Sunday, November 21, 2010
Instant Replay: So long, Vince Young
By Tristan H. Cockcroft
The Tennessee Titans have a very favorable remaining schedule. Unfortunately, fifth-year quarterback Vince Young won't be in position to reap the benefits.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday's game that Young has lost his job as starter, following a day in which the quarterback was booed, injured, threw his shoulder pads into the stands and stormed out of LP Field. It's a particularly curious development, considering veteran backup Kerry Collins is out indefinitely because of a calf injury, leaving only third-stringer and rookie Rusty Smith as a fallback option.
So let's recap how it all went down: Young completed 12 of 16 passes for 165 yards, no scores or interceptions, but lost a fumble and couldn't inspire his offense in a home game it eventually dropped to the Washington Redskins. He and the team were booed throughout the game. Per Fisher, Young tore a flexor tendon in his right thumb when he hit his hand on a helmet on a 37-yard completion to Nate Washington late in the third quarter; Young stayed in for a handoff but then left to be taped -- which turned out to be unsuccessful -- and later examined.
"Vince tore a flexor tendon in his thumb and I was not satisfied with his ability to control the ball, so I stayed with Rusty," Fisher told The Tennesseean. "He never said to me he was OK and wanted to go back in, and I was told he was a little upset after, and I was also told he threw half his uniform in the stands."
Fisher told the media afterward that there was "no excuse" for Young's behavior, and that Young has lost his starting job, healthy or not. Considering Young might require season-ending surgery, in addition to his demotion, chances are his season -- and perhaps his Titans career -- is over.
That puts the Titans in a tough spot. Smith most likely takes over the starting job, at least until Collins is healthy, but the rookie was just 3-for-9 passing for 62 yards and an interception in relief. As a result, what once looked like a promising pass attack down the stretch suddenly becomes one of the most questionable ones. Expect the Titans to audition quarterbacks to add depth in the coming days, though no one brought in off the street seems any more likely to start in Week 12 than Smith.
Having inherited Young's exceptional schedule, Smith becomes a player to watch, as the Titans do face two of the worst pass defenses in football the next two weeks in the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. But he's not a starting option for our purposes in Week 12, and probably not even a pickup in deep leagues. After all, Colt McCoys -- rookies who flourish out of nowhere -- don't grow on trees, and even McCoy has yet to top 14 fantasy points in a single game since emerging as a starter.
Randy Moss' stock also drops as a result, if it hadn't to fantasy-backup status even before the Young development. For the second consecutive week, Moss was an expensive decoy, being shut out in the receptions department on three targets, giving him one catch on seven total targets for 26 yards in his first two games with the Titans. A particular problem for him is a lack of regular practice time with any one quarterback; he worked primarily with Collins in his first few days with the team, Young for much of the past week, and now he'll work with Smith. Nate Washington's value also drops, as he's probably not going to average 23.4 yards per catch (his Week 11 percentage) with Smith.
And here's another drawback: Moss' arrival was expected to keep opposing defenses honest, dropping safeties back in coverage and widening running lanes for Chris Johnson. With Smith under center, might teams again stack the box in an attempt to contain the Titans' most valuable weapon? Johnson is a special talent whom fantasy owners shouldn't doubt, but his potential for 20-point games was a lot better with Young and Moss in the lineup.
It's a frustrating development, but the truth is, just like that, the surging Titans look every bit as likely to go in the opposite, undesired direction.
|Just when you thought Randy Moss couldn't get any less valuable ...|
To think, there was a point this season when Greg Jennings' status as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver was in serious doubt. That's no longer the case. In five short weeks, he has reaffirmed it and more, capping his hot streak with a 33-point fantasy week that topped the wide receiver position this week and served as a season best for him. Jennings, who struggled through a four-week spell (Weeks 2-5) of only nine receptions on 21 targets for 101 yards and two touchdowns, has hauled in 32 passes on 45 targets for 520 yards and six scores in five games since.
Jennings' uptick in production coincided with the Green Bay Packers' declaration that they'd involve him more in the game plan, leading out of his lackluster Week 5 at the Redskins and looking toward a matchup in which he ended up burning Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis badly in Week 6. It's what fantasy owners like to see from their stars, and understandably, they've hopped back onto his bandwagon, starting him in 85.2 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 11. Count on that number to remain there (if not increase) in the coming weeks.
|Greg Jennings has 47 points in his past two games.|
The mess in Minnesota
There were a lot of minuses in the Vikings' dreadful 31-3 loss to the Packers, which dropped them to 3-7, four games back in the NFC North. Let's get to the big one: Brett Favre used the word "re-evaluate" when addressing the topic of his short-term plans. The 41-year-old passer, whose entire purpose for returning to football in 2010 was for a(nother) run at the Super Bowl, struggled through another poor game, completing just 44.7 percent of his passes, his ninth-worst single-game percentage in his 20 NFL seasons, and throwing for zero touchdowns and one interception. For the season he has 10 touchdowns and 17 picks, and after such a poor performance, both by quarterback and team, one must admit the chances are no longer zero that Favre just played and Brad Childress coached their final games for the Vikings. (That's not to say they're anywhere near certain; the prospects of either are simply more noticeable.)
Favre might very well go home Monday and return to start in Week 12 -- the chances are good that he will -- but one must wonder whether the Vikings -- and therefore owners of their individual players -- are better off if the team changes its coach, quarterback or both. Favre has no business being anywhere near a fantasy lineup, and maybe a switch to Leslie Frazier could help breathe some life into the team, a la Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys.
But what about a positive for the Vikings? Ah, there was one, that being the 2010 debut of Sidney Rice, who up until now had yet to appear following hip surgery. Despite being advertised as only a 20-40 snap play against the Packers, Rice played practically the full 60 minutes, leading the way with 10 targets, three catches and 56 receiving yards. That's enough to re-establish him as a worthwhile fantasy asset, as he'll only get closer to full speed each week, not to mention he's motivated since he'll become a free agent following the season. Don't fret about the Favre situation, either. Rice's prospects might seem greatest working with Favre, but that's due mainly to our memory of the 2009 season. Backup Tarvaris Jackson has a strong enough arm to make use of Rice even if he's called into duty late in the year.
Week 11 observations
• Need any more evidence that Jahvid Best's toe injury is still bothering him than his seven-touches-for-17-yards stat line Sunday? The rookie might want to consider taking Week 12 off -- and maybe Week 13, too -- in order to heal up. The Detroit Lions gave Maurice Morris 10 carries, Jerome Felton four and Aaron Brown one as they appeared to "rest" Best (without actually resting him). With a matchup against the New England Patriots up next, Best can't possibly be trusted even if he's active, which makes it seem silly that he didn't just sit Weeks 11-12.
• After a quiet Week 10, Steve Johnson rebounded in a major way, catching eight of his 11 targets for 137 yards and three touchdowns, again serving as Ryan Fitzpatrick's top target as the Buffalo Bills spent much of the day playing from behind against an injury-ravaged Cincinnati Bengals secondary. Johnson has developed into a remarkably consistent fantasy play, and what you have to like about his remaining schedule is that there are a lot of matchups against teams with the offensive firepower to put the Bills into similar passing situations.
• Sam Bradford continues to impress, and I'm convinced that if we flashed forward three years from today, he would probably be one of the five best fantasy quarterbacks in the game. He actually set an NFL rookie record for consecutive passes without an interception with 169 before getting picked late in Sunday's game -- one in which he hardly deserved the blame -- and completed the day with 233 yards and two scores, giving him his third consecutive game with 15-plus fantasy points. If you own him in a keeper league, hang on to him dearly, and if you're in a two-quarterback league, you'll be pleased with his efforts as your weekly No. 2 the rest of the way.
• Mike Goodson has back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts, the only Carolina Panthers running back to have even one all year, and that he did it this week against the Baltimore Ravens is most impressive. Goodson should remain the team's starter for the remainder of the year, and you can bump him up to weekly flex-play status, being that he's a capable pass-catcher likely to make an impact in that area even in games where the Panthers fall inescapably behind.
• Well done, Cedric Benson, rolling up 124 yards and a score on 25 carries despite entering the week with some questions about his foot and missing some time during Sunday's contest because of an eye injury. For the first time all season, he looked like the first-round value he was in 2009, and it's also worth pointing out that when backup Bernard Scott got two fill-in chances at the goal line when Benson was having his vision checked, Scott was stuffed both times. Benson earned significantly more job security with his and Scott's results this week.
• That fifth-round pick the New York Jets paid to acquire Santonio Holmes sure looks like a cheap price now, doesn't it? Though the matchup was about as favorable as one could expect, Holmes' seven catches on 12 targets for 126 yards and two touchdowns demonstrate that he -- not Braylon Edwards -- is the team's truly most talented deep threat. Holmes' snap count has been on the rise in recent weeks, and Mark Sanchez looked his way deep at every opportunity, including on the game-winning toss in the fourth quarter. While none of Holmes' remaining matchups is nearly as favorable as this one, that his role should only continue to expand in the coming weeks might make him a No. 2 fantasy option looking forward, especially with matchups against the Bengals, Patriots and Dolphins up next.
|Sam Bradford continues to have a solid rookie campaign.|
Turkey lurkey doo and turkey lurkey dap
Don't forget that this Thursday is Thanksgiving, and that means three NFL games on the early slate: Patriots at Lions (12:30 p.m. ET), New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys (4:15 p.m. ET) and Bengals at Jets (8:20 p.m. ET). That's actually one of the better Thanksgiving schedules of the past half-decade, at least in terms of a greater population of significant fantasy names. Make sure to set your lineups for those players in advance.
For the latest injury updates, check back for Stephania Bell's analysis throughout the week and keep tabs on the Monday news conferences.
• Vernon Davis (ankle): He departed in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, and the worry, of course, is that this is an aggravation of his previous ankle injury. Davis has yet to miss a game all season despite dealing with the issue for the past few weeks, but he finished the day with just one catch, the second time in his past three games he has been held to that few. If he decides to sit out a game to rest, Delanie Walker would probably fill in for him.
• Felix Jones (hip): He suffered a bruised right hip early in the third quarter but was able to return and complete the game, finishing with 14 touches and 86 total yards. Jones' injury bears watching during the week, however, due to his checkered injury history. If he's forced to miss time, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice might share the rushing chores for the Cowboys.
• Clinton Portis (groin): He started in place of the injured Ryan Torain (hamstring) and had five carries and one reception for 46 total yards before aggravating his groin injury; he was seen in street clothes on the sidelines during the second half. Portis might have been too aggressive in his comeback this week, perhaps sniffing an opportunity with Torain out and third-stringer Keiland Williams sneaking up the depth chart thanks to an impressive Week 10 effort, and now he might miss additional time as a result. It's unclear who will be healthy enough to play in Week 12 and even less clear who will start, but Williams might have a slight edge, being that he's the healthiest of the three and the one who has 49 touches and 234 yards in his past two games.
• Austin Collie (concussion): He suffered a recurrence of his concussion-like symptoms after taking a hard hit in the second quarter, and was unable to return to the game. Blair White caught five of his seven targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns stepping into Collie's slot-receiver role late in the game, and he'd be the one to benefit if Collie misses future action. Tight end Jacob Tamme also tends to get targeted more often when Collie is out.
• Colt McCoy (ankle): Though he was able to complete the game, McCoy had X-rays on his left ankle, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was wearing a walking boot on his left leg in the postgame interview room, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The extent of the injury is unknown, but keep tabs on the rookie's status during the week, especially because ankle injuries have become a bit of a recurring problem for Cleveland Browns quarterbacks. Seneca Wallace, who missed time with an ankle issue of his own but returned to be the backup in each of the past two games, would most likely start if McCoy needs to miss time. Jake Delhomme, who has been out since Week 5 with an ankle injury, was the inactive No. 3 quarterback on Sunday and might not be ready for Week 12.
• Bernard Berrian (groin): Vikings coach Brad Childress told ESPN 1500 Twin Cities that Berrian aggravated his groin injury during Sunday's game, marking the second consecutive week the wide receiver has done that. Berrian's stock, supposedly on the rise during the preseason following Sidney Rice's hip surgery, has experienced a steep, sharp downturn this year, and with Rice now healthy, his chances at regular snaps are significantly less. Berrian's fantasy owners can safely drop him, as he's unlikely to contribute much even when healthy.
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.
|Clinton Portis was back in action Sunday ... for one half, anyway.|