print 2010 Wrap-Up Report (And Early 2011 Preview)

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Published, 1/27/11

In this report, we’ll go division-by-division and offer up a quick wrap of the 2010 season, with a brief preview of what to expect in 2011 and beyond.   

Also See: AFC East I AFC West I AFC North I AFC South I NFC West I NFC North I NFC South

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys
QB: The Cowboys entered the 2010 season with high hopes, and there was pressure on Tony Romo to lead the team deep into the playoffs with the Super Bowl coming to Cowboys Stadium. Hopes were quickly derailed, and Romo led the team to a 1-4 start before suffering a fractured left clavicle in the Week Seven Monday night loss to the Giants. Had the Cowboys somehow gotten back into the playoff race, there was a chance Romo would return, but ultimately he was placed on IR and will be back under center next season completely healed. In his place, 38-year-old Jon Kitna played well and led the Cowboys to a 4-5 record as a starter before getting hurt and giving way to third-stringer Stephen McGee to end the season. Kitna completed 65.7% of his passes for 2,365 yards, 16 TDs, and 12 INTs, and he threw for 300 yards four times. Despite his age, he clearly has something left in the tank and remains a top backup (and great stop-gap) in the league. He efficiently used the weapons he had, and he did so despite the loss of Dez Bryant to injury and the continued lackluster play of Roy Williams. Kitna heavily utilized TE Jason Witten to sustain drives, and the Cowboys became more of a balanced offense after Jason Garrett took over as HC from the fired Wade Phillips. Kitna’s numbers were certainly helped by the fact that he had the chance to put up garbage time production. Prior to getting hurt, Romo completed 69.5% for 1,605 yards, 11 TDs, and 7 INTs, and he dealt with serious issues on the offensive line, thanks to injuries to the unit. Romo has dealt with inconsistency throughout his career, but he continues to put up numbers and take advantage of the solid weapons he has. There will be a lot of pressure to perform after such a disappointing 2010 season, but he steps back into a decent situation – especially if the line stays healthy – since he still has a top TE in Witten and one of the game’s most promising young receivers in Bryant, not to mention wideout Miles Austin.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Kitna has earned another year in Dallas, but this is still Romo’s team. How will he respond after missing 2/3 of a season because of injury?
RBs: The Cowboys refused to commit to the run game early in the season, but that changed a bit after OC Jason Garrett moved up to head coach. The commitment to a more balanced attack was a bit odd, given that Garrett was still calling the plays while Wade Phillips was in charge, but that’s how things worked out. Felix Jones stepped up as the lead back early on, while Marion Barber never really got things going and missed time late in the season because of injury. Barber is a volume runner who needs a lot of touches to get going, yet the team’s unwillingness to commit to the run rendered him ineffective, as he was never able to establish a rhythm. He ended up with just 113 carries for 374 yards (3.3 average) and 4 TDs, all of which were career lows, and he averaged less than 3 yards per carry in a game seven times. While Barber often got the official start, Jones was the team’s true #1 back all season, and he finished with 185 carries for 800 yards and a TD and 48 catches for 450 yards and a TD. He didn’t distinguish himself in short-yardage situations, so he didn’t score much and wasn’t the big-play guy fantasy owners would have hoped for. He also seemed to lose some of his speed after bulking up in the offseason. But he at least emerged as a legit lead back, and he was serviceable. While he’s not quite as explosive as he was his first 1-2 years in the league, he’s a versatile option who was a nice weapon for the offense in the screen game. But at this point it’s pretty clear he’s not likely to become a guy who carries a full rushing load, and in 2010 he ranked 25th in the league in carries. Even if Barber is gone next year, Jones will likely split carries with Tashard Choice, who has struggled to get on the field despite his success when he actually gets a chance. Choice received just 66 carries this season, although he saw a larger workload in Weeks 13-15 with Barber sidelined. During those games, Choice had 41/169/2 rushing, highlighted by 19/100/1 against the Colts in Week Thirteen. Choice may be the most complete running back the Cowboys have, and he’s a patient runner who follows his blocks and makes one cut. He’s also clearly a better goal line option than Jones and an effective receiver. It’s just been a matter of him getting on the field, which has been difficult to do given the presence of Jones and Barber and the offense’s focus on the passing game. If Choice proves that he’s trustworthy in pass protection, the Cowboys should have no problem giving him significant carries alongside Jones. If Barber’s gone, Choice’s sleeper value will increase significantly, since he’d then be a Jones injury away from handling most of the touches in this backfield.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: There’s a good chance the Cowboys will cut ties with Barber, meaning we should see a timeshare between Jones and Choice next year. Jones is clearly the lead back, but how many touches is the team willing to give him?
WRs/TEs: In training camp, rookie WR Dez Bryant was stuck paying for a $50,000 dinner after failing to carry Roy E. Williams’ shoulder pads. By midseason, it looked more like the veteran Williams should be carrying Bryant’s pads and buying the rookie dinner. Bryant battled an injury in camp and then missed the final four games with a fractured right ankle. In between, he established himself as a threat as both a receiver and as a return man. The breakout game came in Week Seven when QB Tony Romo got hurt against the Giants, as Bryant had 4/54/2 receiving and took a punt back 93 yards for a TD. His production dropped off before missing the end of the season, but with 45/561/6, he still put up better receiving number than Williams (37/530/5), and Bryant was a player who just missed making some big plays/TDs numerous times. After catching 5 TDs in Weeks Three through Six, Williams didn’t score the rest of the season and had more than 2 catches just once, and it’s certainly possible he won’t be back in Dallas next season. The real mystery of the position for the Cowboys was Miles Austin. Austin entered the season with high expectations after a breakout season in which he put up 81/1320/11. However, he didn’t quite live up to the hype and struggled catching the ball, and he just wasn’t a consistent threat in the offense. Despite the lack of consistency, he finished with 69/1041/7, good for a solid 19th in fantasy points per game. His season was disappointing, but it’s still clear that he’s a physically gifted player, and although 20/288/1 of his production came in the first two weeks, he had a solid five 100-yard games. The star of the receiving corps became TE Jason Witten, who really emerged as a consistent threat and safety valve after Jon Kitna took over at QB for the injured Romo. Witten ended up with 9 more targets and 25 more catches than Austin, who caught just 58% of his targets. Witten finished 3rd in the league in catches with 94 for 1002 yards and 9 TDs. Six of those TDs came in the final five weeks. He’s had 94 catches in each of the last two seasons, but the 9 TDs were significant improvement over just 2 TDs in 2009. Witten isn’t exactly a dynamic TE, but he’s a reliable target and had three games with 10 catches, including 10/140/1 against Washington in Week Fifteen. Backup TE Martellus Bennett was never much of a factor, but his 33 catches were just four fewer than Williams and were a dramatic improvement on his horrendous 2009 campaign (15/159/0).
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: There’s a good chance that the Cowboys cut ties with Williams. Now the team just needs to see if Bryant – who was the subject of unfounded trade rumors in January – can return from a broken ankle without losing a step. Also, it would help if Austin becomes a bit more reliable.
Key Free Agents: WR Sam Hurd, OT Doug Free, G Kyle Kosier, OT Alex Barron, DE Marcus Spears, DE Stephen Bowen, S Alan Ball, S Gerald Sensabaugh
New York Giants
QB: With Eli Manning coming off his best statistical year in 2009, expectations were high for the 2010 season, especially with a receiving corps that boasted talents like Hakeem Nicks, Steven Smith, and Mario Manningham. The reality was that 2010 was a very uneven season for Manning and the Giants, culminating in the team falling short of the playoffs, despite a very promising start to the season. Early on, there seemed to be questions about the identity of the offense, with Manning and the passing game carrying the team, despite their OL issues stemming from protection problems and multiple injuries. The OL improved and the offense balanced out, which made the Giants a very dangerous offense. At his best, Manning hovered around the elite level, thanks to his ability to eat up the blitz and get rid of the ball quickly because he knew where his talented receivers would be. Unfortunately, those great receivers wouldn’t be on the field very often in the second half of the season due to a myriad of injuries. Nicks, who became the team’s top target, missed three games because of a rare leg issue and a broken toe. Manning’s most trusted receiver Smith was limited to just nine games due to a pectoral injury and microfracture knee surgery, which cut his season short after Week Fourteen. While Manningham did step up with the top two options going down, it was still too much for Manning to overcome, and by the end of the season, he was forcing throws and ended up being way too inaccurate. It was obvious he was trying to do too much. Manning finished the season 9th in completion percentage (339/539, 62.9%), 5th in yards (4002), 4th in TDs (31), and 10th in FPG (20.7), but he’ll probably be remembered only for his league-high 25 INTs. When he was playing at his highest level, Manning showed just how dangerous he could be with protection and his great receivers, but when the OL had issues and his receivers went down, he did struggle. There’s no doubt he’s a legit fantasy starter and can be a very good starter, but he’s still at least a rung below the best QBs in the league. But getting all his receiver back at 100% in 2011 would go a long way toward Manning reaching that elite level.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Can Manning cut down on the picks and have a season without so many ups and downs?
RBs: The Giants installed Ahmad Bradshaw as their new lead back in the preseason, a move that wasn’t really surprising to anyone except maybe Brandon Jacobs, who predictably reacted like a child and let the emotions get the best of him multiple times early in the season. Meanwhile, Bradshaw relished his new, expanded role in the offense by running for 708 yards in the first seven games, despite dealing with ankle issues and getting little help from FB Madison Hedgecock and the Giant OL. His great vision and acceleration made the line look better than it actually was and allowed him to overcome their deficiencies, similar to how Adrian Peterson did for the Vikings, although Minnesota’s line wasn’t nearly as good as New York’s. Unfortunately, like Peterson in 2009, Bradshaw had serious ball security issues. He fumbled four times in those first seven games and finished with seven on the season. After putting the ball on the ground in a key situation against the Eagles in Week Eleven, his second fumble in as many weeks, Bradshaw was yanked out of the starting lineup in favor of Jacobs and wouldn’t start again until Week Seventeen. The move might have been a blessing in disguise for both players. Jacobs looked fresher and more motivated after getting his old job back, although it should be noted that he had fewer carries than Bradshaw during the five-game stretch he started from Weeks Twelve through Sixteen. Despite being a bigger back, Jacobs doesn’t run as hard as Bradshaw and no longer runs through contact the way he did just a few seasons ago. Jacobs’ role became that of a bigger load who’s tough to tackle in short-yardage situations, which often led to TDs near the goal line. With Bradshaw still getting the majority of the carries, Jacobs wasn’t as worn down in the second half of the season and that allowed him to find creases and made it easier for him to get to the second level. After the demotion, Bradshaw still had two games with 97 yards or more, including a season-high 25 carries for 103/1 against the Vikings in Week Fourteen. Unlike Jacobs, Bradshaw can stay involved no matter what the game situation because he’s able to create yardage as a runner when nothing is there, and he’s a good receiver. The team discussed using D.J. Ware more after Bradshaw’s fumbling problems, since Ware has some size and receiving ability, but Ware only ran it 20 times for 73 yards on the season while chipping in 7/67 as a receiver. Bradshaw ended up finishing with career highs in carries (276), rushing yards (163), TDs (8), and receiving numbers (47/314), which placed him 14th among RBs at 12.7 FPG. Even though Jacobs finished with fewer yards in 2010 (823) than he did in 2009 (835), he did it on 77 fewer carries, which raised his YPC from 3.7 to a career-high 5.6. He also had his second-best season in terms of TDs with 9 and played in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season. By the end of the season, the Giants seemed to have figured out the proper balance between the two, but with Bradshaw being a free agent and Jacobs being owed a nice chunk of change in 2011, there may be some changes for this backfield next season.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Considering Bradshaw is only 24, what kind of deal will the Giants be willing to give him, and will they keep Jacobs around?
WRs/TEs: In 2009, the biggest question about the Giant offense centered on the uncertainty at WR. After the great seasons had by Steven Smith and then-rookie Hakeem Nicks, along with the rise of Mario Manningham, it became apparent this was one of the best young receiving corps in the league and would be one to watch in 2010. While Smith was coming off a 100+-catch season and a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2009, it was Nicks who emerged the team’s top WR early in 2010, although that really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, since his physical attributes are those of a #1 WR while Smith is more of a #2 or slot guy. Nicks would score eight times and went over 100 yards four times in the first eight games. His season took a bad turn when it was discovered he had a rare leg condition called compartmental disorder, which ended up costing him two games in Weeks Twelve and Thirteen. He was able to return, but a broken toe in Week Sixteen ended his season early. Smith had an even worse season when it came to injuries, missing four games for a pectoral issue from Weeks Ten through Thirteen. He’d return in Week Fourteen only to injure his knee, and he missed the rest of the season after undergoing microfracture surgery. With Nicks and Smith missing a combined 10 games, Manningham was asked to step up and, for the most part, he did. Manningham has always been thought of as a big-play guy who lacks fundamentals but still seems to find ways to get open. When Smith and Nicks missed time, Manningham was a viable fantasy starter and ended the season with three straight 100-yard games. Despite missing three games, Nicks finished with 79/1052/11 on 126 targets (13th among WRs). He caught 62.7% of passes thrown his way and finished as the top WR in FPG (13.2). Smith ended up playing in just nine games, hauling in 48/529/3 on 75 targets (64% caught) and finishing 34th with 7.9 FPG. Manningham ended up as the team’s second-most productive receiver, with 60/944/9 on 92 targets (65.2% caught) in 16 games, which was good for 9.3 FPG (26th). TE Kevin Boss was used mostly as a blocker early in the season but stepped up when the receivers were hurt as a chain-mover and red-zone/TD threat who was able to take advantage of beatable matchups. In 15 games, he ended up with a very respectable 35/531/5 (15.2 YPC) on 70 targets, which put him at 5.5 FPG. Boss had a scope on his hip after the season, which he said went very well. Smith’s surgery has put his future in doubt, especially since he’s a free agent. That could be why the Giants have said they’d think about bringing Plaxico Burress back once he’s released from prison later this year.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: The uncertainty of Smith returning from a serious surgery and how that will affect his free agency and status with the team.
Key Free Agents: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB D.J. Ware, WR Steven Smith, WR Derek Hagan TE Kevin Boss, S Deon Grant, LB Keith Bulluck DT Barry Cofield, and DE Mathias Kiwanuka.
Philadelphia Eagles
QB: To say this season didn’t work out as expected for the Eagles would be an understatement. But to say it didn’t work out at all would be flat-out wrong. Head coach Andy Reid’s decision to turn the reins of his franchise over to Michael Vick after anointed starter Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion in Week One was clearly the right one. Vick led the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a surprising division crown, finishing the 2010 season as a fantasy demigod and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In 12 games of action, Vick threw for 3018 yards on 233/372 passing (62.6%, easily a career high) with 21 TDs against 6 INTs. But what was more impressive – and extremely helpful for fantasy – was his running ability. Vick carried 99 times for 676 yards and 9 TDs, meaning he would have been a useful fantasy running back even if you discounted all his passing stats. In all, his 29.7 FPG led the NFL, and should he return as the Eagles’ starter (as we fully expect), he could easily be a top-five pick in 2011. But by the end of the season, Vick started to look human, and reverted to some of his old tendencies from his Atlanta days. Opposing defenses consistently brought the heat at Vick, attempting to force him to his more uncomfortable right side, limiting his ability to throw the ball on the run. Over the second half of the year, Vick was overreacting to pressure and sometimes not recognizing the blitz, often taking off when he didn’t need to or throwing the ball into a bad spot. But he still made spectacular individual plays that threw fantasy owners into an absolute frenzy, and with a full off-season of starter’s reps, he could certainly improve his overall awareness and continue to make strides as a progression passer (of course, whether there will be an off-season at all is a question). Vick’s old problems did show up at the worst possible time for the Eagles, and the fact that he took at least one or two clean, hard shots in every game he played, and how he missed four games with injury, cannot be overlooked. With Vick’s free agency looming, the Eagles have a decision to make. But what’s kind of funny for the Eagles now is that it can be argued that they have two QBs better than Donovan McNabb, whom they shipped off to Washington in a much-ballyhooed deal on Easter Sunday. When given the chance, Kolb played pretty damn well himself. Of course, given that Kolb had started all of two NFL games entering the season his learning curve was to be expected. He still managed to finish 115/189 (60.8%) for 1197 yards with 7 TDs against 7 INTs in seven games, including 5 starts (13.5 FPG). Kolb had an unsettling tendency to overreact to pressure and backpedal in the pocket, which is not good news for a QB who has just above-average mobility and lacks a cannon arm. But we liked what we saw of Kolb, for the most part, and we believe he has a future as a solid starter in an efficient West Coast attack once he’s able to get the reps needed to play at his best as a starter (a full season would be nice). As the season progressed, he showed he can read coverage, he was comfortable in the pocket, and he actually made some very good throws that were incomplete or dropped. He also made decisive throws into tight windows, and that's a big positive. The issue with Kolb will remain arm strength and how he perceives pressure and plays a little too fast. But is his future in Philadelphia? Right now, that is in question. We’re sure the Eagles would love to have him back, but Kolb wants to start, and there’s clearly a market for him, so Philly could get a substantial offer for him.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will the Eagles trade Kolb, or are they worried about Vick’s long-term viability?
RBs: Running backs aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of an Andy Reid coached Eagle team, but LeSean McCoy did a heck of a lot to change that perception this year. He became a legitimate big-play threat at the position, giving the Eagles at least one home-run hitter at every single skill position (obviously, including QB). McCoy had an incredible fantasy season, rushing for 1080 yards and 7 TDs, while adding a league-high 78 receptions at his position for 592 yards and 2 more TDs. While McCoy played well no matter who was under center, there was clearly an advantage to having Michael Vick back there, as McCoy could run college-style plays out of the shotgun, utilizing his speed and elusiveness. McCoy's a special player who got every yard for the taking on the field this year, but ultimately he's going to be a function of the Eagles' gameplan, which can limit him at times. Yet it's a testament to his improvement that the coaches left him out there in pass protection situations, where he struggled last year. That means the Eagles barely used back-up RB Mike Bell early in the season (they added Bell to be a sustaining short-yardage element), and were comfortable trading Bell to the Browns before the deadline for Jerome Harrison. Harrison played very well in spurts, but he didn’t get a significant number of touches because McCoy was so effective and the Eagle run game was basically an afterthought for a good part of the season. After joining the team midseason, Harrison carried the ball just 38 times, 21 of them coming with McCoy resting in Week Seventeen. But he was effective nonetheless, with 233 yards and a TD on those 38 carries. He’s a free agent, and although he may be looking for a bigger role in 2011, the Eagles would probably like to have him back. With Vick under center, the Eagles don’t really run a whole lot of traditional run plays, which really quells the need for the prototypical “short-yardage back.”
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Will the Eagles re-sign Harrison, who is similar to McCoy, or will they attempt to add another big back, as it appears that FB Leonard Weaver’s career may be over?
WRs/TEs: The Eagles entered 2010 with a lot of promise at their WR position and, for the most part, they followed through. Of course, with Michael Vick throwing the football, it was in a different form than we had expected (lots of long-range plays, as opposed to the more short-to-intermediate game of Kevin Kolb). While the deep-throw nature of the Eagle passing offense really helps to utilize the skills of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, it did leave the Eagles as a big-play-or-bust offense, which has been an issue for them for quite some time and was one of the reasons they wanted to get rid of Donovan McNabb in the first place. Yes, Jackson was arguably his most effective ever this season, averaging a ridiculous 22.5 YPC. But he caught only 47 balls, and just over 50% of his 93 targets. Jackson finished with 1056 yards and 6 TDs in 14 games, and he was still among the NFL’s most dangerous return men when utilized. Heck, he’s the most dynamically explosive receiver in the NFL, bar none. But with eight games with 3 catches or fewer, he was really inconsistent, and the Eagles need to find a way to keep him involved. That wasn’t typically the case for Maclin, who combines a decent bit of Jackson’s explosiveness with better size and more traits of a possession receiver. Maclin finished his second year as a very effective #2 fantasy receiver, finishing with a 70/968/10 line, catching 62.5% of his 112 targets. Maclin had at least 4 catches in 12 of his 15 games this year, not including Week Seventeen, when he played only one series. Obviously, a contract situation will loom for Jackson, but with the two of these young receivers, the Eagles have the most naturally explosive pair of WRs in the game. They supplement them with slot guy Jason Avant (51/573/1, 70.8%), an underrated player with (usually) good hands, and rookie Riley Cooper (7/116/1). Cooper saw limited action as a rookie, but he has good size and could well contribute in the near future. The biggest disappointment outside of Jackson’s consistency, were the “contributions” of TE Brent Celek, who had a huge year in 2009 only to falter this season. We had Celek pegged as a borderline elite receiving TE, but offensive line struggles and the tendency of Vick to throw the ball outside the numbers limited Celek’s involvement. After catching 76 balls last year, Celek dropped to a mediocre 42/511/4 (catching just 54.5% of his targets, really low for a TE) line and just 5.4 FPG, so getting him more involved in 2011 could really help the Eagle offense sustain more drives.
  • Fantasy situation to watch for 2011: Jackson has made some interesting posts on Twitter and comments to the media about his contract. Will the Eagles extend him, or will he make it a problem? Also, Cooper looked as if he could emerge as an occasional playmaker. At the TE position, will the Eagles look to get Celek more involved, especially if they upgrade the offensive line?
Key Free Agents: QB Michael Vick, RB Jerome Harrison, OL Nick Cole, OL Max Jean-Gilles, LB Ernie Sims, LB Stewart Bradley, CB Dimitri Patterson, S Quintin Mikell, K David Akers, P Sav Rocca
Washington Redskins
QBs: When the Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb, it was the Eagles that were getting a ton of criticism for trading their starting QB within their own division. By the end of the season, no one was questioning the move. McNabb had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2010, thanks to the perfect storm of problems that never seemed to improve. The Redskin OL, which had struggled for the last two seasons, was expected to be better with the additions of RT Jammal Brown and LT Trent Williams, yet they still gave up the 5th- most sacks (46). Washington’s lack of weapons didn’t help McNabb much, either, despite getting a career-year from WR Santana Moss and a bounce-back effort from TE Chris Cooley. Washington’s offense looked similar to the Eagle offense McNabb ran in 2009, which was, essentially, big plays or nothing. McNabb did make some good deep throws, but when the fairly pedestrian Anthony Armstrong is the designated deep threat, you can’t expect much. While it’s easy to point out all the issues that were out of McNabb’s control, his play was not very good, either. His shoddy mechanics led to inaccurate throws and inconsistent play, as usual. More than ever, McNabb was a complete week-to-week player and was never a must-start for fantasy purposes. He had some decent games, but garbage-time production often masked his shaky play. Hamstring issues seemed to bother him for much of the season, but his “cardiovascular endurance” or lack thereof is what got him pulled in favor of Rex Grossman in late in a Week Eight contest. That was the first hint of Mike Shanahan’s lack of trust in McNabb, but it ended up turning into a full-blown controversy when Grossman was named the starter for the final three games of the season. In Grossman’s first game, he threw for 322/4 and 2 picks, but was much more inaccurate and mistake-prone in the next two games, showing that he’s still very much a gunslinger in the most negative connotation of the word. McNabb and his agent have expressed their disappointment with how this situation was handled, and despite a monster contract signed during the season, it doesn’t look like there’s any way he’ll be back with the team. In 13 games, McNabb completed 275/472 (58.3%) for 3377 yards (worst since ’07), 14 TDs (lowest ever), 15 INTs (most ever), and averaged 18.5 FPG. In four games (three starts), Grossman was 74/133 (55.6%) for 884 yards, 7 TDs, and 4 INTs, good for 18.2 FPG. While we don’t expect McNabb back, Grossman’s status is also up in the air as a free agent. Since the end of 2009, the Redskins have started three different players at QB, yet we have no idea who’ll be under center for them in 2011.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Who is playing QB for this team?
RBs: The Redskins came into 2011 with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker vying for the starting job. By the end of the year, Johnson and Parker were off the team and Portis was on the IR after playing in just five games. The name that emerged as the most significant fantasy performer was Ryan Torain, who missed the entire 2009 season and started the year on the team’s practice squad. HC Mike Shanahan drafted Torain when he coached the Broncos in 2008, so it shouldn’t have been that surprising to see him go back to a familiar player. Torain made his first appearance in Week Three and took the starting job from Portis in Week Five, but a hamstring injury cost him four games from Weeks Ten to Thirteen. Torain would resume his duties as the starter in Week Fourteen and finished the season as the team’s lead back. He isn't an exceptionally gifted back, and a decent defensive performance can really neutralize him, but he's a bruiser and a sustaining runner, so as long as the Redskins were in the game, he got carries and had a chance to gain yardage. He's not a special player in any way, but he does have the ability to run with power, and he did show he can make some plays as a receiver. When Torain was down, we saw Keiland Williams get three starts and he did an admirable job. Williams showed both power and versatility as a decent pass blocker and solid receiver. However, he definitely slowed down with the bigger workload and became more of a plodder. When Torain returned, Williams essentially handled the role of the team’s 3rd-down back. With Portis turning 30 and scheduled to make $8.2 million in 2011, the veteran is not expected back, not that he should be after running for 227 yards and 2 TDs on 54 carries in just five games. Torain played in ten games and finished with 742 yards on 164 carries (4.5 YPC) and 4 rushing TDs while adding 18/125/2 as a receiver, which was good for 12.3 FPG (17th at RB). Williams had 65 carries in 14 games, rushing for 261/3 and added 39/309/2 as a receiver, which put him at 6.2 FPG. Considering Torain is only 24 and has played in just 12 career games, he certainly has a chance to hold down the starting job in 2011 – assuming they don’t use an early draft pick on a RB.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Will Ryan Torain actually stick as the starter, or will this backfield continue to be a fantasy headache?
WRs/TEs: Outside of WR Santana Moss and TE Chris Cooley, the Redskin receiving corps saw names like Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong, Roydell Williams, Malcolm Kelly, and Devin Thomas getting looks in the preseason. Galloway and Thomas ended up falling off the roster and only Armstrong played a significant role during the regular season. Despite the inconsistent play of QB Donovan McNabb, Moss bounced back from a very forgettable 2009 with a great 2010 season. He was the only consistent WR threat and quickly got comfortable in this offense. Moss was able to produce in spite of McNabb’s shaky performances because his ability to find soft zones in coverage, which gave McNabb an open target capable of getting YAC, yet it was apparent that he was no longer a deep threat. Moss did have some knee issues late in the season but still started all 16 games. Cooley was noticeably slower in 2010, possibly a result of the broken ankle he suffered halfway through the 2009 season. He had a variety of injuries (concussion, back, ankle, foot), but watching him play makes you wonder if his cleats are made of stone. He is merely a possession receiver who makes all his plays in the short and intermediate area. Obviously, that's worked out well as a PPR guy, but he's not picking up a lot of YAC these days. He doesn't really have the speed anymore to attack the seams aggressively, but he is as safe an option as they come. Cooley may have lost a step or three, but he was one of the most consistent producers at a position that was brutal for fantasy purposes in 2010. Armstrong was used almost exclusively as a deep threat, which basically made him a one-trick pony. Because he was an all-or-nothing guy, it made him tough to trust, especially with McNabb’s inconsistencies. He's a really tough guy to get a read on because he's a big-play-or-bust receiver, for the most part, kind of like Robert Meachem of the Saints. Armstrong saw time in 15 games, starting 11 times, and finished with 44/871/5 (19.8 YPC) on 82 targets (53.7% caught), which was good for 7 FPG (46th among WRs). His 2010 season was promising enough that he should be monitored closely in 2011. Moss had a career-high 93 receptions for 1115 yards and 6 TD on 143 targets (team leader, 5th-most among WR), catching 65% of his passes, and averaged 9.2 FPG (27th among WRs). Cooley fought his way through injury to play in all 16 games, grabbing 77/849/3 on 124 targets (2nd on team, 2nd among TEs), catching 62.1% of those targets, which was good for the 13th most FPG (6.4). Fred Davis, who stepped in when Cooley was injured in 2009, played in just 13 games this season, putting up 21/316/3 on 31 targets. Outside of Moss and Cooley, this is a very thin receiving corps that desperately needs some help, especially since those guys are approaching the back-ends of their careers.
  • Fantasy situation to watch in 2011: Santana Moss had one of his best years and Chris Cooley was solid but is slowing down. How will they address this extremely thin receiving corps?




Key Free Agents: QB Rex Grossman, FB Mike Sellers, RT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, DEKedric Golston

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