The gracefully collapsed Philadelphia Eagles have provided fantasy owners with far too many nightmares this season. First it was Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, who were claimed by the injury reaper. Then, this past week the Eagles announced the loss of wide receiver DeSean Jackson for the remainder of the regular season, which in a lot of eyes was the final slash to a dreadful array of disappointments.
However, with disappointments always come new opportunities. Such is the case for running back Bryce Brown, who broke out in a big way last week against the Carolina Panthers to the tune of 178 yards and two touchdowns in the absence of McCoy. There's more, though.
After careful review of Brown's highlights I witnessed something critical to the success of the Eagles' rushing attack moving forward. They have wide receivers who actually want to be physical with their blocks on opposing defensive backs.
You see, as explosive as DeSean Jackson is when he is lined up wide, he offers next to nothing in the physical department when asked to extend his arms without the pigskin. On the other hand, I watched Riley Cooper make several important physical blocks that helped spring Brown down the field. Same goes for Damaris Johnson.
McCoy is out again this week against the Cowboys. This means that Brown will get the start and should make his way in to several fantasy lineups as well, even against a 13th ranked Dallas run defense. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect a repeat of last week, but another 100-yard game certainly isn't out of the question, especially if Mr. Cooper is spotted leading the way through the Cowboys secondary.
P.A. -- Playbook Artist
It's second and just two yards for the Miami Dolphins. There is just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter with the Seattle Seahawks ahead by seven. The Dolphins are lined up in the same strong formation alignment they lined up in earlier twice --- two wide receivers split to the right side, one tight end to the left, and fullback Charles Clay lined up two yards behind the line of scrimmage and in front of Daniel Thomas's right hip.
The Seahawks are lined up in a 4-3 Cover 1 defense. There is man coverage on both wide receivers courtesy of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Safety Kam Chancellor will come all the way up in to the box in between middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker KJ Wright, while free safety Earl Thomas is deep middle. Outside linebacker Leroy Hill will be responsible for Clay.
As mentioned above, this was the third time the Dolphins ran this play. The first two were a reverse to the motion receiver (circled teal) and a dive up the middle with the running back. This time quarterback Ryan Tannehill will actually fake both. Wide receiver Davone Bess will run a curl route keeping Browner shallow and away from the primary read. The motion receiver, Marlon Moore, will just angle towards the sidelines off the fake, which keeps Thomas from moving to his left too quickly.
In the end, the primary read, Clay runs a flat route, but then to Hill's surprise turns it up the field. Tannehill finds him wide open, as Hill trails way behind, for the easy pitch and catch touchdown.
According to The Palm Beach Post Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman believes Clay is a match up nightmare for opposing defenses, as he often draws a linebacker in coverage, yet has lined up in every receiver position this season.
"Defenses have to make a decision when he's in the game whether to play base defense or nickel defense, so it puts them in a precarious position," Sherman said. "We've got to make sure that we don't load him up with too much stuff, but he certainly rose to the occasion (Sunday), and hopefully will continue to do so."
From a fantasy standpoint Clay is not someone to target for any fantasy playoff run. However, his progression certainly will help Tannehill's overall numbers, and may make him a viable start for playoff owners against the Jaguars and Bills in weeks 15 and 16 at home.
W.S.W.P.M. -- Window Shopping With Peyton Manning
Throughout his career I've seen Peyton Manning drop passes in to defensive windows I've never seen any other quarterback drop a ball in to. Over the years he has proven to be perhaps the best and most efficient window shopper the NFL has ever seen. Luckily for Broncos fans and fantasy owners alike he was in the shopping spirit again against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, and during the most critical stage of the game no less with under two minutes to play.
As you can see above the Chiefs defense is lined up in man coverage all around, but will play a short and deep zone on outside wide receiver Demaryius Thomas with cornerback Jalil Brown and safety Travis Daniels. Brown is assigned the short zone to prevent any comeback routes, while Daniels will draw the deep zone if Thomas doesn't break off his route.
Being a scheme reading connoisseur Manning was ready for this, and immediately recognized the alignment. He checked Thomas out of his original route and in to a fly route. He timed his pass perfectly and hit Thomas in the designed five yard zone pass off window (blue window) for a crucial 27 yard completion on third down.
Plays like these are the prime reason why Manning is playing so well in his comeback 2012 season. In fact, Manning may be perhaps the only current quarterback who you can comfortably make a case for as an every week fantasy starter no matter who the opponent. I guess being a good window shopper sometimes does pay off.
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).