Snap Count Observations: Transactions to Make for Week 8
The Panthers fire sale was the big news of the week; Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson changed teams, thereby affecting situations in Carolina, Arizona, and San Francisco. Today’s article will focus on those moves (and next week probably will too, as McCaffrey and Anderson were clearly not fully up-to-speed with their new offenses). The trade deadline is November 1st, so we may see more movement. This article is here for you as the chaos of the NFL season occurs.
Trade Impacts Felt Across the Team
Starting with the WR room, the absence of Robbie Anderson cleared the way for the Panthers to find out what they have in former second-round draft pick, Terrace Marshall. Marshall played a season-high snap percentage, which was about double his previous best of 46%. However, the answer to “what they have” is apparently “not much.” Marshall brought in only two of his three targets for 21 yards. Meanwhile, Anderson’s absence seems to have had little consequence for any other player. Typical WR3, Shi Smith, stayed in his same role, so if you grabbed him hoping he’d see more playing time or opportunities, that obviously didn’t (and won’t) happen.
The more interesting development is P.J. Walker‘s willingness to force it to D.J. Moore. Moore’s 48% target share was otherworldly. More importantly than the QB throwing the ball, Moore’s increased target volume may have more to do with Christian McCaffrey‘s absence. McCaffrey was a target dominator, and it’s possible that CMC just ate into Moore’s ability to produce. So if you are looking for optimism regarding Moore, you can find it here. Neither Hubbard nor Foreman are target hogs. In this game, the RB position only saw four targets total, a number McCaffrey exceeded in the first quarter last week. Thus, there is a target void on the team best filled by its best player.
Staying with the running backs, the Panthers used a straight committee to replace CMC. Foreman ended up with more carries and yards, but Hubbard scored the touchdown. Hubbard came in after a long Foreman run when Foreman was winded. On the flip side of that luck coin, Hubbard got a bit banged up which allowed Foreman to rack up some extra work later in the game. Still, Foreman looked like the better runner to me, despite Hubbard getting the “start.” If for some reason either guy is available in your league, I would pick either up, but lean toward Foreman.
Cade Otton Continues to Demand Targets
Cade Otton 81%
Otton’s plays a ton and plays well when Cameron Brate misses time. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans do suck up their fair share of targets (13 for Godwin, 15 for Evans), but Otton still ran a lot of routes and saw five targets of his own. The Bucs can’t seem to run the ball (45 total yards in the game), so Brady may need to throw a ton. That makes Otton interesting for those of you thinking about finally pivoting from Kyle Pitts 😭. Cameron Brate doesn’t sound particularly close to returning to the football field after his scary neck injury, which may allow Otton to take this job and run with it.
Conclusion: Otton is a TE streaming candidate whenever Brate doesn’t play.
Etienne Takeover Complete
Travis Etienne finally got a chance to own this backfield, and he produced really well. His 14 carries for 114 yards were special, but he only caught one of his five targets. Etienne appears to be a bit overrated as a pass catcher to me. That was supposed to be his bag coming out of college, but I haven’t seen anything close to the abilities that the best at the position have (e.g., Barkley, CMC, Aaron Jones). Also notable, Etienne nearly had a second touchdown, but he fumbled the ball at about the 3-yard line on a great play by Xavier McKinney.
80% snaps were by far his season high, and the game was never a particularly negative game script, so this is a true signal. It seems like the team trusts Etienne finally, which is great news for him moving forward.
Conclusion: Start Etienne with confidence.
All Aboard the Gus Bus
We certainly don’t love an RB who sees less than 40% of his team’s snaps, but context is everything. This was Edwards’ first game back from injury, and he still led the backfield in snaps and carries. Also, he saw 16 carries in a mere 36% of the snaps. In fact, Edwards saw 17 opportunities (he also saw one target) in a mere 23 snaps, meaning he basically touched the ball every time he was on the field. He also received every Baltimore carry inside the ten. That’s beautiful.
This isn’t even a competition anymore. Gus Edwards ran for 66 yards on 16 carries whereas Kenyan Drake ran for just five yards on 11 carries! Also, Justice Hill fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter in a three-point game. Edwards looks fantastic and is clearly the best running back on the team. His health status does scare me slightly, as he is only 13 months removed from an ACL tear, but the eye test was certainly passed. The bigger worry is that they limit his workload in view of his shorter recovery term (we typically like about 18 months between an ACL tear and a return to action). That said, these athletes are returning quicker and quicker as medical and PT science advances. Edwards gets Tampa Bay next, who just gave up about 200 yards rushing to the combination of D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, so Gus will be hard to bench.
Conclusion: Start Gus Edwards.
Pacheco Mania Short-Lived
Early Sunday morning, we got a bombshell alert about Pacheco taking RB1 snaps with the team and that he was slated to start. This led to full-scale waiver wire panic as everyone tried to grab him as quickly as possible, and then further panic about whether to start him or not. I guess this report had merit, as Pacheco played two more snaps than CEH, but it was still McKinnon on the field the most (McKinnon was also the only running back who ran a route, per PFF).
This news clearly had more to do with CEH than it did with Pacheco. Maybe the change in depth chart order had something to do with plays like this by CEH:
I been saying forever, Clyde ain’t it. This run ended up going for no gain. Look at the size of that hole. pic.twitter.com/cpuwh2ngAs
— Matrick Pahomes (@brandxnmahomes) October 23, 2022
Pacheco doesn’t look like a league-winning type for the same reason Clyde never was in his first few years in the league. When close, the Chiefs just don’t bash the ball up the middle consistently. They are more creative with shovel passes and pre-snap movement and TE bubble screens, so green zone touches are at a premium for Chiefs RBs. Plus, Pacheco has no passing game involvement whatsoever. He allegedly rose up the depth chart due to improvements in pass blocking, but that means he’s staying in the pocket protecting Mahomes, not making himself available to catch passes. You don’t get fantasy points for protecting Patrick Mahomes.
Still, this is one of the best offenses in the league. They just put up 44 on a very good San Fran defense. The game was out of hand in the fourth, but Pacheco was still playing, which was not all that different from his previous “human victory cigar” role. Perhaps the team just wanted to get him more game experience given Clyde’s struggles, but I remain a bit skeptical that Pacheco will take the backfield duties and run with them. Instead, this team remains a strong committee, and no one has truly separated themselves.
Conclusion: Hold both Chiefs’ RBs for now; start neither.
McCaffrey played almost as many snaps as long-term RB Jeff Wilson after only 48 hours to learn any 49er plays. That’s all the proof you need that San Fran intends to use him a ton in the future. McCaffrey was only used in limited packages on Sunday. Still, McCaffrey got eight carries and saw two targets because he’s good. Given another week or two to absorb Kyle Shanahan’s playbook, he’s about to smash. Meanwhile, I can’t really see how there is room for Elijah Mitchell moving forward.
Conclusion: Get excited about McCaffrey in San Fran; Mitchell can be dropped if you need room.
Gibson Assuming McKissic Role?
Last week, I commented about the Commanders finally using Antonio Gibson in a passing-down role after years of mismanaging him and ignoring his pass-catching skillset. Now, they seemed to have expanded his role. Interestingly, Gibson’s playing time increased each of the last two weeks, and McKissic’s snaps are going down. More interestingly, Gibson ran two more routes than McKissic (and four more than Robinson).
It’s clear that Robinson has carved out a role as the first/second down back, but Gibson isn’t going away quietly. He’s transitioning to a back who is more involved in pass-catching while also operating as a change of pace from Robinson. Gibson went 10-for-59 on the ground and added three catches for 18 yards including a really impressive back-of-the-endzone touchdown catch. McKissic, meanwhile, was not targeted even a single time.
If Washington can move closer to a two-back system, Antonio Gibson would become very interesting if he added four to five targets per game and saw eight to ten carries. We know he’s good when given the opportunity.
Conclusion: Gibson should be usable as the second back in Washington as the Commanders phase out J.D. McKissic.
Romeo Doubs Struggling But Still Playing A Lot
It’s been two straight duds for Romeo Doubs, punctuated by this week’s particularly painful zero catches on four targets.
Some of this performance was on Doubs. On 4th-and-2, they ran a WR screen that he initially caught but couldn’t maintain as he was spun around. That’s a catch that needs to be made in the NFL under any situation, but particularly 4th down. That said, two of his other four targets were just garbage throws by Rodgers. Doubs also looked open quite a bit more than his four targets suggest, but Rodgers either wasn’t looking his way or is struggling to read the defense. Rodgers does not look like anything close to the MVP candidate he was last year. He’s missing throws, he’s forcing things, and he doesn’t have a safety blanket to return to when all else fails.
Still, Doubs ran the most routes, and the return of Sammy Watkins had no effect on his playing time. Now Allen Lazard reaggravated the same shoulder injury that held him out early in the season, so the opportunity window for Doubs remains open. Doubs hasn’t replicated Odell Beckham‘s rookie season by any means, but optimism still remains. Maybe Rodgers is just done, but given his track record, I have to believe he can still turn it around.
Conclusion: Consider sitting Doubs until the Packers find their form.