Tag Archives: Odell Beckham Jr

In Fantasy Football, Don’t Fear The Rookie Receiver

For years I steered clear of rookie receivers on draft day. Someone else always liked them more than I did, and I was happy to let that owner draft the newbies. Some years I would omit the first-year wideouts from my player list, removing the possibility of selecting them altogether.

Rookies WRs just never seemed to live up to the hype. For every A.J. Green there was a Tavon Austin. For every Julio Jones there were two Michael Crabtrees and a Darrius Heyward-Bay. Even the mega-prospect who eventually became Megatron, had only 756 yards as a rookie.

I was completely content to pass on all the first-year wideouts. Then last season happened.

In 2014, five rookies finished the season in the top 25 among receivers in fantasy points. And there likely would have been six if not for Brandin Cooks’ injury. Three WRs finished with over 1000 receiving yards. The last time any other rookie class had even two 1000 receivers was 1986. By all accounts, it was a historic season for rookie wideouts. Let’s revisit a few of the very best from the group.

1. Odell Beckham – 91 catches, 1305 yards, 12 touchdowns

Beckham’s numbers alone place him as one of the greatest rookie receivers in league history. He was so great that some people have already forgotten that he amassed those stats in only 12 games. He missed the majority of training camp, preseason, and the first four weeks of the season with a hamstring injury and he still finished with eye-popping numbers en route to being the runaway choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Plus he had that catch.

2. Mike Evans – 68 catches, 1051 yards, 12 touchdowns

Even with inconsistent QB play and dismal team around him, Evans still managed to have a highly productive season. Big plays were his M.O. He led rookies with 20 receptions of 20 yards or more. His size, speed, and play-making ability on jump balls made him an instant star.

3. Kelvin Benjamin – 73 catches, 1008, 9 touchdowns

Benjamin jumped out to a quick start with three touchdowns in his first four games. Despite some inconsistencies and drops, he didn’t slow down much from there. He led the team in targets and touchdown receptions while tying for the team lead in receiving yards. The Panthers drafted him in the first round to be their number one receiver and he did not disappoint.

4. Sammy Watkins – 65 catches, 982 yards, 6 touchdowns

Watkins was the first receiver drafted (4th overall) for many good reasons. He is described by numerous analysts as the purest route runner and most technically sound receiver in this rookie class. His effortless speed and fluid body control helped provide an immediate lift to the Buffalo offense as he fell just shy of being the year’s fourth rookie to top 1000 receiving yards.

5. Brandin Cooks – 53 catches, 550 yards, 3 touchdowns

For about half the season, Cooks looked as if he may have been the best rookie of them all. When he was injured in week 11, he was leading rookies in catches, an especially impressive feat when considering that he had to compete every game for targets, whereas others in his cohort were routinely force fed the ball since their teams lacked other options. Overall, his rookie year was more auspicious than purely productive. He makes the list because he was a valuable asset early in the season, which is very rarely said about a rookie.

6. Jordan Matthews – 67 catches, 872 yards, 8 touchdowns

Matthews took a couple games to find his fit in the oNFLffense before settling in to have a very solid rookie season. After playing the entire season as the team’s second option at receiver, Matthews evidently impressed coach Chip Kelly enough to allow Jeremy Maclin to leave, making Matthews the number one pass-catcher in Philly for the 2015 campaign.

After seeing all that these rookies accomplished last season, I am open to the idea of drafting first-year receivers.  I mean, I sort of have to be.  Three of these guys were legitimate number one WRs for a chunk of the season.  The theory that rookie receivers don’t succeed is now a myth. They are viable options for teams, both real and fantasy.

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) and leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

Down By Contact #3: It's Almost Over

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Some NFL teams know that they’re in.  Some know that they’re out, but many players and coaches around the league don’t know whether or not they can make plans for January just yet.  Our focus this week was all about who is jockeying for playoff position, and in some cases, it’s all about survival.  Mike Burgermeister is back once again for the Cheddar Bay segment; this time he’s joined by Jeff Geisinger, better known as “HitTheHorns” in Cheddar Bay circles.  Jeff approaches picks carefully and it shows in the results.

We also welcome Alex Squires back to the podcast.  Alex focuses on Fantasy Football for More Than a Fan, but he is truly a jack of many trades, and wears whatever hat he’s asked to wear.  Alex and Jeff Rich discuss a few Fantasy stars from Week 15, analyze a few players you might want to have in your Fantasy Championship, and then just go wherever the wind takes them in the conversation.  Note to fans, Johnny Manziel might not be your option at quarterback, but you never know.

The Players

Jeff Rich (host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Jeff Geisinger – @HitTheHorns
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF

Odell Beckham Jr.; Almost the Best Catch that I Have Ever Seen

On Sunday night, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made an absolutely absurd one-handed, three-fingered, touchdown grab while stretching back over his head. Beckham, who has seized the opportunity that opened when Victor Cruz went down with a season-ending injury, is quickly becoming one of the most electric young stars in the league. He has made several eye-popping plays over the past few weeks, but this one easily tops the list. The reaching reception was so incredible that my friend, Blake, promptly anointed it as the best catch that he had ever seen. The collective voice of fans on Twitter echoed his assertion.

Coursing with adrenaline after watching the catch, I immediately powered through a dozen Youtube videos of the best NFL catches. The search yielded several worthy candidates that were on par with Beckham’s catch in terms of pure Wow Factor, but does that alone make them better catches? As I perused the bevy of highlights and scoured my memory for my own nominees, I pondered what it really means to be the best catch of all time. I realized that these catches cannot simply be measured in a vacuum, so to speak. The details surrounding the play must be taken into consideration. Because this sort of thing is important to me, I took the time to compile a list of the criteria needed to determine the greatness of a catch.

Editor’s Note: Memes are the best.

I’ll begin with the most obvious criterion—“the catch itself.” According to the definition that I am currently making up, “the catch itself” is the perceived difficulty of the grab based on its acrobatic nature, level of concentration required, and quality of hands displayed, combined with the smoothness of the execution. The definition is a tad verbose, so I’ll provide a succinct example for clarity. An ideal catch should be secured seamlessly by one outstretched hand as the player leaps, keeps both toes inbounds, before going to the ground. Basically, Beckham’s grab was a prime example of a perfect “catch itself.”
Beckham catch score: 10

Also contributing to the catch’s greatness is “the quality of coverage.” Obviously any catch made in traffic is going to rate higher than one secured when unguarded. “The quality of coverage” criterion consists of the number of defenders present, the value of the contest made to prevent the catch, and the reputation of the defenders. The reputation of the defenders is a crucial point to consider since the presence of a heavy hitter or renowned ball hawk can easily psych out the receiver. Thus, coverage from all-world defenders, such as Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott, or Richard Sherman, boosts the score in this category. Beckham’s catch involved one non-star defender who was horribly out of position. But before flailing out of bounds, he did blatantly interfere with Beckham, which I suppose counts as some sort of contest of the catch.
Beckham catch score: 4

The next category is “the throw.” I know these are categories measuring a catch’s greatness, but the throw is far from immaterial in this discussion. If the play involves a pinpoint, tight spiral then the reception is going to be slightly less impressive than it would have been with a mediocre wobbler that was saved by the ridiculous snag. Basically, catching an Eli Manning fling is likely going to yield a higher score than a feathery beauty from Aaron Rodgers. The distance of the throw, with longer throws being more difficult to catch, also factors into the equation. With that in mind, let’s say that the three components of the “the throw” are the placement, distance, and spiral. So, an ideal instance here involves a lengthy, off target wobbler thrown by Tim Tebow. But this 50 yarder from Eli was not exactly a peach.
Beckham catch score: 8.5

The final criterion is simply called “the stage.” This refers to the magnitude of the situation surrounding the reception. The grander the stage, the greater the potential catch greatness. Playoff grabs, especially those made in the Super Bowl, tend to trump anything that happens during regular season game. This is precisely why Dwight Clark’s reception, which is often referred to as “The Catch,” produces immense reverence because the play resulted in a go-ahead touchdown with 51 seconds left in the NFC Championship game. Beckham made an outlandish play, but he did so in a meaningless regular season loss for a 3-8 team. On the plus side, the game was played in front of a national television audience on Sunday night.
Beckham catch score: 2

Well, now that I have laid all that on the table, I should answer the overarching question. While Odell Beckham Jr.’s catch will likely enjoy a lengthy reign as the Best of the Best on ESPN, it was not the greatest catch ever. There is another that I believe to be the best catch in NFL history. Granted, I have been closely following the NFL for only about 12 years, so I have certainly missed some classic catches from other eras. Although, I completed literally minutes of research before making my final decision tonight, so I’m probably properly equipped.

In my mind, this is the greatest catch in NFL history. The Helmet Catch is forever burned into my memory. As soon as the play ended, I thought to myself that I had just witnessed the greatest play in NFL history (although Patriots fans may disagree). This play had all the elements of a great catch. “The catch itself” was immaculate. Tyree snared the ball at the apex of his leap, bent backwards as he fell to the turf, and somehow had the wherewithal to pin the ball to his helmet with one hand to secure the reception. Likewise, “the throw,” a fluttering duck from Eli, further increased the catch’s greatness. Not to mention the “quality of coverage” executed by legendary safety, Rodney Harrison, as two other defenders lingered nearby. A leaping grab in triple coverage with an All-Pro safety draped all over you, it doesn’t get any tougher than that. And of course, this play maximized “the stage.” Fourteen-point underdogs entering the Super Bowl against the 18-0 Patriots, the Giants were down 10-14 with 1:15 remaining in the game. On 3rd and 5 from their own 44 yard line, Eli heaved a prayer that was answered by The Helmet Catch.

Perhaps Beckham’s catch slightly edges out Tyree’s in terms of “the catch itself.” But we would be foolish to ignore the other factors. The gravity of the moment matters. Tyree’s grab caused 18-1 to happen, so it will live on in NFL lore forever. Whether or not the Beckham catch is as remembered, remains to be seen.

For now, enjoy your moment, Odell Beckham Jr.  That was definitely one helluva a catch.

11-on-11: TJ Ward Puts Dolphins on Ice as Broncos Bounce Back At Home

Ten years ago, Terrell Ray Ward had finally overcome his high school’s depth issues, but suffered a knee injury his senior season at the acclaimed De La Salle High School in Northern California. These days, we know him as TJ Ward, the Pro-Bowler, an integral part of the Denver Bronocos success, and the days of walking on at Mike Belotti’s Oregon program are long forgotten. On Sunday evening in Denver, he called off the Dolphins bid for the upset, despite a valiant effort on Miami’s part, with a late interception of Ryan Tannehill.

We’re going to change the format around here a little bit. Instead of being touch and go on just about every game played between Thursday and Sunday night, our focus will be on a single game each week, but I’ll drop a little bit of insight on what I see out of the corner of my eyes throughout the league. This week, we’re in The Rockies with the #1 crew from CBS and 76,987 paying customers for the Dolphins 39-36 road defeat.

Who is TJ Ward, and What Does He Do?

To be as good as the Denver Broncos have been, there has to be a little more to your defense than luck and reliance on the offense to do the lion’s share of the work. There’s a good feeling you have to have with Jack Del Rio running your defense, provided he’s not also your head coach. They have Terrance Knighton up front to disrupt the run game, which is a Miami strength, and pass-rushing options even after Von Miller, which is frustrating to third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The secondary isn’t all the way just yet, but they’re coming along pretty well after signing TJ Ward away from the Browns last off-season.

Ward is accustomed to having talent around him, and while Denver might not have a headliner like Joe Haden to join him in the seconary, but you couldn’t ask for more from Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby in his rookie season at the corner positon. Having watched Ward closely in Cleveland, you knew that he could keep his head on a swivel, find his target, and let it rip. Unfortunately, “letting it rip” the way Ward did early in his career drew penalties and fines, but over the last two seasons he’s channeled it in a good way.

He’s reacting better and identifying run/pass in the pre-snap moments better, which makes him a good run-stopper without getting beat over the top. He has two interceptions this season, and Sunday’s canceled the threat of Miami snatching victory from the grips of a 32-28 deficit with three and a half minutes to play. It was a first down play, and Tannehill had enough clock that there was no critical sense of urgency, meaning Miami still had options on the ground, but tried to go to Jarvis Landry on back-to-back plays and he tried to force it. Harris Jr had him covered well enough to force a deflection into No Man’s Land, where TJ Ward was serving as governor on Sunday afternoon.

Ward has transitioned from head-hunter to ball-hawk, which doesn’t mean he’s at all hesitant to make the pads audibly crack. In 2013, he got his first pick-six, and he nearly got touchdown #2 of his 5-year career in this one. Ward cut it all the way back across the field, after swiping the ball at the Miami 45, and he got as far as the 8 before being shoved out of bounds. To give Peyton Manning and that offense a 1st and Goal at the 8 is basically a guaranteed touchdown, two plays later Manning and Wes Welker obliged with a short touchdown pass. In four plays, Denver went from trailing by three to nursing a two-possession lead, thanks in large part to their newly acquired safety Ward.

Watch at NFL.com

Ward Giveth, Ward Almost Taketh Away

So, you just got a key takeaway, one that allegedly put this game on ice for your team. Whether victory seems inevitable or not, you have to play all sixty minutes. We understand that these pass defenders are playing with the deck stacked against them. The play that draws a pass interference is almost as much of a necessary evil as actual completed passes in this day and age, but you still never want to hear your name called.

In Miami’s last-ditch effort to get two scores inside of the two-minute warning, they went for two to close the margin to three points, and Ward gave them two cracks at it. It’s probably important to mention that 35 of the 84 yards Miami went on their final offensive possession were courtesy of unnecessary roughness and pass interference calls on Malik Jackson and Omar Bolden, but it was yielding a second attempt at the conversion try that made the nightmare of a collapse slightly more realistic. Ward laid Landry out for one of those “the official can’t find his flag quick enough to throw it violently” flags, giving the Dolphins an easier chance to extend the game if they were fortunate enough to snag the onside kick.

Kickers Are Weird

Look, I’m of the mindset that if you have 53 players on your active roster, they all better damn well be football players. Kickers are very important to this game and are, perhaps, a little under-appreciated in the grand scheme. That said, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that they’re a bit off. However, sometimes the bizarre things they do are worth noting, so let’s make sure the onside kick attempt from Miami’s Caleb Sturgis was notable.

The concept is simple, but the execution is difficult when it comes to onside kicks. Boot a ground-ball ten yards or draw the hands of a player on the receiving team player to make contact with it before the threshold, and hope one of your 11 guys ends up with possession of the ball. There is only so much trickeration you can attempt, especially now that the no-fun police say you can’t really overload one side of the tee or another with too many players. Sturgis put his right foot behind his right leg as he approached the ball, as if to kick it left, but the misdirection fooled no one and Denver running back CJ Anderson recovered it with ease.

CJ Anderson Is Short for Cortrelle Javon Anderson

With his performance today, CJ Anderson has done just enough to make me interested enough to view his Wikipedia page, only to be disappointed when I saw how desolate his bio was when I got there.

He made up to 7 people miss on his 51-yard catch and run in Oakland two weeks ago for his first career touchdown, but was more than just a highlight against the Dolphins, without Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman available. He combined with Jawan Thompson for 200 yards on 32 carries, but it was the second-year player from Cal that put the offense on his back and showed some brilliance in the game’s final minute.

He’d already run for 151 yards and found paydirt once, the initial go-ahead score, on 26 carries, but he got cerebral with his final touch of the game. It was also his longest run, going for 26 yard before he gave himself up in the interest of getting the clock to 0. Anderson had the first down his team needed to close the playbook and run the only play diagrammed for victory formation, Peyton Manning drops to a knee. It was a nice follow-up to recovering the onside kick, not sure how often you’ll see that from your featured running back, and put a bow around the gift of a day he gave his offense.

No Julius, No Problem

Sudden-superstar tight end Julius Thomas was a scratch for today’s game with a bad ankle, which is a shame. He’s hauled in 12 touchdowns in ten games this season, and the Broncos were 7-0 when Manning targeted him at least 5 times in a game. In the games against Seattle, New England, and St. Louis, he looked for the small forward-turned-tight end four times or less, and Denver won less than one of those games. Today, he’d have some familiarity in Jacob Tamme and the seldom-used Virgil Green to supplement Thomas’s out of this world production in the offense.

As it went, he threw in Tamme’s direction twice. One didn’t count, but it would have been a touchdown if not for a penalty on Demayrius Thomas. The other was for a loss; that’s what we see on the stat sheet and it tell us the tight ends didn’t factor into the outcome of this one. Coincidentally, it was Demaryius Thomas who got the six after negating Tamme’s glory. To let my praise of Anderson carry over into another blurb, he had a huge 21-yard pick-up on 4th and 2 to set up this touchdown, which got the Broncos as close as 28-25 early in the fourth quarter.


This 39-36 game only feature four punts, and three of them came off the foot of Brandon Fields of the Dolphins. On the receiving end of those punts was Isaiah Burse, who combined for 12 yards on those 3 returns, so we’re probably going to say something bad about the Broncos punt returner here. Well, he fumbled, with his team already down in the second half. Damien Williams stripped him of the football and John Denney landed on the football. Three plays later, Tannehill and Landry hooked up for six. They scored after a reprieve from the officials on what appeared to be a Von Miller interception to bail Burse out of trouble, but Ward was called for holding and Miami was able to convert the second chance into an 11-point lead.

Another special teams gaffe worth mentioning is the missed Brandon McManus attempt from 33 yards away that infuriated Manny Ramirez on the Broncos sideline. It came 13 plays after the Broncos received the second half with a drive that stalled at the Dolphins’ 15, when Jelani Jenkins sacked Manning on 3rd and 1. In addition to the sack, the second-year man from Florida led all Dolphin defenders with 9 solo tackles.

Harmless Fumbling

As devastating as Ward’s late interception was, some serious self-destruction on the visitors’ part ended up not hurting Miami at all. On a 10 play, 5 minute drive in the second quarter, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews combined for three fumbles. Gibson actually dropped both out of bounds on short receptions, but Matthews put the ball on the turf in play right before the 2-minute warning, but Lamar Miller recovered the ball 3 yards further down the field at the Broncos’ 10. Tannehill hooked up with Mike Wallace on the next play to put Miami up 21-10.

Setting the Tone Early

There’s a serious difference between being on pace to do something and carrying out that pace. Based on the first half numbers, it would shock someone that didn’t watch the second halff, that Miami didn’t have 100-yard receiver or runner on the day. In fact, after a fast start, the Broncos figured Lamar Miller out. He finished the day with 59 yards on 12 carries after getting about 50 in the first half alone. Obviously the 21-10 2nd quarter lead didn’t translate to a big win for the Fins over the AFC’s best team, or at least the one with the best record. The Dolphins took the Opening Kickoff and used the running game and short passes to draw first blood and take the crowd out of the game. Again, there’s a difference between setting the tone and actually riding that them out. Daniel Thomas ran the ball well when he touched it, it’s a wonder Joe Philbin didn’t go to him more.

Possession is Nine Tenths

The Broncos score quickly in the present tense, so you shouldn’t let that time of possession number tell you anything, but the Broncos held the ball for about 35 minutes, giving them about a ten minute edge in time their defense got to rest. Today was the first time Manning took on the Dolphins as a Bronco, but he saw them plenty as an Indianapolis Colt, and you might surprised to hear he’s just 6-7 against them in his career. With the Colts, he was just 2-7 in his career before they moved out of their division to the newly-formed NFC South in 2003. The last time he saw them, on a Monday night in 2009, he had less than 15 minutes of game clock time to work with a hot night in Miami, but still left with 27-23 victory there.  He now has four straight wins against the mammals from South Beach.

Monday Is For Degenerates

This week, our degenerate gamblers are blessed with not just one, but two games to recover from taking the Cardinals and the points in Seattle or whatever wage-losing wager didn’t work out for them. We’ll start with the standard product, which features the Ravens traveling to Bayou Country to take on the Saints. Caesars says the Saints are giving three and setting the point mark at 50. Now, the Ravens are a sub-par team on the road and they’re even worse against the spread this season, but I just can’t see the Ravens losing this game straight up. I am taking the Ravens and I think it’s enough of a shootout to think 51 is likely. Even in a vacuum, I think I’d be excited to see how this AFC North is going to play out. Who is going to be the next to lose and when?

Our bonus game is in Detroit, which doesn’t mean anything to Buffalo who is displaced from their natural home game, since they aren’t very good in Buffalo anyways. The bonus is they’re playing the Jets on a fast track. Buffalo is decent away from their home digs, maybe more business-like and the Jets don’t really pose any type of a threat. They cover 2 and a half, but this game doesn’t really sell itself as a game that’s going to feature more than 42. Enjoy it in select markets and on Sunday Ticket, while the rest of us suffer through Flacco versus Brees in that monopolized national space.

Random Thoughts Around the League and Elsewhere

Oakland won the other night. For shame, Kansas City, for shame.

A time might come where we have to discuss things like the clock management debacle between Mike Pettine and Mike Smith in Atlanta on Sunday. Pettine chose to take the Browns timeouts into the half with him, and attempted the same impossible field goal twice, even after Smith gave him a reprieve, where it was revealed Cundiff doesn’t have that distance on a shank nullified by a Falcons timeout. The Falcons had no business beating the Browns or even winning that game, but no excuse for not running the clock all the way down and letting Matt Bryant win the game with less than 44 seconds left.

Josh Huff started the Eagles scoring against Tennessee in the highest scoring game of the week with a 107-yard return on the opening kickoff. It might start to feel unfair of Chip Kelly can get the type of athletes he had at Oregon, such as Huff, to join him in Philadelphia.

Every time I looked at the Jaguars-Colts game, I had the broadcast showing me a former Cleveland Brown. One minute, D’Qwell Jackson is making a play, and my eyes could have been fooling me, but I saw both Trent Richardson and Joshua Cribbs cross the goal line with the football in their hands. It didn’t look like the Colts absolutely controlled the game with their division rivals, which makes you glad that game control is a factor that matters in the NFL.

Lovie Smith returned to Soldier Field as the head coach of a pretty lousy Tampa Bay team. His team looked inspired out of the gate, while the Bears looked the same unenthusiastic, flat team in the beginning. The only thing that would have been better than a Smith victory there would have been if he signed Brian Urlacher to a 1-game deal for this game, so his last appearance at Soldier Field would have been in that nasty Bucs uni. Too cruel or too soon? Bears spoil Lovie’s homecoming in this one, 21-13.

I think and I’ve thought a lot of things about the Arizona Cardinals this season, but the main thing is that I’m believing they could be the first to play on their home field in the Super Bowl and I think they can win that game. You know what I didn’t think they would do? I didn’t think they’d play a desperate Seattle team in the House of SeaChicken and come away with a victory. They’re a match-up problem for the Cardinals, which is really unfortunate for a team that needs to count on their ability to pull a rabbit out of their hat from time to time. The magic just isn’t there, not without Larry Fitzgerald in the mix. Maybe they’ll find that in their rematch with the defending champs in Glendale, but it will take more than luck if the offense is as stagnant as it was on Sunday.

Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. for six points. Let’s not get caught up on making this the best thing we’ve ever seen. It was amazing. If you didn’t see the play, go find it. It just seemed to defy some basic principles of physics.

Let’s not forget the Giants lost, and the Cowboys continue to win. Tony Romo might be fun to poke fun at, but he’s leaving less room for criticism. If he and DeMarco Murray stay healthy, Dallas is one of those teams that might spoil the prospect of a home game for a certain team in the desert.

Lastly, on a personal note, Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday and I want to say I’m thankful for everyone I have in my life. I often underestimate how blessed I am to have all that I have and love in this life. Stay healthy and safe, however you spend the upcoming week.

LSU Must Take Advantage of Light September Schedule

The LSU Tigers have become accustomed to playing high-profile games the first week of the season, and this year was no different, as they opened the season a neutral site game against the Wisconsin Badgers, a team many expect to win 10 games and coast to the Big Ten Championship Game as the clear-cut favorites to win the league’s West Division, but the schedule the rest of September isn’t quite as daunting for LSU, which is good news for the Tigers. LSU was lucky to beat Wisconsin, as they displayed a myriad of issues, but now the Tigers have a manageable schedule the rest of September before facing the rough part of their schedule, which begins the first week of October.
Towards the top of the list of issues LSU displayed against Wisconsin is the quarterback position. Sophomore Anthony Jennings played nearly the entire game against Wisconsin, but he completed just nine of his 22 passes, although those sub-par numbers were hidden by a pair of long touchdown throws. True freshman Brandon Harris played on just one drive, which went backwards, but Jennings by no means solidified the starting position with his performance in the season opener. The light schedule in September will allow the Tigers to keep the competition open into the season and give both quarterbacks a chance to play, but LSU must be able to reach a firm conclusion by the end of September before the schedule starts to get tough.
Another position on offense that the Tigers need to sort out is wide receiver, where LSU appears to be high on talent, but low on experience. The Tiger’s contingent of receives is comprised of nearly all freshmen, with the exception of sophomore Travin Dural, who caught jus seven passes in 2013. LSU’s light September schedule gives them a chance to get a slew of freshmen some much-needed experience before they start conference play. Of course, there are a lot of candidates at wide receiver and the Tigers will need several consistent contributors, as they have to replace the production of the departed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Defensively, the Tigers have some work to do at the line of scrimmage, where they were pushed around by Wisconsin’s offensive line. LSU won’t face another offensive line as good as Wisconsin’s until they get into the heart of SEC play, but in the mean time they need to work on building up some depth along the defensive line after losing so many key players to the NFL over the past few seasons. Playing a light schedule the rest of September will allow the Tigers to get younger players experience up front and try to build a rotation along the defensive line that can compete in the trenches of the SEC.
LSU’s first chance to work out some of its issues against lesser competition came Saturday night against FCS opponent San Houston. The Tigers put together a complete performance and dominated the Bearkats, who were not much of a challenge for LSU. Jennings threw three touchdown passes, executing perfectly on deep passes, while taking a big step towards solidifying the starting quarterback job. However, Harris also performed well as both a passer and runner, doing enough to leave the quarterback competition open moving forward. Of course, Sam Houston did not provide enough of a challenge to put much stock in the performance of the two quarterbacks. Due to the nature of the game, the Tigers didn’t throw the ball enough to give their young wide receivers substantial playing experience, despite a slew of impressive catches against lesser competition. Defensively, the Tigers were able to give experience to a lot of young players, many of whom performed well, although the competition they faced is nothing like what they’ll face in the SEC.
The blowout against Sam Houston did allow the Tigers to get a lot of young players onto the field, which is exactly what they need to be doing when they play lesser competition during the month of September. LSU opens up October with back-to-back road games and Auburn and Florida, so every game until then is critical to determining who the key plays will be at several positions to lead the Tigers throughout SEC play. This game didn’t necessarily give them complete clarity, but it’s a good stepping stone towards figuring things out, as all of the games on LSU’s light September schedule will be important, and the Tigers must make sure they take advantage when they see weak teams on the schedule.