Fantasy Football: Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Sims-Walker Will Shine vs. Bolts
Last week, Mike Sims-Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars stumbled into his first season as a potential fantasy WR1 by posting a big ol' goose egg: zero catches, zero yards, zero points.
And though Sims-Walker was absent from the box score, the Jaguars didn't seem to mind. Quarterback David Garrard threw for three scores and posted the best passer rating (138.9) of his career as Jacksonville beat the Denver Broncos, 24-17.
For Sims-Walker's fantasy owners, that only makes it worse.
Heading into this weekend, ESPN projects him to score a measly three points in standard (non-PPR) scoring leagues. According to them, he's not even the best hyphenated-name option at receiver; Oakland's Darrius Heyward-Bey is penciled in for four points.
They're wrong, of course. After the jump, there are five reasons to forget Sims-Walker's last game as quickly as history will and reap the rewards of starting him against the San Diego Chargers.
CB Quentin Jammer, Bolts' Secondary Can't Match Denver's Champ Bailey & Co.
Make no mistake, San Diego's Quentin Jammer is a fine cover corner.
With that said, few cornerbacks in the past decade have the awareness and athleticism to stay in lockstep with a receiver for four quarters like Denver's Champ Bailey. In game-planning for the Jaguars' aerial attack, the Broncos decided to glue Bailey to Sims-Walker all day.
To the extent that he was held without a catch, it worked. But Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew had a different interpretation of the coverage, as posted to Sims-Walker's Twitter account.
"hey that's what u call respect...Champ Bailey and a safety over the top," Jones-Drew said.
If Bailey needed help, Jammer might be helpless.
Jaguars' Second-Year OTs Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton Giving David Garrard Time
In April 2009, Jacksonville doubled up on offensive linemen early in the draft. Despite needs at other positions, the Jaguars picked Virginia's Eugene Monroe eighth overall and followed up with Arizona's Eben Britton a round later.
Last year, those two were often overmatched. Jacksonville had to keep a tight end or running back in for pass protection or risk getting David Garrard hit. Through 16 starts, Garrard took his lumps as one of the NFL's most heavily-abused quarterbacks.
But last week, when Monroe and Britton took the field with 28 starts' worth of combined big-league experience, things were different. Play after play, Garrard took the snap, dropped back to his depth, and checked through his progression until he found an open man.
The result? Out of 21 passes attempted, Garrard completed 16 for 170 yards and two scores.
Denver sacked him only once, and he didn't turn the ball over. With time to think and throw, Garrard is bound to find Sims-Walker for more than the two targets he managed last Sunday.
Jacksonville's Game Plan, Part 1: WR Mike Thomas' 89 Yards Vs. Denver
For starters, Sims-Walker won't have less targets (two vs. Denver) than teammate Mike Thomas (seven) in most weeks going forward.
It's not that Thomas, Jacksonville's fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft, isn't worth the attention. In catching six of those seven passes last Sunday, he showed the potential to translate his preseason success into a significant role in the Jaguars' offense.
But a bunch of his 89 yards against the Broncos came on a few deep crossing patterns. It's a route he can run, but Sims-Walker (6'2", 214 pounds) is built better than the diminutive Thomas (5'8", 195 pounds) to fight defensive backs for those catches.
Last year, Sims-Walker thrived on passes put in front of opposing safeties. When he doesn't have a potential Hall of Fame cornerback draped on him, he'll chew up defenses for that yardage in 2010, too.
Jacksonville's Game Plan, Part 2: TE Marcedes Lewis' Red Zone Targets
But what will really make Sims-Walker worth the draft spot or auction money spent on him this year is the red zone attention he'll take back from tight end Marcedes Lewis.
As with Thomas, it's not that Lewis isn't a very capable pass-catcher.
At 6'6" and 275 pounds, he gave David Garrard a big, easy target for one end zone toss last Sunday. With his only other target on the day, he turned a drag route into a 21-yard score with great run-after-the-catch ability for his size.
When Garrard can wait for Lewis to get open, he'll wait. Covered by a linebacker or safety, Jacksonville's towering tight end is a jump-ball mismatch begging to be exploited.
Nine times out of 10, though, Sims-Walker will be quicker to release from coverage—especially close to the goal line, where a tight end has extra defenders to wade through. As soon as this weekend, matched up against a cornerback who is less fleet-footed and savvy than Champ Bailey, he'll return to the red zone role that netted him seven touchdowns in 2009.
With points in the balance, red zone work requires trust. Ask Dallas' Tony Romo if he would have trusted any pass in Bailey's vicinity as a safe option last week.
Dry Spell? Sims-Walker's Five Catches, 84 Yards in Preseason Showed Chemistry
Those fretting that Sims-Walker is on a catchless streak need only look back to the end of last month. Against the Miami Dolphins, there was plenty of evidence that David Garrard knows how to find his number-one target.
Limited in the preseason, both in games and Jacksonville's practices, Sims-Walker took the field for a few series in that August 21 game for his most significant summer action.
The result? Three catches and 64 yards on three different routes, grabbing passes between, behind, and beside defenders.
Heading into 2010, no one was high on Sims-Walker because of the Jaguars' passing attack. With Maurice Jones-Drew and the ground game doing most of the work, every week is feast-or-famine for Jacksonville's receivers.
Even in Garrard's highly effective effort against Denver, there were only 170 yards to go around.
Well, last week was a definite famine for Sims-Walker. One of the NFL's best veteran tandems, Champ Bailey and Broncos' free safety Brian Dawkins wrapped him up for the game as the Jaguars' offense squeaked by.
Now, don't overthink it and miss this week's feast.