The season is past the midpoint and playoff runs are underway. Let’s see what is interesting going into the weekend.
Rod Smith – First off, I expect that during the game, Ezekiel Elliott will come hopping out onto the field half dressed and carrying his jersey and right shoe. He’ll hand the referee a permission slip from the Supreme Court saying that he can play. But failing that, the discussion regarding Alfred Morris vs. Darren McFadden just added Rod Smith as the No. 2 back this week (Sorry Darren).
His brother Jaylon is a linebacker for the Cowboys. Smith is a prototypical fullback at 6-3, 240 pounds. He was an undrafted free agent that signed with Seattle in 2014 and was released. The Cowboys claimed him off waivers that year. He was dismissed from Ohio State as a fifth-year senior for a failed drug test and declared for the draft with no takers. He only ran for 549 yards on 107 carries with ten touchdowns in his college career. So… he’s pretty fresh.
His NFL career has been ten carries this year. The RB coach said he thought that Smith could be an every-down back. There is almost nothing to go by even considering his college history. He ran for 61 yards on eight carries in the win over the 49ers. The Cowboys won that game by 30 points. He is a big unknown in all senses of the word. That he would be touted as the No. 2 back this week says more about Darren McFadden than him.
Teddy Bridgewater – The return of Bridgewater became more interesting with Sam Bradford landing on injured reserve. He tore his left ACL and dislocated his knee in August of last year and has faithfully rehabbed since. Sunday will be the first time he has work that uniform for almost 15 months. He’ll back up Case Keenum at least for now.
Just as a reminder, Bridgewater only passed for 3,321 yards and 14 touchdowns along with 192 rushing yards with three more scores. The last time he played, all the job entailed was turning left or right and handing off to Adrian Peterson. This is a much different team with a different offensive coordinator than he knew. Keenum is on pace for almost the exact sort of year that Bridgewater had in 2015. And Keenum led the Vikings to a 6-2 record and tied for the second-best record in the NFL. Short of injury, there’s no reason to expect to see Bridgewater do anything this year.
Will Fuller – Tom Savage started three games last year and in those, Fuller never scored or gained more than 42 yards on four catches. Fuller opened his career with two 100-yard games when Brock Osweiler was the starter and had not yet imploded. He went on to a rookie year filled with two- and three-catch games with mediocre yardage and no scores.
While Deshaun Watson merely returned Andre Hopkins to being an elite receiver, he turned Fuller into a scoring machine. We’re back to Savage and that’s already been done. His first start this year only produced two catches for 32 yards by Fuller despite the eight carries. Against the Colts. The only remaining attractive games are the 49ers and facing the Colts again. No reason to expect anything new from Fuller playing with what did not work last year.
Jameis Winston – The Bucs opted to shelve Winston for two weeks to rehab his shoulder with famed Dr. James Andrews. That means he’ll miss this week’s tilt with the Jets and their bye. He’s had just one good game over the last month thanks to the AC joint injury and that was 384 yards and three scores in Buffalo in Week 7. But Winston’s even been dropped onto waiver wires recently. He turned in a three-game streak with 320+-yard games from Week 2 through 4. If he heals up as expected, he’ll return to face the Falcons twice, the Lions, Packers, and Panthers by Week 16. This is the time to try to acquire him. This is not the time to drop him.
Martellus Bennett – Interesting that Bennett was released by the Packers for “failure to disclose a medical condition designation” for whatever that meant. Word is that he’s been unmotivated all year and even tweeted about retiring at the end of the year. He’s never scored and gained 53 yards at most. He has other interests outside of football. But then the Pats snapped him up the next day after he had passed waivers for 25 other teams. Dwayne Allen is the primary backup but he failed to catch any of his six targets this year. He knows the offense so it makes some sense.
Update: Bennett was playing through a torn rotator cuff. That clouds his role on the Patriots.
ArDarius Stewart – Jeremy Kerley has been the slot receiver for the Jets and was suspended for four weeks after testing positive for steroids. That leaves an opening that will likely be filled by the rookie Stewart though Chad Hansen may help as well.
Stewart was the ninth overall wideout drafted in April with the Jets 3.15 pick. The 5-11, 208-pound Alabama receiver came out after his junior season with posted 864 yards on 54 catches with eight touchdowns. He was held back by the run-first scheme of the Crimson Tide and yet still carried a second-round grade. This next month should suggest how Stewart can fit in next year.