Sometimes a plan does not come together. The 2019 Browns looked like a puzzle near completion. GM John Dorsey hoped Odell Beckham would be the missing piece. It turns out there were many missing pieces — most along the offensive line — while Beckham was missing something important of his own, good health. Beckham struggled through a season-long groin injury as the Browns once again slid that year’s puzzle into the trash.
Reinforcements arrived for 2020 in the form of run-minded head coach Kevin Stefanski and a remodeling upfront. This had little to do with Beckham, but instead his quarterback. It turns out Baker Mayfield needed much more than a No. 1 receiver. The former No. 1 overall pick isn’t an elevator, but a game manager, one whose supporting elements must be meticulously arranged. Hammering the run and limiting their pass attempts, the Browns had never been farther from their original plan — Beckham and Mayfield raining fire from the sky — than they were going into Sunday, where Beckham entered the proceedings with 23 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns in six games. Those are fine numbers, but not OBJ numbers. Jarvis Landry paces for 851 yards, not Odell Beckham.
That this was not going to change had become evident to everyone, including Beckham himself. "For me, one of my biggest growths has come in acceptance in a sense and for me knowing it’s probably not going to be that kind of season (with huge numbers),'' Beckham said in September. It wasn’t even necessarily about the system, but again the quarterback. Mayfield has simply proven too limited to consistently make big plays with his alpha wideout, something vividly illustrated when he threw a pick before completing a pass against the Bengals. It was on the INT return where Beckham wrecked his knee, cutting short another season due to injury and casting doubt on his Browns future.
10 days shy of his 28th birthday, Beckham will enter 2021 having missed 25 games in four years. Another 16 were at nothing close to 100 percent health. He can be released next offseason at zero cap charge. Not a fit for his coach or quarterback and becoming ever further removed from his early-career dominance, Beckham has gone from guaranteed Hall-of-Famer to painful “what might have been?” in only one presidential cycle.
Five Week 7 Storylines
Kenyan Drake carted with ankle injury in Cardinals’ wild win. The fantasy world has been clamoring for more Chase Edmonds touches, but not like this. It is still unclear if they will be coming. Drake may have been carted, but his initial X-rays came back negative. A Monday MRI will tell the tale, but the Cardinals are on bye for Week 8. There’s a scenario where Drake misses zero time. Even were that to happen, the case for more Edmonds work remains clear. Running behind the same offensive line as Drake, Edmonds is averaging 6.1 yards per carry to Drake’s 4.3. Edmonds has as many 20-plus yard totes (three) despite having 90 fewer carries. Drake out-carried Edmonds 14-5 vs. Seattle, but Drake out-gained him 58-34. As Drake is a zero in the passing game, Edmonds has caught five-plus balls in three of his past four appearances. The needed change is staring coach Kliff Kingsbury in the face. It is well past time he made it.
Cam Newton benched as Patriots’ struggles deepen. 9-of-15 for 98 yards and three interceptions, Newton was rested for the final quarter of the Pats’ beatdown loss to the 49ers. The Pats’ passing game woes have become a chicken/egg situation, as Newton’s receivers categorically cannot separate, putting increased pressure on Newton behind the line of scrimmage and forcing him to live and die with tight-window throws. As feared, with the passing game crumbling, the running game margin for error has decreased to zero. Speaking Monday, coach Bill Belichick said Newton “absolutely” remains the starter. Belichick understands Jarrett Stidham is not about to spring Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry. The problem is that no one, evidently including Newton, can. This feel-good free agency and QB1 story is quickly devolving to matchup-based QB2 streaming. The Bills are a borderline Week 8 foe.
Chris Carson injures foot in Seahawks’ bonkers loss to Cardinals. Carson has a “mid-foot sprain,” which sounds anodyne but can often be anything but. At least before an MRI is taken, it is not believed to be “significant.” It’s the latest ailment for a gifted but punishing runner, one who invites injuries with his wild horse running style. Carson’s loss for any amount of time would make it harder for Russell Wilson to cook. No. 2 Carlos Hyde has little lateral agility left, and is a zero in the passing game, necessitating a committee. The resurgent 49ers are on deck for Week 8. With Pete Carroll prone to optimism and overstatement, it could take until later in the week to get a good feel for Carson’s Sunday status.
Diontae Johnson returns to 15 targets as Chase Claypool posts -2 yards. Johnson has managed to stay healthy for (almost) three complete games this season. He has drawn 10-plus looks in all three of them, cooling Claypool’s momentum and seeming to confirm himself as the Steelers’ No. 1 wideout. Like JuJu Smith-Schuster, most of Johnson’s work is coming close to the line of scrimmage. The average intended air yards on his targets is 8.3, sandwiching him between Russell Gage and Jamison Crowder. That belies Johnson’s ballyhooed deep threat. The story feels far from over in the Steelers’ receiver corps, but a healthy Johnson’s WR2 case is self-evident.
Leonard Fournette wins latest round in Bucs’ backfield. Ronald Jones led the NFL in rushing during Fournette’s three-game absence. It amounted to a hill of beans in Fournette’s return, as one dropped pass from Jones seemed to be all the motivation coach Bruce Arians needed to restore his committee. Fournette out-touched Jones 17-14, with the work spread out evenly across the game’s four quarters. Fournette’s season has been one of revives and falls, but he’s finally healthy as the Bucs are hitting their stride. RoJo’s Weeks 4-6 work already seems to be a memory. One of them will be an RB2 for Week 8 vs. the Giants, we just don’t know who, making it difficult to rank either in the top 24.
Five More Week 7 Storylines
Jerick McKinnon barely touches the ball, Jeff Wilson gets hurt vs. the Patriots. McKinnon receiving three touches for -1 yards was all part of the plan, according to coach Kyle Shanahan. That’s a bit hard to believe since McKinnon’s handles came in garbage time, but it confirms the notion that the 49ers are worried about overworking their brittle change-of-pace back. Wilson’s ankle injury is the more notable fantasy development, as he had to be carted after scoring his third touchdown in New England. With Raheem Mostert (ankle) on I.R., either JaMycal Hasty or a returning Tevin Coleman (ankle) will lead the backfield for a probable shootout with the Seahawks. The owner of a 9/57 line against the Patriots, Hasty needs to be scooped up where still available.
Round 1 of Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Le’Veon Bell inconclusive as Chiefs roll Broncos. We wanted answers. What we got instead was: A defensive touchdown, a special teams touchdown and 51 offensive plays in the snow. CEH won the touch battle 9-6, though both received only one carry inside the 10-yard line, none closer than the nine. CEH cashed in an 11-yarder for a score but dropped another as a pass catcher. Bell averaged nearly two more yards per carry than he did as a Jet. Now another inconclusive spot is on deck for Week 8, as the Chiefs are early 19.5-point favorites for Bell’s revenge game with the Jets. What we see vs. New York probably won’t be terribly instructive going forward. What we can predict is that CEH will remain a mid-range RB2 with Bell probably pushing his way into the top 24 as coach Andy Reid lets him stick it to Adam Gase.
Kyle Allen unlocks Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas for fantasy managers. Having gotten Alex Smith’s Comeback Player of the Year candidacy out of their system, the Football Team … let Kyle Allen cook? Listen, we know the deal here. Allen is a barely-leave average player who is not going to elevate the talent around him. He also has a long enough track record that we know he should at least get his skill players their numbers. He did that and more vs. the Cowboys, watching Gibson have his first 100-yard game on the ground as McLaurin and Thomas combined for 150 yards through the air. It would have been far, far more had the pathetic Cowboys offered any resistance whatsoever. On bye for Week 8, Washington will return to a dream next-month schedule in vs. NYG, @DET, vs. CIN and, you guessed it, @DAL.
Deebo Samuel pulls hamstring as Brandon Aiyuk has 100-yard day. Injured on a second half rush attempt, Samuel immediately grabbed the back of his leg. It was a disappointing end to a weird game in a weird season for Samuel, whose average targeted air yards is an astonishing 2.3, by far the lowest mark in the NFL. Evan Engram is second to last at 5.1. As Samuel plays caddie to Jimmy Garoppolo behind the line of scrimmage, Aiyuk is allowed to percolate further down the field. It took Aiyuk six games to have a 100-yard day through the air, but No. 2 might not be far away if Samuel has to miss time. Up next for the 49ers are the passing D deficient Seahawks, Packers and Saints. Aiyuk is still only 49 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues.
Nelson Agholor has first 100-yard game in over a year. Agholor’s 107-yard day against the Bucs was just the fourth time he has hit the century mark as an NFLer. As John Daigle lays out, his role is rapidly growing in the Raiders’ Bryan Edwards-less offense. In Daigle’s words, over the past two games, Agholor has handled: 79 percent of the Raiders snaps, 16.6 percent of their targets and drawn a team-high 180 air yards. No other Raiders wideout has drawn an end zone target during that time. Agholor tends to disappear just as quickly as he emerges, but it is worth keeping an eye on in a Raiders skill corps that has not been settled all season.
1. Where were you when the Seahawks officially crashed their Jeep through the front window of the 7-11?
2. How sad is it that Todd Gurley can no longer even not score correctly?
3. How many different times do the Patriots plan on drafting Aaron Dobson?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Teddy Bridgewater (vs. ATL), Derek Carr (@CLE), Kirk Cousins (@GB), Jimmy Garoppolo (vs. SEA), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. LAR), Nick Foles (vs. NO), Philip Rivers (@DET)
RB: Carlos Hyde, Zack Moss, Joshua Kelley, Wayne Gallman, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine, Damien Harris, JaMycal Hasty
WR: Brandon Aiyuk, Sterling Shepard, Preston Williams, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, Cole Beasley, Tim Patrick, Denzel Mims, Marquez Callaway, Rashard Higgins
TE: Eric Ebron, Logan Thomas, Harrison Bryant, Trey Burton, Richard Rodgers, Irv Smith, Drew Sample
DEF: Lions (vs. IND), Raiders (@CLE), Packers (vs. MIN), Dolphins (vs. LAR)
Stats of the Week
2.56 and 3.86. That is Mike Davis’ yards per carry and yards per catch, respectively, over his past two games. If Christian McCaffrey (ankle) can return for Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, this will again be a one-man backfield. If not, Davis will still get one more RB1 cameo vs. a terrible defense.
10-4. The degree to which UDFA Marquez Callaway out-targeted Tre’Quan Smith. Maybe we can’t accept it, but the Saints have accepted that Smith is a role player.
Adam Levitan breaks down the Chargers’ backfield battle: 38 snaps for Josh Kelley 38 snaps, 31 for Justin Jackson. Five carries for Jackson, 12 for Kelley. Six targets for Jackson, five for Kelley. Back to square one.
From Mr. Michael Clay: “Seven games into the season, the Cowboys have led on 4.1% (21 of 509) of their offensive snaps. Only the Jaguars (3.9%) are worse.”
Tweet of the Week, from Hayden Winks: I'd suggest taking out a $1 million real-life loan to win any FAAB bids for Chase Edmonds if he's somehow available in your league.
Tweet of the Week II, from Irsay’s Trucking: Josh Allen either looks like Randall Cunningham or an out-of-work Cheyenne used cars salesman. No in between.
Botched Marion Barber Tribute: The Lions still winning even after T.J. Hockenson stayed in bounds to keep the clock rolling vs. the Falcons.
Bartleby, the Scrivener Award: DeAndre Hopkins preferring not to score a 93-yard touchdown.
The Maybe Sit The Next Few Plays Out, Champ Award: Melvin Gordon somehow botching the flick in a flea flicker.
The Was That Really Worth It? Award: Attending a football game during a snowstorm during a pandemic to watch Drew Lock.