We all knew DeAndre Hopkins was good heading into this season. What we didn’t know is who would be throwing him the football and how good a job they would do. Well, with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett each getting an opportunity to start, we have learned one thing. It doesn’t matter who throws him the ball, as long as they just give him an opportunity to catch it.
Heading into Week 5, Hopkins led all receivers in targets with 75, a number that was 13 more than Julio Jones on the season. This has resulted in him being second in the league in receptions (42) and first in receiving yardage (578) despite having an unsettled quarterback situation. Hoyer looks to be the guy moving forward, but we can never be too sure with coach Bill O’Brien at the helm.
What is refreshing, though, is that no matter who is behind center, they throw the ball to Hopkins. This week was no exception, as he caught 10 of his 15 targets for 148 yards and two touchdowns. That makes four consecutive 100 yard receiving games for Hopkins. He has been targeted no fewer than 11 times per game and is averaging an astounding 15 per contest.
With no signs of his usage dropping, Hopkins is a legitimate threat to lead all receivers in scoring this year. He gets open at will and wins most one-on-one matchups as long as the ball is somewhere in his vicinity. Rob Moore had the all-time most targeted season with Arizona in 1997 with 208 targets. Hopkins is on a pace for 240 targets. He needs to average 12 targets per game over the remainder of the season to break that record. My money has him doing so.
After being held to less than 83 yards receiving in each of his first five games of the season, Calvin Johnson finally got off the schnide against Chicago. He caught six of his nine targets for 166 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 37-34 overtime victory. Now age 30, Johnson has lost a step. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still effective. This big game leaves him on pace for 101 catches for 1,301 yards and five touchdowns. While it’s hard to believe, Johnson has eclipsed the 100 reception mark just once in his storied career. It’s even harder to believe he is on pace to score five touchdowns. A look down the road at the Lions’ schedule shows them facing off against some very favorable opponents. Expect the solid numbers to continue and those touchdowns to uptick in the coming weeks. He is still a WR1, but physically he’s no longer the player that put up that dominant stretch from 2011-2013.
For the second consecutive game, Stefon Diggs led the Vikings in receiving yardage. Those two games were his first two as a professional. Funny how things work sometimes. He followed up his six receptions for 87 yards in Week 4, with a seven catch, 129 yard effort in Week 7. His 216 receiving yards trail Mike Wallace for the team lead by just 40 yards despite Wallace playing in three more games. One thing is clear; Diggs is going to continue to get playing time. The obvious loser here is preseason darling Charles Johnson, who has missed the last two games to injury and really struggled in the three games in which he was active. Diggs is going to eat into Johnson’s playing time to start, but Wallace isn’t exactly safe either. Sure, he makes big bucks, but he is averaging just 51.2 receiving yards per game, a number than ranks him outside the Top 50. Diggs is now a must-add off the waiver wire for any team in need of a receiver. Johnson can be cut in shallow leagues, while Wallace gets a downgrade here. Diggs has been efficient and clearly has Teddy Bridgewater‘s eye. Wallace is going to lose targets to Diggs based on what he has done so far.
Heading into Week 6, the Redskins owned one of the stingiest defenses in the league against the run, giving up 11.2 standard league points per game to opposing running backs. Apparently, Chris Ivory never got that memo, as he completely gashed them for 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and added another 50 yards through the air on three receptions. When healthy, he has put up monster numbers this year. He played injured in Week 2 against the Colts and suited up but didn’t play a snap in Week 3 against the Eagles. Despite this he was still the 18th ranked running back in standard leagues heading into Week 6. When you look around the running back landscape there are very few backs that can be consistently counted on for 20 touches a game. Ivory, when on the field, is definitely one of them. There will always be concerns about his ability to stay healthy due to his violent running style but whenever he plays, he should be viewed as an RB1. He will finish the season as a Top-8 back if his body allows him to.
Prior to leaving Sunday’s game against the Packers in the third quarter with a hip injury, Keenan Allen was having himself quite a game, catching 14 passes for 157 yards. He returned to the field briefly, only to find himself back on the sidelines for the remainder of the afternoon. After taking a back seat to Antonio Gates in Week 5, Allen was back to running his crossing routes with precision. Philip Rivers is averaging 42.2 pass attempts per game; Allen has averaged 11.8 targets per game. Long story short, Allen has been targeted on 28.1 percent of Rivers’ pass attempts this season. That’s a huge number folks. After seeing Allen come down hard on his hip, I am going to go out on a limb and say he suffered a hip pointer. He tried coming back into the game but quickly returned to the sideline. The fact that he made an attempt to return says it isn’t all that severe, and he stands a good shot at playing next week against Oakland. That all can change after that bruise sets in overnight, though, so it’s a situation worth monitoring. At just 23, Allen has really taken a step forward in this third NFL season. He is now one of the premier possession receivers in the game.
On paper, Eddie Lacy had a juicy matchup against a Chargers’ defense that’s had plenty of issues stopping the run. Opposing running backs racked up 919 total yards and seven touchdowns in their first five games. Lacy managed three yards on four carries and added two catches for 17 yards. His usage has become alarming, especially when you take into consideration that James Starks gashed them for 112 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and added another five yard touchdown catch. For the season, the two of these guys have virtually identical numbers. Lacy has 76 touches for 343 yards and a score, while Starks has 74 touches for 341 yards and two scores. Lacy is the starter, but obviously isn’t getting the workload of one. From what I have seen, Starks has looked like the better player this season. Lacy looks slow to the hole and just isn’t making many plays. Starks is currently available in 77.7 percent of leagues on ESPN. If you need help at running back, this is the guy you need to invest in off your waiver wire. He looks to have worked his way into the lead back role of this committee.
The Dolphins finally got rid of coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle during their bye week. The team was clearly underperforming and the change was long overdue. One of the strangest things about what unfolded this season was the usage of Lamar Miller. Last year, he was one of only four running backs who averaged over five yards per carry and had at least 200 carries on the season. Through his first four games he had just 37 carries for 137 yards. The new staff comes in, establishes the running game and Miller rewards them with 113 yards and a score on 19 carries, along with a pair of receptions for five yards. He could have had an even bigger game, but with the Dolphins up big he was removed with 10 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. As mentioned earlier, running backs with 20-touch potential aren’t exactly plentiful nowadays. Miller is a weekly start from here on out. These interim coaches want to keep their jobs. The best way to do so is by getting the ball to their best players.