Trevor Lawrence's Return to Relevance




 



Trevor Lawrence has played three games. He is already halfway to his rookie passing touchdown total. He is 66 percent of the way to his "quarterback wins" total. His leading receiver, Christian Kirk, has one fewer score (three) than last year's receiving touchdown leader. All this while throwing just one interception and boosting his completion percentage from 59.6 to 69.3.

And now to check the coaching. Urban Meyer is a legend. Doug Pederson is a coach. Meyer thought his aura would be enough to win games and develop players in Jacksonville. Pederson is actually winning games and developing players in Jacksonville. He is presumably also taking the team flights home.

Lawrence and Pederson aren't doing anything fancy. They're practicing layups before moving beyond the three-point line. That's just fine for a young player who needed his environment rebuilt from the ground up. It is clear it was just the surroundings that needed to change, not Lawrence's fundamentals or game. He is a high-floor young quarterback who was grievously mismanaged as a rookie. Thankfully, he was not ruined.

The next steps should be using Lawrence's legs a bit more - he has only eight rushing attempts for 22 yards - and working on his deep game. Through three starts, he has completed just four passes of 20-plus yards. With Kirk and Marvin Jones, he has targets he can hit down the field.

In an offense that wants to be balanced - the Jags' 91 rush attempts are currently sixth - Lawrence seems unlikely to ascend to every-week QB1 status as a sophomore, but he is quickly proving worthy of priority streamer consideration. It is tempting to say that is especially true for high-totaled dates for this weekend's showdown with the Eagles, but Philly is permitting the seventh fewest quarterback fantasy points through three games. Bask in Lawrence's improvement, but you don't have to make it something it is not. His QB1 day will come. That was far from a given before Pederson arrived in town.

Five Week 3 Storylines

Jimmy Garoppolo reminds why the 49ers wanted to replace him. Trailing by one point with two minutes remaining and the ball at their own 48-yard line, the 49ers needed only one conversion. What they got instead was the worst throw of the night. A target to nowhere, one not even the incomparable Deebo Samuel could make look close. As was the case in last year's NFC Championship Game, Jimmy G frontrode well enough. It was the second he needed to create any offense of his own that he completely fell apart. That is to say nothing of the "Orlovsky" safety he took by running out the back of the end zone in the third quarter. That two-point mistake was quite literally the difference in the game. The 49ers might be worried that Trey Lance doesn't have it. They are dismayed because they know Garoppolo doesn't. It could be a long season if opposing defenses feel freer to camp out on Garoppolo's lack of passing threat as the Niners try to make do with Jeff Wilson on the ground.

Tom Brady continues to sleepwalk with banged-up skill corps. While Aaron Rodgers made it work with a cast of rookies and also-rans, Brady managed all of one touchdown for the third consecutive start. This is not to condemn the 45-year-old legend. Two of those games were victories, after all, while Brady is still protecting the ball. It's just a reminder that no one is Superman if they don't have the supporting cast. Thankfully for Brady, help really is on the way. Mike Evans is back for Week 4. Chris Godwin shouldn't be far behind. Those aren't just reinforcements, they're All-Pros. Expectations should nevertheless be tempered as the Bucs deal with offensive line and run-game issues. The Bucs hit on all cylinders the past two years. It's unclear how many of said cylinders even remain.

Romeo Doubs keeps percolating for receiver-needy Packers. On the other side of the Brady coin was Doubs making life easier for Aaron Rodgers. The Pack need help from an unlikely source and haven't exactly made it a secret that they want it to be Doubs. He delivered on Sunday by pacing the team in targets and yards, catching twice as many balls as Allen Lazard, and scoring one of just two Packers touchdowns in a slog of a game. As Denny Carter pointed out in his game blurb, Doubs was a few shoestring tackles away from blowing by 100 yards. After passing a series of small tests the first three weeks, Doubs is getting closer to answering the big question of "just who is going to stabilize this receiver corps?" Fantasy managers have a potential WR3 on their hands.

D'Andre Swift picks up a shoulder issue vs. Vikings. Swift entered the afternoon with an ankle issue. He exited it "not using his left arm much" in the locker room. What is frustrating for fantasy managers has to be doubly so for Dan Campbell. It also makes it more likely that Jamaal Williams' "vulturing" continues to remain something more, making Swift more of a boom-or-bust RB2 rather than the Ekeler-style RB1 we know he is capable of being. His usage has plummeted in back-to-back weeks after a workhorse Week 1. For now, we don't even know for sure if he will be healthy enough to suit up against the Seahawks' sieve-like defense. You can play through an upper-body injury. You can play through an lower-body injury. Both? It can be difficult to know where the compensation ends and your fluidity begins. What felt like Swift's guaranteed breakout season could slip away in a hurry if the young man can't get a little healthier.

David Montgomery's leg issue creates breakout space for Khalil Herbert. Labeled with a knee/ankle combination, Montgomery made it only 11 snaps/three touches against the Texans. He was immediately ruled out, one of the more foreboding tea leaves when it comes to in-game injuries. Initial testing revealed good news, however, and the Bears are calling their lead runner day to day. Lead runner though he is, Montgomery could be given a "little extra time" to heal after Khalil Herbert rushed 20 times for 157 yards and a score in Montgomery's absence. Already boasting standalone value as the No. 2 back in this increasingly run-heavy offense - one with a road-paving offensive line - Herbert is worth a major FAAB investment even if you believe Montgomery will end up suiting up for Week 4.

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Five More Week 3 Storylines

Promising Mac Jones outing ends with ankle injury. What should have been one of the better days of Jones' career was marred by an end zone interception before it was ended by the ankle issue. Although Jones appeared to fear a season-ender, X-rays were negative. A Monday MRI will probably still reveal an issue that should cost Jones at least Week 4, but he will play football again this year. When he does, it could be to a different offensive approach. Jones' 12.1 average intended air yards on Sunday were second to only Marcus Mariota, and a huge increase on Jones' Week 1-2 marks. In Week 2, that number was 9.0. In Week 1, 8.8. The Pats are finally realizing that they have all these down-field receivers and they might as well do something with them. Jones has now unlocked Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker. It might not translate to WR3 fantasy value for either of the pass catchers, but it helps make Jones and the Pats offense more dangerous on the whole. That's good news for Jones and his running backs, who will have more drives to finish near the goal line if the Pats actually succeed at moving the ball.

Chris Olave continues breakout in otherwise dismal Saints loss. With Jameis Winston bombs away in the second half as the Saints shockingly trailed in Carolina, Olave was the beneficiary, drawing 13 targets for the second consecutive week. After posting a solid-but-unspectacular 5/80/0 line in Week 2, Olave upgraded to 9/147/0. Even with Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry in the mix, Olave drew 42 percent of the Saints' air yards. Winston has made it clear the past two weeks he views Olave as his primary down-field option, and the primary down-field read for Winston is a good place to be if you're a receiver. With Thomas (toe) and Landry (foot) both dealing with minor injuries, Olave's usage could somehow further increase for Week 4 against the Vikings.

Weirdness continues in Rams backfield. A surface-level reading of the Rams' running back situation over the past two weeks is pretty clear cut: Cam Akers has out-carried Darrell Henderson 27-14. Case closed. Only it's anything but, as Sunday remained a 50-50 timeshare from a snaps perspective, one where Akers handled the ball only two times for -1 yards in the first half. He was more involved as the Rams tried to close it out after the break but lost a goal-line fumble. That almost let the Cardinals back into the game. Speaking afterward, coach Sean McVay did say he was planning to stick with Akers had the Rams needed to engineer another drive. Good, but again, confusion. McVay doesn't seem to know his backfield patterns, so it is impossible to say we do. For now, consider both part of the FLEX Morass.

Dalvin Cook re-injures shoulder against Lions. Cook's shoulder "pops up" a few times per season. Sunday was the first time in 2022, with the incident coming in the third quarter after Cook had already rushed for a season-high 96 yards and scored his first touchdown. He was ruled out ominously quickly but is expected to don a harness and suit up for Week 4 against the Saints in London. That sounds bad, but Cook had a 205-yard game against the Steelers under similar circumstances last December. It is worth noting that came after Cook missed a game. It will apparently be different this time. With the Saints suddenly allowing individual 100-yard rushers in two of their first three games after previously going 20 contests without doing so, Cook can still be trusted as an RB1 despite his injury report status.

D.J. Moore posts yet another disappointing statline. Fantasy managers were hoping Baker Mayfield wasn't responsible for Odell Beckham's lack of success in Cleveland. In other news, D.J. Moore has seven catches for 88 yards through three games of the Mayfield "era" in Charlotte. He had more rushing yards than receiving on Sunday. Moore still commanded a 25 percent target share vs. the Saints, but that doesn't really matter when the targets are inaccurate and the triggerman is attempting just 25 total passes. Moore should be the kind of receiver who is quarterback-proof. He is capable of doing damage at all three levels of the field. It just doesn't matter in Mayfield's world. A player who should be a WR2 pushing for WR1 value now finds himself falling further into the WR3 ranks. If Moore doesn't have a big day against the Cardinals' barely-there defense in Week 4, we will be talking true crisis.

Questions

1. How many Super Bowls would Pete Carroll have won with Matt Flynn?

2. What is going to happen when the Broncos start playing teams that have their 2023 quarterback on the roster?

3. Is Geno Smith aware the object is not to get his pass catchers hospitalized?

Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

QB: Jared Goff (vs. SEA), Jameis Winston (vs. SEA), Marcus Mariota (vs. CLE), Ryan Tannehill (@IND), Jacoby Brissett (@ATL)
RB: Khalil Herbert, J.D. McKissic, Tyler Allgeier, Jaylen Warren, Sony Michel
WR: Romeo Doubs, Russell Gage, Michael Gallup, Treylon Burks, DeVante Parker, Isaiah McKenzie, George Pickens, Mack Hollins, Greg Dortch, Alec Pierce
TE: Evan Engram, Robert Tonyan, Tyler Conklin, Logan Thomas, Hunter Henry
DEF: Panthers (vs. AZ), Lions (vs. SEA), Cardinals (@CAR), Browns (@ATL), Bears (@NYG), Commanders (@DAL), Raiders (vs. DEN), Jets (@PIT)

Stats of the Week

87. That's what percent of the Raiders' snaps Mack Hollins has played each of the first three weeks. He's led the damn team in receiving the past two games. He is currently 14th overall in yardage. It doesn't feel sustainable. It does feel very Josh McDaniels.

47. That's by how many yards DeVonta Smith set his new career high on Sunday, checking in with 8/169/1. He's up to 11th in total yardage despite a Week 1 bagel. This is still A.J. Brown's receiver corps, but it's a finally an offense big enough for two wideouts.

61. That's how many more plays the Bills ran than the Dolphins.

Via Field Yates: "The Jaguars have won back-to-back games by 20+ points for the first time since 2000."

Awards Section

Week 3 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Lamar Jackson, RB Khalil Herbert, RB Derrick Henry, WR DeVonta Smith, WR Mack Hollins, WR Marquise Brown, TE Mark Andrews

Tweet of the Week, from @Sloup: Add "unusually frequent weird scores" to the list of things I used to blame on Pete Carroll that i am now blaming on Russell Wilson.

The "It's Literally Week 3" Award: "#Raiders coach Josh McDaniels enters interview room after a lengthy closed-door meeting with owner Mark Davis."

Film Observation of the Week, from Dan Hanzus: Joe Flacco fumbles almost every time he takes a hit. Legitimately feels like the 75 percent range.

Film Observation of the Week II, from Jimmy Kempski: Wentz with his patented "the edge rusher ran by me so he now ceases to exist and won't continue to try to get me" pocket presence.

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