There’s fear and loathing in Carolina, some confusion as we look at the receptions spread around among San Francisco’s pass catchers, and some woe in the Arizona backfield.
Late game observations? Late game observations.
Cam Newton took on a human form, and wasn’t Superman
He wasn’t bad. Far from it. Newton still had 303 passing yards and a touchdown in Carolina’s loss to Tampa Bay. He also threw two interceptions, which is greeted with all the meh I can muster. While others today like Michael Vick and Matthew Stafford threw a staggering amount of picks to put themselves immediately on a poor turnover pace, Newton was still starting only his 17th NFL game. Last year he had 17 picks, and only four multiple INT games. Unless we see the seeds of a pandemic next week, consider this one of those hiccups, and move on.
No, my concern is around the running game from Newton, and the utter lack of it. As with Vick and every uniquely mobile quarterback before him, while the scrambling QB’s career advances an effort is made to establish a greater pocket presence. The goal is two-fold: to minimize injury, and to cater to the realization that a scrambling, option approach isn’t sustainable long term.
It’s impossible right now to say definitively if this will be a season when we see that transition from Newton. All we have is one week, and the results from one game, but they’re not promising. After finishing with 706 rushing yards last year at a pace of 44 per game and a record-setting 14 rushing touchdowns, Newton had only four rushing yards today on five carries.
Newton was widely a second-round pick and considered to be among the elite five quarterbacks largely because of the bonus contribution he makes with his legs. With most leagues awarding more points for rushing yards, he offers the opportunity to start a QB who adds at least four-to-six points every week on the ground in addition to his aerial acrobatics.
This was easily and obviously a career low in rushing yards for Newton. His lowest single-game production on the ground last year was 18 yards, and he had eight games with at least 50. Sheer odds state that this likely is just a one-week aberration, but if it’s not you’ll hear the sophomore slump increasingly associated with Newton’s name in fantasy circles.
So please, Cam, run a little more and spare us all from being annoyed by an arbitrary and mostly fabricated curse. Thanks.
No one in Arizona is capable of running with a football
The two running backs — Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells — combined for 23 yards on 15 carries. Wells was able to stay healthy long enough last year to finish with 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is fine production for a rusher who was likely an RB3 on most teams.
But unlike, say, Peyton Hillis in Kansas City — who arguably adds to Jamaal Charles’ value by keeping him fresh and healthy — the end game with Williams and Wells in Arizona is two players canceling out each other’s production, and therefore wasting their skills and opportunities to contribute with a larger workload.
Death to the committee backfield.
So, about that Greg Olsen sleeper pick
If you missed out on any of the top TEs this year — like the Rob Gronkowskis or Aaron Hernandezs or Vernon Davis’s — you knew that you could wait until nearly the very end of your draft and select everyone’s favorite sleeper who’s no longer playing in the shadow of Jeremy Shockey, and has a chance to bust out.
His name is Greg Olsen, and he had 56 receiving yards today. He didn’t get into the end zone, but the Panthers tight end had only four fewer yards than Gronk, thee less than Hernandez, and 13 more than Davis.
The problem is that two of those upper tier TEs had touchdowns today, so for Olsen to climb to that elite plateau as his own head coach predicted, he’ll have to score more. And for that to happen, the Panthers will have to reach the red zone more often.
That will all come in due time. But for now, you’re already getting great value on a late-round sleeper.
The 49ers’ pass distribution could be uneven all year
We know that Michael Crabtree is atop San Francisco’s wide receiver depth chart. We know this because it’s written on paper somewhere, and because he was Alex Smith’s primary target today in the few times he stopped managing the game (shhh, Jim Harbaugh will eat you, so don’t read that too loudly). Crabtree led the Niners with seven catches for 76 yards.
But beyond him, Smith’s eyes were wandering, and there was little definition in terms of the distribution. Randy Moss had four receptions and so did Mario Manningham, while tight end Vernon Davis had three. There’s value here among San Fran’s wideouts, but as this situation sorts itself out in the early weeks, it’s difficult to look at any of them as anything more than a WR3. We’re also seeing a similar situation in Seattle.
Patience, young fantasy Jedi.
As if there was any doubt…
I present to you Doug Martin, the now unquestioned bell cow running back in Tampa Bay’s backfield. The rookie was frequently drawing the attention of Josh Freeman in the passing game and had four catches for 23 yards, while adding 95 rushing yards on 24 carries.
LeGarrette Blount’s leg injury helped, but if anything that likely just served to further solidify Martin’s top role.