Eagles Fantasy Impact: Initial Impressions

Eagles Fantasy Impact: Initial Impressions

The Eagles have a slew of fantasy producers thanks to a high-speed, versatile attack, and a defense focused on what matters most in the majority of fantasy leagues—pass rush and picks. Here's a look at how the Eagles fared in the fantasy world, which in most cases was not entirely unlike how they did in reality.

Michael Vick: While it wasn't quite as productive as he often was in 2010, Vick put up very good fantasy numbers in scoring a pair of touchdowns and racking up 98 yards on the ground. Hopefully Vick owners didn't lose by four points or less, since Vick had 100 yards on the ground (good for a bonus in most leagues) before kneeling it out to end the game. Vick was pick-free in his 2011 debut, but also stayed under 200 yards passing and lost a fumble. In my league, Vick was tied for 8th in QB points with Joe Flacco and just two points separated him from the 15th most productive QB in the most pass-happy weekend of all time (13 QBs topped 300 yards). After the Rams offense sputtered out, Vick didn't find himself in a shootout as so many of his compatriots around the league did. Still, it's unlikely you're blaming Vick if you lost in Week 1. Former Eagle and current Vick text buddy Kevin Kolb had a better day throwing the ball (300+, 2 TD, 0 picks), but roughly equivalent fantasy production in his debut for the Cardinals (thanks to Vick's rushing yards). Hard not to be happy for the guy.

LeSean McCoy: Shady was among the top producers at the RB position this week, along with Ray Rice. Despite seeing only 17 touches (15 rushing, 2 receiving), McCoy showed that he doesn't need to be a high-volume guy to give you big production, scoring in both facets of the game, including a 49-yard TD run in a huge fourth quarter. Shady comfortably topped 100 yards rushing to nab the bonus, though his receiving was relatively pedestrian aside from the whole scoring-a-TD thing. I was somewhat surprised we didn't see more of Ronnie Brown late in the game, but for fantasy purposes, I'm not sure I want to be even discussing an Eagles backup RB. According to Sheil Kapadia's numbers in the great Man Up feature of his Moving the Chains blog, Dion Lewis had just one fewer snap played (4) than Brown, although fewer carries as well. According to FantasyGuru.com's weekly Targets column (subscription required), Brown did have two red zone carries though, one more than McCoy. That's a pretty small sample size to make any assessment on, so we won't.

DeSean Jackson: DJacc wasn't a target of mine in this year's draft because, especially in a Philly league, I assumed he'd be going a bit early for a guy who can be rather boom-or-bust in weekly head-to-head leagues. Good news for those who did take him as early as the late second round: He went fairly 'boom' in Week 1 despite not totally going off. Jackson hauled in six passes for 102 yards, including a beautiful touchdown. Jackson was targeted 12 times though, and had one huge drop, so the potential was there for an even bigger day. Only the week's four two-TD performers (Smith CAR, Welker, Britt, Megatron) had considerably better numbers than the next tier of WRs, which included Jackson and a handful of others.

Jeremy Maclin: While he may have some solid value this season, Maclin shouldn't have been in Week 1 lineups, and probably wasn't in many standard leagues. He had just one catch for 20 yards, despite getting a lot of playing time. The passing attack was somewhat quiet overall after the Eagles grabbed a big lead; Maclin's production should be higher in the weeks to come.

Steve Smith, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper: None of these guys are up for consideration in standard leagues at this time, though their combined presence on the field at various times should help Jackson and Maclin get loose more often, as well as open up some space for McCoy and Vick to takeoff. Of the three, Avant was the most productive, with three catches for 40 yards. He'll pull in some random TDs, but he's not an option I'd want to rely on in a fantasy season with so many home run threats. Smith was just getting his feet wet, and it's hard to tell at this point whether he'll have much value once up to speed barring injuries to either of the top guys. It's a longshot to think he'll emerge as a Vick favorite any time soon, and his previous production came as a high-volume guy for Eli Manning. Worth a stash if you have WR depth to burn and he didn't get drafted in your league though.

Brent Celek: One catch on three targets for 13 yards, helping a newly formed O-line protect Vick against Steve Spagnuolo's blitzing. In a league with ample startable tight ends even in 12-teamers, Celek is not currently one of them, as was the case last year. Kapadia had some great reviews of his blocking on some key plays, so this is no slight to #87, who has two jobs to do, and one of them doesn't help his own fantasy numbers as much as it does the guys listed above. I do think Brent will reward his diehards with some nice weeks and still could re-emerge as a goal line option as we saw once in the preseason. He's athletic enough to be a producer, but his role on the team isn't as fantasy friendly as many of the guys around the league right now. Perhaps that will change as we get further away from the offensive line's first week together.

Alex Henery: The rookie PK hit the only field goal he lined up for and was the kicker on a team that scored four touchdowns. I'd start him with confidence every week if I owned him, but he went in the second to last round of my league, which is a round earlier than I went K hunting. Your top fantasy producer of the week at this position? Mr. David Akers, who cranked four field goals and hit three PATs. Good on ya, Davey.

Eagles D/ST: Acquiring a pair of top corners may not actually add as much to the Eagles' pick totals as you might think, since no one will want to test the shutdown Nnamdi Asomugha or the ballhawk Asante Samuel too often, but their patrolling of the backfield should give the pass rush an extra second to get to the QB, which Jason Babin and company did on Sunday. The Eagles totaled five sacks, recovered a fumble, and took it to the house (there should be fantasy points for stiff-arming your own man, btw). Asante nearly had at least one pick, and was close on another. Next week poses a big test for this unit, but as we saw in Week 1, they may be in store for some Falcons turnovers too.

Waiver Watch: There aren't any Eagles I'd be targeting that can be found on most leagues' waivers after Week 1, especially in Philly, where we tend to overdraft our own. The team was a rather known fantasy quantity coming into, and despite the abundance of words, there are no surprises above. If you're interested in nicking some value off the wire, I'd recommend Razzball's column on this week's options.

We probably won't be doing this every week, more likely posting updates as trends emerge that are outside of what's expected. In Week 1, the Eagles went chalk in fantasy expectations.

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

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Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley believes he can score a touchdown every time he takes a handoff.

Don't mistake the Penn State running back's confidence for arrogance. He's put plenty of evidence on tape in just 15 games to earn a growing reputation as one of the country's most dangerous backs in space.

But with each game this season, Barkley's discovering that space isn't always there in Penn State's new zone-read rushing attack that ranks near the bottom of every major statistical category. Barkley's sure if he remains persistent, more of those highlight-reel runs will come, however.

"We've got to be patient," Barkley said Wednesday. "Stuff will open up and I've got to step up as a player and make more guys miss and break more tackles and we've really got to start getting our run game going because if we get the run game going, that can open up the passing game even more."

Barkley leads the Big Ten with six rushing touchdowns but Penn State ranks last in the conference and 122nd in the nation with just over 101 rushing yards per game. Those sagging rushing numbers can be traced to the big-play back being bottled up before he even gets going.

Usually Barkley's first step is backward in Joe Moorhead's zone-read rushing attack. A delayed handoff follows and Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley have at times been swallowed up quickly as defenders converge on the mesh point. Although his 55-yard score against Temple came on an inside zone run, Barkley's average on such plays over the last three games falls to just 1.4 yards without it.

It's a cause for concern for Penn State's offensive staff, which is committed to finding more ways to get Barkley the ball as the team prepares to face Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Shovel passes and pitches have made brief appearances. Barkley's also caught 10 passes thus far and direct snaps may show up in the future.

Eliminating inside zone reads isn't an option, though.

"There's a lot of different ways," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Penn State has had success on the outside. Even with a delayed start, Barkley's done most of his damage over the last three games when he's been able to flank defenders. He's averaging 10.8 yards per carry on those plays, further evidence of his skill on the edge.

"He's a game-changing player," center Brian Gaia said.

But one that's not comfortable lobbying his coaches for more touches or criticizing a young offensive line that will likely start two freshmen guards this weekend. Like Franklin, Barkley believes a little more early physicality coupled with his own patience will open things up in the middle.

"I would say the thing that we really need to improve the most is just coming out stronger, coming out faster and starting fast," Barkley said. "Physically, I think we're there. Mentally, we've really got a good grasp of the system but, especially in away games, we've been starting out really slow."

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Take a look at the standings and you’ll see the Temple Owls are 2-2 so far this season with wins over Stony Brook and Charlotte and losses to Army and Penn State.

But take a peek to the right of that 2-2 mark and you’ll see a 0-0 record in AAC conference play.

While the Owls would most certainly like to have a better record than the 2-2 record they sport at this very moment, the silver lining is that none of those games were conference games. Therefore, those games don’t affect Temple’s overall goal of defending its AAC Eastern Division crown.

But, on Saturday afternoon, that title defense finally begins when Temple welcomes SMU and its uptempo offensive attack to Lincoln Financial Field in the first of eight straight AAC games that will close out the regular season.

“It sort of feels like a new start to the season,” Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker said following Tuesday’s practice on campus at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “It’s just another great opportunity for us not to look back on anything or think about anything that happened in the past in the first four games. Now it’s an opportunity to play our next eight games and enjoy playing the conference again.”

The good news for Temple heading into conference play is that the offense has found its stride. The Owls overwhelmed Charlotte last week, 48-20, behind 268 yards and two touchdowns throws from the arm of Walker and two touchdowns runs a piece from senior Jahad Thomas and Sophomore Ryquell Armstead. After early struggles, Walker is now up to 846 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

That’s after the tough loss at Penn State two weeks ago when the offense settled itself for the first time this season and found continuity. Thomas’ return to the backfield has helped, as he’s scored four touchdowns in two games since missing the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb.

The Temple defense is still hurting itself with a lackluster pass rush. The Owls have only five sacks through the first four games. Last season, they had 10 sacks in the first game alone. Big plays allowed are an issue, too, as Temple has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage through four games.

But the confidence is there and the Owls believe they are getting better each week.

“I think we’re better than where we were [earlier in the year,]” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick, who has five tackles for loss on the year. “A lot of guys are stepping up, locking in on the small details that were hurting us the first couple of weeks. We’ve got the younger guys playing better and harder, so I think we’ve come a long way. I still think there are some things we need to get better on, but we’re close.

“Those first four games, none of those teams were conference teams. It was like preseason to work out the kinks. Now it’s time to go. It’s full-throttle now. There’s no time to make mistakes. There’s no time to beat ourselves.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule, on the other hand, doesn’t like to talk much about the “fresh start” or “restart” that comes with the beginning of AAC play this weekend.

He preaches the importance of conference play every week, and he has proof.

“Every week, I put up the conference rankings, no matter what,” he said Tuesday “Week 1 when we lost, I put up the conference rankings. Week 2 when we won, I put up the conference rankings. Week 3, Week 4, I do that every week because I want guys to understand the importance of conference wins, conference losses and conference play.

“I will say, to be fair, I did say we were going to try and get our kids to be ready for Week 4 or 5 or 6, because we knew we were going to have to play a lot of young guys and knew we were going to have to teach them.”

All the Owls, young and old, know they need to be prepared on Saturday.

The Mustangs have already equaled their win total from last season and have the same record, overall and conference, as the Owls heading into Saturday. They hung tough with Big 12 powerhouses Baylor (6-6 at half) and TCU (6-3 TCU at half) before eventually succumbing in the second half of both games.

Defensively, SMU is tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions. But plenty of focus goes on the Mustangs’ uptempo offense, which break off chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye with 448 yards per game so far this year. Rhule and the Owls know that fact better than anyone. The last two times these schools have met, SMU earned a 59-49 win in 2013 and Temple came away with a 60-40 victory last season. That’s 208 points combined in the last two meetings.

SMU’s fast-paced attack is exactly the type of offensive system Rhule’s Owls have historically struggled with, too.

“They have, obviously, a lot of offense,” Rhule said of Saturday’s foe. “(SMU head coach) Coach (Chad) Morris was one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He did it at Clemson and he’s doing it there. There’s a lot to deal with. That’s the history of this series, though.”

Quarterback Matt Davis, who hurt Temple with both his arm and his feet last season, is out for the year with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Ben Hicks has stepped in and thrown seven interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. But big-play receiver Cortland Sutton is still there and he already has four touchdown grabs on the year.

In practice this week, speed has been the theme of the Owls' defense, which is 28th in the nation with 327.3 yards allowed per game this year.

“It’s difficult to prepare for,” Reddick said of SMU’s offense. “You’ve got to just work on it in practice, going fast and getting the defensive calls faster. You have to look and read to the offense faster to see what you have to do faster. So you have to kick it up.”