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Fantasy & Reality: More of the same from CJ?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Down 28-10 to the Patriots late in the third quarter last Sunday, the Titans lined up for the first play of a new series in a shotgun formation with three receivers and tight end Jared Cook in the slot. Everything from the scoreboard to the formation suggested a pass was coming and the defense was looking for such a thing. Instead, quarterback Jake Locker handed off to Chris Johnson, who couldn't find a hole in the middle of his line and bounced to the outside. Three Patriots defenders were waiting for him, tackling him to the ground. As he lay there on his belly, fresh off of a zero-yard gain, Johnson rolled the ball out of his hands, hung his head and shook it in disgust.

Fantasy owners who had Johnson in their lineups might have done the same thing.

It was a year ago when Johnson morphed from a lightning-quick speedster into a slower, more tentative running back with smaller statistics and a bigger wallet. We watched helplessly as he went scoreless through his first four games, ultimately finding the end zone four times in three matchups. Our jaws dropped as we watched a guy who previously would wake up in the morning with 100 rushing yards only accomplished that feat four times in 2011 (he had seven 100-total-yard games). And we somehow couldn't believe it when his season ended with just over 1,000 rushing yards and over 1,450 total yards -- he never looked good enough to put up those kind of numbers.

Now it's déjà vu, as Johnson opened the season with only the 11th sub-15 carry game since 2010 (he had eight last season). Is Johnson on the verge of being a Fantasy nightmare again? Head coach Mike Munchak won't say so.

"I probably won't evaluate it over one game," Munchak said while affirming Johnson won't lose his starting job. "For 11 carries, I'm not going to break down every run he made or whose fault it was or why it went the way it went. ... Anything's possible but I don't think [benching him is] anything that's going to ever happen."

A look at the tape suggests Johnson is a little more quick-twitch than he was last season. At worst he has the same acceleration and speed as he had last year, though you couldn't really tell because he didn't have any plays longer than 16 yards.

The more substantial issue was the Titans' run blocking. On many occasions, Johnson had nowhere to go because the Patriots' big boys clogged lanes the offensive line couldn't crack. On a first-and-goal in the fourth quarter Johnson barely had time to get the ball from Matt Hasselbeck before Vince Wilfork beat center Fernando Velasco and wrapped up Johnson like he was a six-foot submarine sandwich. Maybe part of the problem was the matchup itself as the Patriots' run defense was outstanding in Week 1, but unless this O-line can work out its kinks Johnson will have to ramp up his efforts to break long gains and based on what we saw last year and through the preseason, I'm not convinced he's dying to put in the work.

Last year some owners never hit the panic button with Johnson and just took their lumps with him. This year it's going to be tough to wait as long, knowing what he did in 2011. The matchups don't get much easier -- he's at the Chargers this week followed by the Lions at home and at Houston in Week 4. Those defenses allowed 202 rush yards (none more than 79 yards) and zero touchdowns combined in Week 1. Later on in the season he'll have some favorable matchups for sure, but it might not mean much.

After one week, he looks more like CJ2011k than CJ2K, and that's not good.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: Adrian Peterson's knee cannot be trusted! Exactly what was "limited" in Peterson's "exposure" when he cannonballed over the top of his offensive line and into the end zone for his second touchdown of Week 1? While it stings if you lost with Peterson on your bench, at least you know what to do with him going forward. And if we knew then what we know now, there's no doubt Peterson would have been a Top 8 pick, maybe even a Top 4 pick, in drafts.

Reality: It was better to wait on quarterbacks after all. It's only one week, but just two of the Top 5 consensus quarterbacks drafted this summer finished in the Top 10. Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton all failed to live up to expectations in their openers. Meanwhile Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III finished as the top three passers. Mark Sanchez and Blaine Gabbert were barely drafted and they even found their way into the Top 10. It's only one week, but if this continues then there will be no reason to spend an early pick on a quarterback ever again.

And on a related note, the Top 2 tight ends are both 1 for 1 in justifying their lofty draft positions. Maybe we should keep track of this.

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Fantasy: DeAngelo Williams will bowl over the Buccaneers. What a crock! The Panthers barely gave Williams the chance to play, calling six running plays for him and 13 total in the game. When Carolina fell behind 13-0 late in the first half, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski went into two-minute drill mode and never snapped out of it. The Panthers had eight runs in the second half split between Williams and Newton. It is worth noticing that the Panthers offensive line struggled in the game.

Reality: We're going to get the best from Pierre Garcon. For lack of a better comparison, Garcon is Kendall Wright. Doesn't make sense at face value but when you go back and look at how Wright succeeded at Baylor with Robert Griffin III, you'll recognize Garcon could be in the same position. On the big play everyone couldn't stop talking about, Garcon ran a deep crossing pattern, got some help from Saints defenders running into each other and sped off to the end zone. Mike Shanahan brought Garcon to Washington for his speed and ability to run after the catch and it paid off in Week 1.

Fantasy: Fred Jackson has the Bills' running job on lockdown. It's not fair to anyone who drafted Jackson, but the injury he suffered combined with the dynamic play of C.J. Spiller against a good Jets run defense will change the pecking order of the Bills' run game. It has to. Chan Gailey knew Spiller had playmaking ability but what he flashed against a Jets defense that allowed four 100-yard rushing efforts last season will leave an impression. His 169 yards on a mere 14 carries is the kind of thing he did last year and it'll only continue so long as Jackson is out. We said all summer that Jackson would be the Bills' best back until he gave the team a reason not to be. Seems like that has happened.

Reality: Alfred Morris will be involved in the Redskins offense. Involved here meaning starting, dominating the carries with Roy Helu and Evan Royster and working the goal line for two touchdowns. Statistically it was a nice start for "ALF" but it didn't begin pretty. In the first half he looked every bit as awful as the 2.3 rushing average he had on nine carries suggested. But then he turned it up in the second half, averaging nearly 4.0 yards per carry and punching in touchdowns when called upon. Our little gamble on Morris as a late-round flier has paid off thus far. His next few games -- at St. Louis, vs. Cincinnati and at Tampa Bay -- should yield more good numbers. By then, we might be talking about a "sell-high" running back, not a guy you should count on the rest of the year. Check out the Redskins' schedule starting in Week 7 and you might get nervous.

Impactful injuries

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Groin injury kept him out of practice following a tepid game against the Niners. Playing on the short week could force him to miss Week 2 on Thursday.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: Hip problem puts his Week 2 availability in jeopardy. The Eagles are in big trouble if he can't play against the Ravens. Moreover, Maclin is starting to wear the "injury prone" sash a little more prominently than we'd like.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: Knee sprain to an unknown degree puts him on the shelf for at least three weeks. Spiller looked bad on Draft Day but he looks incredible now.

David Nelson, WR, Bills: Torn ACL means he's out for the season. Brutal blow to the Bills who just can't stay healthy. Scott Chandler and Donald Jones should pick up some targets as might speedy rookie T.J. Graham.

John Skelton, QB, Cardinals: Will miss at least two weeks with an ankle sprain. Enter Kevin Kolb, exit Larry Fitzgerald's Fantasy potential.

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Rodger Saffold, LT, Scott Wells, C, Rams: Saffold suffered a serious neck injury but should eventually be fine. Wells is done for the foreseeable future with a broken foot but could return later in the year. The next few weeks could be tough on Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford.

Brent Grimes, CB, Falcons: Out for the year with a torn Achilles. Passing against the Falcons just got a little easier, just in time for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to visit the Georgia Dome.

DST sleepers for Week 2

Bengals (vs. CLE) ... Brandon Weeden threw four interceptions and fumbled twice against Philadelphia last week. The Browns offense failed to score a touchdown.
Raiders (at MIA) ... Ryan Tannehill tossed three interceptions and the Miami offense couldn't find the end zone. A better week is expected but better doesn't necessarily mean bigger.
Chargers (vs. TEN) ... Nice effort from the Bolts against the Raiders. Titans couldn't run against the Patriots, Jake Locker banged up. Don't love this one but if you're desperate they'll do.

Two for the road

• If you buy into Stephen Hill, then you also have to buy into Mark Sanchez. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lost in the Tebowmania from this summer is the rock-solid fact that Sanchez totaled 32 touchdowns last season. If all it takes for Sanchez to keep up his level of productivity is lobbing jump balls to Hill, he might not have deserved the criticism we've been dumping upon him. At the very least, Hill can reprise the role Plaxico Burress had last season with the Jets as the big receiver in the offense. He's raw, but per ProFootballFocus.com he was on the field for 33 snaps, which suggests he's a big part of their game plan and certainly their passing attack (he missed plenty of running plays). Hill went to the same school as Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas and has a lot in common with them physically. Probably couldn't hurt to stash him on your roster. I actually like his upside more than Kevin Ogletree but not as much as Randall Cobb.

• Peyton Manning doesn't look exactly the same as I remember him in 2010 but his receiving corps doesn't look the same as I remember them in 2010. That's to say it's better. Demaryius Thomas offers incredible explosion as evidenced on his touchdown. Eric Decker is a solid route runner and he almost got in for a score. Jacob Tamme didn't drop a pass near the goal line. Manning's protection against the Steelers was fine. Maybe this game turns out differently if Ryan Clark and James Harrison play for the Steelers, but at the very least we should all feel comfortable rolling with Manning in our lineups.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Jordy Nelson, not Randall Cobb, is Packers' No. 1 receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:18 pm ET) The Packers' official website considers Jordy Nelson the team's No. 1 receiver and Randall Cobb the No. 2 receiver. Nelson, who plays the "X" receiver spot, is the guy who "lines up on the line of scrimmage. He’s the guy who’s big enough and strong enough to get off the jam, and fast enough to defeat the jam and still get deep," the website said.

Cobb plays the flanker or the slot. "He’s a guy who plays off the line of scrimmage and is used in a lot of strategic ways," the report said.


Colts have more trust in Coby Fleener
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Colts tight end coach Alfredo Roberts said Coby Fleener was a different player last season than he was as a rookie. Roberts noted Fleener excelled in the postseason with 11 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. 

"One is a trust factor," Roberts told the team's website. "He grew and he challenged himself to make plays and he showed up, especially in big games."

After catching 26 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, Fleener hauled in 52 passes for 608 yards and four scores last season. Both he and tight end Dwayne Allen, now recovered from a hip injury, are expected to be used heavily in 2014.


Giants weighing Odell Beckham's use as returner
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the Giants "can certainly feature" rookie receiver Odell Beckham in the return game. Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Beckham is "explosive, he’s got legitimate speed and he runs, I think, pretty strong for his size. You put all of that together and it ends up being a good returner."

But according to the New York Post, it's risky to put a prized first-round pick "in the line of fire in the return game." Given there's a good chance Beckham is heavily involved in the offense as a receiver, the team might opt against giving him "a steady diet" as a returner, the paper said.


Will Witherspoon: Kenny Britt will 'blossom into a star'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Former Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon believes the team will reap major rewards from the signing of receiver Kenny Britt "I think the addition of Kenny Britt will be a huge boost for the Rams offense," Witherspoon told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I expect him to blossom into a star."

Britt, 25, is trying to resurrect his career after making just 11 catches last season with Tennessee.


Kai Forbath trying to stave off Zach Hocker
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Redskins kicker Kai Forbath has made 35 of 40 field goals the past two years, but he's been weak on kickoffs, producing just 14 touchbacks last season. Washington drafted Zach Hocker in the seventh round to compete with Forbath.

According to the Washington Post, Forbath has spent the offseason trying to improve on kickoffs. "That, and continued accuracy on field goals is the key to his job security," the paper said.


Four-way battle to back up Gronk
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:32 am ET) Four players are vying to back up Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose surgically repaired knee might not be 100 percent when the season opens, reports the Boston Globe. The paper projects Michael Hoomanawanui to beat out D.J. Williams, Asa Watson and Justin Jones for the No. 2 job.

A five-year vet, Hoomanawanui is a 6-4, 260-pounder who "runs good routes over the middle but does not have the long speed to threaten a defense vertically down the seam," the paper said. He has caught 20 of 26 targets over the past two seasons, with one drop.


Report: Andre Johnson not going anywhere
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Disgruntled Texans receiver Andre Johnson will not be traded, according to the Houston Chronicle. Johnson will either report to the team or he'll sit out, the paper said.

"Johnson, one of the best receivers in NFL history, will not be traded for several reasons," the paper's John McClain wrote. "The Texans want him to finish his career in Houston. They know they are a better team with him. And they don't want to set a precedent for similar situations that might develop in the future."

Johnson wants a trade, NFL Network reported Thursday, and four teams have expressed interest in acquiring the 33-year-old. He's scheduled to make $21.5 million over the next two seasons.


RG3 explains why Alfred Morris is key to Washington offense
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:09 am ET) Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III said recently that the most important player in the team's offense isn't him -- it's running back Alfred Morris

"With him, defenses have to make a decision whether to puts guys in the box to stop him or leave the box light and allow Alfred to go between the tackles and lure in the safeties," Griffin explained via the official website. "I think it will be interesting to see what defenses do against him."

Morris has done well in his first two seasons, averaging a steady 4.7 yards per carry with 20 touchdowns in 32 games. But he's also worked hard this offseason on becoming a better receiver out of the backfield. 

"I'm just building that trust with the quarterbacks and the coaches to get that confidence that I can catch it to be a viable option in the passing game," Morris said. "Even within myself, I'm building that confidence that I can handle the pressure of a 3rd and 5, and I'm running that choice route to win and catch the ball to keep us on the field. ... Just working hard, making sure I look the ball in before I catch it. I like to run before I secure the ball, but I just have to work on securing the ball before I run."


Panthers WRs set to catch Cam Newton's passes soon
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:57 am ET) The Panthers open training camp on July 26 but the receivers will begin working with quarterback Cam Newton next week in Charlotte, wideout Tiquan Underwood told USA Today on Thursday. 

"It's been more difficult because Cam's coming off an ankle injury and he had to get surgery, so we couldn't throw with him as much as we would like," Underwood said. " ... We're just going to try to speed up the process. We're all going to throw -- Derek Anderson, Cam Newton, Joe Webb, Matt Blanchard and all the receivers -- just to work on timing and get that down pat before camp."

Newton has barely practiced with his receivers this offseason as he's recovered from ankle surgery. Nearly all of his receivers are new to the Panthers -- Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Underwood all signed as free agents while Kelvin Benjamin was taken with the team's first-round pick.

Any chemistry Newton can develop with his receivers before camp starts would be considered a huge plus for the Panthers offense. 


A.J. Green staying loyal to Andy Dalton
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/10/2014) Bengals receiver A.J. Green told NFL Network he's hoping quarterback Andy Dalton receives a contract extension. "We came in together and that is the great thing for me and him," Green said. "I know he's my guy. I don't want any other quarterback throwing me the ball. I think he feels the same way about me."

Green said he's built chemistry with Dalton in their three years together.

"He feels confident that whether I'm double covered, triple covered, it don't matter I'm going to come down with the ball," Green said. "And I feel like we've grown over these last three years and I feel like this year is going to be another key year for us."


 
 
 
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