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Week 1 is always a sobering reminder of how little we know. Puka Nacua led all WRs in targets. Joe Burrow threw for 82 yards. We’ll get a lot wrong this season, but contextualizing the quantitative information we get each week can prevent us from becoming too astray. That’s the goal of this article: to break down the most actionable takeaways from each week in a concise, numbers-filled format and work through what numbers matter and which are misleading. Let’s get right to it.

 

Kenny Gainwell dominates usage in the Eagles’ backfield

Rashaad Penny was a healthy scratch and D’Andre Swift had two touches, allowing Kenny Gainwell to dominate usage in the Philadelphia backfield with 14 carries for 54 yards and four catches on four targets for an additional 20 yards. Gainwell only ran 18 routes on 42 Jalen Hurts dropbacks (42.9% route participation), while Swift ran 15 routes (on 19 offensive snaps). While Gainwell did play on six third downs to Swift’s three (per PFF’s Nathan Jahnke, whose situational context will be referenced frequently throughout this article), it does seem like the latter is the preferred option in passing situations. With that being said, the Eagles will need to make a concerted effort to get him the ball for him to be fantasy-relevant; they ranked dead last in the NFL with a 12.1% RB target share in 2022. Considering Swift played almost exclusively as a pass catcher in Week 1, that needs to change very drastically for him to have any value.

The hope for Gainwell in this role is that he holds it all year and has a Miles Sanders-type season. His four targets are certainly encouraging, but sub-50% route participation offers little hope that he can continue posting that level of receiving numbers, especially with how little Philly throws to their RBs. He is a good receiver (after all, he was the Eagles’ pass-catching back last year), so he could ascend into an even greater role if the Eagles suddenly decide they don’t like Swift or if he gets hurt, but it would be pretty shocking to see Gainwell ever turn into a true every-down workhorse. However, it was also pretty shocking that he had 14 of 16 RB carries on Sunday, so maybe the Eagles really do just like him that much. Boston Scott got the lone goal-line snap, but Nick Sirianni utilized Gainwell down there somewhat regularly in 2022, so it seems unlikely that Scott is actually entrenched as the GL back.

Penny is droppable if there’s someone you want to add. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him active one of these weeks at the expense of another PHI RB — likely Scott or Swift — but a Week 1 healthy scratch for a player who was rumored to not be in the staff’s good graces throughout training camp is fairly ominous. If Penny is ever active, it’ll be interesting to see how much work he takes from Gainwell. It’s also worth monitoring throughout the week any reports on the Eagles’ backfield because this feels like a situation that could change at any given moment. However, the primary takeaway from Week 1 should be that the reports that Gainwell is the most trusted back were indubitably right, and he’s a fantasy starter in Week 2. The receiving production is likely fluky, but getting 14 carries in this offense behind an elite offensive line is RB2-worthy.

 

Bears deploy three-headed running back monster

Roschon Johnson led the Bears’ backfield with 39% of snaps and seven targets, but five of those targets came in the final 4:17 of the game with Chicago down three scores. In fact, Johnson had zero touches in the entire first half and only became a factor once the Bears were down double digits. He didn’t have a carry until Green Bay was up 24-6. It was encouraging to see him get any work given his status as a Day 3 rookie running back, but his usage can largely be thrown out considering the game script. We’ll see next week if he earned a bigger role through his performance in the opener.

Khalil Herbert started the game and got the first 1.5 drives, but D’Onta Foreman was a much larger factor than many (including me) expected after his usage in the preseason. Herbert was an absolute workhorse in the Bears’ exhibition games, playing basically every snap with the starters, while Foreman played deep into the game with backups. There was briefly even some speculation that Foreman was on the roster bubble. However, he ended up playing a fairly sizable role, notching four carries in the first half to Herbert’s six. I expect a similar split in the short term until one of the backs proves themself as the superior option or Johnson becomes more of a factor.

Foreman out-routed Herbert 15-14 and played six snaps in the 2-minute drill to Herbert’s four (per Jahnke). The Bears are one of the run-heaviest teams in the league and ranked 23rd in RB target share last year (with David Montgomery in town, who’s a more proven receiver than both Herbert and Foreman) despite a significantly worse receiving corps, so fantasy gamers shouldn’t expect much out of any of these backs in the passing game. With Herbert ceding significant rushing volume to Foreman, that basically makes him impossible to trust as a fantasy starter right now. There’s still ample time for him to establish himself as the clear RB1, but Week 1 returns were not encouraging. Expect a three-player (really two backs in Herbert and Foreman and then Johnson as the clear RB3) committee in Week 2 with the rookie potentially pushing for more work during the season.

 

Puka Nacua emerges as the Rams’ WR1 without Cooper Kupp

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