Corey Davis’ breakout had been the slowest train coming. The No. 5 overall pick of last year’s draft, Davis entered Week 4 having never scored a regular season touchdown or recorded a 100-yard game. Although 23rd in targets (24) through 2018’s first three games, Davis was a distant 49th in receptions (13) and 57th in yardage (151). His yards per route run was a middling 1.84.
His own hamstring injury likely played a part, but it was the injury to Davis’ quarterback, Marcus Mariota, that most seemed to be holding him back. With Mariota playing with essentially one arm, the Titans’ down-field game was nonexistent. It’s down the field where 6-foot-3, 209-pound Davis does the most damage. That’s where he finally changed the narrative on Sunday, splitting deep coverage to catch a 51-yard pass on a critical fourth quarter drive. He would finish the job one quarter later — the dying seconds of overtime — first breaking Eagles CB Avonte Maddox’s ankles with a move before skying over him for a 10-yard, walk-off score.
It was a moment of deliverance that needs to become a stepping stone. With Delanie Walker on injured reserve and Rishard Matthews on the street, the Titans — who weren’t exactly spoon feeding Davis before — are now all the way in. Fantasy owners, meanwhile, probably wouldn’t mind having an extra WR2 with bye weeks coming hot and heavy. Obstacles remain. Mariota, though apparently healthy now, has rarely stayed that way for long. For his part, Davis has been listed with his hamstring in each of his first two seasons. For the duo to be dynamic, it must stay off the trainer’s table.
It must then break old habits. Conservatism has been the core of Mariota’s game. That’s not going to keep Davis humming. Sunday — which came against one of the league’s best defenses — must be the blueprint. Lots of targets, with heaps of them beyond the short area of the field. Volume isn’t a synonym for usage. Davis has had the former all four games this season. Sunday, he had the latter. If they converge on the same plane, Davis will be a top-24 receiver who could crash the top 12.
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Five Week 4 Storylines
Tyler Eifert suffers the most unfortunate fate. Eifert lost most of 2016-17 to back issues. No stranger to injury, he appeared in just 39-of-80 possible games through the first five years of his career. That’s what made his good 2018 health so exciting. A mountainous 6-foot-6 scoring machine, Eifert got on the board with a 15-yarder in the first quarter against the Falcons. Two quarters later, he was done for the season. Eifert has dealt with neck, shoulder, elbow, knee, ankle and head issues. None of that compared to what happened in Atlanta. Eifert’s ankle quite literally snapped as all 232 pounds of De'Vondre Campbell rolled him into him. The shocking visual was hard to take in without feeling ill. There was nothing “injury prone” about the play. The random violence of the NFL simply claimed a player who had been hurt so many times before. Eifert has battled back time and again. Now 28 and headed to free agency, this will be his toughest comeback yet.
T.Y. Hilton pops a hammy in Colts’ devastating loss. Hilton first checked out with a chest injury but managed to stay in the game to catch 4-of-6 targets for 115 yards. That included two 40-plus receptions. Hilton averaged 28.7 yards per grab after entering Week 4 with a 10.5 mark. With the Colts playing on Thursday Night Football, Hilton is expected to miss Week 5, which will greatly complicate matters for Andrew Luck against the Patriots. Luck finally showed signs of life against the Texans, generating 464 yards, albeit on a mammoth 62 attempts. Even after that effort, Luck is still averaging a measly 6.05 yards per attempt. With Hilton sidelined, that will be his over/under against the Pats. Thursday will be just the third missed game of Hilton’s career.
Rob Gronkowski tweaks ankle as Pats demolish Dolphins. With four catches for 44 yards, Gronk took a seat in the third quarter of the Pats’ 38-7 embarrassment of their division rivals. That’s not the most scintillating statline, though Gronk was occupying plenty of defensive attention in the middle of the field. There was no indication of a serious aggravation of the ankle issue that limited Gronk in practice last week, but the calculus could change for Week 5 with the Patriots playing on Thursday Night Football. Gronk might not have enough time to get the swelling down, etc. Although this is more important than a fifth game typically would be for the 2-2 Pats, coach Bill Belichick is still going to play the long game. Owners need to be making other plans.
Geronimo Allison suffers concussion against Bills. Running as the Packers’ No. 2 receiver in Randall Cobb’s (hamstring) absence, Allison caught six balls for 80 yards on a career-high 11 targets before suffering his head injury late in the third quarter. It’s the first documented concussion of the 2016 undrafted free agent’s NFL career. He has a full week to get healthy for the Packers’ trip to Detroit. If neither Allison nor Cobb can get cleared, fifth-round rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be in line for a start. The Pack’s No. 3 against the Bills, Valdes-Scantling played 54-of-76 snaps but caught just 1-of-3 targets for 38 yards. Allison is a better bet to get the go-ahead than Cobb, who injured himself last Thursday and did not seem close to suiting up for Week 4.
Calvin Ridley films more touchdown training videos for Julio Jones. Ridley scored for the fifth and sixth times this season, giving him six touchdowns over his past three games after a target-less Week 1 in Philadelphia. 26 percent of Ridley’s 23 looks have ended in the end zone. It’s a Will Fuller-ian rate of scoring for a team that had been struggling to put the biscuit in the basket. It’s not sustainable, of course, though four of Ridley’s six scores have originated in the red zone. He’s clearly going to be featured inside the 20. Ridley will be a high-end WR3 for Week 5 against the Steelers’ hazmat cornerback corps.
Five More Week 4 Storylines
Leonard Fournette returns, immediately gets hurt again. Fournette made it 24 plays before his hamstring landed him back on the shelf in the second quarter. It’s possible — coach Doug Marrone will claim likely — Fournette’s exit was purely precautionary in a game the Jags had under control. We have heard that one before. In an era of injury openness, Fournette is unique in that his team refuses to provide accurate information. It’s a real problem seeing as how often Fournette is sidelined. Unless it’s three-straight DNPs, Fournette’s practice status will have little bearing on his Week 5 availability. Even were that typically straightforward scenario to unfold, it would not be surprising for the Jags to make Fournette a “surprise” active against the Chiefs. Wait until Friday to begin seriously tracking Fournette’s progress but have your backup plan ready yesterday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick pays the piper in Chicago. It was always going to end this way (despite our best wishes). Coming off a three-interception performance where he was supposedly almost benched for Ryan Griffin, FitzMagic went all the way off the rails against the Bears’ elite defense. Put out of his misery for the second half of a game the Bucs were losing 38-3, Fitzpatrick watched from the sideline as Jameis Winston began the process of reclaiming the starting job. It should be completed quickly during the Bucs’ Week 5 bye, with hot-seat coach Dirk Koetter — just ask Koetter — doing what made the most sense all along. Starting Winston on a short week after his three-game suspension was unnecessary with the way Fitz played in Weeks 1-3. With the planets returning to their natural alignment, now is the perfect time to get Winston back under center. For Winston, the next 12 games will decide his Bucs future. The talent and projection have been there. The off-the-field comportment has not.
Kenyan Drake remains missing against Patriots. Coming off a seven-touch, 10-yard Week 3, Drake somehow found a new low to sink to, taking the rock just four times for 16 yards. As a rusher, Drake has eight carries for six yards over his past two games. Frank Gore got another ceremonial “start” against the Pats, but more ominously, it was the 35-year-old veteran out there with Brock Osweiler as the Dolphins played out the string. Aside from Ryan Tannehill, the rest of the Dolphins’ skill starters remained in the game. With the Dolphins struggling to sustain drives, Drake isn’t getting the chance to bust big plays, the bread and butter of his game. Although Drake touched the ball 32 times across the Dolphins’ first two games, it’s getting harder and harder to claim he’s an RB2. He will be a risky, but upside, FLEX against the Bengals’ shaky defense.
Mitchell Trubisky shatters his early-career mold. Arguably the worst non-Sam Bradford quarterback in football entering Week 4, Trubisky turned a dream matchup into history. Trubisky’s six-score effort was just the 40th in 99 years of NFL football. He did so on only 26 attempts, generating 354 yards and an eye-popping 13.62 yards per attempt. Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy got the whole band going, featuring Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel in addition to the usual suspects. To cap it all off, Trubisky led his squad in rushing (53). After so many dismal efforts, it was a relief for Trubisky to finally put something excellent on film. With the Bears going on bye, Trubisky will have a real shot at getting a hot streak going against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Keke Coutee welcomes self to NFL with 11 catches for 109 yards. The Texans badly needed a No. 3 option in the passing game. Coutee immediately slid in, drawing a team-high 15 targets and operating as Deshaun Watson’s preferred safety valve. With target hogs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller ahead of him, Coutee is going to be a better “real life” than fantasy player, but that in turn could make Hopkins and Fuller even better fantasy players. There is finally someone to relieve the pressure behind the Texans’ war horses. That’s not to mention Fuller’s ever-fragile health. Battling another hamstring pull, Fuller could miss Week 5. In his absence, Coutee would be a plug-and-play WR3.
1. Does Butch Jones stand by his Alvin Kamara usage at Tennessee?
2. Is Antonio Callaway already the NFL career leader in drops?
3. Taking into account the Seahawks’ needs and positional value, is Rashaad Penny already one of the worst draft picks in NFL history?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Titans (@BUF), Jets (vs. DEN), 49ers (vs. AZ)
Stats of the Week
One. That’s how many fingers Earl Thomas raised as he was carted from the field with a broken leg. Thomas’ saga could become a turning point in player/owner relations. Thomas is a ready-made poster boy for many of the players’ concerns.
Josh Allen has already lost 148 yards on his league-leading 18 sacks taken. Throwing out his Week 1 relief appearance, he’s averaging 44 per game. If you include his 16 yards lost from the opener, Allen is on pace to lose 676 yards to sacks this season. Kirk Cousins “led” the NFL with 342 yards lost to sacks in 2017.
Three of the five teams to allow at least 120 points so far this season play in the NFC South.
Julio Jones is on pace for 2,008 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. Seems legit.
The Griff Whalen Galaxy Brain Award: The Colts’ fourth-down attempt in overtime. I understand not wanting to tie — and I’m usually against fossilized coaching — but if you’re going by pure winning percentage, the Colts absolutely should have pursued the tie instead of essentially handing the game to the Texans.
The Spinning Backwards And Taking Thundering Sacks Award: Josh Allen, who quickly erased memories of his solid Week 3.
The Only The Lions Award: Going to Dallas and losing to that Cowboys team.