What We Saw: Week 1

Los Angeles Rams vs Carolina Panthers

 

Los Angeles Rams

 

Quarterback

 

  • Jared Goff: 23/39, 186 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception

 

Jared Goff did not look his sharpest today. After not playing during the preseason, it was clear that he had to shake off some rust. He had his favorite target Cooper Kupp back and was able to establish a rapport with him, but other than that struggled mightily. The Panthers have an imposing front 7, so I would not worry too much if I was a Goff owner, but this game didn’t do much to quell the narrative that he only plays well at home. He only had a few ugly throws, and he led the Rams to a tight victory, but Goff did not look like the quarterback who just recently signed a huge extension. 

 

Running Backs

 

  • Todd Gurley: 14 carries, 97 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards
  • Malcolm Brown: 11 carries, 53 yards, 2 touchdowns

 

The Rams’ running game fared much better than its passing game, as Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown took turns handling lead-back duties. Brown was in for whole drives and scored 2 touchdowns while Gurley had more touches overall and had some bigger chunk plays. Anyone who was hoping for Darrell Henderson to share the workload with Gurley was sorely disappointed as Brown was his clear counterpart. If Gurley misses any time, Brown instantly becomes a must-start every week for me. As it is now, they both will have value as a flex play with upside for more. One important takeaway for both backs is that the Rams did not target them in the passing game very often. Last season, Gurley was so good because of his receiving capabilities. If the Rams are changing the offense to not incorporate their RB’s in the receiving game, it caps both their upsides. 

 

Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends

 

  • Brandin Cooks: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 39 yards
  • Cooper Kupp: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 46 yards
  • Robert Woods: 13 targets, 8 receptions, 70 yards | 2 carries, 16 yards
  • Tyler Higbee: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 20 yards, 1 touchdown

 

The Rams’ vaunted WR trio all got theirs today; in good matchups, they are all startable–though you never know who will get the targets. Goff zoned in on Cooper Kupp almost to a fault. It’s clear he missed his favorite target. Kupp didn’t have the best game but seemed like his old self. He seems to be all the way back from his devastating ACL tear, and as he gets up to game speed he is likely to have bright days ahead. This week, it was Robert Woods’ turn to be the primary receiver; he paced the team in targets, receptions, and yards. He also added yards on end-around plays, which have been a staple of the offense since Woods’ arrival. Brandin Cooks had a quiet game but could explode at any second. It’s an unfortunate fact that Cooks is more of a boom-or-bust player while Kupp and Woods will be more consistent options. Tyler Higbee, who was just signed to a pretty hefty extension that made some heads turn, had a nice game catching Goff’s only touchdown pass. In deeper leagues, Higbee could be worth a start in plus matchups. 

 

Carolina Panthers

 

Quarterback

 

  • Cam Newton: 25/38, 239 yards, 1 interception | 3 carries, -2 yards

 

Cam Newton was not terrible in his first start back from injury, but he was not particularly good either. His trademark rushing ability was nonexistent, and it was clear that he was being cautious with his body. He didn’t look great throwing the ball, but he was able to manage the offense and keep the game close. He seemed to have a good connection with second-year wideout DJ Moore, and the Rams have a good defense. Don’t panic about Cam yet, but he is no longer a set-it-and-forget-it option in your lineup. 

 

Running Backs

 

  • Christian McCaffrey:19 carries, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns | 11 targets, 10 receptions, 81 yards

 

After there was talk of limiting Christian McCaffrey’s workload this season, it’s clear that it was coach speak and nothing more. McCaffrey carried the Panthers offense and was out there for every snap. The only other player to get a rushing attempt besides McCaffrey and Newton was fullback Alex Armah, who had 1 carry (although it did go for a touchdown). McCaffrey is the number one option in both rushing and receiving for this team, putting him in a tier of his own in regards to production. He could very well achieve his goal of 1,000 yards rushing and receiving this season. We should also keep in mind this game was against Aaron Donald and the Rams’ fearsome front 7. McCaffrey is a no-brainer RB1 most if not all weeks, and he could finish as the RB1 overall this season. 

 

Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends

 

  • Curtis Samuel: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards
  • DJ Moore: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 76 yards
  • Greg Olsen: 9 targets, 4 receptions, 36 yards 

 

After an offseason of hype the likes of which I have rarely seen, Curtis Samuel was a clear fourth in the pecking order in the Panthers’ passing game. DJ Moore, Greg Olsen, and McCaffrey significantly out-targeted and out-produced the talented third-year wideout. It’s not a cause for concern, although it is worth noting as we now know who Cam is looking for most often. I think it will be hard to predict which wideout will have the best game each week, but as long as Olsen is healthy, he is going to be heavily targeted as Cam’s security blanket. Olsen is injury prone, but when he is on the field he is a good streaming tight end. All four options are starting-caliber depending on the matchup. What is also worth noting is that neither Moore nor Samuel had any trick plays designed specifically for them; this was a staple last year to utilize their YAC abilities. Keep watch to see if those are implemented in the following weeks because if they aren’t, both wideouts could struggle to live up to the preseason hype. 

 

~Ryan Comeau

 

 

Michael Miklius

Mike is a lifelong Bears fan and unapologetic Mitch Trubisky homer. Twitter: @SIRL0INofBEEF

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