What We Saw: Week 2 2018
Chargers vs. Bills
This 31-20 win over the Buffalo Bills was exactly what the Chargers needed. After being essentially torn apart by Tyreek Hill, it was refreshing to see their defense played well. The offense continued to dominate with an overflow skill position talent. Below, I will highlight the fantasy relevant performances and touch on what it means going forward.
The Josh Allen lead Bills are a much easier opponent than the Chargers faced in week 1 and it showed. Although Allen flashed some incredible talent, his overall inconsistency—and lack of wide receiver talent—made it difficult to move the ball. Defensive end Melvin Ingram terrorized the Bills all afternoon. He looked excellent in both the against the run and when rushing the passer, notching 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss. Ingram also forced a strange interception later in the game. As Josh Allen rolled out to his right, Ingram chased him down and wrapped him up around the waist. With an impressive showing of strength and balance, Allen carried Melvin Ingram for about 5 yards, then threw the ball right to a Chargers defender. Ingram, without Joey Bosa, did more than enough for this Chargers defense. The other highlight on defense was safety Derwin James. The rookie truly looks incredible. Derwin was all over the field but excelled near the line of scrimmage. He pressured Allen multiple times and showcased an ability to disguise his blitzes. One such example came on his sack in the second half. Derwin, knowing he would be blitzing on different occasions, lined up in the same place he had the whole game, but right as the Bills snapped the ball he shot off the left side and got to Allen immediately. The advantage of having a player like Derwin is that he can do it all. Placing him near the line of scrimmage on nearly every play makes this defense extremely unpredictable. Will he blitz? Is he covering the tight end? Is he in zone coverage? His talent and aggressiveness makes this defense even better. If the Charges continue to utilize Derwin this way, they will be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
The Passing Attack
In the first half, the Charges seemed like they could not be stopped. Phillip Rivers threw his first incompletion with 8:30 left in the second half. The talent on this offense is second to none in the entire league, and it makes Rivers a legitimate fantasy stud. He finished with 3 touchdowns and 256 yards providing more than enough fantasy points. As the high completion percentage illustrates, the players that Rivers was throwing to were simply getting open. Whether it was Keenan Allen over the middle or one of the running backs coming out of the backfield, Rivers had a wide-open option nearly every play. And Rivers did not miss. The pass protection held up and they marched down the field multiple times. Although Rivers was elevated by his playmakers, his first 2 touchdown throws were impressive. He squeezed a dart to Mike Williams in the back of the end zone with little margin for error. He also threw an impressive back shoulder ball to Melvin Gordon for the second touchdown. The Chargers dropped 28 points before halftime and seemed unstoppable but as you know the game ended 31-20, so where did the offense go? In the second half, they played much more conservatively but the drives were mainly stalled by sacks. The offensive line is the only weakness on this team and it will be important to monitor their play going forward. Although they held up well early in the game, if the offensive line plays as they did in the second half, it will not matter how much talent is surrounding Rivers. Regardless, this was still a good game for the offense and you should keep rolling with Rivers.
Usage Trends – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
After every game, it is important to break down the usage of the offensive players to determine if it is something that will continue or something that was an anomaly. So, let’s talk about Mike Williams. Last week he had a solid game. In my preview, I called for a breakout. After 2 drives Williams had two catches on two targets for a touchdown and to convert a third and twelve. I was so excited! Williams was on the field getting targeted in the end zone and on high leverage 3rd downs. But if you checked the box score, Williams ended with 2 targets, which was disappointing. The second half was not very productive for this team, but it seems that Williams should have produced more. Getting end zone targets is an amazing step forward for this young wideout, but more targets will be necessary for him to be a fantasy asset. The rest of the receiving corps finished as expected. Tyrell Williams and Virgil Green both had 3 catches on 3 targets and 50 yards, while Keenan Allen received 8 targets. The Chargers only threw the ball 26 times so there will be more opportunity in other games. Allen was tackled twice right near the goal line so his overall fantasy output could have been much higher. Allen is the go-to player in the passing game, but there is still room for a player like Mike Williams to make an impact.
Usage Trends – Running Backs
This is where the most interesting part of the game occurred, the backfield. As I said in my preview of this game, Melvin Gordon found the end zone–3 times! The offensive line did not give Gordon much to work with until he ripped off his 20-yard touchdown run. Interestingly, Austin Ekeler received more carries than Gordon, whereas Gordon saw 4 more targets. The idea that Ekeler is only a receiving back is being challenged as he showed competency in the run game as well. Ekeler amassed 77 yards on only 11 carries, while Gordon totaled 28 yards on 9 carries. This box score leans heavily in the favor of Ekeler but I would advise some constraint. Two of Ekeler’s longer carries came in two back sets where the defense was clearly keyed in on Gordon. Not to mention the atrocious blocking that Gordon received for most of the game. The few plays that Ekeler did break, were more the result of creative play calling that Gordon did not get. Switching over to the passing game, Melvin Gordon exposed the Bills linebackers. Both of his touchdowns were impressive displays of route running and his overall receiving ability. Even with Ekeler eating into some of Gordons touches, his receiving talent will keep him relevant in almost any game, and if this game is any indication, Phillip Rivers has eyes for Gordon.
The Chargers face off against the Rams in the LA showdown next week. This will be another test for their defense, but more importantly will be the first tough matchup for this offense. Stay tuned for our staffs’ weekly previews as we will break down this game and every other matchup for next week!
Rookie QB Josh Allen had his first NFL start in this game, and while it may have not have been an ideal performance, Allen did flash his immense tools and found more consistency in the 2nd half. He notably got more out of the Buffalo Bills offensive cast than week 1 starter Nathan Peterman and I think this game somewhat secures Allen as the #1 guy on the depth chart for now. Allen finished the game 18 for 33 with 245 yards passing including 1 TD against 2 INTs. His 2 INTs were more of the bad decision variety and something that he can likely learn from. The 1st one occurred on a 3rd and 4 in the 3rd quarter in which he was under lots of pressure and was forced outside the pocket whereupon he threw on the run while getting dragged down into very tight coverage. The 2nd one came on a pass from his own end zone in the 4th quarter where he underthrew his receiver on a deep corner route.
There were some positives though! He was able to hit 2nd year WR Zay Jones for a 57 yard gain late in the 1st half that set up a field goal, he threw his 1st NFL touchdown pass to WR Kelvin Benjamin on a 3 yard slant route, and he notably showed off impressive mobility throughout the game while trying to survive the Chargers relentless pass rush. He even did a decent job of reading the defense and fitting the ball between defenders:
Overall, he didn’t look lost and I feel like he proved that he belonged as the starting QB of the Buffalo Bills. If the Bills offensive line can protect him more effectively going forward and keep him upright (Bills gave up 5 sacks), he should be able to keep this offense moving and create some fantasy viability for himself and others.
RB LeSean McCoy walked off the field under his own power after sustaining an injury in the third quarter. He took a shot to his ribs from a Chargers defender before center Ryan Groy landed on him after he was down. McCoy did return for one carry after the hit, but eventually the team announced he was out and questionable to return. They are officially calling it a rib injury.
Buffalo replaced McCoy with RB Chris Ivory, while RB Marcus Murphy continued in his change of pace role. Marcus Murphy did get 1 more carry than presumed #2 RB Ivory, and that continues a trend from last week and so Murphy might be the handcuff to own in the event that McCoy misses time. McCoy had nine rushes for 39 yards, but 27 came on one run. He also added four receptions for 29 yards.
On the receiving end, nothing really notable stands out from a fantasy perspective. WR Zay Jones continued to show the best effort among the receiving group IMO and he caught 2 of 3 targets for 63 yards making him look like one of the most trusted options in the offense going forward. WR Kelvin Benjamin also caught 2 of 3 targets, one of which being a TD. He looked to be the first option in the red zone for Allen. WR Andre Holmes and RB Marcus Murphy notably received the most targets on the day with 5 apiece, but both were only able to secure one catch with Holmes’ going for 19 yards and Murphy’s going for 7. TE Charles Clay was able to bounce back from a 0 catch outing in week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens with a completely mediocre and fantasy useless 2 catch day for 29 yards on 3 targets. It’s becoming clear that Allen is less reliant on his TEs than last year’s QB Tyrod Taylor and that Clay should likely be downgraded to a bench role in fantasy.
Defensively, bad tackling and late reads continue to haunt Buffalo defenders, this was particularly true in the 1st half. To start the 2018/2019 season, Buffalo opponents were 9-for-9 in terms of scoring TDs in the red zone until Buffalo forced a field goal late in the fourth quarter this week. The Bills were able to lock it down in the second half (perhaps due to Head Coach Sean McDermott’s change to start calling the plays himself over defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier) but the team was already in a big hole by then.
1st round Rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds did pick up 7 tackles on the day, but he continued to show his raw skillset in pass coverage as he was targeted often by Chargers QB Philip Rivers in pass coverage including on the Chargers’ 3rd touchdown. The overall defense took a step forward in the 2nd half, and LB Lorenzo Alexander was a big part of that.