The Shadow Knows Week 6 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


The 2022 season hasn't quite started according to plan for wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 2-3, and through five games Chase has caught a modest (by his standards) 32 catches for 343 yards and two touchdowns. However, as Geoff Hobson wrote for the Bengals website, ahead of a trip home to face the New Orleans Saints for the Harvey, Louisiana native, Chase said he's a lot more worried about the Bengals getting back on track than he is padding his own stats.

"I'm just doing my job, man," Chase said. "I want to be the best player on the field. I want to strive to put up the crazy stats, of course. Whatever is helping the team to win any way possible. I don't have to go crazy. (Go) seventy yards. I'm not really tripping. I just want to win the game, make sure we get to the playoffs and push forward."

There's a good chance that Chase will be able to do both Sunday at the Superdome. This could have been the marquee cornerback vs. wide receiver matchup of Week 6. Marshon Lattimore of the Saints plays shadow coverage as well as any cornerback in the league-outside o getting roasted by Justin Jefferson in London (and getting roasted by Jefferson ain't exactly a rarity), Lattimore has held his own when asked to shadow receivers like Mike Evans this year. But Lattimore suffered an abdominal injury last week against Seattle, and head coach Dennis Allen admitted to reporters that his status for Week 6 was uncertain.

"He's going to be okay," Allen said. "We'll just have to see how he responds this week in terms of his availability."

That response included Lattimore missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. And with Paulson Adebo set to draw Chase in coverage and Cincinnati's Tee Higgins also looking unlikely to play, Chase could be set for a massive target share in a plus coverage matchup.

It's a smash spot-I ga-ron-tee.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. New Orleans Saints (Chidobe Awuzie vs. Chris Olave)

That rookie wide receiver Chris Olave held on to a touchdown catch last week despite being thrown down on his head (and concussed in the process) sums up the first five weeks of his first season-the Ohio State standout has been nothing short of exceptional. In fact, Matt Miller of ESPN believes that Olave has been the best rookie in the league this season-on either side of the ball.

"Olave was the No. 11 overall pick in the draft for a reason and has quickly paid dividends for the Saints," Miller said. "He's a legitimate deep threat who also has silky smooth footwork on underneath routes. His ceiling might not be as high as that of Minnesota's Justin Jefferson, but he can be a very similar type of player and might end Miller up top 10 at the position by season's end as the Saints' top receiver."

The Saints reportedly hoped to get Michael Thomas (foot) back for Week 6, but he has yet to practice this week, while Olave was limited Thursday and appears to be on track to clear the concussion protocol ahead of Sunday's meeting with the Bengals. Assuming Thomas misses another game, the Bengals will likely put No. 1 corner Chidobe Awuzie on Olave, and it's an admittedly tough draw for the rookie. Awuzie is one of the NFL's more underrated corners, and a big reason why Cincinnati is allowing the fourth-fewest PPR points to wide receivers.


New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns (Jonathan Jones vs. Amari Cooper)

The New England Patriots have made an art form of identifying undrafted free agents who become elite cornerbacks. First it was Malcolm Butler. Then it was J.C. Jackson. Now it's Jonathan Jones, who has ranked at or near the top of the leaderboard at the position in PFF grade most of the season. However, with all due respect to the analytics site, Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino doesn't need a third party to tell him that Jones is legit.

"I don't look too much into the whole PFF or Pro Football Focus," Pellegrino said. "I know my guys. I know Jon's a good football player. And that's what he is - he's a good football player, a versatile guy, can do multiple things and I can tell you there's not - point out a tougher guy. He's right up there with them. He's an absolute competitor. I appreciate everything Jon does and has done for us and just continues to work."

Through five games, Jones has allowed just 12 completions into his coverage for less than 200 yards. Amari Cooper has been everything the Browns hoped for when they traded for him, and he's 18th in PPR points among wideouts. But this is a tough draw-especially given the possibility that Jones will get safety help in an effort from Bill Belichick to effectively remove Cooper from the equation altogether.




San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (Brandon Aiyuk vs. A.J. Terrell)

Terrell's third season has been what some would call uneven. But it has really just been the ride that high-end cornerbacks find themselves on-when you cover top receivers week in and week out, there are going to be ups and downs. As Trevyn Gray wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Terrell welcomes the challenge-and the rollercoaster that goes with it.

"It's a great challenge for me and for the team, just building for them and for the organization," Terrell said. "Going up against the best each week, and I accept the challenge. Just having the coaches and everybody believe in me, that helps me believe in myself and get the job done. My head is really just focused on getting the job done each week. (The rest) will take care of itself. I just want to dominate."

Terrell struggled against Michael Thomas in Week 1 and DK Metcalf in Week 2, only to completely erase Amari Cooper in Week 3 and hold his own against Mike Evans last week. Given how much time Deebo Samuel spends in the slot or in the backfield, he's effectively un-shadowable-Jalen Ramsey of the Rams is the only corner the past couple of years to even try. That leaves Terrell on Aiyuk-and Aiyuk's fantasy managers likely staring at a disappointing stat line.


Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (Byron Murphy vs. DK Metcalf)

There isn't a bigger surprise in the entire NFL at the quarterback position this year than Geno Smith of the Seahawks, who through five weeks looks absolutely nothing like Geno Smith. However, while the Seattle offense is rolling, the Seahawks defense has been putrid, and Nic Bodiford of 4For4 thinks that sets the stage for a shootout this week with the Arizona Cardinals-and a big day for DK Metcalf.

"The game has all the makings of a surefire shootout, as both defenses are top-12 in passing yards allowed, explosive pass play rate allowed, and passing expected points added (EPA) per play allowed," he said. "Both teams' ability to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks falls between Nos. 15-21 overall. Among NFL wide receivers with at least 30 targets, Metcalf ranks eighth in the league in target share (28.4%), fourth in end zone target share (63.6%), seventh in targets per route run (27.0%), and ninth in yards per route run (2.31). Seattle's 10.4% explosive pass plays generated ranks No. 1 overall, by a margin of 0.4%."

An argument can be made that Murphy's presence in coverage takes some shine off this play-the fourth-year veteran is playing his way into a nice payday in 2023, and Murphy has played Davante Adams as well in coverage as anyone this season. But Metcalf is such a freak (in a good way) physically that he's always one deep 50/50 ball from a huge game. And the way that Smith is playing, both Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have become every-week starts. Go figure.


Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (CeeDee Lamb vs. Darius Slay)

The Dallas Cowboys have faced question after question this year-and answered them all. Cooper Rush has shown himself to be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the game, but part of Rush's success has been because CeeDee Lamb has run with the role of unquestioned No. 1 receiver. In doing so, Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports believes that any questions surrounding the young wideout have also been answered.

"The mark of a great receiver is do you command targets, and CeeDee Lamb has commanded targets," Harmon said. "And he's done it all, man. I mean, he had the one big drop against the Giants, but pretty much this is what No. 1 receivers do. Doesn't matter who's behind center, they command targets and they produce."

Through five games, Lamb has averaged an even 10 targets a game. But this week in Sunday night's big NFC East showdown, he faces arguably his biggest test of the season against the rival Eagles and veteran cornerback Darius Slay. Slay made Justin Jefferson of the Vikings look mortal a few weeks ago, and while Lamb's target share gets him the every-week greenlight, it's understandable to be a little uneasy about this matchup.


Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (Courtland Sutton vs. Asante Samuel Jr.)

The Denver offense has been a hot mess so far this season, but one of the bright spots has been the play of wide receiver Courtland Sutton. Despite Russell Wilson playing more like Woodrow Wilson, Sutton has caught 29 passes for 417 yards and a score-numbers that slot him 16th in PPR points among receivers. Per Ben Swanson of the team's website, Broncos cornerback Ronald Darby isn't the least bit surprised after facing Sutton every day in practice.

"He's got good size, he can run, he can cut, can catch - that's the main thing - and he's consistent," Darby says. "Works hard. He likes to make a lot of his routes look the same. He plays fast. He knows how to use his body. He's also got great body control once he's in the air. He's just a very dynamic receiver who's capable of doing anything."

For a second-year cornerback who has been tasked with covering the likes of Davante Adams, Amari Cooper and Brandin Cooks this season, Samuel has made his old man proud-he has allowed just under 58 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed with a passer rating against of 81.0. But as things stand right now, Wilson's struggles are a far bigger concern for Sutton's fantasy managers than this week's coverage matchup.


Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (Patrick Surtain II vs. Mike Williams)

As was already mentioned, the Denver offense has been, um, ungood so far this season. But the same cannot be said about the Broncos and their league-leading pass defense. Much of the credit for that lofty ranking belongs to young cornerback Patrick Surtain and his smothering coverage, and Derrik Klassen of Football Outsiders went so far as to call Surtain the best player at his position in the league.

"Many cornerbacks are more impatient than Surtain," he wrote, "not because they're all stupid or antsy, but because they cannot move and recover the way he does. Few cornerbacks are nearly as light on their feet or explosive out of breaks as Surtain, and Surtain does it as a 6-foot-2, 208-pounder with a 90th-percentile wingspan. Surtain's build and athleticism affords him a margin of error that other cornerbacks do not have, and he already has all the savvy and consistency to push that advantage to the maximum every snap. There is not a receiver in the NFL who can get the best of Surtain for four quarters the way he is playing right now."

It looks very much like Keenan Allen will sit Monday night's AFC West brouhaha out, which should mean that Mike Williams will see double-digit targets for the fourth time in five games since Allen got hurt. But frankly, it may take that for Williams to have even a decent game. Surtain is playing at a ridiculous level right now, and this isn't some smaller cornerback that Williams can just out-muscle.