Six points with David Dorey

Friday’s quick look at six fantasy items to know

Heading into Week 13, the teams that remain in contention get smaller and smaller in the NFL and in fantasy. This is the time top fantasy teams hope they can coast into their playoffs while the contenders have to fret over picking a defense or kicker because every point may count.

There is still transition on NFL teams though most of it is still related to the injury impacts. Starting now, teams slide into the “next year” mentality and will try out new players to evaluate their rosters.

Hopefully your still in the thick of the playoff race. Even if you aren’t, there’s always something to learn for next year.

Six items for this weekend:

1.) The Jets backfield – It was a surprise to see that James Robinson was inactive last week and that Zonovan “Pardon me?” Knight took his place. It was even more surprising to see Knight lead the offense with 14 carries for 69 yards. And no one was more surprised than James Robinson. Ty Johnson was given five carries and gained 62 yards that included a 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.  Robinson spoke with his RB coach and was told that the backfield will always be a committee approach and could change week to week.

HC Robert Saleh said that Knight had earned a spot in the rotation as the undrafted rookie was on the practice squad up until last weekend. He said that Robinson was still learning the system. Also notable, the trade for Robinson was for a sixth-round pick that could become a fifth-round pick if he gained 600 rushing yards. Robinson is currently at 415 yards.

What makes this even more interesting is that Michael Carter injured his ankle and hasn’t practiced yet. He may miss this game depending on what happens (or doesn’t) in Friday practice. The beauty of Breece Hall was that he handled around 20 touches per game and was a lock for a full-time workload. The Jets backfield is getting very hard to rely on right when fantasy playoffs are coming into focus.

2.) Deshaun Watson (CLE) – Needless to say, all everyone will watch Watson’s debut for the Browns against his old team. Maybe it won’t be much more than a rusty quarterback in  new system that likes to run and he does starts slowly. Maybe having a playbook and some practice time is all he needed. Maybe the media, Houston fans, and potential protesters will make this all into a circus.  At 4-7, the Browns have fallen from contention but there is every reason to want to end on a high note. This feels like a messy way to start.
It looks like Watson will be without David Njoku, so beware of assuming patterns to persist from his first game. It will also be interesting to see how much he runs.

3.)  WR Rashid Shaheed (NO) – Speaking of teams that are no longer in contention, the 4-8 Saints are sticking (at least for now) with Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback. But they have ramped up the use of undrafted rookie wideout Shaheed. The ex-Weber State receiver played there for five years as a kick and punt returner and totaled 146 receptions. His small school and lack of production left him out of the NFL draft but he’s become the No. 3 wideout in New Orleans.

He played almost as many snaps as Chris Olave (38) or Jarvis Landry (32) last week and had 28 in Week 11. The Saints are giving him a chance to be more than just a returner. He ran in a 44-yard touchdown in Week 6 and then caught a 53-yard score in Week 7. He’s been sparsely used but last Sunday, he ran once for six yards and caught passes of 35- and 18-yards as the Saints started to explore their roster more. He’s done well in abbreviated use and they are looking to involve him more. He’s 6-0 and is estimated to run between 4.3 and 4.4 40-time.

4.) Houston offense – The Texans once again spent their season trying to get their offense to stop sputtering and gain some consistent firepower. That happened in part with Dameon Pierce, who exceeded all expectations with six games of 100+ total yards and four scores in the first nine games. But Week 11 versus the Commanders was just ten runs for eight yards. Week 12 saw the same eight yards on five rushes in the loss to Miami. The Texans lost almost all their previous games, so why stop handing off to the only thing that used to work?

HC Lovie Smith, no doubt feeling the weight of losing, said that the change in workload was related to the ground game not showing enough to warrant forcing the carries in the backfield. They are at that part of a season gone bad where the fans and owners need to see there is still an attempt to find something that works better, hence the change to Kyle Allen at quarterback. The Texans may continue to focus on the pass at the expense of Pierce. Allen threw 39 passes in his debut, while Davis Mills only turned in one of his ten starts with that many passes. It hasn’t changed much for Brandin Cooks or Nico Collins yet, but at least Jordan Akins had a season-high game last week.

5.)  49ers backfield – For a unit that has so much fantasy potential, it is just getting to be a bigger headache to expect reliable results. Elijah Mitchell is out again with a <just pick something> for the next six or eight weeks, which is another way to say “maybe the playoffs.” Deebo Samuel contributes as a running back but was held out of practice yesterday which was a downgrade from his limited work on Wednesday. Friday practice and the injury report will disclose his status, but he is not trending in the right direction. That leaves just Christian McCaffrey from the A-Team.

He left last week complaining about knee irritation and then missed practice on Wednesday. According to HC Kyle Shanahan, the problem was caused by his knee brace.  McCaffrey said he would play this week, but he has made it deeper into this season than he did in 2020 or 2021. Just saying.

Even with McCaffrey there, the 49ers need to mix in one or two other backs. That should fall on Jordan Mason, Tyrion Price-Davis or even Tevin Coleman who is on the practice squad after being released earlier this season. The 49ers need at least one of them to assume the role for Elijah Mitchell. They may regret trading Jeff Wilson. If one of the three is allowed a significant amount of touches (compared to the other two backs), then he could offer surprising fantasy value and if McCaffrey was to miss time or be rested, it could allow one of the three to become a rarity – a new primary back in a great offense with good blocking in the final month of the season.

6.)  WR DeSean Jackson (BAL) – Sure, he is 36 years old. He changed teams six times and hasn’t scored more than twice in a season since 2018. He’s played in just two games as a Raven, but last week his two catches for 74 yards included a 62-yard gain in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Jaguars. Rashod Bateman left in Week 9 and Devin Duvernay is locked under 25 yards per game. Demarcus Robinson had one good showing in Week 11 but only one catch last week.

Jackson is more of a Daily Fantasy play. The Ravens need the help in the passing offense and there are a few soft secondaries looming that he could potentially exploit – Steelers twice and the Falcons with their No. 32 ranked pass defense. Again – no one has gotten rich off Jackson in many years, but he could help the Ravens while offering a cheap Daily play with upside.

Lovie Smith explains Dameon Pierce’s diminished workload

Smith told reporters why Dameon Pierce’s workload has diminished over the last two weeks in the #Texans’ Wednesday press conference

At one point this season it seemed that the Houston Texans were fully committed to bringing back the old-school ground-and-pound offensive game that would seek to bruise defenses in the running game instead of relying on their inefficient quarterbacks to move the ball upfield. Now, after taking nine losses in 11 games, the team seems to have reversed course, giving rookie phenom Dameon Pierce just 15 carries in their last two matchups combined.

This is a clear move away from the running game, which had served them well over the early part of the season, and head coach Lovie Smith was asked about what spurred the change in the team’s Wednesday press conference. Though he didn’t blame Pierce, Smith made it clear that the production on the ground just hadn’t inspired his staff to force the issue on the ground offensively.

“In an ideal world, I think we’ve seen how we would like to mix it up, run-pass,” Smith said. “We want to have balance. When you get behind like that, it’s hard to have balance. No fault in how we did it. We had to complete more passes. That wasn’t a day to worry about how many carries a running back is going to get. We’re just trying to get some production some kind of way. You get into a game, you have a gameplan coming in, but that gameplan can change at any time. I had no problem with what we’re trying to do that last game.”

Though Smith may feel justified in his decisions relative to this issue, fans are sure to continue wondering why the Texans have totally changed their offensive identity over the course of two weeks. It would make more sense if the new strategies were working, but with losses piling up and nothing seeming to change, Houston may be wise to get back to their core offensive competency and put the ball in the hands of their most explosive playmaker as much as possible.

Lovie Smith says Dolphins contained Dameon Pierce by getting back to the basics

Smith said that the #Dolphins bottled Pierce up by executing some very basic defensive principles particularly well

Rookie running back Dameon Pierce has cooled off for the Houston Texans in recent weeks after a torrid start to his 2022 campaign. At one point this season it appeared that Pierce might lead the league in rushing, but after poor performances in Weeks 11 and 12, Houston’s offense is looking for answers to get him back on track.

Head coach Lovie Smith explained how the Miami Dolphins were able to contain Pierce in his comments to the media on Monday, and told reporters that they went back to the basics to bottle up the Texans’ running game. To Smith, it didn’t seem like rocket science.

“Just great plays by them, but some of it’s pretty basic,” He said. “The running game is about one-on-one blocking up front first. It’s about man-on-man. We’ve done that for the majority of the season. Last couple of weeks, we’ve kind of lost that. We’ve got to get it back. Better technique, better want to, it’s a must as much as anything. We’re not going to abandon the run. Everybody has to still be able to run the football. We just have to do it better.”

In a year where Houston’s quarterback play has been inconsistent, the exceptional ground game they cultivated through the first 10 weeks of the season was a revelation for their offense. Instead of trying to force the ball downfield through the air, the team relied on Pierce to pick up gritty yards on the ground to get the team in scoring position.

One-dimensional attacks are easy to stop, though, so expect the Texans to try to diversify their approach in the coming weeks as they attempt to secure their second win of the season. If they can’t, there will surely be trouble brewing when the team begins its rebuild ahead of the 2023 campaign.

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Dameon Pierce explains Texans’ rushing woes after poor performance vs. Dolphins

Pierce gave reporters a rundown of how opposing defenses have bottled up the #Texans ground game following Sunday’s loss to the #Dolphins

After weeks of their running game making up the bulk of their offensive production, the Houston Texans have had a hard time moving the ball on the ground in their last two matchups. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who was a revelation early in the season, was been effectively bottled up against both the Washington Commanders and Miami Dolphins.

He was asked by a reporter after Sunday’s loss to Miami about how the approach of opposing defenses has changed since Week 10. Pierce’s response was enlightening, and thoroughly explained the difference in strategy that has kept him at bay.

“Oh man, they’re stacking the line,” Pierce said, laughing. “Putting five down linemen up there. Three-down linemen, two stand-up defensive ends and just letting the linebackers play the gaps. That’s hard to run against in any system, whatever you are running. That’s something we do though. That is something we are going to gameplan against, something we’re going to get better at. We just have to get used to it up front.

“Obviously, if teams do something good against us, the other teams are going to copycat and put it in their repertoire and implement that against us. But we just have to start finding counters to the stuff that people are going to do to us, because we’re changing our tendencies. We’re trying to do tendency breakers – we just trying to get a better flow on offense. Ultimately, we are going to change that.”

The Texans will need to find solutions to get their running game back in order, or else risk losing out through the last six games on their schedule. At 1-9-1, Houston is the worst team in the NFL by record, and early indications point toward a complete overhaul in the offseason.

If they can figure out how to take a productive ground attack into 2023, their outlook for the future could change drastically under whichever rookie quarterback they end up with after April’s draft.

 

QB Kyle Allen says Texans abandoned run due to the Dolphins taking early lead

Kyle Allen says the Houston Texans gave up on the run early due to the big lead the Miami Dolphins established.

The Houston Texans failed to reach even 50 yards rushing as they mounted a paltry 36 in their 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon in Week 12 at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Texans’ leading rusher was running back Dare Ogunbowale with four carries for 14 yards and a touchdown.

According to quarterback Kyle Allen, the reason the Texans weren’t successful on the ground for the second straight week was because of the early lead the Miami Dolphins built.

“I mean, it keeps going back to the same thing,” Allen told reporters. “When you’re down early like that, you’ve got to start throwing it more. You’ve got to try to get back in the game.”

The Texans fell as far behind as 30-0 at halftime before mounting a comeback.

“So, we’re calling less runs because we needed to score,” Allen said.

The Dolphins were also making plays in the air against the Texans’ passing attack. Allen went 26-of-39 for 215 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions while taking five sacks.

“I think if it was a closer game and we ran the ball more, we might have had more success,” said Allen.

Rookie running back Dameon Pierce was stymied for the second straight game as he tallied five carries for eight yards.

Houston falls to 1-9-1 on the season and is still on target to possess the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

RB Dameon Pierce says Texans run game is ‘in the dump right now’

Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce says that the run game is currently “in the dump right now” following the 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The Houston Texans staked their claim on being able to run the football.

For the past two weeks, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s run heavy offense has been able to reach the 50-yard mark as a team, let alone have a runner who touched that mark over the past two games.

Dameon Pierce entered Week 12 the NFL’s leading rusher among rookies with 780. That lead may not be there by the time Monday night’s contest goes final, and it is chiefly due to the run game going cold for Houston.

The Miami Dolphins limited Pierce to five carries for eight yards in their 30-15 win over the Texans Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium. Houston’s leading ball-carrier was Dare Ogunbowale with four carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. The second-leading rusher was quarterback Kyle Allen, who was making his first start in place of second-year Davis Mills. The former Texas A&M and Houston product had four carries for 12 yards.

Pierce believes teams are stopping the Texans’ run game because they are deciding to take the Bill Belichick approach of taking away what a team does best.

“That’s our identity,” said Pierce. “That’s what we want to come out and base our offense of us.”

It would be easy to believe the Dolphins just had “one of those days” against the Texans’ run game, but so did Washington a week prior at NRG Stadium, limiting Houston to 21 rushing yards.

“We weren’t saying it’s the first six, seven weeks, it’s just something we’re in the dump with right now,” Pierce said. “But we’re going to figure something out and we’re going to get our thing back on track and going where we need to be moving forward.”

The Texans fall to 1-9-1 on the season and are still on pace to possess the No. 1 overall pick the 2023 NFL draft.

Halftime analysis of Texans’ Week 12 matchup vs. Dolphins

The #Texans are bottoming out against the #Dolphins at halftime in Week 12

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The Houston Texans were underdogs heading into this matchup against the burgeoning Miami Dolphins, and have looked completely outmatched in every phase of the game. Their defense has been a sieve, they’ve struggled to get anything going on offense, and the team as a whole is full-on floundering down 30 at halftime.

It’ll take a miracle for the Texans to make a comeback in the second half, and fans should start preparing themselves for Houston to mark their ninth loss of the season in Week 12.

Here are our thoughts on the Texans’ performance through two quarters:

QB Kyle Allen: Texans are a ‘run identity team’

New starting quarterback Kyle Allen says that the Houston Texans offense is built around the run; it is the offense’s identity.

Kyle Allen may not have started yet for the Houston Texans, but he is well aware of what makes the offense tick.

The new starting quarterback, who will be making his Texans debut against the Miami Dolphins Sunday at 12:00 p.m. Central Time at Hard Rock Stadium, met with reporters Nov. 25 and spoke about the identity of the offense.

“It’s great, and we’ve committed to [the run], too,” said Allen. “That’s why last game when we were struggling in the run game, it hurts the whole offense. We’re a run identity team.”

The Texans were unable to move the football on the ground in their 23-10 loss to Washington at NRG Stadium in Week 11. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce was stymied with 10 carries for eight yards. The offense’s only rushing touchdown came from quarterback Davis Mills on a 4-yard scramble. The since-benched signal caller had a team-high 10 yards on five carries. The Texans generated 21 yards on 16 carries for the afternoon.

Allen, who has not started a game in the NFL since 2020 with Washington when he went 1-3, is enthused about the Texans’ running back stable.

“It’s great,” Allen said. “Dameon has played awesome. Rex (Burkhead) is a seasoned vet in the league, he’s played great. Dare (Ogunbowale) has been awesome in the spurts he’s got, too. We’ll need to get him going on Sunday.”

The Dolphins could provide an opportunity as they give up 4.9 yards per carry, tied for the ninth-most in the NFL. Their 116.9 rushing yards surrendered per game (16th) and 256 rushing attempts against (seventh-fewest) suggest Miami chases their opposition out of the run early due to their own offense’s ability to generate explosive plays. If the Texans are able to establish the run early and play to their own identity, they could challenge whether Miami is actually stopping the run or forcing teams to abandon it.

Lovie Smith reflects on Dameon Pierce’s development

Smith took some time to reflect on Dameon Pierce’s development in his comments at the #Texans’ press conference on Wednesday

Rookie running back Dameon Pierce has put the Houston Texans’ offense on his back in 2022. As one of the most productive first-year players in the league, he has exceeded all expectations through his first 10 games, even if his team’s record has left something to be desired.

Head coach Lovie Smith reflected on Pierce’s development in his final comments to the media on Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. He told reporters that Pierce has been on-point since the first day he walked into the Texans facilities, and described him as a magnetic character with boundless potential.

“When he first got here, everyone can remember when Dameon [Pierce] came in the building because he will let you know about his presence when he gets here,” Smith explained. “You know, I loved him then. He was a breath of fresh air. It seemed like he’s a man on a mission then. That’s how he’s played. That’s how he’s played throughout. We know what type of effort he’s going to give.

“He’s had a lot of success too, I’m going to say, early on, in the first game. This past week, it’s good for young players to go through what we went through this past week where we didn’t get a lot done and couldn’t get the running game going. I know again, Wednesday practice, same guy, ready to go. Life of the party. All of that.”

Smith’s future with the team may be up in the air by the end of this season, but the long-tenured head coach knows a thing or two about running back development. His praise of Pierce has been well-earned by the rookie ball carrier, and as his impressive performances continue piling up, the national media will eventually catch on to his unique promise for the struggling Houston franchise.

Until then, Pierce will be the ace up Smith’s sleeve in scheming the Texans’ offense against opponents who may underestimate the punch that he packs with his elite effort and remarkable skillset as a hard-nosed runner.

Commanders DL teammates looking after John Ridgeway

Jonathan Allen enjoyed John Ridgeway’s “suplex” on Sunday. So much so that he, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat are going to help the rookie out.

Jonathan Allen is leading efforts for Commanders defensive line teammates to help out rookie defensive tackle John Ridgeway.

During Sunday’s 23-10 win in Houston, Ridgeway suddenly found himself in the odd position of Texans running back Dameon Pierce literally running into Ridgeway with his head so low and his upper torso almost parallel with the ground. Ridgeway grabbed Pierce by the waist and did a suplex on him to the

 

Ridgeway was flagged and will most likely be fined by the NFL. Fellow defensive tackle Jonathan Allen appeared on the Sports Junkies (106.7 The Fan) Tuesday explaining, “He is a rookie; you expect that from rookies. I don’t know what round he was drafted in. The 7th or 6th, I’m not sure. So me Payne (Daron) and Montez, we all agreed to take 1/4 of the fine he is going to get.

It is going to be massive. If we didn’t help him out, I think he might be playing the month of December for free. So we will take 3/4 of the fine and he is going to pay the other fourth.

He’s a young guy, he’s trying to play hard. I like it, I think that’s football. We did say the next time you are on your own. This first one, we will help you out. I don’t know what the fine is going to be.”

For the record, Ridgeway was drafted in the fifth round (178) of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Arkansas. He was released by the Cowboys and subsequently picked up by Washington.