Houston will depend on Clowney more than ever.
Christian Covington, who came in for Watt on Sunday against the Chiefs, will also have a role. Covington finished the game with three tackles. Last year he posted one sack, in the team’s Week 17 matchup with the Titans.
Ufomba Kamalu and Brennan Scarlett should also get more snaps opposite Clowney. Kamalu played in four games and started one last season, recording five tackles and one sack on the year. He posted one tackle, against the Chiefs. Scarlett stepped in for Mercilus on Sunday and had six tackles.
The reality is whoever takes over for Watt and Mercilus will be a downgrade. But O’Brien says it’s not just on those players.
McKinnon has been among the best fantasy running backs over the past two weeks, as his 51.5 points ranks third at that position during that time frame. This may seem like a surprise performance, but it’s worth noting that he placed tied for fifth in GBYPA in the 2014 season (9.4) and is on pace to exceed that total this season (10.1). A better quality of run blocking also has led McKinnon to post improved numbers this season.
For those concerned that Latavius Murray may vulture more of McKinnon’s carries, it’s worth noting that Murray has a 6.1 GBYPA this season and had a 7.7 GBYPA last season, both of which are well short of McKinnon’s aforementioned GBYPA totals. McKinnon may not be given bell-cow status, but he is the better running back in the Vikings’ backfield and should get the lion’s share of the carries because of that.
Ajayi has been one of the biggest fantasy busts this season due in large part to abysmal run blocking. From Weeks 1-4, Miami had a 23.0 percent GBR, a mark that ranked last in the league and made them the only team with a GBR of lower than 30 percent at that point of the season.