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Rush Rating: Week 2

NFL 2019 Week 2 Running Back Overview

by Jon Helmkamp (@JCWHelmkamp)

Week 1 is officially in the books, and it was absolutely mental. Months of build up led to a sudden explosion in the pressure cooker of an NFL weekend produced some ridiculous performances, both good and bad. Looking back at my Rush Rating from Week 1, I’m proud to say that I nailed all six of my projections, based on match-ups and advanced data. It was a solid first week, and I’m excited to provide you with my Week 2 projections.

First, some housekeeping: As of now, I am using 2018 data for the sake of having a complete sample size. After Week 4 of this season, I will be taking into account this season’s data, which will allow me to (finally) start talking about the rookies that pique the interest of so many, like David Montgomery, Josh Jacobs, Devin Singletary, and Miles Sanders.

So, let’s look ahead to Week 2, shall we?

The Good:

Matt Breida at Cincinnati Bengals

Brenda! (Shout out to Michelle and Kate, the Ballblast girls) If you try to type “Breida” in your phone, it tries to autocorrect him to Brenda, which I find absolutely hilarious. Hopefully, typing “Breida” enough will train my phone, and I’m thinking that this is going to be the weekend that my phone, and the rest of us, see the stud that Breida is. As I highlighted in last week’s column, the Bengals were straight up terrible against the run last year, and although they looked better last week against the Seahawks, the Seattle offensive line looked completely overmatched. San Francisco clearly wanted to run, rushing the ball 30 times against Tampa Bay, and with Tevin Coleman sidelined for a vaguely wide range of 2-6 weeks, Breida should see plenty of opportunities. He makes for a good flex play with RB2 upside.

 

Sony Michel at Miami Dolphins

This is one of my favorite plays of the week. Miami was absolutely eviscerated in all phases, and after New England demolished the Steelers on Sunday Night Football 33-3, they should cruise through this one in a very positive game script. Mark Ingram wrecked the Dolphins for 107 yards and 2 TDs on 14 carries (7.6 YPC). That’s good. Sony saw 15 carries last week, and while he struggled in the first game of the season, I expect better from him this week. The Patriots backfield is notorious for #Beletricks, but I think Sony sees 15+ carries again, and reminds people of the electric rookie that he was last season. Sony is a solid RB2 play.

 

Kerryon Johnson vs Los Angeles Chargers

Kerryon shared more carries than I would have liked to see with C.J. Anderson in week 1 against the Cardinals. I don’t like it one bit. However, Kerryon is the far superior RB, and I feel like he will grab a hold of this backfield sooner than later. He saw 16 carries in week 1 and managed 3.1 YPC. Not terrific, but neither was CJ, at 3.2 YPC. The Cardinals defense proved tougher against the run than initially thought – a trend worth monitoring – but the Chargers were absolutely obliterated by Marlon Mack and the Colts in Week 1. Mack went off for 174 yards and 1 TD on 25 carries (7.0 YPC). Kerryon should see plenty of opportunities to do the same this weekend, and I want the young stud to steal the show. At home, I think he will. Kerryon is a solid RB2 that could flirt with low-end RB1 upside in this one. If he sees the Lion’s share (see what I did there?) of the carries, it could be even better than that.

 

Austin Ekeler at Detroit Lions

I can’t wait for this matchup. Ekeler, in the absence of Melvin Gordon, showed out and proved that the Chargers will be just fine without Gordon. Melvin couldn’t have been happy to sit at home and watch the Chargers get the win, and for the running backs to handle the freight, without him. Ekeler wasn’t called on in large quantities – he was only asked to carry the ball 12 times – but he turned that into 58 yards and a TD. Not only that, but his usage in the passing game rounded out his boxscore with some impressive numbers. He saw the bulk of carries, was the second leading receiver on the team, and his usage is all but locked in going forward. After giving up 4.6 YPC last week to the Cardinals, I expect Ekeler to be busy in both phases. He’s a solid RB2 play this week, independent of the game script, because of his receiving acumen.

The Bad:

Todd Gurley vs New Orleans Saints

The Todd Gurley Experiment is nowhere close to being resolved, as he split the carries almost exactly with Malcolm Brown, 14 to 11. He was elusively efficient, taking his 14 carries for 97 yards, but he was absent for long stretches throughout the game. Gurley was a certified monster last season, and if he was fully healthy in a workhorse role, he’d be the unquestioned RB1. Unfortunately, that isn’ the case. In a rematch of the NFC Championship game from a season ago, I’m still nervous about Gurley. The Saints let the Texans RBs run for 140 yards in Week 1, but they were stout against the run last season, and were 2nd in the league while holding opponents to 80.2 yards per game. I expect them to be better in week 2, and Gurley’s usage remains a huge question. Gurley should be considered a fade until he controls a large majority of his team’s carries, and I like him better as an RB2 than as an RB1.

 

Phillip Lindsay vs Chicago Bears

It looks like Denver is intent on getting fellow second-year RB Royce Freeman out of University of Oregon involved as well. He was a preseason darling last season, and his presence cuts into the upside of Lindsay in a huge way after his breakout rookie season last year. Freeman actually outshone Lindsay in week 1 against the Raiders; Royce ran 10 times for 56 yards (5.6 YPC), while Lindsay put up 11 carries for 43 yards (3.9 YPC). There were many questions as to whether Lindsay could sustain his insanely high efficiency from a year ago, and he didn’t show it in Week 1. This week, going against the Chicago Bears, the best defense in the league, I want absolutely no part of it. In fact, I want no part of any piece of the Broncos offense in this one. If you can, keep him on your bench in this one. If you have to play him, he’s no better than a flex play.

Leonard Fournette at Houston Texans

Fournette is just… not very good. He’s shown flashes throughout his career, and has put together some great highlights worth of Good Morning Football’s “Angry Runs” segments, but his efficiency is just terrible. Part of it might be the line the he plays with, who Pro Football Focus ranked the #21 O-line unit entering the season, and part of it might be the injuries he has battled, but the numbers are just not good. That Saints/Texans game on Monday Night was just absurd, and both teams ran the ball incredibly well, but I expect Houston to button it up in Week 2, selling out against the run to force rookie QB Gardner Minshew to throw the ball. Houston should control this game early, and Fournette will find himself in a negative game script. Below average in all but one category and in a bad situation, I don’t like him as anything more than a low-end RB2, or better yet, flex play.

Marlon Mack at Tennessee Titans

I mentioned it above – Mack went HOG WILD in his matchup with the Chargers in Week 1. Unfortunately, the Titans are not the Chargers. This Titans defense is for real, and absolutely locked down the much-hyped Brown offense in their matchup last weekend. It seems like everyone was punching the tickets to the Super Bowl for the Browns before the season even started, and the Titans defense was not having any of it. They held last year’s breakout RB Nick Chubb to 4.4 YPC, and will look to do the same against Mack. Coming off his monster performance last week, the hype train will be in full force. He didn’t have a single category below average last year and demonstrated a very balanced efficiency. Do play him, but temper your expectations. RB2 numbers are more reasonable to be expected than a week-winning output in this one.