All-PFF Team, Week 15

| December 21, 2011

Just three more weeks of the regular season means three more intros to the ‘Team of the Week’ article that people so desperately look forward to. Sure, I’ve heard the rumors (that people just go straight to the bolded names to see if their favorite players have made the list), but I’m ignoring them, for the thousands of you who see this intro as one of the greatest pieces of sports writing on the internet, and not some filler used to break up the piece.

Now that I’ve sufficiently filled enough space, I can give you some teasers about some of the players who’ve made this team. I mean it’s not every week the baddest left tackle in all of town gets some positive press, even if it is every week that a SuperBowl MVP gets the nod at the QB spot. Elsewhere we recognize some big yardage days for receivers, and big sack days for defensive ends, all in our Week 15 Team of the Week.

 

 

OFFENSE 

Quarterback:  Drew Brees, NO (+9.0)

A five-touchdown display as Brees completed 80% of his passes en route to routing the Vikings. It’s kind of been lost just how well he’s playing, but there isn’t a better QB in the league right now.

Running Back:  Felix Jones, DAL (+2.9)

As much as C.J. Spiller earned consideration, his 12 carries just weren’t enough to go with this week. Especially when Felix Jones started to look like the back he was drafted to be–and a little bit more. He was decisive and dominant over a poor Bucs team.

Fullback:  Vonta Leach, BAL (+2.2)

With Ovie Mughelli down, Leach has taken the opportunity to show himself the top fullback in the league. If only Baltimore could make more use of him.

Tight End:  Aaron Hernandez, DAL (+6.4)

If I could choose two, I’d be putting Martellus Bennett in here for an excellent display of blocking, but I’ve been banned from doing so, and thus Hernandez and his 129 yards get the nod. Destroyed the Broncos defense.

Wide Receivers:  Calvin Johnson, DET (+5.6) and Roddy White, ATL (+3.4)

I’ve always found White to be a little bit streaky, especially when it comes to holding onto passes. Well right now he’s on a hot streak and he punished the Jacksonville corners. Not quite as much as Johnson did to the Raiders defensive backs. After a quiet few weeks, Johnson was near unstoppable as he picked up 214 yards. Wow.

Tackles:  Levi Brown, ARZ (+5.2) and Breno Giacomini, SEA (+5.2)

Yes you are reading the team of the week, and no I haven’t got my tackles mixed up with those who should be appearing on the ‘Had a Bad Day’ team. Brown, who is playing better than he ever has, was near flawless against Cleveland, while Giacomini looked the part against the Bears. Two things I didn’t expect heading into the week.

Guards:  Edwin Williams, CHI (+4.0) and Antoine Caldwell, HOU (+5.0)

While the Bears and Caleb Hanie struggled, Williams looks like he might be a bright spot in a tough stretch for Chicago. This marked his second consecutive grade in the green, and is better than anything we’ve ever seen from Chris Williams at guard. That may not be the only competition brewing at guard, with Antoine Caldwell looking to capitalize on the injury to Mike Brisiel with a strong display against a soft-in-the-middle Carolina defensive line. Can he keep it up? What happens if he does? I’m intrigued to find out.

Center:  Samson Satele, OAK (+4.2)

He’s not the first, nor will he be the last, center to have joy against the Detroit Lions. Satele gave up no pressure, a fact that just earned him the nod over Chris Myers and Alex Mack.

 

DEFENSE

4-3 Defensive Front

Defensive Ends:  John Abraham, ATL (+7.1) and Jason Babin, PHI (+7.1)

Two guys who combined for seven sacks, one hit and four hurries as they tortured Guy Whimper and Wayne Hunter. Amazingly, they only got on the field for 58 snaps between them–imagine what could have been if they played more? Carnage.

Defensive Tackle:  Geno Atkins, CIN (+6.3) and Richard Seymour, OAK (+5.4)

If your Pro Bowl ballot didn’t have Geno Atkins on it, you’re doing it all wrong. He destroyed the highly-paid Jason Brown and posted one of the best ratings a defensive tackle has all year. Seymour just held off the challenge of Jonathan Babineaux as he went to work on the left side of the Lions’ offensive line. He’s so good that it makes every penalty that little bit more annoying.

Linebackers:  Michael Boley, NYG (+5.1), Pat Angerer, IND (+6.3) and Mathias Kiwanuka, NYG (+4.4)

It may seem odd to have two Giants in the team, but neither Boley nor Kiwanuka were the problem as the G-Men rolled over for the Redskins. That was as good as Pat Angerer has ever looked, and I’m looking past the interception and forced fumble in saying that. Was all over the field, making meaningful tackles and allowing just 33% of balls thrown at him to be completed.

 

3-4 Defensive Front

Defensive Line:  J.J Watt, HOU (+4.1), Isaac Sopoaga, SF (+2.1) and Stephen Bowen, WAS (+3.4)

Better late than never for Bowen who is finally starting to show the ability that made the Redskins hand over so much money to him. He picked up a hit and three hurries to go with his sack and was a constant nuisance on the inside. Watt isn’t making an awful lot of highlight reels, but he is making an awful lot of plays. Five defensive stops represent a good day at the office for anyone, let alone someone on the defensive line. It’s weird how things work out, but after being a pretty poor defensive end, Sopoaga is actually a competent nose tackle. I didn’t expect that when the 49ers let Aubrayo Franklin walk.

Outside Linebackers:  Aldon Smith, SF (+7.0) and Cameron Wake, MIA (+5.8)

Stiff competition this week with Tamba Hali missing out despite causing all sorts of havoc against the Packers. That’s because Aldon Smith made Monday Night his show reel for why he should be Defensive Rookie of the Year, and because Cameron Wake just continues to amaze despite the little press that comes his way.

Inside Linebackers:  London Fletcher-Baker, WAS (+3.5) and Brian Cushing, HOU (+2.9)

Cushing allowed three completions for 12 combined yards. He also added a couple of pressures as opposing teams struggle to contain the former Defensive Rookie of the Year. LFB shows up with an extremely complete display as he continues to defy age. Shouldn’t he be slowing down at this point of the season?

 

Cornerbacks:  Jacob Lacey, IND (+4.9) and Josh Wilson, WAS (+4.3)

Lacey’s interception of Matt Hasselbeck was a pivotal moment in ending the Colts’ ‘streak’, but his game was more than just one play as the Titans struggled to move the ball down the field. We’ve been saying Wilson is the best cornerback on the Redskins roster for a while, and after allowing just 3-of-6 balls thrown at him to be completed for 21 yards (with one interception and two pass break ups), hopefully others will see that as well.

Safeties:  Ryan Clark, PIT (+3.3) and Eric Weddle, SD (+2.7)

Two guys who play deeper but are more than adept at coming up to help in the run game, with Clark especially picking up four defensive stops this week. He also broke up a couple of passes, even if none was impressive as the touchdown-saving one Weddle made in the first quarter against Baltimore.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Graham Gano was a perfect 3-for-3 against the Giants … Andy Lee got all of his kicks inside the 20 … Brandon Tate was electric with the ball in his hands for the Bengals … Julian Edelman ended up with three special teams tackles.

 

Follow Khaled on Twitter @PFF_Khaled and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed @ProFootbalFocus

 

  • keim8604

    Another fine write-up Khaled. I have a question about Vonta Leach. Would you say that even his ratings in the red for this season are a little misleading, considering he’s had big-time blocks to get Ray Rice into the end zone (i.e. against Lawrence Timmons in the 2nd Ravens-Steelers game) and to spring him for big runs (I.e. against Patrick Willis on Thanksgiving)? Thank you.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

    I’d say fullback is a real tricky position to play. So it’s not necessarily a case of Leach getting beat in a head to head contest, but sometimes, being late to recognize someone coming through. No doubt when he lays a lick on you, you feel it – it’s just with the game getting quicker, it’s made being a fullback that bit harder, in my opinion. Its why there are few fullbacks who have grades in green throughout the year. That and the smaller sample size of them being on the field.

  • sgtrobo

    Nice to see you giving love to Geno Atkins and JJ Watt. The guys are quietly dominating games and bringing their defenses up a notch. Also, Clark, god love him, doesn’t deserve to be on this list. He was way too much of a liability in coverage this week vs. the 49ers.

    P.S. Aldon Smith scares the heck out of me.

  • keim8604

    Khaled,
    The other week, I was actually saying the exact same thing about the fullback position to some friends. I did notice that Leach doesn’t have quite enough ‘wiggle’ to get a hat on some smaller, quicker edge rushers. There is one more thing I’ve had on my mind: Jim Kleinsasser is listed as a fullback primarily but also plays some tight end. Do those of you at PFF consider him a true fullback or more of an H-back? I didn’t know if he was listed at FB since there is no separate listing for H-B. Thanks again.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

    He does play most of his snaps at fullback after years of spending more time at tight end but I’d consider him more of a H-B type (not a position we list).