Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.
Snap Notes: Jordan Howard – 53% (+21% vs. previous season high); Miles Sanders – 35% (+1% vs. Week 3), Darren Sproles – 11% (-19% vs. previous season low); Dallas Goedert – 69% (+14% vs. previous season high); Aaron Jones – 84% (+23% vs. previous season high); Geronimo Allison – 79% (+30% vs. previous season high); Jimmy Graham – 70% (+29% vs. Week 3)
Key Stat: Davante Adams – 15 targets, 141 air yards
We got our best Thursday Night Football game of the year in Week 4, and there was plenty to discuss, starting with the Eagles running backs. Jordan Howard played a season high snap share by over 20 percentage points, and dominated the backfield en route to a three-touchdown performance.
I’ve been calling Miles Sanders a buy against what had been underwhelming production, and the lesson learned here should be applied to Howard. And that lesson is to never trust Doug Pederson running back trends.
We talked a lot about how heavily Pederson has employed committees this offseason, but I got excited about Sanders’ usage after the first two weeks, when he started each game, took four of five green zone rush attempts and led the team in routes run. Since then, he’s continued to start, butafter two second-quarter fumbles in Week 3. In Week 4, he was the starter only in name, as Jordan Howard subbed in for the second play and played as the lead in all facets from there on out.
Howard’s role has certainly expanded since Week 1,he “saw five of his eight touches on a 19-play drive that chewed up nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter after the Eagles got the ball back with a 29-20 lead.” In Weeks 1 and 2, he played fewer than a quarter of the snaps, but that bumped up to 32% in Week 3, a game where he seemed to regain the goal-line role with two of the team’s three green zone attempts, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
Week 4 was a different animal with Howard gaining so many snaps, and notably because he was the only targeted running back, turning in a 4-3-28-1 receiving line. But that was probably a bit fluky, as his receiving role didn’t change much. Over the first three games, Howard had three catches total while averaging 7.3 routes per game; in Week 4, he racked up his four targets on just nine routes run.
Sanders stuck right around his Week 3 snap share, which was down from Weeks 1 and 2, while Darren Sproles played just 11% of the snaps after playing at least 30% in Weeks 1-3. One clear trend was Howard solidified the goal-line role, subbing in for Sanders after Sanders’ lone high-value touch — a 4-yard run from the 9 — on a drive that ended with a Dallas Goedert touchdown, then later rushing three times inside the 5 and converting two short touchdown runs.
In a normal situation, all of this would point to Howard taking over the backfield and being in prime position going forward. But one has to wonder how long it will last given Pederson’s well-established committee tendencies and how up and down the split of valuable touches has already been in 2019. For me, Week 4 wasn’t Howard taking clear control of the backfield; it was a reminder that on a weekly basis this can and probably will be a roller coaster.
Alshon Jeffery‘s return pushed Nelson Agholor back down the target pecking order, though Agholor still played a big snap share in his typical role. Jeffery and Zach Ertz dominated the receiving volume, while Goedert scored his first 2019 touchdown on what was a season high snap share for him. Jeffery and Ertz are the only receiving weapons with reliable volume.
Davante Adams was the big story on the other side, as Aaron Rodgers made him the focal point early. He wound up with massive volume, especially considering he was forced from the game early with turf toe. That Adams put up his 15-10-180 line on just a 70% snap share is all the more impressive, but the injury is the obvious thing to watch going forward, and his being off the field certainly impacted the Packers‘ passing game late.
The Packers also lost Jamaal Williams for the game on their first offensive snap, which led a huge snap share for Aaron Jones. Because they predictably went pass-heavy against the Eagles’ strong rush defense but beatable secondary, Jones did plenty of work in the passing game, catching six of seven targets. It wasn’t the best matchup for him to have a huge game — he did punch in an early rushing score — and there’s not much to be read into the size of his workload when Williams was knocked from the game so early.
Geronimo Allison played a season-high snap share as the Packers’ pass-heavy game plan meant far fewer two tight end sets, which they’ve favored early in 2019. Both reserve tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan played season low snap shares while Allison was out there in plenty of three-wide passing sets. That was predicated by the matchup, and we won’t see Green Bay be this pass-heavy most weeks, but it was good to see Allison make a couple of nice plays before half. He finished with a 4-3-52-1 line.
Four of Jimmy Graham’s nine targets came in the red zone, though he and Rodgers looked a bit off outside their touchdown connection.
Signal: Jordan Howard — clear goal-line back; Alshon Jeffery — strong receiving volume, looked healthy
Noise: Jordan Howard — huge snap share spike is hard to trust, routes run don’t back up the target spike; Packers — heavy pass lean; Aaron Jones — huge snap share
Friday news and notes
- Rashaad Penny got in a limited practice Thursday and appears to be trending toward suiting up in Week 4. Pete Carroll has publicly backed embattled starter Chris Carson, saying the team will support him despite his three lost fumbles (and a fourth on an exchange that was credited to Wilson because Carson never controlled the ball). It’s one of the more difficult situations to handicap for Week 4 if Penny is active.
- Previously dealing with a knee issue, Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams has missed practice time this week to a back ailment in advance of a cross-country road trip to Miami. His Friday practice status will go a long way toward clearling up if that is just maintenance or he’s at real risk of being held out of a soft matchup. If he sits, Keenan Allen would again be in line for double-digit targets.
- The Giants promoted rookie UDFA Jon Hilliman out of Rutgers to their active roster. They’ll go into Sunday with just three running backs active, one of whom will be converted fullback Elijhaa Penny. Expect Wayne Gallman to play a substantial snap share against a beatable Washington run defense, with Hilliman spelling him. Hilliman is worth a stash in deeper leagues until Gallman has a solid game in the lead back role because Saquon Barkley‘s timeline is unclear and things are at least a bit unsettled.
- Albert Wilson expects to return for the Dolphins‘ Week 4 game against the Chargers. He’s missed nearly the entire season, injuring his calf after just a few snaps in Week 1. DeVante Parker and Preston Williams have emerged as the top two receiving threats in the league’s worst passing game, but they are downfield options while Wilson is likely to run more underneath routes from the slot. There’s a possibility he sees enough targets to have some value over time, but any piece of the Dolphins’ offense has questionable upside at best.
- Julian Edelman has been getting in limited practices and appears to be good to go for Week 4 after a chest injury knocked him from Week 3. The Bills boast one of the league’s premier outside cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White, which should mean increased work for Edelman in the slot as White tracks Josh Gordon.
- Terry McLaurin was added to the Thursday injury report with a hamstring issue. A late-week addition to the injury report has traditionally been a bad sign, but teams seem to be trending toward more cautious in recent seasons. Just last week we saw Courtland Sutton added to the injury report Thursday and play a full snap share on Sunday. It’s not clear what this means for McLaurin’s status on Sunday, and it bears watching.
- Vance McDonald has yet to practice this week, but with the Steelers on Monday night he does have an extra day to get ready. It initially appeared the trade for Nick Vannett might indicate a long absence for McDonald, but the Steelers putting Xavier Grimble on IR cleared that up a bit. Coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic McDonald will play in Week 4, but that’s difficult for Fantasy managers to bank on given he’s on Monday night. Try to find a better option this week if possible.
- T.Y. Hilton has yet to practice this week, but played through a questionable tag to post a solid line in Week 3 before a re-aggravation of his quad injury knocked him from the game. It’s possible he’ll try to give it a go again, but more likely we see him take a week off. We’ll learn more as the week goes on.
- Damien Williams missed practice again Thursday. Unless something changes in Friday’s practice, we might be looking at his second straight absence with LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams likely to split the work as they did in Week 3.