Thu Dec 2 6:52pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) carries for a touchdown against Houston Texans free safety Eric Murray (23) in the second half of an NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Smith)
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) carries for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Zach Wilson's return from a four-game absence finished on the right foot.
Cleaning up his footwork is the next step for the New York Jets rookie quarterback.
And it's a not-so-simple task for a player who was known for pulling off off-balance throws in college at BYU, but might need to rein things in a bit in the NFL as he adjusts to the speed and talent of the game at this level.
''It's always a challenge, right?'' Wilson said Thursday. ''And I think the challenge is really finding the balance between being a robotic, very, like, paper quarterback and everything happens exactly like this. But things happen in games, guys get disrupted, timing gets off, the pocket moves. It's finding the balance of how can I stay within the timing of the play? And then also still having good footwork and being able to go through my progressions.
''That's what I'm really trying to work on is just how can I smoothly get through just my process?''
Wilson had a subpar first half last Sunday at Houston, going just 6 of 12 for 44 yards and an interception as the Jets fell behind. But he looked a lot more comfortable in the final two quarters, completing eight of 12 passes for 101 yards to go along with a go-ahead touchdown run in the 21-14 victory.
''Like a 22-year-old who hasn't played in a month,'' offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said of how Wilson looked. ''I think just him getting back was going to be just huge, in terms of obviously just his development. Went out there as an offense, didn't start the way that we wanted to, obviously.
''But what I loved was he settled down, he settled in, our offense settled in and he made better decisions to put our offense in the best chance to win a football game and that's what we did.''
One thing that has popped up throughout his rookie season showed up again in Houston: happy feet. It's a product of inexperience, the pocket closing down and Wilson - not unlike most rookie quarterbacks - feeling the need to get out of danger and make a play.
It's what he did at BYU. But he can't always get away with that in the NFL.
''The big thing with Zach, and you'll see it a lot with young quarterbacks, they get to No. 1 in progression and they're usually waiting because they're used to having time in the pocket from where they've come from,'' coach Robert Saleh said. ''In this league, you've got to be able to say `no' faster, which will come in time.
''The second part is just consistency and footwork. In this game, your footwork has to be so consistent.''
The blueprint for what the Jets want Wilson to do was evident in how the offense perked up during his absence, becoming an efficient unit that consistently moved up and down the field under Mike White, Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco.
For two quarters last Sunday, it appeared it was reverting with Wilson back. He missed short throws, his footwork was off and the rust was evident. And then came the solid second half.
Saleh cited a play in the fourth quarter when Wilson connected with Ryan Griffin for 7 yards on third-and-8 in Houston territory. Saleh said Wilson's footwork wasn't ''that great'' and he didn't come off his first read fast enough and the play broke down.
''But even if he had perfect footwork on that particular play, the Texans covered it perfectly,'' Saleh said. ''If he went to one, two, three, it was going to be covered with the way the Texans covered it. Well, now, go activate your superpower and take off your cape and go be Superman, save the play. But try to execute the offense in rhythm and when the rhythm breaks down, now you go do what you were famous for at BYU.
''That's all going to come with time and him understanding that his superpower - Clark Kent would walk around the sidewalk normal until somebody yells for help. When the play breaks down, that's LaFleur yelling for help, go save him. That's kind of how you balance it.''
Wilson is working on all of that, and he studies the film of other quarterbacks, too. He tries to glean things from the ways they attack defenses, seeing tendencies of the opponent - and potentially helping his own game move faster.
This week, he watched Tom Brady and Tampa Bay against Philadelphia, who Wilson and the Jets will face Sunday.
''I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,'' Wilson said. ''Aaron (Rodgers) is another one that we watch a lot of the time, too. In season, I always try to do that.
''Just to be like, OK, here's what I'm doing, here's what these guys are doing in the similar type of offense and what things stand out to me, what things that they consistently do each and every play to just be a quarterback.''
And finish every game on the right foot.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is the WR5 in PPR leagues entering the Week 13 matchup against the Detroit Lions. At first glance, the matchup against the winless Lions seems like a slam dunk, but teams are only attempting 30.91 pass attempts per game against them. Jefferson torched the Detroit secondary in Week 5 with seven catches for 124 yards, proving he is capable of taking over a game no matter the game script. While the Vikings may not need to throw often in this one, Jefferson should be considered an elite WR1 option once again.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (knee) did not take the field for practice on Wednesday, but he returned to a limited session on Thursday. It puts him on track to play in a Week 13 tilt against the Houston Texans. Doyle has been trending up in recent weeks with 17 targets, 12 catches, 142 receiving yards and a touchdown in the last three games, but the Colts were chasing points against the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in two of those three games. Against Houston this Sunday, Indy probably can stick to their ground-first attack. The Texans D has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points per game to the position this year, but fantasy managers will likely only be rewarded with Doyle as a low-end TE2 if he finds the end zone for the fourth time this season.
New York Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) was back to a limited practice session on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Tight end Kaden Smith (knee) missed another practice and is unlikely to play in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. Rudolph missed the Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles but could be in line to return this Sunday against Miami, where he'd be competing with Evan Engram and riser Chris Myarick for tight end snaps. The 32-year-old Rudolph has mostly been a red-zone weapon in his career, but he has just one touchdown on this bad Giants team on 17 catches for 147 yards in 10 games played in 2021. Rudolph will be a TE2 option to ignore if he returns to the field in Week 13.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Auden Tate (calf) and Mike Thomas (illness) both missed practice again on Thursday. Tate has been out since Week 7 and had been dealing with a thigh injury before the calf issue cropped up. In any event, he appears unlikely to return in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Thomas could have a chance to play Sunday if he returns to practice on Friday. If neither Tate nor Thomas can play this weekend, Stanley Morgan would serve as the No. 4 receiver behind rookie Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Tate has just three catches for 39 yards in a touchdown in seven games this year, while Thomas has five receptions for 52 scoreless yards in eight contests.
New York Giants wide receiver John Ross (illness) missed another day of practice on Thursday with a non-COVID-19-related illness. Ross may need to get in a practice session on Friday in order to have a shot at playing in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins. Sterling Shepard (quadriceps) and Kadarius Toney (oblique, quadriceps) could be out again this weekend, which would allow Ross to see more of the field as a deep threat for the Giants. But even in that scenario, the 26-year-old former first-rounder would be battling Collin Johnson for snaps as the No. 3 wideout behind Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton. In eight games in his first year with New York, Ross has only 10 receptions for 217 yards and one touchdown on 18 targets, so he's an extreme long shot to return any fantasy value if he plays.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins enters the Week 13 matchup with the Detroit Lions as the QB8 on the season. Cousins is completing 67.7% of his passes for 3,013 yards, 23 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The game script could be the only thing holding Cousins back against a Lion defense that is so bad that teams are only averaging 30.91 pass attempts per game, which is the second-fewest in the league. There is still the possibility that the Vikings lean on the passing game early with the absence of Dalvin Cook. Cousins and the Viking receivers should have their way early on in this game but may look to run the ball often in the second half. Fantasy managers should still expect Cousins to remain in the low-end QB1 conversation.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (illness) will play Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints but on a limited workload. Cooper has missed two weeks due to the NFL's protocols for unvaccinated players, but there was a strong possibility that he could miss his Week 13 matchup. Fortunately Cooper will play, but fantasy managers should remain hesitant in starting him if they have viable bench options as he is not fully healthy and is expected to be limited. As for the Cowboys' other options, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb remains a WR1, tight end Dalton Schultz is a low-level TE1, and running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are both startable. Even if Cooper performs poorly this week, his activation is a very encouraging sign for the fantasy playoffs in the near future.
Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon (shoulder, hip) and CB Nate Hairston (hip) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 2. TE Eric Saubert (ankle), OG Dalton Risner (back), DE Shelby Harris (ankle), CB Ronald Darby (illness), OL Quinn Meinerz (knee), OT Bobby Massie (ankle), WR Tyrie Cleveland hamstring), S Caden Sterns (shoulder) and OT Garett Bolles (ankle) were limited. LB Baron Browning (back), S Kareem Jackson (neck), LB Bradley Chubb (ankle), DL Mike Purcell (thumb) and QB Teddy Bridgewater (leg) practiced in full.
Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano (shoulder) participated in practice but was in a non-contact jersey. It remains unknown as to if Milano will play in Week 13 against the New England Patriots, but there's a decent chance that he won't make it. In Milano's absence, both of the Patriots running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson would receive upgrades as well as a slight bump to the Patriots' passing weapons. This injury is worth monitoring in DFS especially as it could lead to some minor market inefficiencies.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott will look for a bounce back week along with most of the Eagles defense in a Week 13 matchup against the New York Jets. Elliott was the second-highest scoring fantasy kicker in Weeks 8, 10, and 11, but mixed in K21 and K28 weeks in between. He's been more of a low-scoring, low-volume kicker before the recent run of K2 finishes, making him hard to trust even in a game that the Eagles should have little trouble scoring points.
Houston Texans WR Danny Amendola (knee), DB Terrence Brooks (hamstring), WR Chris Conley (illness), WR Brandin Cooks (illness), RB David Johnson (illness, thigh), OL Justin McCray (concussion), Terrance Mitchell (illness), DL DeMarcus Walker (hamstring) and QB Deshaun Watson (non-injury) not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 2. DL Jonathan Greenard (foot), DL Jake Martin (shin) and OL Cole Toner (illness) were limited.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard (knee) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 2.
Fantasy Spin: Howard did not play in the last week, and it appears like he will miss at least one more week. Miles Sanders should receive most of the work if he plays and can be a No. 2 running back in fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Boston Scott (illness) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 2.
Fantasy Spin: Scott still has a few days to recover but can be a game-time decision this week. Kenneth Gainwell will be the main backup at running back if Scott misses the game and could see more touches. Gainwell could be a flex option in some deeper leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert will look to get back on track in a Week 13 matchup against the New York Jets. Goedert was expected by many to be an easy, every-week TE1 once Zach Ertz was traded, but instead he has finished as the TE54, TE12, Te25, and TE23 over the past four weeks. Certainly not what his fantasy managers were expecting. Week 13 offers Goedert a chance to get back on track against what might be the league's worst defense, so he'll be ranked as a TE1 even with the disappointing previous performances.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (ankle) was added to the injury report and was limited at practice. Generally, being added to the injury report this late in the week is not a good sign, so Jacobs' chances of starting in Week 13 appear to be slim. To prepare for Jacobs' possible (extended) absence, fantasy managers should seek an alternative. In the event that Jacobs misses, managers can look to backup Kenyan Drake, who immediately becomes a fully featured back and an RB2. If Drake is already rostered, once more news comes out regarding the severity of Jacobs' injury, managers could explore the prospects of a trade ahead of their upcoming trade deadline. With all of that said, Jacobs may have just had a rest day, but it's wise to prepare for the worst.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins presents a decent floor option in a Week 13 game against the New York Jets. Watkins has yet to eclipse four catches in any game this season, but he's been on the field for most offensive plays. The issue has been the Eagles dependence on their running game limiting the opportunities for all of their pass catchers. Still, with a matchup against what could be the league's worst defense, there are reasons to believe this could be Watkins reaching his upside. He's no better than a WR5, but he'll have a little more upside than most players ranked near him.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor is not worth starting in Week 13 fantasy lineups despite some positive signs heading into the game. In Week 12, Reagor easily led the team with seven targets, but he was only able to catch two passes for a total of 31 yards. Still, it was good to see quarterback Jalen Hurts trying to get the ball to last season's first-round pick. Reagor has done very little this season, finishing outside the top-100 fantasy wide receivers an astounding four times already. Even matched up against what could be the worst defense in the league, Reagor cannot be relied upon in any format at this point.
Baltimore Ravens TE Nick Boyle (knee), OT Cedric Ogbuehi (thigh), FB/DL Patrick Ricard (foot, thigh), CB Chris Westry (thigh), CB Tavon Young (illness), CB Marlon Humphrey (illness), LB Odafe Oweh (shoulder) and OT Alejandro Villanueva (rest) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 2. CB Anthony Averett (shoulder, ankle), WR Miles Boykin (finger), WR Devin Duvernay (thigh), OL Patrick Mekari (ankle) and LB Jaylon Ferguson (illness) were limited. C Bradley Bozeman (shin), DT Calais Campbell (concussion), LB Patrick Queen (ribs) and CB Jimmy Smith (neck) practiced in full. LB Justin Houston (rest) and DT Brandon Williams (rest) were not given a practice designation.
Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 2.
Fantasy Spin: Doyle has been playing better over the last few weeks and should see a decent amount of targets if he is active this week. He can be a low-end No. 1 tight end in deeper leagues.