1 Player on Every NFL Team Who Has Earned More Playing Time

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2019

1 Player on Every NFL Team Who Has Earned More Playing Time

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    Although we shouldn't overreact to September football, it's not hard to tell who's playing well. During the offseason, team officials emphasized the need to put the best players on the field, but some of them have been underutilized through two weeks. 

    Typically, coaches may be reluctant to overload inexperienced youngsters, but staffs shouldn't limit a budding talent or feature a less effective player because of possible early rough patches. 

    Some veterans sign short-term deals knowing they're expected to take on responsibilities in a rotation. However, high production at a weak position should change that initial plan.

    Let's take a look at players with varying levels of experience, ranging from rookies to 10-year pros, who should see a boost in snap count because of their early production. With such a small sample size, many of the selections have either flashed in glimpses or had a solid outing in one of the first couple of games.


Arizona Cardinals: WR KeeSean Johnson

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    During the offseason, the Arizona Cardinals infused the wide receiver group with youth to support rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. Among the draft acquisitions, KeeSean Johnson garnered the spotlight with an impressive preseason, hauling in 16 receptions for 156 yards.

    Johnson started the season opener and converted 10 targets into five catches for 46 yards. Damiere Byrd deserves his high snap volume on offense (89.66 percent) with 10 grabs and 87 yards, but the Cardinals coaching staff shouldn't overlook what they saw in the rookie sixth-rounder. 

    In Week 2, Johnson only caught one pass for 31 yards against a tough Baltimore Ravens secondary, but that reception put his team in position to kick a field goal. He also secured a reception for a two-point conversion to pull the Cardinals within three points in the contest. 

    Johnson seems ready for the big stage, and the Cardinals should increase his snap count on offense (58.62 percent) to see what he can offer with more targets in the passing game.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn

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    Based on his performances over a nine-year career, Adrian Clayborn fits best in a rotational role. He's not a high-volume contributor in sacks, but the 31-year-old can make some stops against the run. That's what the Atlanta Falcons need going forward.

    Atlanta ranks 16th in run defense, mostly because of the season opener in which the unit gave up 172 yards on the ground to the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 2, the Philadelphia Eagles only rushed 21 times for 49 yards. 

    Going into Weeks 3 and 4, the Falcons will see two top-eight ball-carriers, Marlon Mack (third) and Derrick Henry (sixth). In preparation for those physical matchups against strong offensive lines, the Falcons may need a bigger veteran body who can stuff the run and provide some pocket pressure. Clayborn checks both boxes—more so the former than the latter.

    Clayborn has played 35.07 percent of defensive snaps. Head coach Dan Quinn may want to consider bumping him up to 50 percent. He logged a sack and two quarterbacks hits in Week 2.

Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Pernell McPhee

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    During the offseason, general manager Eric DeCosta talked about edge-rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams as two defenders who needed to elevate their games following Terrell Suggs' departure to Arizona, per the Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer. They have four combined solo tackles through two weeks. 

    Pernell McPhee has stood out in a small sample, logging two sacks and six tackles with three for a loss. He's a savvy veteran, who's started the first two contests but played just 24 defensive snaps in the season opener. In Week 2, the 30-year-old saw an uptick in his workload, and that trend should continue until one of the younger reserves puts together a solid outing.

    The Ravens may not want to place too much on McPhee early in the season, but the coaching staff could optimize his production while he's playing at a high level. He should line up for about two-thirds of the defensive snaps. The ninth-year veteran would take pressure off Matt Judon on the opposite side.

Buffalo Bills: WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie

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    Isaiah McKenzie put his speed and quickness on display in Week 2, scoring on a 14-yard pitch-and-catch play in the corner of the end zone. At 5'8", 173 pounds, he fits into the slot receiver mold, which is Cole Beasley's role, but the Buffalo Bills can continue to experiment with him on gadget plays.

    The Denver Broncos selected McKenzie in the fifth round of the 2017 draft but waived him last November. In addition to occasional looks in the passing game, he's fielded punts, totaling 283 yards in 37 returns.

    In today's league, teams can benefit from using a player's speed in space. McKenzie isn't likely to take on a major offensive role, but quarterback Josh Allen could have another quick-twitch receiver on the field to challenge defenses in the short passing game.

    In certain scenarios, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can insert McKenzie into the slot for a matchup against a slow-footed inside defender.

Carolina Panthers: NT Dontari Poe

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    Beyond the concerning news about Cam Newton's ailing foot, the Carolina Panthers have to plug holes within their run defense; the unit ranks 25th after allowing at least 100 yards on the ground in both games.

    The Panthers have started Gerald McCoy alongside Kawann Short—both have played 55 percent or more of the defensive snaps. Head coach Ron Rivera should increase Dontari Poe's workload in the rotation. He's blown up plays in the backfield and applied pocket pressure with a quick start to his 2019 campaign. 

    Poe has recorded a sack, four solo tackles and two for a loss as a penetrating force and gap stuffer on the interior. 

    Keep in mind, the Panthers intend to experiment with odd-man fronts; Poe experienced success in the form of two Pro Bowl years on a three-man defensive line with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 and 2014 terms. He's exhibited his ability to flourish within that scheme; his early production only gives more reason to see an uptick in time on the field.

Chicago Bears: DL Roy Robertson-Harris

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    The Bears defense has a star in Khalil Mack, a budding playmaker in Roquan Smith, and Danny Trevathan brings Super Bowl experience. Nevertheless, on the front line, Roy Robertson-Harris may quickly rise as an unheralded component to a vaunted front seven.

    In the season opener, announcers called Robertson-Harris' name multiple times because he made his way into the backfield, logging a sack and two tackles for loss. The 26-year-old didn't have the same splashes in the last outing, but the UTEP product has a history of flashing in brief moments over the past two years. 

    In a bigger role, Robertson-Harris could emerge as another disruptor on the interior alongside Akiem Hicks. If so, his contributions would help the defense maintain its dominance. He's played 42.96 percent of defensive snaps. Perhaps a number at or slightly above 50 percent will allow him to showcase his full potential.

Cincinnati Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert

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    Based on Tyler Eifert's injury history, he's not the player to overload on snap counts, but the Cincinnati Bengals should increase his play volume closer to 50 percent while he's "feeling good."

    Eifert has lined up for 38.19 percent of offensive snaps; his time on the field declined between the first two games.

    The Bengals rank 29th in scoring defense, which indicates the offense must put up points in bunches to compete. Quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown 93 passes in two outings—that's not a sound winning formula for a group without its top receiving threat (A.J. Green) for an extended period because of his recovery from ankle surgery.

    If Cincinnati plans to go through the year with a pass-heavy offense, head coach Zac Taylor should have Eifert on the field for more looks in the aerial attack. Dalton has targeted him 10 times; clearly the two built a connection over the past seven years despite the tight end's inability to stay healthy. 

    Barring an injury, Eifert is a solid component to the passing game and deserves a moderate increase in play count.

Cleveland Browns: RB Nick Chubb

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    The Cleveland Browns have a star-lead offense with quarterback Baker Mayfield under center and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on the perimeter, but the signal-caller has taken eight sacks in two games.

    Head coach Freddie Kitchens can either design plays to help Mayfield release the ball before pass-rushers penetrate the front line or call for more handoffs to the running backs. 

    In 2018, Nick Chubb averaged 5.2 yards per carry—that number has dropped to 3.9, but the Browns haven't made a commitment to the ground attack, ranking 23rd in rush attempts.

    Chubb has moved the ball when given the opportunity, but the coaching staff must allow him to establish a rhythm to raise his production level. In two contests, he's secured seven out of eight targets for 46 yards, which allows Kitchens to leave him on the field for all three downs. The second-year running back could be effective playing more than 65.71 percent of offensive snaps.

Dallas Cowboys: TE Blake Jarwin

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    Straight out of the Monday Night Football booth, tight end Jason Witten has played 71.53 percent of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive snaps. While that's impressive and he's known for handling the gritty aspects of the position, his on-field workload comes at the expense of younger tight ends who need reps to improve.

    In Week 1, Blake Jarwin converted all three of his targets into receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott connected with him on a 22-yard pass play last week.

    Against lesser competition, like the Miami Dolphins in the upcoming matchup, the coaching staff can lighten Witten's workload to take a look at the position's future.

    In 2018, Jarwin flashed in spots, logging 27 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns with a 75 percent catch rate. The Cowboys could put the 25-year-old on the field for more action to help him build on a solid campaign.

Denver Broncos: RB Royce Freeman

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    Last year, running back Phillip Lindsay emerged as the Broncos' lead ball-carrier—an undrafted rookie who finished ninth in rushing yards (1,037) for the season. He certainly shocked people en route to a Pro Bowl campaign, but his 2019 start doesn't look as impressive.

    Lindsay averages 3.3 yards per carry with a 61.5 percent catch rate. Yet, he and Royce Freeman have each played about 50 percent of offensive snaps. The latter has moved the ball at 5.2 yards per rush attempt while converting 75 percent of his targets into receptions. 

    The Broncos intended to even the backfield workload between Lindsay and Freeman, but the coaching staff should lean on the more effective running back—whether it's last year's leader or this season's frontrunner. At 0-2, Denver has to give the ball to its best playmakers regardless of what happened in the previous term.

Detroit Lions: DE Trey Flowers

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    Early in free agency, the Detroit Lions signed Trey Flowers to a five-year, $90 million deal, so of course, his low production will sound off alarm bells two weeks into the season.

    Flowers has recorded three combined tackles, two solo and a quarterback hit. He's never registered a double-digit sack season, but he's commended for his ability to play in varied fronts, which suits head coach Matt Patricia's scheme. The two worked together with the New England Patriots. Because of their familiarity, one would expect the defensive end to jump off to a better start. 

    Nonetheless, Flowers' snap count has dropped off between his last year in New England and the first two games in Detroit. He's played 58.17 percent of the defensive snaps. In 2018, the 26-year-old lined up for 70.18 percent of the plays with the Patriots defense. 

    Perhaps Flowers can do a little more with his role, but he's made some plays that won't show up in the box score, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

    "He's relentless pursuing plays, and on his third-down hurry, he knocked right tackle Sam Tevi off balance with good hand technique, then worked back inside to take Rivers to the ground as a Chargers receiver ran open across the middle of the field," Birkett wrote. 

    If the Lions want more out of Flowers, he needs to see the field in an expanded role.

Green Bay Packers: RB Aaron Jones

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    Here's the good news: Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur wants to give more touches to a running back. Now, check out the baffling part of that idea: He wants to increase Jamaal Williams' involvement in the offense, per Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

    In Week 2, Williams scored on a 15-yard touchdown reception, but Aaron Jones had a strong outing, registering 23 carries for 116 yards and a score. The coach's decision to feed the lead ball-carrier worked in the Packers' favor. Yet, LaFleur plans to push harder on the less effective tailback. 

    Thus far, Williams has averaged two yards per carry. After logging a league-leading 5.5 yards per rush attempt last year, Jones continues to move the ball at a decent rate on the ground (4.3) as the featured running back. He's on the field for 59.85 percent of offensive snaps. As a decent pass-catcher, the third-year pro should step on the field for more plays on offense. 

    LaFleur sees the long-term benefit in using two tailbacks, but if Jones performs at a high level, as he's shown through two weeks, the Packers must ride the hot hand.

Houston Texans: RB Carlos Hyde

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    This offseason, Carlos Hyde landed with his fourth NFL team, but he's off to a solid start with the Houston Texans, averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

    Hyde doubled his rush attempts within two weeks in a limited role, logging 48.44 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Based on his efficiency, the Texans can protect quarterback Deshaun Watson with more handoffs to the physical downhill ball-carrier.

    Watson has taken 10 sacks—the second-most in the league. A commitment to the ground attack, using the featured tailback, would lessen the pocket pressure on the quarterback. 

    Furthermore, the Texans seem comfortable with Hyde handling the bulk of carries; he registered 30 rush attempts compared to 15 for running back Duke Johnson Jr., whom the team acquired from the Browns in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick.

    Although Hyde hasn't been able to keep a starting job since 2017, he's rolling into Week 3 coming off a strong performance last Sunday, recording 90 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Eric Ebron

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    Head coach Frank Reich has utilized all three of his tight ends in the first two outings. Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox have all played at least 27 percent of the team's offensive snaps. 

    After a breakout campaign with quarterback Andrew Luck under center, Ebron's role has taken a slight dip with Doyle healthy. Still, he's a solid target, especially in the red zone. The sixth-year veteran hauled in three receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown inside the 5-yard line in Week 3. 

    Wideout Devin Funchess landed on injured reserve with a broken collarbone—his absence creates the opportunity for the Colts to use more multi-tight end sets with 12 and 13 personnel groupings. 

    Reich must help quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center with talented pass-catchers at multiple spots to compensate for a below-average wide receiver group aside from T.Y. Hilton.

Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Tre Herndon

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars may deal star cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the near future after he requested a trade through his agent, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. That's the practical reason for giving Tre Herndon more time on the field.

    Herndon has earned more looks as a perimeter defender. Cornerback A.J. Bouye sat out with a knee injury in Week 2. In his absence, the second-year cornerback logged three solo tackles and a pass breakup. 

    With Bouye and Ramsey active, Herndon won't see many opportunities on the field, but he's certainly proved capable of stepping into a larger role. On obvious passing downs, defensive coordinator Todd Wash can insert him into the secondary grouping. 

    Assuming the Jaguars eventually deal their disgruntled star cornerback, Herndon should be the first in line to see an uptick in snaps at the position. If not, he's a quality asset for depth on the back end.

Kansas City Chiefs: RB LeSean McCoy

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    LeSean McCoy suffered an ankle injury in his last outing, but an MRI revealed no significant damage, which means he could suit up Sunday against the Ravens.

    The Chiefs have a ground attack that ranks 26th in yards, and McCoy has been more productive than the starting tailback. He's averaging five yards per rush attempt compared to Damien Williams' 1.5-yard rate.

    Through two weeks, Williams and McCoy have nearly split their rushing workloads equally (22-21), but the Chiefs can probably elevate their ground attack if the latter handles more touches out of the backfield, pending his condition going forward. 

    Thus far, McCoy has played just 34.97 percent of offensive snaps. Of course, his injury factors into the total, but the Chiefs also used him sparingly in the first contest (20 offensive snaps). 

    Unlike Williams, McCoy has a track record of handling the majority load. He's also a viable contributor in the passing game, recording 479 receptions, 3,628 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career. At 31 years old, the two-time All-Pro could still add a dynamic component to Kansas City's offense because of his dual-threat capabilities.

Los Angeles Chargers: RB Justin Jackson

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    Running back Austin Ekeler had a costly fumble in the third quarter of the last outing, but that's not the sole reason Justin Jackson deserves more rush attempts. The second-year tailback has been effective even with a low ceiling on his touches.

    Jackson has logged 13 carries for 116 yards. Despite his small sample size, looking ahead, he should close the workload gap on Ekeler. The Chargers can lean on a two-man backfield while Melvin Gordon holds out. If the two-time Pro Bowler doesn't return, the ground attack wouldn't skip a beat without him. Los Angeles' rushing offense ranks 10th in yards while listing 19th in attempts. 

    Going into Week 3, Jackson has played 25.78 percent of the offensive snaps, but he could see an uptick in playing time primarily because of his production. The Northwestern product has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 15 career contests.

Los Angeles Rams: EDGE Clay Matthews

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    The Los Angeles Rams made one of the more underrated free-agent signings during the offseason, inking Clay Matthews to a two-year deal. 

    Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' pass rush starts with defensive tackle Aaron Donald on the interior, but Dante Fowler Jr. and Matthews have applied consistent pressure off the edge. The former has played 85.27 percent of defensive snaps compared to the latter with 62.02 percent

    The Packers revamped their pass rush, signing Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, which allowed them to let Matthews hit the open market after his 3.5-sack season. Now in Los Angeles, he looks energized with renewed vigor as a starting outside linebacker. 

    At 33 years old, Matthews isn't going to match Fowler's play count, but the Rams may have an opportunity to see a flashback of his younger years. With 70 percent of the defensive snaps, he could flirt with a double-digit sack season.

Miami Dolphins: WR Preston Williams

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    Dolphins fans have waited for wideout DeVante Parker to put together a breakout campaign, but that's yet to happen. While taking the field for 84.68 percent of offensive snaps, he's converted 14 targets into three receptions for 75 yards.

    Rookie undrafted free agent Preston Williams has played 55.86 percent of offensive snaps and hauled in seven out of 11 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown. Clearly, he's more efficient than Parker with his opportunities in the passing game.

    The Dolphins have much bigger problems than the wide receiver position. With that said, Williams deserves to move up in the pecking order. The Colorado State product flashed in Week 1 of the preseason with four catches for 97 yards and continues to make plays in the regular season. 

    Head coach Brian Flores may not have his starting quarterback of the future on his roster, but he could find out if Williams has the tools to develop into a lead wide receiver. The first-year pro needs more snaps to prove his case.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Alexander Mattison

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    In short glimpses, rookie third-rounder Alexander Mattison has displayed the ability to break off chunk yardage on the ground. Despite his modest workload, he had a key 14-yard run late in last week's contest against the Packers.

    The Vikings lost the game 21-16, and Mattison finished with just 25 yards on four carries. Nevertheless, he's certainly capable of moving the ball with 10 to 12 rush attempts per outing.

    The Vikings have gone all-in on their ground attack with offensive advisor Gary Kubiak and coordinator Kevin Stefanski putting together the play designs. Minnesota ranks fourth in total carries and last in pass attempts.

    While the rushing offense looks effective, the Vikings should think about increasing Mattison's time on the field (16.95 of offensive snaps). Running back Dalvin Cook has logged 20.5 rush attempts per game, which isn't a sound strategy for a ball-carrier who's missed 17 games in two years with a torn ACL and a hamstring injury. 

    Logically, the Vikings should lighten Cook's workload. Mattison has shown the ability to handle more touches out of the backfield.

New England Patriots: DL Adam Butler

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    Unless you've closely watched the Patriots over the last three years, Adam Butler doesn't come to mind as an unheralded playmaker. Head coach Bill Belichick recognizes the 6'5", 300-pound interior lineman and praised him after a two-sack performance Sunday, per NESN's Zack Cox.

    "We have a ton of confidence in Adam. He played in all defensive situations (Sunday) — our base, our nickel packages, our dime packages. He's another very smart player that really understands how to attack protections and do the right thing based on how the line's blocking him on passing plays and what we have called." 

    Butler also broke up a pass in his last outing. Because the Patriots mix and match players based on several different factors, including down, distance and the opponent's unique tendencies, we may not see the third-year player flash in consecutive games.

    Nonetheless, Butler has clearly garnered the coaching staff's attention; he's played 41.86 percent of defensive snaps through two weeks. Last year, New England recorded 30 total sacks. If the Vanderbilt product continues to provide pocket pressure, the Patriots need to put him on the field in more pass-rushing situations.

New Orleans Saints: QB Taysom Hill

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    No, the New Orleans Saints shouldn't bench quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for Taysom Hill while Drew Brees recovers from thumb surgery. However, head coach Sean Payton could use the versatile playmaker to instill creativity in the offense.

    Some may call Hill's usage gimmicky, but the Saints can certainly put him on the field as a wild card. He can run, catch and throw, so Payton could stir things up with two quarterbacks in one formation.

    Hill caught a touchdown pass from Brees in the season opener. Opponents must account for the versatile playmaker when he's split out wide or taking direct snaps under center—even though he's yet to throw a touchdown pass during the regular season. 

    Payton refused to name a starter for Sunday's game, but the front office re-signed Bridgewater for a reason. They'll likely see what they have in him as a potential successor for Brees. 

    Nonetheless, Hill, who's played 27.91 percent of offensive snaps, should be heavily involved in the game plan because he provides an X-factor element on any given down. 

New York Giants: EDGE Oshane Ximines

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    Through two weeks, offenses have shredded New York Giants play-caller James Bettcher's defense—a unit that ranks 30th in scoring and 28th for yards allowed. In particular, the secondary needs some help; rookie first-round cornerback DeAndre Baker will go through his ups and downs, but a stronger pass rush could aid this group against aerial attacks.

    In Week 2, Oshane Ximines split a sack with Lorenzo Carter and logged two tackles in a 28-14 loss to the Bills. He didn't have a breakout game, but the rookie third-rounder may be able to show the coaching staff more of his capabilities with a bigger role in the edge-rusher rotation. 

    Ximines has played 32.61 percent of defensive snaps after a strong preseason showing with three sacks. While the pass defense takes its lumps, the Old Dominion product has the ability to make the pocket an uncomfortable place for opposing quarterbacks.

New York Jets: OLB Tarell Basham

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    The Colts selected Tarell Basham in the third round of the 2017 draft, but he didn't pan out into a consistent contributor with his former team. Last October, the New York Jets claimed him off waivers in hopes he could supplement pocket pressure off the edge.

    Gang Green had an uninspiring Monday Night Football performance, but Basham recorded his first sack with the team to go along with five tackles. 

    At Ohio, Basham logged 27 sacks in four terms. If the Jets can unlock his pass-rushing talent that's evident from his collegiate production, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams could increase the 25-year-old's workload off the edge.

    The Jets need a solid starter opposite outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who exited the last game with a calf injury. Keep in mind, the front office waived rookie third-rounder Jachai Polite, who lined up at the position during the preseason.

Oakland Raiders: WR Hunter Renfrow

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    Typically, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden moves his receivers to different spots; they must prepare to line up in the slot or on the perimeter. Because of that wrinkle, the lead skipper can easily tinker with a wideout's target volume if he's able to shift across the formation.

    Wideout Ryan Grant has played 75.21 percent of offensive snaps and produced four receptions for 14 yards on nine targets. Mostly ineffective, he should yield some snaps to rookie fifth-rounder Hunter Renfrow.

    Renfrow's numbers don't jump off the page, but he's caught six passes for 43 yards—three of them for first downs. Known for his clutch grabs at Clemson, the 5'10" 184-pound wide receiver can move the chains in crucial situations.

    At times, the Raiders have used tight end Darren Waller (6'6", 255 lbs) as an oversized wideout, but Renfrow can become the third option in the aerial attack. Although best suited in the slot, he can move outside and see more targets, adding to his offensive snap count (52.99 percent). It's worth a try with a mediocre wide receiver group.

Philadelphia Eagles: RB Jordan Howard

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    The Philadelphia Eagles traded a sixth-round pick to acquire Jordan Howard and used a second-rounder in this year's draft to select Miles Sanders, which leads to no surprise that the rookie has handled more offensive snaps (45.81 percent) than the fourth-year veteran (22.58 percent).

    Nonetheless, in his best seasons with the Bears, Howard performed at a high level with more carries—north of 16 per game. Through two weeks, he's an afterthought in the backfield with 14 total rush attempts.

    Although Howard averages 4.4 yards per carry, he's more effective when able to establish a rhythm with a bigger workload—a total number of touches in the single digits won't allow him to build up steam. Unfortunately for him, the Eagles have multiple tailbacks to feed in addition to Sanders—Darren Sproles and Corey Clement also have smaller roles at the position. 

    Averaging 2.5 yards per carry, Sanders hasn't put together his breakout game yet. Howard seems like the better option to establish the run, especially when quarterback Carson Wentz takes some hits in the pocket; he took three sacks in his last outing. 

    If the Eagles balance their offense with Howard, a physical ball-carrier, defenses may respect him as a run threat and drop a safety in the box, which would open up the field for Wentz. Head coach Doug Pederson needs to expand the Pro Bowl tailback's role.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR James Washington

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    Offensively, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't have too many positives to highlight through two games, but James Washington displayed decent hands in short glimpses. In Week 2, he secured two first-down receptions—one from new starting quarterback Mason Rudolph after Ben Roethlisberger exited with an elbow injury, which requires season-ending surgery.

    In two games, Washington has registered four grabs for 74 yards. Now, with his collegiate teammate under center, he can potentially showcase his big-play ability.

    Averaging 18.5 yards per catch, Washington needs more than 55.28 percent of offensive snaps to show off his growth as a pro receiver. He's in the second year under play-caller Randy Fichtner, and he's spending a sixth term on the same roster as Rudolph; the Oklahoma State product could use that familiarity to his advantage. 

    Beyond the connection with Rudolph, Washington's ability to come down with deep balls would help the Steelers stretch the field. He caught a 45-yard pass from Roethlisberger along the sideline in Week 1.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Deebo Samuel

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    San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has a plethora of talent to develop at wide receiver with five players coming out of the last three draft classes. Yet, none of them have played more than 63 percent of offensive snaps.

    In Week 2, Deebo Samuel's touchdown reception put the 49ers up 30-10 before the extra point. In a blowout, he saw a team-leading seven targets. The rookie wideout may have a budding connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that yields early results.

    Garoppolo has only targeted Marquise Goodwin six times, and Dante Pettis disappeared during the first two games. He's logged one reception for seven yards on a single target.

    Samuel's upside likely intrigues Shanahan—his flashes in last week's game should boost his snap count going forward. He dropped from 59 offensive plays in Week 1 to 27 in the last outing.

Seattle Seahawks: RB Rashaad Penny

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    Running back Chris Carson has lost two fumbles—one in each game. That issue alone may elevate Rashaad Penny's involvement on offense in the coming weeks.

    On his account, Penny has earned some extra touches out of the backfield. In Week 2 against the Steelers, he ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. On the score, the 23-year-old broke off a 37-yard scamper to the end zone, showing off his elusiveness on a juke and hitting a lane in the open field.

    The Seahawks selected Penny in the first round of last year's draft, so we can expect his touches to grow during his sophomore campaign. While it's early, he seems ready for more. The San Diego State product averages five yards per carry, playing 30.23 percent of offensive snaps.

    Without Mike Davis in the backfield and Carson logging 15 carries per game, Penny can handle 10 to 12 rush attempts or 35 to 40 offensive snaps, pending the game flow.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Ronald Jones II

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' most effective running back on the ground plays the least amount of offensive snaps.

    In Week 1, Ronald Jones II had a solid outing, recording 13 rush attempts for 75 yards with an 18-yard reception. He only touched the ball four times last Thursday against the Panthers, yielding the featured role to Peyton Barber, who logged 82 yards on 23 rush attempts.

    Dare Ogunbowale, the Buccaneers' primary pass-catcher out of the backfield, has played the second-most snaps at running back (40) with Jones logging 29.

    Barber starts, so we can expect him to lead the group in play count (65), but Jones has the most upside. He came out of USC as a second-round pick in 2018. His solid performance in the season opener showed promise after an abysmal rookie campaign.

    Splitting carries between Barber and Jones, Tampa Bay has the 15th-ranked ground attack. The unit may reach another level with the latter handling more rush attempts. He's averaging 4.9 yards per carry with limited opportunities.

Tennessee Titans: TE Delanie Walker

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    The Tennessee Titans' 24th-ranked aerial attack needs a spark. Of course, that starts with quarterback Marcus Mariota, who's struggling because of pressure in the pocket and inaccurate throws. He's taken a league-high 17 sacks, but John Glennon of The Athletic highlighted a moment when the 25-year-old missed his target.

    "Mariota appeared to have a chance to hit [tight end Delanie] Walker in the end zone, but he underthrew the ball and it was knocked away," Glennon wrote.

    Even with Mariota's misfire, the Titans should feature Walker in the offense for more than 53.5 percent of snaps. He's built a rapport with the signal-caller in recent years, and, now healthy, the 6'2", 248-pound pass-catcher can uplift the aerial attack.

    Mariota has thrown the most touchdown passes to Walker (14) in his five-year career.

    The front office bolstered the wide receiver position, signing Adam Humphries and selecting A.J. Brown in the second round of this year's draft. Nonetheless, the Titans should rely on a proven connection between Mariota and Walker to help the offense out of its rough stretches.

    Against Jacksonville on Thursday, Walker secured five of his seven receptions in the fourth quarter, which began with Tennessee trailing 17-0.

Washington Redskins: RB Chris Thompson

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Surprisingly, the Washington Redskins have relied heavily on quarterback Case Keenum's arm. The offense ranks seventh in pass attempts and 10th in yards through the air.

    In Washington's pass-heavy offense, wideout Terry McLaurin has emerged as a rookie sensation, but Keenum has developed an immediate rapport with Chris Thompson as well.

    Thompson leads the team in targets (18) and receptions (12), but he can do so much more with an uptick in opportunities. So far, he's played 55.28 percent of offensive snaps.

    At 5'8", 195 pounds with a lengthy injury history, Thompson isn't a high-volume ball-carrier, but he can mimic the run with his pass-catching skills out of the backfield.

    The Redskins will likely increase Adrian Peterson's workload because of Derrius Guice's absence, but he's going to run behind an offensive line that ranks 29th in adjusted line yards (3.21), per Football Outsiders. That doesn't bode well for his 34-year-old body with more than a decade of wear and tear. 

    Washington's offense may be better off featuring Thompson in the short passing attack.


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