What We Saw: Week 8
Eagles vs. Jaguars
From the looks of things early Sunday morning, it appears the Eagles have gotten back on track with their season halfway over. We’ll see if that sticks (unlike two weeks ago), but some new and unusual trends arose out of this game, particularly with regards to WR usage. Let’s dig in and see if there is some fantasy relevance to it!
While Carson Wentz was likely wishing he had his first quarter, red zone INT back, he was nothing short of wonderful for the rest of the game, tossing three TDs and posting a 119+ passer rating against one of the game’s best defenses. Needless to say, you’re starting Wentz every week from now on.
Hauling in Some Targets
That’s what oft forgotten #3 WR Jordan Matthews was doing on Sunday in London, converting a modest five targets into a team high 93 yards receiving. Unfortunately, the recent acquisition of Golden Tate has all but blown any shot Matthews had of being fantasy relevant. Speaking of lost fantasy relevance, it seems like good ‘ol Nelson Agholor, the proud owner of six targets in this game, will be seeing less volume moving forward. Luckily, Zach Ertz still managed a fine fantasy day in this one, and Alshon Jeffery should return to his lead dog status and target share once he’s not covered by Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey. Oh, and despite the TD, Dallas Goedert is not fantasy relevant. Sorry.
The Running Game
Somehow, some way, Josh Adams emerged from this one as the lead back, posting a surprisingly efficient 61 yards on nine carries while his teammates Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement continued to suck. Look folks, I don’t care how hyped he was in the preseason or how he performed in this game, Josh Adams will not be a diamond in the rough for you. He is fool’s gold, and I suggest you treat him that way. As for the other two backs, it appears as though it will be a full timeshare moving forward. Womp womp.
Despite the huge loss of Derek Barnett earlier this week, it seems the Eagles defense still brought the pressure in this one. As such, they remain a terrific streaming defense ROS.
What is stunningly obvious after the London game against the Eagles is that Jacksonville is a team without a plan. Prior to the season, everyone knew that the Jaguars were going to be a running and defense team, with the offense going through RB Leonard Fournette. As has been the case during his short career, Fournette’s health has kept him from fulfilling his end of the bargain. The defense has been asked to take up all of the slack, which has left the team vulnerable to exhausting their best asset. London games are already not great for teams to play fresh during (with all of the travel during typical practice time) and the Jaguars didn’t do themselves any favors by getting into a bar fight. Several Jaguars were arrested early-Saturday morning prior to the game due to a fight over an unpaid bill and it seems like that moment of shoddy decision making led to a sloppy game by Jacksonville all around.
At Least Blake Bortles Wasn’t Benched
QB Cody Kessler likely jumped out of his seat to start preparing to play after QB Blake Bortles fumbled the first offensive snap of the game for the Jags. On the heels of a game where Bortles was benched for a whole half due to fumbling the game away, you wouldn’t be able to blame Kessler if he did start preparing. The fumble wasn’t lost, and Bortles managed to complete the game without any turnovers (avoiding the short leash). Blake wasn’t bad on Sunday, but he wasn’t particularly good either. He paced the team with 43 yards on 8 carries (not a bad day for a running back) and completed 24 of 41 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown. Several of Bortles 17 incompletions were at the hands of his receivers, as just about everyone contributed a drop on Sunday. Despite nearly 300 yards, no pass from Bortles looked particularly good, as characterized by a pass with 7:40 left in the 3rd, where a ball that may have lightly brushed a defender’s fingers was several yards behind WR Dede Westbrook. Even if the pass was tipped, the ball was still going to where Westbrook was making his cut, not where he would be after the cut, which is all on Bortles. Sloppy passes like that and the least effective play action “pass” ever put to film when the ball is handed off (seriously, it looks like Bortles is flailing his throwing arm in from of his body) contribute to the impression that Jacksonville won’t contend with Blake at the helm.
This Team is Built to Run, Right?
Carlos Hyde, running back formerly of the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers was acquired by Jacksonville for a fifth-round pick to help the Jaguars get back to being a run-first team in Fournette’s absence. After having a week to try and digest the playbook, the London game should have been Jacksonville’s attempt to run first and pass only as a last resort. Given that Blake Bortles threw the ball 41 times, that was not the case. Hyde started the day on a bad foot, gaining no yardage on a third and one (in the first) that stalled the drive, leading to a field goal by K Josh Lambo. In the remaining three quarters, Hyde only carried the ball 5 more times, despite Jacksonville being within a score for a lot of the game. On one of those few carries, Hyde fumbled, though it was ground caused and the play was called dead. On one of his few targets, Carlos dropped the ball with 7:20 left in the 4th while the game within nine points and the Jaguars were at the Eagles 3 yard line. Overall, this was not the best debut for Carlos Hyde, though the play calling (or lack thereof) was also a major culprit. The other RB seeing a lot of work, T. J. Yeldon, also only saw two carries the whole game. As expected, Yeldon was in the game when the ball was going to be in Bortles hands, and he paced the team with 7 catches for 83 yards. In the 4th quarter, with the game still within reach, Yeldon broke a short catch for 37 yards, which eventually led to 3 points. Uncharacteristically, T. J. had a couple of catchable passes bounce off of his hands, otherwise the day could have been better.
Jacksonville was built to run the ball and play defense but threw on third down and two-yards to go with nearly 6 minutes left in the 3rd, which shows exactly how much the plan is off the rails for Jacksonville.
The Box Score Doesn’t Show It, But Dede Westbrook is the Man
Dede Westbrook is the best wide receiver on the Jaguars. Full Stop. On the first drive of the game, Westbrook was handed the ball on a reverse that led to a 9-yard gain. His speed and elusiveness were on display right from the start, which is probably why so much defensive attention was on him throughout the game. Even with seeing more coverage than the other receivers, Westbrook contributed the only score for Jacksonville, making a nice toe-tapping catch at the back of the end zone. Later in the 4th, Westbrook could have had a second touchdown if it wasn’t for a great dive by the corner to keep it out of his hands by the pylon. Keelan Cole, who was considered the wide receiver to own in Jacksonville after Marqise Lee’s injury, managed to write himself out of the Jaguars game plan with a fumble during the two-minute drill. Cole saw one more target for the rest of the game and then ceded time on the field to rookie WR DJ Chark Jr. Chark was getting himself open during the second half and should have scored as well, if it wasn’t for Jacksonville’s case of the drops (he had two chances to make the same catch). DJ Chark Jr. might be a name to watch after the bye, though staying away from Jaguars wide receivers is not a bad plan either.
All told, the Jaguars defense had three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble against the Super Bowl champion Eagles. In spite of the distractions of the week, Jacksonville should feel good about the job it did on the defensive side of the ball. Lamentably, the same cannot be said about the offense and you have to hope they get back to the formula we all thought they would follow.