Gearing Up for Playoff Races
We blinked, and all of a sudden it’s Week 15, fantasy playoffs, and soon NFL playoffs. Before we head into Week 15 battle, Matt Harmon and James Koh are here to break down all the good and bad Week 14 storylines on this week’s episode of Reception Perception: The Show.
Dallas Sign T.Y. Hilton
In a move that pretty well ensures that Odell Beckham Jr. won’t be signing with Dallas for the remainder of this season, the Cowboys added former Colts wideout, T.Y. Hilton. Dallas felt the need to add wide receiver depth, something fans and the media have been calling to happen since before the season started all those many moons ago.
Matt and James mention Michael Gallup returning to the lineup and continuing to get stronger week in and week out. Noah Brown has done fine in his role for the Cowboys this season. Rookie Jalen Tolbert, if he even actually exists, can’t seem to get on the field. Dalton Shultz, though he battled with some injuries earlier this year, is coming on at just the right time.
Do you guys ever talk back to podcast hosts while you’re listening to them? Because I was screaming “JAMES WASHINGTON IS FINALLY HEALTHY” during this segment.
In theory, OBJ would have elevated this pass-catching corps. But in reality, we haven’t seen anything from Beckham since his injury to close last season. There has been a ton of Beckham chatter over the last several weeks. Just the same no-news over and over again.
There are clearly concerns about Beckham’s medicals, that he won’t be ready to go until postseason play starts. Matt makes an incredible point about signing a contract with OBJ “sight unseen” though. Like, we can’t even get a route in shorts and a t-shirt on an Instagram Reel.
Beckham has said “I don’t need to play in the regular season” but Matt and James vehemently disagree. It takes time to acclimate yourself to a new offense. We saw it last year with the Rams. It took OBJ a few weeks to be fully integrated into that offense.
Deebo Samuel Avoids Major Injury
Everyone watching the 49ers face off against the Buccaneers on Sunday collectively held their breath when Deebo Samuel came up limp after a run in the 2nd quarter of the game. Twitter caught fire with concerns ranging from a torn ACL to a torn achilles to a really bad high ankle sprain, we just knew it didn’t look good for the San Francisco wideout.
However, it was good news that was delivered to 49ers fans and fantasy football players on Monday when it was announced that Samuel sprained his MCL and had a low ankle sprain. HC Kyle Shanahan said it would be “three-ish” weeks before the return of Samuel.
James asked Matt what his thoughts were on Samuel for the remainder of this season, as well as moving forward to 2023. Matt wouldn’t be surprised and thinks it’s the right move if Samuel is held out for the remainder of the regular 2022 season. It would give him time to heal a little more should he be needed to make a playoff run in the postseason.
As for looking forward to the 2023 season, both guys agree that 2021 Deebo Samuel is permanently in the rearview mirror. It was always going to be hard to replicate the hyper-efficiency from last season. James says “it’s definitely fair to say he didn’t build on his 2021 campaign.
It’s easy to see why Samuel met the dreaded regression this season. Matt nods to the injuries George Kittle dealt with last season, Brandon Aiyuk being in the doghouse, and the lack of Christian McCaffrey as reasons why Samuel was able to put up the season he did in 2021. He has fewer splash plays this season because he’s surrounded by more weapons.
One thing these guys don’t want to see anymore is Deebo Samuel run up the middle. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has gone on record saying the same thing.
Kyle Shanahan Gets His Flowers
James acknowledged that Kyle Shanahan isn’t without faults, but what Shanahan does well is put his players in a position to succeed. See: the gap scheme they’re running McCaffrey in.
In particular, Shanahan finds success in quarterbacks. Matt points to this season’s Quarterback Coach Brian Griese for helping with the development of quarterbacks in San Fransico. In his opinion, Jimmy Garappolo has played some of his best football this season under Shanahan and Griese.
Then there’s Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant. Who, on Sunday, came out and dismantled the Tampa Bay defense. So much so that not only was he pulled from the game in the 4th quarter to stay healthy but the game was also pulled from television after it was comfortably put away.
Is It The Beginning of the End for Tom Brady?
The guys get the excuses out of the way quickly and early for this question. Yes, the Buccaneers are dealing with some injuries to the offensive line. Yes, the run game is not good. Yes, they just played probably the best defense in the NFL.
Knowing all of that, James asks Matt: “Is Tom Brady done?” He looked bad against the 49ers, but he hasn’t looked himself for several weeks now. Matt said this is the first time this season that he’s watched Tom Brady and thought “YIKES” (I’m paraphrasing there.)
Brady’s EPA/dropback ranks 21st in the NFL and is worse than Marcus Mariota’s. His Adjusted Yards/attempts is good for 25th in the NFL, that’s worse than Mac Jones and Taylor Heinicke. Matt thinks a lot of factors play into that. Namely, how conservative play calling is behind Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich.
One thing for certain, Tom Brady does not want to get hit. He’s getting the ball out at breakneck speed but there seems to be some miscommunication between him and his pass catchers. It’s even escalated to seeing him and Mike Evans butt heads.
Matt says it’s giving 2015 Peyton Manning but James doesn’t think there’s an issue with arm strength so much as Brady’s accuracy is just off. Brady’s passer rating of 88.9 this season is his lowest passer rating since 2013.
The Lions Offense is #Good
Jared Goff has been playing well in the last five-game stretch, in that same stretch, their only loss was to the Bills. You know, the Super Bowl-contending Bills, and they took that team down to the wire. Over those last five games, Goff is completing 69% (nice) of his passes. He’s thrown 8 touchdowns and no interception in that span, as well.
Matt and James think the wide receiver corps isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. They talked about second-year star Amon-Ra St. Brown last week as a wideout that’s knocking at the door of superstardom.
DJ Chark is healthy, first-round draft pick Jameson Williams is finally healthy and playing, the offensive line is one of the best units in the NFL, and the running back by committee approach is working gloriously. Most importantly, their offensive coordinator is Ben Johnson.
Matt warns Lions fans to be prepared to see Johnson leave for a head coaching position sooner rather than later.
Has Tua Been Exposed?
This is the second straight week that Tua Tagovailoa has struggled, first against a stout 49ers defense and most recently against a much less stout Chargers defense. Last week, on this podcast, James caped for Tagovailoa. But after struggling with a bad AND depleted Chargers defense, he has to ask Matt: “Has Tua been exposed?”
Exposed isn’t the word Matt would use, but he does mention that at one point during Sunday Night Football Tagovailoa was 3-for17, “that’s about as ghastly as you can get.”
No one has seen a higher percentage of zone coverage on dropbacks than Tagovailoa this season. The 49ers came in with a different game plan, playing press-man coverage. Matt points out that doing so is going to get them beat occasionally, especially by a burner like Tyreek Hill. Sure, it’s embarrassing in the film room after the game but it throws the timing off.
The Chargers took the 49ers’ game plan and implemented it for their matchup. A much lesser defense that was out three of its starters was able to keep Tagovailoa corralled.
Matt wouldn’t say “exposed” but he thinks HC Mike McDaniel and company need to figure out a counterattack. They have to find a way to combat defenses playing man coverage. Tagovailoa’s anticipation and timing are strengths of his, both are being affected by the man coverage defense.