Cowboys’ Dez Bryant and Patriots’ Brandin Cooks Disappointing So Far
The Dallas Cowboys defense showed their true colors in Sunday’s tilt with the Denver Broncos, as C.J. Anderson piled up a total of 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Cowboys D didn’t look anything like the squad that held the Giants to just 233 net yards of offense. Trevor Siemian connected on 22 of 32 pass attempts for 231 yards and four touchdowns, succeeding where Eli Manning failed badly in Week 1.
The real story here, though, is Dak Prescott, who had 50 pass attempts but finished the day with 30 completions for 238 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The second interception came on fourth and goal from the six-yard line, when Aqib Talib jumped the route in front of Dez Bryant to intercept the pass and ran it 103 yards for a touchdown.
So far, Prescott has looked more like a game manager than the big threat he was last season. According to Pro Football Focus, his average depth of target is 8.2 yards thus far. There are 17 quarterbacks with a higher ADOT. Even more glaring, though, is the effect of Prescott’s inefficiency on the overall offense. The Cowboys converted just three of 14 third down attempts and gained an average of 4.1 yards per offensive play through the air.
What’s even more disturbing is the effect of Prescott’s play on wide receiver Dez Bryant. Despite getting a wealth of targets, Bryant has been a frustrating Fantasy player to own so far. Over the first two games, Bryant has been targeted a total of 25 times, including six targets in the red zone. Bryant has only caught nine of those targets for a total of 102 yards and one touchdown. All told, he’s generated just 24 Fantasy Points in PPR leagues and 16.2 points in Standard formats. That ranks Bryant tied for 20th among all wide receivers for Fantasy Points thus far.
In addition to Prescott’s inefficiency, Bryant has also faced a pair of tough defensive teams in these first two games. Both the Giants and Broncos have a tough secondary, so we have to give Bryant a bit of a pass here. Unfortunately, the next two weeks don’t look any better. The Cowboys travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals next week, so Bryant will very likely be covered by cornerback Patrick Peterson in that game. In Week 4, the Cowboys return home to face the stout LA Rams defense, a group with yet another solid secondary. After that, things ease up a bit with a home game against the weak Packers defense before the Cowboys have their bye week. The bottom line is that it may be a good time to begin whispering in the ear of the Bryant owner in your league to see if you can buy low while he’s facing these tough teams.
Brady Not Cookin' with Cooks
Speaking of disappointing receivers – what is the story with Brandin Cooks? Fantasy owners clamored to pick Cooks among the Top 10 wide receivers thinking that his speed and Tom Brady’s arm would produce some big downfield throws. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened much …yet. In fact, Cooks was only targeted four times in this week’s game against his former team. While many owners hoped the “revenge game” scenario would result in at least a touchdown, Cooks caught just two passes for a total of 37 yards.
This despite the fact that the Patriots only had three healthy wide receivers in uniform. What makes it even worse is that Rob Gronkowski left the game early with a groin injury. Instead of more targets for Cooks, it resulted in fewer targets, as the Patriots went into clock control mode and didn’t move the ball well at all through the air once Gronk departed.
The four targets Cooks got this week brings his season total to 11, the very same as WR Chris Hogan. However, none of Cooks’ targets have been in the red zone while Hogan has received three such targets to date and caught his first TD pass this week. It’s also worth noting that the Patriots have opted to run the ball into the end zone four times with Mike Gillislee, so it’s not like Cooks is being singled out.
Overall, Cooks' owners will need to be patient. Brady is known to take his time with trusting new receivers. As the season wears on, Cooks should get more opportunities to strut his stuff, especially if the Patriots don’t add a WR to the team at some point. Danny Amendola is injury-prone to say the least, so his availability is week to week at best. Brady will have to get used to Cooks and newcomer Phillip Dorsett (check injury status), who will both have to be integrated into the passing game sooner rather than later. Still, given how little Cooks has produced to date, it may be a good time to make an offer for him in your league. His value probably won’t go much lower than it is now.
Carson Carries the Mail
Of all the running backs that emerged in Week 1 as potential waiver wire pickups, Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson took a step forward in Week 2 as the best of the lot. Carson took 20 handoffs from Russell Wilson in Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers and ran for 93 yards. He also caught one pass for seven yards. Thomas Rawls played this week but he was a non-factor with just four yards on five carries. Eddie Lacy was a healthy scratch and C.J. Prosise was only on the field for passing downs.
There is good news and bad news, though, for Carson going forward. The bad news is the offensive line is as dreadful this season as it was last season. Remember, this was the 49ers they were playing this week. Russell Wilson had a tough time getting any kind of rhythm going with the passing game, totaling just 181 net yards through the air. Wilson finally connected for a passing TD with about five minutes left to play.
The good news is the offense is still built for the same ground and pound rushing attack the Seahawks became famous for when Marshawn Lynch carried the mail for them. Two weeks into the schedule, Carson has produced 149 total offensive yards, 132 of them on the ground. Last season, the Seahawks attempted the fewest overall pass plays in the NFL and they are trending in that same direction this season. This bodes well for Carson’s future Fantasy value this season. All signs point to Carson becoming this season’s Jordan Howard.
Ajayi Lives Up to the Hype
Jay Ajayi was one of the more polarizing running backs of draft season this year. Much was made of the fact that he averaged 105 rushing yards per game in his 11 starts last year. However, the argument against that stat was that almost 50 percent of those yards came in the three games in which he rushed for 200 or more yards. During training camp, head coach Adam Gase went on record as saying that Ajayi would be given as many carries as he could handle with the possibility that he would acquire 350 or more touches over the course of 16 games if he stayed healthy.
The Dolphins’ first game showed Gase to be a man of his word, as Ajayi received 30 touches in the game, 29 of them handoffs. Ajayi rumbled for a total of 122 rushing yards and he caught two passes for a total of four yards. The only Miami touchdown came on a pass play to Kenny Stills, but Ajayi’s efforts helped the Dolphins win the time of possession war in a defensive controlled game. Miami had the ball on offense for 33:22 to the Chargers’ 26:38. Overall, the Dolphins’ offense ran a balanced attack with 34 pass plays and 32 running plays.
So, those of you who chose Ajayi in drafts got a peek at the way the Dolphins intend to utilize him. It should also be noted that Ajayi was on the field for almost three-fourths of the downs including pass plays on third down. The only other back in all of football who accounts for that high a percentage of the team’s plays on the field is Le’Veon Bell. Of course, the only potential stumbling block here is an injury. Ajayi was reportedly nursing a sore knee prior to this week’s game despite not playing in Week 1. So, whether he actually finishes with 350-plus touches is already somewhat suspect. Still, given the reports prior to the game and the fact that he still made 30 touches, perhaps Ajayi is more durable than we were led to believe. Either way, it will be interesting to see how he does going forward.
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.