
Tweet of the Week, from Ben Mathis-Lilley: I usually dislike constant player face shots but with Rodgers this season they’re all incredible, like closeups on a Pacino-level icon in the last closing minutes of a gripping and a devastating three hour masterpiece.
Tweet of the Week, from Hayden Winks II: Big Ben moves in the pocket like a contractor installing a new refrigerator.
Tweet of the Week III, from Michael Salfino: The Jets look like they miss Adam Gase.
Make The Money Printer Go Brrrrr Award: Cooper Kupp.
Biggest Brain Award: Kliff Kingsbury’s decision to attempt a 68-yard field goal with a kicker not named Justin Tucker.