The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner Jr. believes Giovani Bernard will get 300 touches and a “good share” of the goal line looks. Last season Bernard had 23 carries and seven receptions for six touchdowns inside the opponent’s 20 yard line while BenJarvus Green Ellis had 30 rushing attempts and no receptions for seven touchdowns and when they got within the opponent’s five yard line Bernard had eight carries to BJGE’s 13 with BJGE getting all seven of his touchdowns from there and Bernard getting three. This is all to say that Bernard has some ability in the red zone and goal line, but we will need to see more of Jeremy Hill’s usage to really get a grasp as to how often he will be brought in to vulture touchdowns.
As far as the touches go, we should head back to 2010 when Hue Jackson was coaching the Raiders. In 2010 Darren McFadden had 219 rushing attempts and 61 passing targets, Michael Bush saw 156 attempts and 24 targets while Marcel Reece had 30 attempts and 42 targets, while the Raiders led the league in running back receptions. The Bengals running backs should have around 500 to 550 rushing attempts + targets this season, which would put them in the top 5 to 10 for the league. The questions we need to answer are, will BenJarvus green-Ellis take more than a few attempts away from Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard? Just how good is Hill? And will Bernard lose early down work to Hill?
What we do know is that Hue Jackson likes to throw the ball to his running backs and Gio Bernard is a good pass blocker and has good hands. Add to that his experience and ability, and 300 looks are not out of the realm of possibility. If I were a wagering man I’d put it around 275, with 200 carries and 75 targets. That would leave plenty of early down, between the tackles work for Hill, somewhere around 150-200 carries.
Coach Jason Garrett tried to throw a wrench into all of our fantasy machinations when he told Jason La Canfora that he sees DeMarco Murray as "the leader of a committee" in the Cowboys' backfield. Of course that word is scary to us fake footballers, but in reality it’s just the way things are. The Cowboys’ new play caller Scott Linehan gave the Lions running backs 556 looks as a group. Do you think Demarco Murray can handle 556 looks? Do you? No, of course not. Linehan split much of the Lions work between Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. To be exact, Bush saw 303 looks (targets+rushes) and Bell saw 234. As far as actual touches it was 277 to 219. And in Detroit, Bell, the early down/goal line back, was not the “lead” back. In Dallas, the lead back is also the early down back and that should help boost Murray’s numbers even more. If Murray can stay healthy his upside is still sky high in this offense.
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The Arizona Republic once again reports that the Cardinals "would like to get the ball to (Andre) Ellington 20 or so times a game, but want to limit his carries inside the tackles." Oh, there’s the rub. Or is it? Ellington is not going to be a goal line back. I think everyone knew that. So why try to make him one outside of goal line work? Many smaller backs have exceled without strict goal line work. Chris Johnson is the first that comes to mind and Jamaal Charles, before last season’s goal line extravaganza, is another. Does it hurt his upside in fantasy? Yes, if you had penciled him in for 20 goal line looks and 10 touchdowns from those carries, but nobody did and his ADP reflects that. He is a dynamic runner that works amazingly well in space. I for one prefer him working in space and not getting mauled in the trenches. 15-17 carries and 3-5 receptions a game sound like a recipe for success in what should be a better offense in the domed desert.
Dan Pompei says that some people inside the Cardinals organization believe Michael Floyd is "in for a big year" and will be Arizona's No. 1 wide receiver this season. There’s no doubt that Floyd has the talent and Fitz is on the downward slide of his career, but he’s not done yet. He’s honed his craft and at 31 he still has juice. Thankfully in Bruce Arians’ offense there are plenty of passes to go around for the top two receivers. It’s of course not out of the question that Floyd ends up with slightly better fantasy numbers, but I’m not about to discount Fitz. I do know that they will help each other and are both set up for big seasons. Of course fantasy-wise Floyd comes at a cheaper price tag and probably has more value on draft day.
ESPN Bucs reporter Pat Yasinskas says the Bucs will rotate backs in behind Doug Martin to keep him fresh this season. Yasinskas has reported this before and with the stable of backs the Bucs have it makes sense. Reports have been positive for the Muscle Hamster this training camp so I’m not overly concerned about his starting job, but he will see less overall work.
The Patriots’ fourth-round running back and star of training camp James White got first-team carries Wednesday while most of Stevan Ridley's work came with the second string. This isn’t a depth chart move, but it does show you that they want to see how White does against tougher competition and get him ready for a possible role in the game day offense. Ridley and White are starting to look like a fantasy headache and that means draft the cheaper one.
The Giants’ undrafted rookie wide receiver Corey Washington has "done some special things over the last week," according to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. Washington is from a small college, but has impressive measurables at 6'4/214 with 4.5s speed. This of course comes from the same team who Victor Cruz rose up the rankings in training camp and became the fantasy stud he was and hopefully will be again. Washington has four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns through two preseason games and with Odell Beckham's slow recovery he is making a move up the depth chart. Keep your eye on him.
Depth Chart Quick Slants
Mario Manningham has been running mostly with the third-team offense at training camp and may not make the team. . . Dolphins’ second-round wide receiver Jarvis Landry is getting a chance to return kicks and punts. . . . Jimmy Clausen will be the No. 2 quarterback in Thursday's preseason game against the Jags. The QB Whisperer Marc Trestman has a lot of work to do there . . . Second-year tight end Tyler Eifert may see more slot work with Marvin Jones (foot) sidelined. . . . The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt says it's "easy to envision" Bishop Sankey as the primary ball carrier this season. Sankey’s ADP is dropping and his value is increasing. . . .
Injury Quick Slants
Arian Foster (hamstring), Andre Johnson (hamstring) and Brian Cushing (knee, leg) all practiced on Wednesday. . . . CSN Bay Area reports Raiders second-year TE Nick Kasa tore his ACL in Tuesday's practice. . . . Michael Crabtree (hamstring) returned to 49ers practice on Wednesday after a week and a half resting a sore hamstring. . . . LaMichael James (elbow) returned to 49ers practice in a blue non-contact jersey Wednesday. He’s a quick healer. . . . Cowboys seventh-round defensive end Ben Gardner needs shoulder surgery and is likely done for the season.