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Depth Chart Watch: Fallout From Week 4

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.


Fred Jackson was back in action after missing two games with a knee injury. While he was sidelined, he watched C.J. Spiller explode onto the fantasy scene, but Spiller hurt his shoulder last week, so it looked like Jackson's return would come at a good time for him. Jackson started Sunday, but didn't do much, gaining just 29 yards on 13 carries (though he added 50 receiving yards). Spiller, who last week at this time was already ruled out for Week 4, managed to play and finish with 33 yards on eight carries. The Bills plan to split things evenly, but if Spiller continues to play well, he should supplant Jackson as the starter eventually.


Both Donald Jones and Scott Chandler had good games Sunday, and both were knocked out of the game with head injuries. The Bills don't have a lot of depth behind Chandler or Jackson. Lee Smith is the backup tight end to Chandler, but he's caught one pass all year. T.J. Graham and Brad Smith will fight over Jones' starting spot if Jones can't play next week. Graham might have a slight edge there, but Smith caught a touchdown pass Sunday.


Mohamed Massaquoi has had a quiet season so far - just nine catches for 145 yards in three games - so his absence Thursday due to a hamstring injury was probably not felt too much in Cleveland. Josh Cribbs started but took a big hit and suffered a concussion. Jordan Norwood was the receiver who picked up the slack, catching four passes for 56 yards (though he was targeted 10 times). Travis Benjamin also got into the action, but he only finished with two receptions for 26 yards. Brandon Weeden threw for 320 yards but wasn't too efficient, partially due to the quality of the remaining healthy wideouts.


With Beanie Wells out for at least the next eight weeks with a toe injury, Ryan Williams no longer had to share carries with the oft-injured ex-Buckeye. Unfortunately, he never got anything going Sunday, running for just 26 yards on 13 carries and never gaining more than five yards on any carry. He won't have any competition for the job for quite some time, but if he doesn't produce when he's given this opportunity, he might not have a long NFL career.


The musical chairs at running back continued in San Diego, as Jackie Battle was the surprise starter and Ryan Mathews came off the bench. Curtis Brinkley, who looked like the top backup to Mathews a week ago, wasn't even active. Mathews led the Bolts in rushing with 61 yards on 14 carries, but Battle scored two touchdowns against his former team. Mathews is definitely the top guy in the Chargers backfield, but if he can't hold onto the ball, he'll find himself ceding carries to Battle, Brinkley and Ronnie Brown.


A sore groin kept Nate Kaeding out of action Sunday, so the Chargers brought back Nick Novak, who ably filled in for Kaeding last year. (Novak, incidentally, is one of my son's favorite players, thanks to an unexpected trip to the sidelines last season.)


Jeremy Maclin returned after a week off with a hip pointer, but only caught one pass and was targeted just three times against the Giants on Sunday. Last week's starter Damaris Johnson nursed a foot injury during the week, but he caught one pass off the bench. DeSean Jackson was definitely the top wideout for Philly on Sunday, as he gained 99 yards on six receptions.


Ahmad Bradshaw's neck felt good enough for the Giants to give him his job back, despite the fact that Andre Brown played well in his stead the last couple of weeks. Neither did much Sunday, as Bradshaw had a pedestrian 39 yards on 13 carries while Brown couldn't even crack fifteen yards on his five totes. They'll probably share carries for the near future, but Brown certainly remains a player to watch.


Last week, Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon were inactive and Ramses Barden had a nice game as the emergency starter. Nicks missed Sunday's game again, but Hixon was healthy enough to play and start, and he gobbled up the opportunities that Barden had in Week 3. Hixon was targeted 11 times - two fewer than Victor Cruz - and finished with six catches for 114 yards. Barden fell back to earth, finishing with just 36 yards on two receptions. It's obvious that whoever plays opposite Cruz is going to get the ball a lot. Usually that will be Nicks, but as we've seen, both Hixon and Barden can be very valuable when they get the chance to start.


Laurent Robinson may have suffered his second concussion in as many weeks, and while some may question his quick recovery in time for Sunday's game with Cincinnati, it looks like this time the Jaguars could play it safe and put him on the shelf for a few weeks. Mike Thomas, Cecil Shorts and Kevin Elliott are ready to step in if needed.


The Jets' already-thin wideout corps received another blow Sunday when Santonio Holmes left the game with a foot injury. He was in a walking boot after the game, and though initial X-rays were negative, he could still have some ligament damage. Stephen Hill didn't even play Sunday due to a hamstring injury, so Chaz Schilens started and Jeremy Kerley moved up a spot on the depth chart as well. They may be the two best healthy wide receivers on the roster, which is pretty scary. The offense is a real mess.


Greg Jennings, who was limited in practice all week due to a groin injury, suited up Sunday and scored on a nine-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, he was also knocked out of the game with - you guessed it - a groin injury, and the nine-yarder was his only catch of the day. Fortunately the Packers have plenty of weapons, including James Jones, who scored twice Sunday and Randall Cobb, who caught seven passes, so they should be set if Jennings has to miss a game or two.


Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it wasn't but Jonathan Stewart's return Sunday came on a day when the Panthers running game was humming. DeAngelo Williams started again, but he and Stewart had similar numbers (11 carries for 49 yards for Williams, 10 carries for 40 yards for Stewart, both caught one pass). Of course, the top "running back" for Carolina was Cam Newton, who gained 86 yards on just nine attempts. Stewart and Williams will split things more evenly when they're both healthy, but they'll also remain behind Newton in the production department.


Stevan Ridley is still the undisputed starter - and he played like it Sunday, garnering 106 yards on 22 attempts, two of which went for touchdowns - Brandon Bolden was even better, running for 137 yards on just 16 carries. On the day that Shane Vereen finally got on the field, it was Bolden who looks like the top backup now. The Patriots exploded for 52 points Sunday, so we may see more of Bolden while the team is rolling.


Darrius Heyward-Bey couldn't pass his concussion tests this week after a vicious hit last week, so he sat out Sunday's game. Derek Hagan started in his place, but caught just two passes for 18 yards. The Raiders have a bye next week, and Heyward-Bey hopes to return in Week 6, but if not, Hagan - or perhaps Rod Streater - will get the start instead.


Pierre Garcon returned to action, causing last week's starter Aldrick Robinson, to be inactive, but Leonard Hankerson continues to improve his rapport with Robert Griffin III. Hankerson was targeted a team-high 11 times and caught seven passes for 57 yards. Garcon had just one target - a 20-yard reception - and clearly wasn't a big part of Washington's gameplan Sunday. That all may change as he gets healthier, but he'll have to deal with Hankerson's increased stature on the offense.


Jake Locker left Sunday's game early with a shoulder injury and will have an MRI on Monday. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns but also turned the ball over three times. Locker has had problems with the shoulder before, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Hasselbeck get another start next week.


Kendall Wright's day was salvaged by a garbage-time touchdown, but otherwise he caught only three passes despite Kenny Britt sitting out with an ankle injury. Wright was targeted a team-high eight times, indicating that he could be more important in the offense than Nate Washington (who had just five targets), but that could also be a function of the early quarterback change for Tennessee on Sunday.


Jerome Simpson was back in the starting lineup after serving his suspension and immediately made his presence felt, leading the Vikings with four receptions for 50 yards. Fellow starter Percy Harvin had a quiet game, so perhaps Simpson is going to be a larger part of the offense than initially expected. Michael Jenkins, who started in Simpson's absence, caught just one pass before leaving with a rib injury.