Patrick Daugherty

The Morning After

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Drew Brees' Future

Monday, November 13, 2017


The Saints are 7-2 with the third-most points in the NFL. If I had told you before the season they would get off to this kind of start, you would have probably assumed Drew Brees would be in the neighborhood of 22 touchdowns and 2,800 yards. That would be a 40-score, 5,000-yard pace. In other words, typical for Drew Brees. A few more touchdowns than usual, a few less yards than usual.   


Instead, Brees is sitting on 13 and 2,238. That’s a 23 and 3,978 pace. Brees is having what would have been pre-2017 Alex Smith’s career year. Both totals would be by far Brees’ lowest as a Saint. The scores by three, the yards by 410.


So what’s the culprit? Is the Saints’ running game just this good? Or has there been some decline in the previously-ageless Brees’ play? For starters, yes, the Saints’ running game is this good. Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and company are now averaging over 4.6 yards per carry and 142 yards per game. No team has found the end zone more often on the ground (14).

That is not the whole story. Brees, though still accurate with a beautiful spiral, has appeared to lack his typical juice, especially down the field. This isn’t entirely new for 2017, as Brees’ arm has been in slight decline for a few seasons. But it does seem to have gone to a new level, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the Saints have taken notice. Per Rapsheet, the Saints have grown concerned as Brees has begun to miss “throws he usually makes.”    


Typically, I would write this off as a team getting the engine running on what will probably be contentious offseason talks. Brees’ contract is up and he can’t be franchise tagged. But I have seen it with my own eyes. There’s no real debating Rapoport’s leaked assertions. I believe it’s truly up in the air whether 39-year-old Brees returns for a 13th season in New Orleans next year. Thankfully, that’s not something we have to worry about now as the Saints march on with their best season since 2013, and probably 2011.


As for fantasy owners, the Saints’ running/passing touchdown totals will probably regress closer to their means, keeping Brees solidly in the QB1 mix. Just don’t expect his former limitless ceiling to keep accompanying his still steady floor.


Five Week 10 Storylines


In the midst of awful game, Melvin Gordon cedes snaps and touches to Austin Ekeler. Always more quantity than quality, Gordon stretched the formula to its breaking point against the Jaguars, turning 21 touches into a pitiful 42 yards. The display was bad enough that the Bolts turned to UDFA Ekeler down the stretch, with the “Western State” product generating a much healthier 119 yards on his 15 looks. Ekeler found the end zone twice. Fortuitously for Gordon, Ekeler also committed a devastating fumble with 1:51 remaining. The Bolts rode Gordon the rest of the way, though he didn’t reward their faith with production. Now averaging 3.76 yards per carry and 7.14 yards per catch, Gordon has posted a YPC higher than 3.30 in just 3-of-9 appearances. The Chargers’ patience is wearing thin. Gordon will get yet another opportunity to redeem himself in Week 11, where the Chargers get a Bills run defense that’s collapsed since the trade of Marcell Dareus.     


Devonta Freeman suffers concussion. Looking to snap his month-long slump in a plus matchup with the Cowboys, Freeman instead made it all of two carries before suffering a head injury. In his absence, Tevin Coleman posted a workmanlike 20/83/1 on the ground. The concussion is Freeman’s second since the preseason, and third as an NFLer. Although he has an extra day to heal up for Week 11 with the Falcons playing the Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Freeman is probably on the wrong side of 50-50. Two concussions in three months is a serious matter. If Freeman does suit up, it will be with 25 carries for 90 yards over his past three games. Owners should be planning on at least one game without their supposed-to-be RB1.     


Sterling Shepard has career game in second week back from ankle injury. As the Giants were collapsing to previously-unseen depths for one of the league’s proudest franchises, Shepard was ascending to new heights as a second-year pro. Each of his 11 catches, 13 targets and 142 yards were new personal bests, and give him 16 grabs for 212 yards in two games since returning from his high-ankle sprain. Shepard had a golden matchup in the 49ers’ league-worst cornerback corps, but was making legitimate plays, including a diving, one-handed grab a la the man he’s filling in for as the Giants’ No. 1 receiver, Odell Beckham. Shepard has another golden matchup for Week 11, as the G-Men will be hosting the Chiefs and their sieve-like defense. Shepard could flirt with WR1 status for that one.    


Leonard Fournette has dud of a day in return. Seeing his first game action in 28 days, Fournette was stymied for 33 yards on 17 carries. The rushing yards were a new season low, while the totes were tied for his second fewest. With the Jaguars in pass-happy comeback mode, Fournette barely even saw the field in the fourth quarter. He did re-emerge for overtime, rushing five times for nine yards. It was a disappointing day against a soft run defense, and another “learning experience” for a feted rookie. Fournette will have to rely on volume against the Browns in Week 11, who despite their 0-9 record are holding enemy rushes to 86.4 yards per game and a league-low 3.10 yards per carry.  

Already having a huge year, Adam Thielen posts signature game. Thielen entered Week 10 as the only pass catcher with at least five grabs in every game so far this season. He exited it third in receiving, with his 793 yards behind only Antonio Brown (882) and DeAndre Hopkins (802). Thielen’s 166 yards were the second most of his career. He scored for the second time in two weeks, and brought his season averages up to 6/88. Thielen is making huge plays out of the slot, with 14 of his 56 grabs going for at least 20 yards. He’s proven his 2016 was not a fluke. The Rams will not be slowing him down in Week 11.   


Don't forget, for the latest on everything NFL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, or follow @Rotoworld_FB or @RotoPat on Twitter.



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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty



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