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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
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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