Here at Full10Yards HQ, we’ll be putting a few key performances under the microscope each week, digging into the numbers and trying to spot any trends in the stats. In this first of our forensic forays, we examine whether a much-maligned running back is getting back on track, unpick an almost faultless display of quarterbacking and look at how the favourite for Defensive Rookie of the Year fared on his first NFL outing.
David Johnson: running back to the future?
With the Chiefs easing past the Texans 34-20, we’re kicking off with a running back… but shock, horror, it isn’t Kansas newbie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With 138 yards and a TD, his was an inspiring performance for sure, but let’s throw an early curveball and switch our attention to another debutant in the season curtain-raiser: David Johnson.
With Houston looking lost for much of the game, Johnson was one of their few high points. Regardless of what you think of the non-sensical offseason deal that saw All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins swapped for Johnson and a second-rounder (Round 4 draft picks were also traded), all Johnson can do is try his best. And to his credit, he made a pretty decent fist of it first time out.
He hasn’t quite been the same since dislocating his wrist in Arizona’s Week 1 game against Detroit in 2017, which forced him out for the entire season, but on Thursday, there were flashbacks to 2016 – Johnson’s breakout year – with some nimble jumps, sharp cuts and nifty turns of speed. Speaking as someone who left the 28-year-old on his fantasy team bench last week, these glimpses of his old self were a bit of a surprise as he finished with 11 carries for 77 yards; those 7.0 yards per carry exceeds his career average (4.0 yards) by some distance. He also capped a nine-play, 80-yard opening drive with a jinking run to register the first TD of this much-anticipated season.
Ten minutes into Q1, he took a hand-off from Deshaun Watson and weaved 19 yards – a yard longer than his longest rush of any kind last year – across to the right sideline, with most of the Kansas defence in hot pursuit, before (just about) breaking the plane. The scoring run was Johnson’s best since 2016, when he led the NFL with 2,118 total yards, and the six-year pro proved he still has some juice by hitting 19.96 mph. That was the second-fastest run of the day, according to NFL Next Gen Stats – even quicker than anything The Cheetah himself, Tyreek Hill, could muster.
Johnson’s pass-catching skills were also on show, with his three catches from four targets for 32 yards giving an average of just over the full 10 yards per completion (other websites are available). In fact, his 10.7 yards per carry exactly matches his career average to date.
Extrapolating his 109 total yards across the season, he’s on course for a 1,744-yard year – besting 2019’s 715 yards by more than 1,000 and second only to that epic 2,000-yarder in 2016.
After a decent start in 2019, he registered 10 total yards or fewer in four of his last six games so this was his first 100+ yard game since Week 6 of last year. Let’s not make any bold predictions quite yet but Johnson looked more like the guy who ran for 1,200 yards four years ago than the one with just 345 last season.
In the desert, Kenyan Drake eventually superseded him but with the Texans, Johnson is top dog (especially as his comrade-in-arms and namesake, Duke Johnson, left the field with a leg injury). As the all-purpose back settles in and gets more touches, we’ll be keeping our #EyesPeeled to see if he enjoys a bit of a renaissance and takes some of the sting out of that head-scratching trade.
Russell Wilson – cooking on gas
Turning our attention to the Seahawks’ 38-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it’s impossible to look past the Russell Wilson show. His bid for this year’s MVP crown got off to a flier, as he went 31 of 35 (88.7% completion) for 322 yards, with four TDs and no interceptions. On top of that, his 29 rushing yards meant that he’s now surpassed 30,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards, joining Steve Young as the only other quarterback to achieve both.
The striking thing about DangeRuss’ performance is that, if you ignore his passes to second-year receiver DK Metcalf (with a success rate of four from eight), the mercurial quarterback had a perfect game (going 27 of 27). Even so, Metcalf caught a 38-yard TD pass in the third quarter – Wilson’s longest completion of the night – so even that partnership was fruitful. With that particular score, they went for it on 4th-and-5 from the Falcons 38-yard line rather than punt or kick an FG, and their courage was repaid with six points, Wilson giving No.14 a simple catch as he drifted past cornerback Isiah Oliver.
Averaging 9.2 yards per attempt, there was little the Falcons could do to slow Wilson down. He made the right throw almost every single time and spread the ball around his troops, keeping a sub-par Atlanta secondary guessing – usually incorrectly. Wilson completed passes to nine different players, including Metcalf (four catches, 95 yards), Tyler Lockett (eight catches, 92 yards), Chris Carson (2 TDs on six catches) and new tight end Greg Olsen (four catches, 24 yards and a TD).
There are less generous opponents lying in wait but while the windows of opportunity were flung wide open by the Falcons secondary, it was rude not to take advantage and Let Russ Cook, as fans in the Pacific Northwest have been baying for. The Seahawks have now won four straight regular season games where they conceded at least 500 total yards (Atlanta racked up 506 to Seattle’s 383) and Wilson’s performance, which earned him a staggering passer rating of 143.1, was the real difference here.
Having the option to ditch the run game – which the Seahawks never do – is great on days like this when your RBs only post 55 net yards on the ground but don’t expect it to become the new normal. In the late game this Sunday, as Seattle host the Cam Newton-led Patriots, we’re expecting an attritional ground game and a much more balanced offence. We’ll see.
Chase Young – the beast will feast
When 17-0 down and seemingly on the ropes against the Eagles on Sunday night, Washington apparently dropped to a 7% chance of winning. But win they did – 27-17 – in their first outing as the Washington Football Team, thanks in large part to their defence taking advantage of a weak offensive line. The WFT sacked quarterback Carson Wentz eight times and forced three turnovers to flip the momentum of the game, giving Washington its first Week 1 win since 2014.
Veteran Ryan Kerrigan led the pass rush with two sacks and now tops the franchise’s all-time list, but Chase Young wasn’t far behind him with 1.5 sacks, a QB hit, a forced fumble and four tackles on his NFL debut. In what was arguably the best rookie performance of the day, his first career sack came just 12 minutes in.
The second overall draft pick carried on where he left off in 2019, when he was credited with 16.5 sacks at Ohio State, by felling Wentz on a 3rd-and-5 right with the Eagles up by 7. Our boy No.99 (at the top of the screen in the clip above) spun off a block from the running back, then stepped inside left tackle Jason Peters to get to his target and haul him down by the ankle. More impressively still, Young still had the presence of mind to reach up and punch the ball out of Wentz’s grip, although the Eagles did manage to recover possession.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Young pushed Peters back far enough to turn and help to sack the Eagles QB. Wentz lost the ball again, and Kerrigan grabbed it to secure a home victory.
Despite the plaudits, Young’s debut did have a wobbly start. Facing his first third down, with the Eagles deep in opposition territory – the sort of situation he was brought in to handle – Young jump-started and earned Philly a free first down. But his performance from then on more than made up for it. Be sure of one thing: the defensive line is the Football Team’s strength and Chase Young is going to be its star.
With Wentz getting clattered with alarming frequency, NBC Sports analyst Barrett Brooks compared Washington’s defensive front to sharks smelling blood from miles away. If this game is anything to go by, Ron Rivera’s outfit could be involved in some scrappy affairs. It might not be pretty but they’ll happily take their chances if Chase Young et al get more feeding frenzies like this.