Archive for category Maurice Jones-Drew

NFL Late Hits

I’ve been throwing out my thoughts on Monday mornings on Twitter and will probably continue to do so, but felt like a proper article makes a ton of sense.

With that in mind, welcome to NFL Late Hits, my new Monday article here at The Thundering Blurb. It won’t cover everything that happens in the NFL on a Sunday, just the stuff that for whatever reason sticks in my brain by day’s end.

Two huge plays yesterday have caused some chaos in the NFL media and Fantasy Football community – one was the 4-2 call to go for it by Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, the other, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew taking a knee at the one to milk the clock in the Jets game.

Let’s start with the call by Belichick. I’ll admit, I didn’t see it when it happened.

I did discover a new food allergy so, you know, win!

Instead, I went over the hightlites and looked over the game info at NFL.com. I can’t say I thought it was the best call, but I’m not sure it’s the worst ever.

Say what you will, but Belichick goes on fourth pretty often and it works out for him more than most coaches. I may be remembering wrong, but on NFLN last night, I believe Mariucci said it worked somewhere in the neighborhood of 78% of the time for him.

It’s not a bad percentage – on the other end of the field.

Look, Belichick has forgotten more about football in the time it took me to type this sentence out than I know now. So I’m sure he had all the facts, figures and percentages in his head when he made the call.

I just don’t know why you risk giving Peyton Manning the ball on your side of the field.

A great coach rolls the dice. Sometimes you hit the point, sometimes you crap out. Like The Hoodie said in his press conference, people will question you anyway.

I think it was a bad call. I also think the media shouldn’t be pulling their hair out over it.

Especially since, had the Pats made it, we would have had another round of ‘This is the kind of GENIUS which has made him so successful’.

A little perspective please.

Speaking of perspective – ok, so if you lost your Fantasy Matchup because Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee on the one yard line, you might want to skip a few paragraphs to where I chat about Brian Westbrook.

This was the right call. Could Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee have biffed the extra point kick? Sure. It happens less than 2% of the time, but like the man said ’so you’re saying there’s a chance?’.

Listen, when people say Fantasy Football is ruining enjoyment of the game, it’s because of reactions like this.

Scobee – shaky though he has been – wasn’t missing that kick. A short, high, kick is very hard to block. I know it cheeses you off not to get the 6 points but the Jags needed to milk the clock.

Whether reports are true that Head Coach Jack Del Rio called for a knee prior to the play or not, it was the right decision.

Seemingly overlooked in the ‘DAMMIT MJD YOU COST ME MY GAME’ shouting was the fact that Jones-Drew picked up the first down. That game was done. They could burn the clock all the way to the wire (which they did) and kick a ‘gimme’ field goal (which they also did).

It’s a no brainer. Sure, like Belichick’s call above if something bizarre had happened and the Jets had gotten the ball back and won, it would look foolish.

But the best way to finish a game and win is to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing offense’s hands. They did that. As much as I don’t love the thought of Mark Sanchez having to lead his team 80 yards to a win, all it would have taken was a missed tackle and the Jets could have walked away with a win.

Why take that chance? Keep the ball in your hands as long as you can. Milk the clock. Kick the field goal.

It’s maddeningly simple to me, as it was when Brian Westbrook did it previously.

Hell, MJD even apologized to you which he really didn’t need to. Of course he admitted he had himself and screwed himself too, but also pointed out that hey ‘you play to win the game’.

Side note: With players owning themselves and other players in leagues that often deal with pots of prize money, is the league going to come down on this as gambling?  I know the arguement has been Fantasy isn’t gambling, but you have to wonder if the NFL worries.

Things didn’t go all that well for the guy who last took a knee at the line either. Brian Wesbtrook suffered his second concussion in less than a month yesterday and you have to start thinking we’re seeing the end of him in the NFL.

Listen, I’m no doctor – in fact I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night – but twice in a month is bad. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s awful.

The more often you get them, the more easy it is to get them. More than one player can testify to that and with the recent discussion in the media and NFL circles about head injuries and their long term effects I cannot imagine the Eagles rushing him back out there.

Especially not with LeSean McCoy there. I mean, isn’t this what you picked him for?

Maybe not, if you run a grand total of 13 times.  The Eagles only threw to the backs a total of five times as well.

Sure, they were down and yes they moved the ball through the air effectively in the fourth quarter. Still, there was never a threat that they were running the ball – I wonder if the success moving the chains via air freight than on the ground says more about deficiencies in the Chargers secondary than the Eagles pass attack

Either way, one hopes the Eagles – and Westbrook himself – are very cautious this time out.

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Trendspotting: Maurice Jones-Drew

I’ll be the first to admit that I had a bunch of concerns about Maurice Jones-Drew coming into this season. Most of those concerns – regarding his size, weight and their impact on his durability as well as the fact that he has never carried the ball as many times as the Jaguars want him to – are things which take a whole season to play out.
MJD is the Top Fantasy RB in many leagues

MJD is the Top Fantasy RB in many leagues

 
I felt he was still a top ten back. Six weeks in, he’s not only that but a top two back. He’s even the #1 back in many leagues.
 
However, while his overall numbers are very good his week to week numbers have fallen flat a few times.
 
A quick look at his overall games (credit to footballguys.com for supplying the stats) shows a few games where his owners might have struggled.
 
WK   OPP RSH YD TD TARG REC YD TD FPT  
1   IND 21 97 1 8 5 26 0 18.3  
2   ARI 13 66 0 7 4 17 0 8.3  
3   HOU 23 119 3 7 4 28 0 32.7  
4   TEN 6 14 1 3 3 26 0 10.0  
5   SEA 12 34 0 5 5 23 0 5.7  
6   STL 33 133 3 7 5 45 0 35.8  
TOT     108 463 8 37 26 165 0 110.8
 
Looking at the numbers I was struck by how inconsistent the production has been. His big games are big – very few backs have had games like that this season, much less more than one.
On the other hand, he’s had a few subpar games to alternate with those huge games.
 
What is going on with Jones-Drew? Is there a cause for concern? What is causing the yo-yoing production?
 
In this week’s Trendspotting, we look at the diminutive back and examine whether his owners need to sell high – or if the rest of us need to buy.
 
While I was working on the research for this, I did something a little different and threw out a post in the Footballguys forums to take the temperature of his owners and see what people felt might be going on if anything. You can check out response here, but I found very little worry for his prospects and some thoughts on the up and down production which mirrored what I was already thinking.
 
A few people are selling high(ish) and a few are looking to buy but overall his owners are patient and calm.
 
Good stuff there though and I encourage you to check it out.
 
And why shouldn’t his owners be patient. The overall picture in fantasy right now is one of struggling first round running backs.
 
Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Steve Slaton – all are players taken in the first who have had issues in the first six weeks. We could add folks like Tom Brady and Randy Moss (Week 6 fireworks notwithstanding) as well. 
 
So it isn’t a reach to say that Jones-Drew has more than been worth his pick, along with the other survivor of the first round, Adrian Peterson. 
 
I took a look at the many leagues I am in (mostly PPR leagues, but some not) and Jones-Drew is the top back in many of them. You can’t be upset when so many other studs have fallen flat.
 
What about those down games? Well, first consider that in the above graph from FBG’s player page, eight and ten points are not tragic totals (and do not include PPR points). Disappointing? Perhaps. 
 
Looking closer though, Jones-Drew ran into things that may have shut down the production for many of the backs in the same situation.
 
As Sigmund Bloom points out in the thread, both the Arizona and Seattle games he was hamstrung by an early deficit. Looking at those two games, Jones-Drew got his usual amount of catches as well – between four and five which is right at his average so far. Against Arizona he still compiled a nice 83 yards total. 
 
While the Seattle game didn’t even have that going for it, there hasn’t been a back this year who didn’t put up lackluster points once.
 
Still, that game highlights one problem with Jones-Drew – or rather his situation. For whatever reason, the line has not been able to create enough room for him to run. It could be starting two rookies on the line, it could be an echo of the adversity the squad faced last season.
 
Is MJD dissmissing critics like he does these Bills?

Is MJD dismissing critics like he does these Bills?

Luckily, Jones-Drew has proven himself to be that special breed of back who can overcome weakness around him. In the tradition of LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and Steven Jackson, Jones-Drew is a back who transcends situation. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns (which we’ll touch on in a minute) but it does say that regardless of his team he will make positive yards most of the time.

 
One thing owners have to love is the propensity of the Jaguars to give him the rock in the red zone.
 
A quick look at the numbers show Jones-Drew has gotten more looks than ANYONE else on the team and by a huge margin. In fact, of 71 total red zone looks, Jones-Drew has been ‘the man’ on 30 of them. The next closest is quarterback David Garrard with 21. After that it is a huge dip to the surprising Mike Sims-Walker who has seven.
 
Of his eight touchdowns, all but one are short yardage/goal line scores. He can still break a long one on occasion (as evidenced by his 61 yards touchdown against the Texans in Week 3) but you know that the team will nearly always give him the rock in the red.
 
Mind you, so does the opposition. That’s true of many stud backs though, so really you’re looking for opportunity and Jones-Drew gets plenty of it.
 
You also have to like some of his upcoming schedule. The Titans aren’t scaring anyone, Kansas City, Buffalo, Texans and Colts can all be run on. The Jets are reeling – we’ll see how they are in a few weeks but they aren’t an immovable object, especially without NT Kris Jenkins.
 
They aren’t all easy match-ups but it’s not an awful schedule.
 
The only concern I have with Jones-Drew is no different than what I was worried about in August: can he hold up to the workload?
 
As much as he hasn’t carried the ball 30 times every game, he has already racked up 108 carries. His first three years the total number of carries were 197 (2008), 167 (2007) and 166 (2006). 
 
He’s already more than halfway to the most carries he has ever had in his NFL career. I’m not even adding the catches, which he should easily eclipse as well this season. 
 
Jones-Drew has never carried the ball as often as he will this season (barring injury). So my biggest concern remains, will he be able to keep it up all season.
 
The team is not forcing either Greg Jones or Rashard Jennings into the mix with great frequency. This is Jones-Drew’s team, it is not a running back by committee nor does it show any signs of becoming one.
 
It is a hard – and honestly very dicey – to try a predict injury. Many people do – I’m not one of them. But we have seen backs fade as a season goes. If Jones-Drew had carried the ball 250+ times at least once in college (as other slight backs have – most notably Barry Sanders who for some reason people love to point out to me was a smaller back who never had injury issues) I’d be less concerned.
 
He hasn’t though and any owner or analyst should at least be a little concerned as the season progresses if he continues on a pace to pass 300 carries (and probably 350 touches total including catches). He’s never done it before – that doesn’t mean he can’t and there is a first time for everything. There aren’t many things more season killing though than to have a stud back wear out as you hit the Fantasy Playoffs.
 
Am I saying sell high? Am I guaranteeing an injury or dip in production?
 
No, not at all. I wouldn’t sell Jones-Drew and if I ran across an owner who was looking to part ways, I would see what I could do to acquire him.
 
What I am saying is, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you own
Will MJD put the facepalm to his critics?

Will MJD put the facepalm to his critics?

Jones-Drew, make sure you have back-ups you would be comfortable rolling with into the playoffs. It’s not ground-breaking advice and further, it applies to just about any stud back.
 
With his lack of history though, it’s more critical than doing so for a guy like Peterson.
 
Otherwise though, if you’re an owner of Maurice Jones-Drew, it may be a slightly bumpy ride but it’s also one that could help you towards a championship.    

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Running Back Blurb Breakdown: Maurice Jones-Drew


Maurice Jones-Drew
One of the most divisive backs in fantasy right now, Maurice Jones-Drew is a fantastic athlete whose strength and speed belies his size.

But questions still plague him.

He’s never carried the rock as the feature back, not even in college. And as much as he is tough, will he wear down if the Titans do use him as the bell cow? Or conversely, will they spell him a bunch with Greg Jones and Rashard Jennings?

MJD should put up nice numbers, especially in a PPR league but he’s going as the second – in some cases FIRST – Rb off the board in some drafts.

I haven’t even gotten to the revamped offensive line, though I think it will be healthy and capable this season. But they’ll be rolling out a pair of rookies and while some of that could be merely for depth, they really collapsed fast in 2008.

In their defense, you can’t have what they went through happen and not collapse. Once Richard Collier was shot and paralyzed, the fact they even pulled it together when they did is pretty gutty.

The passing attack appears to also be a big question mark at first glance. But Tory Holt alone is better than anyone on the roster last year, save the departed Matt Jones. And the two draft picks of Jake Dillard and Mike Thomas have looked good enough in tees and shorts to allow Dennis Northcutt to be traded.

Still, Garrard seemed to plateau last season and if he cannot get a little more going on, MJD might start finding his running lanes clogged.

While I think Jones-Drew has the talent, there are many questions I have about him. To many to take him earlier than where he is at five.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Colts at Jaguars (Jaguars breakdown)

David Garrard – A bad matchup to be sure, the Colts are only allowing 190 yds per game. Does it get worse? Yup – only a meager 5 TDs through the air while snagging 14 INTs – good enough for 9th best total in the league. Garrard has been up and down all seasojn – I wouldn’t want to throw him out there in my Championship week against this defense.

Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD is THE MAN now in the backfield and faces a nice matchup. The Colts allow 127+ yards a game on the ground and 16 Tds to date. Not only will MJD get a lot of carries, he’ll get some targets in the pass game as well. While he has under-produced for chunks of the season, I think this week he rolls off a very nice game.

Dennis Northcutt – Looks like he gets Garrard’s love with Matt Jones out. Can I trust him? Probably not, certainly not as more than a 4. As I expect a bad game from Garrard, you can’t depend on Northcutt all that much.

Reggie Williams – Williams consistently confuses the heck out of everybody and while he can put up the occasional big game I don’t think this is a matchup I would risk it.

Mike Walker – Nope – I want to see him play I think he has potential but it hasn’t been realized – or evident – since he hasn’t been on the field.

Marcedes Lewis – A shaky guy at best, not in the top 10 TEs this week, but if you are in a Hail Mary situation, you’re likely going to get maybe 20-40 yards and 3-5 catches. So not pretty, and barely passable.