Week 10 Intel
Here’s my inside slant on some of the matchups and situations going forward…
Saints: The team surprisingly did not add a running back from their practice squad (Lamar Miller or Josh Adams) by Saturday’s roster deadline, so they’ll go with veteran RB Mark Ingram as their main ball carrier today with Dwayne Washington backing him up. And QB Taysom Hill could get more touches than first expected in this game as their 3rd RB in some packages.
Titans: RB D’Onta Foreman actually looked very good on his 5 carries during last week’s game. And if veteran RB Adrian Peterson struggles again as he did against the Rams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Foreman’s role increase going forward. 2nd-year WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is expected to fill in for veteran WR Julio Jones (hamstring-IR) who had trouble with his lingering injury during Thursday’s practice, so the decision was to shut him down for at least 3 games.
Lions: Veteran WR Josh Reynolds, who was just claimed off waivers earlier this week, could actually have a real chance at playing time going forward.
He struggled early on with the Titans, I’m told, and never recovered but gets another chance to revive his career with the team that has the worst WR corps in the NFL. Despite the Titans issues with depth at the position, they felt he wasn’t able to contribute.
The Lions, after cutting Tyrell Williams recently, clearly needed size at the position and Reynolds did play with QB Jared Goff for 4 seasons with the Rams.
Steelers: With QB Mason Rudolph starting today, you can expect a somewhat conservative play calling approach from OC Matt Canada in terms of attempts, especially considering the team found out Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t be playing until Saturday evening. They average just over 37 attempts per game (37.4), but I’d expect in the high 20s in this game unless they fall behind in the 2nd half.
WR James Washington is likely to replace WR Chase Claypool (toe-out) in the lineup.
Buccaneers: Apparently WR Chris Godwin (foot-questionable) suffered his injury in their game before the bye against the host Saints and has continued to get treatment for it, which is why he didn’t practice much this week.
The good thing is he was able to test the injury in Friday’s practice. Players who don’t practice during the week typically don’t play on Sunday, so at least there’s optimism that he’ll be able to play depending on how he does in pregame warm-ups later today.
Panthers: Once veteran QB Cam Newton has a good understanding of their offense, look for him to take over the starting job and if he plays well, keep it even when Sam Darnold (right shoulder fracture) is cleared to play.
Darnold is expected to be out at least through Week 13.
Newton never practiced with the team before he was released last year (was cut in March 2020), so it’s not going to be easy to ask him to grasp everything quickly without having a bunch of practices with his teammates.
Eagles: Once starting RB Miles Sanders (ankle/foot-IR) returns to the field, I would expect the coaches to use a two-RB backfield again. That’s generally how they deployed the position this season. And veteran RB Jordan Howard has done so well during the two games without Sanders that he could wind up being their #2 RB over Boston Scott with rookie Kenny Gainwell being used in a change-up role.
Seahawks: While he’s not likely to catch a lot of passes due to his lengthy absence, the team remains very high on rookie WR Dee Eskridge. He missed most of their off-season program due to a lingering toe injury and then suffered a bad concussion in Week 1. The team wants him to be their primary slot WR over time (likely next year) and they really want him to be a factor on 3rd downs. He’ll be a vertical slot over time.
Rams: With the loss of starting WR Robert Woods (ACL) for the rest of the season, Odell Beckham Jr went from being the Rams 4th WR to possibly having a significant role over time.
This is how I see the situation going forward in terms of usage:
2nd-year WR Van Jefferson surprisingly is averaging 16 yards per catch, which is interesting since that really wasn’t the way NFL teams saw his game prior to last year’s draft. However, he should start for the time being as he’s obviously farther ahead in his understanding of the offense, while OBJ has to learn it on the run. Jefferson, who is averaging 5 targets per game, should see at least a small increase in this area.
Once OBJ is up to speed on the offense and play book, look for a pass target by committee after Cooper Kupp between Jefferson, OBJ, and TE Tyler Higbee. Woods, due to his large role in their passing game (7.6 targets per game though 9 games), will be difficult to replace, as will some of those screens and inside handoffs.
49ers: 2nd-year WR Brandon Aiyuk seems to have responded well to more than one coach or player getting in his ear as the season progressed. As I’ve mentioned previously in this space, the coaches thought he “coasted” during training camp and acted like he already “arrived.”
QB Jimmy Garoppolo was asked a few days ago about what has helped Aiyuk respond lately to the team wanting to see more from him.
“It could be a number of things. I think it starts with his mindset and just what he brings every day into the building. I think other guys have helped him, talked to him. (WR Mohamed) Mo (Sanu Sr.) played a big role just being the veteran leadership in that room, I think Deebo (Samuel), and then all the coaches obviously playing their role in it. But it's a group effort. It's not just one guy, but B.A. has been showcasing some good things lately.”
Aiyuk does have 15 targets over his last two games, which is a good sign, and has some very favorable matchups coming up in weeks 11-13, 15, 17.
Week 10 Players Off the Injury Report
Note: These players were listed on their team’s injury report for at least one game but are now not listed with that injury.
Dak Prescott/QB/Cowboys (right calf): His calf injury caused him to miss practice time over a few weeks and one game, but Prescott is finally off the injury report. And keep in mind it’s the same leg where he suffered the broken and dislocated ankle last year.
Matthew Stafford/QB/Rams (back): He was only on the injury report with the back issue in Week 9 and is now not listed with an injury.
D’Andre Swift/RB/Lions (groin): For the first time all season, the 2nd-year pro is no longer listed on the injury report. Swift was listed on the injury report since the first injury report came out for Week 1 (Wednesday) but he has not missed any time.
Austin Ekeler/RB/Chargers (hip): He was on the injury report for two weeks with his injury, but the team said they only backed off a few weeks ago because he was sore from a particularly long practice. He’s fine now.
Carlos Hyde/RB/Jaguars (calf): Let’s keep in mind that he’s over 30 and has dealt with a few different injuries this season. Hyde would start again if starting RB James Robinson can’t go today or is limited in the game with his bruised heel.
Terry McLaurin/WR/WFT (hamstring): He showed up on their Week 6 injury report late that week, so that got us a bit concerned. And while it lingered before their Week 9 bye, McLaurin is finally off the injury report and has shown a very good ability to perform through injury during the course of his short career.
Deebo Samuel/WR/49ers (calf): The 3rd-year pro had been dealing with his injury for nearly 3 weeks but is now off the injury report. And there was one week where the team, I’m told, wasn’t totally sure he’s play but much to his credit he fought through the soreness in his calf and played.
Russell Gage/WR/Falcons (groin): His role could grow with star WR Calvin Ridley continuing to be away from the team. And Gage only had been on the injury report with this injury for one week. However, he did miss time earlier this season with a high ankle sprain.
Donovan Peoples-Jones/WR/Browns (groin): He did not play but was active for one game after getting hurt in pregame warm-ups and did not play in the next game. However, as you saw last week, he looked just fine on that TD catch and is now off their injury report.
O.J. Howard/TE/Buccaneers (ankle): He was dealing with the injury for their two games before the bye, but is now off the injury report, which is a good thing if you have him on your roster. Keep in mind HC Bruce Arians said earlier this week that veteran TE Rob Gronkowski might need a few weeks more to get his ribs/back injury healed up.
Ricky Seals-Jones/TE/WFT (quadriceps): He had been dealing with his injury for a few games but is now off their injury report.