We began focusing on the defensive players yesterday in our continuing look at the best individual performances from the 2011 season. Today we stay on that track, shifting to the inside guys as we turn our attention to those players who spend their life at either defensive tackle or nose tackle.
As is the norm, we’re going to give you the 10 highest-graded individual displays from the position in 2011. This takes into account how a DT performed while stopping the run, rushing the passer, and even when dropping into coverage (and the penalties they took, too).
Let’s get to it.
10t. Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys: Week 16 vs. Philadelphia (+5.6)
10t. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals: Wildcard at Houston (+5.6)
There’s a tie for the 10th spot with Ratliff and Atkins having both earned a +5.6 game grade. The Cowboys’ nose tackle collected four hurries and a batted pass in addition to besting Jason Kelce in the running game. Atkins was simply too much for Wade Smith to handle, picking up a hit and two pressures on him and a sack on Mike Brisiel. His work when the Texans ran was even more destructive; he chalked up two tackles for short gains and another for a loss. Two fine performances.
9. Tommy Kelly, Oakland Raiders: Week 3 vs. New York Jets (+5.7)
There are times when Kelly can be unstoppable, and Week 3 against the Jets was a perfect example. The Raider tallied a sack on Wayne Hunter and three other pressures while forcing a fumble (that was then negated by a penalty). Toss in some good work in the run game that also saw him secure two tackles for short gains. No Jet got the better of a vintage display from Kelly.
7t. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals: Week 11 at Baltimore (+5.8)
The second performance from Atkins to make the list and one the Ravens would rather forget. A sack, three quarterback hits, and a pressure weren’t all Atkins was able to do–he also found himself picking up three tackles for short gains and another for a loss. It’s worth noting that some of his success came against a stud guard like Marshal Yanda which only serves to highlight how well Atkins played.
7t. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Week 4 vs. Indianapolis (+5.8)
McCoy has been something of a tease during his time with Tampa Bay. He looks the part when he’s on the field but has too often encountered injuries that have kept him off of it. If you want a look at what he’s capable of, have a watch over the 53 snaps he played against the Colts. A sack and two pressures may not stick out, but as is often the case, McCoy showed himself to be a complete player, making life extremely hard for Mike Pollak in particular. McCoy walked away from the game with two tackles for losses and three more for short gains before going on to manage only 22 more snaps the entire season after another biceps tear.
5t. Ahtyba Rubin, Cleveland Browns: Week 12 at Cincinnati (+6.2)
You can almost allow Rubin to start slowing down by Week 12 given how much the Browns kept him on the field (only Vince Wilfork played more regular season snaps than Rubin). He didn’t slow down a bit here, though, and took turns beating up on Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams when Cleveland traveled to Cincinnati. Generally not viewed as a penetrating tackle, he still picked up two hits and four hurries (one of which was nullified by penalty as Livings held in an to attempt to slow Rubin down). Meanwhile, he added four tackles for short gains in a dominant display.
5t. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills: Week 8 vs. Washington (+6.2)
In his rookie year, Dareus was a tad bit of a hit-or-miss player. When Buffalo traveled to Canada to beat Washington, he was very much a hit. Three sacks is always a good thing (and rare for defensive tackles), but factor in four more pressures and a tackle for a loss and you’ve got a good day.
4. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals: Week 15 at St Louis (+6.3)
You almost knew Atkins was in for a big day when you saw that Jason Brown was in the lineup at guard. So it proved as the Bengal destroyed him time and time again. Brown wasn’t the only one to struggle with Atkins who finished the day with a sack (plus a forced fumble), two quarterback hits, three more pressures, and two tackles for losses. This is Atkins’ third and final appearance on the list.
3. Brodrick Bunkley, Denver Broncos: Week 11 vs. New York Jets (+6.5)
What makes this performance extra special is that Bunkley was able to do it by simply dominating the excellent Nick Mangold. Not one to get much pressure in the pass game (he got zero in this game); Bunkley lined up over Mangold and worked him over in a way we really have never seen anyone do. Matt Slauson also took a bit of a beating as Bunkley ended the game with four tackles for short gains, one for a loss, and another for no gain. The Jets only found success when they double-teamed him.
2. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta Falcons: Week 11 vs. Tennessee (+7.2)
Over the past few years there haven’t been many defensive tackles better at getting up field than Babineaux. Tennessee found this out the hard way as the Falcon picked up four pressures and a hit to go with a batted pass and two tackles for loss in the run game. He even managed to draw a penalty as the Titans’ interior was at a virtual loss about how to stop him.
1. Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders: Week 5 at Houston (+9.5)
He’ll frustrate you with the penalties he gives up but there’s no denying Seymour’s talent. If you don’t believe us, ask a Houston line that had arguably it’s toughest day of the season against him. You’ll struggle to find many better performances from a defensive tackle, with Seymour picking up two sacks, two hits, four hurries, and two batted passes … Wade Smith will not look back on this game fondly. While Seymour did throw in the seemingly obligatory unnecessary roughness penalty, that couldn’t stop this from being the highest-graded defensive tackle display of 2011.
With our grades being broken down by run defense and pass rushing (the biggest factors) here’s the Top 10 of each:
Top 10 Pass Rushing DT performances
1. Richard Seymour (OAK), Week 5 at Houston (+7.4)
2. Henry Melton (CHI), Week 12 at Oakland (+4.8)
3t. Geno Atkins (CIN), Week 15 at St Louis (+4.7)
3t. Ahtyba Rubin (CLV), Week 12 at Cincinnati (+4.7)
5. Tommy Kelly (OAK), Week 10 at San Diego (+4.6)
6. Ndamukong Suh (DET), Week 3 at Minnesota (+4.4)
7. Marcell Dareus (BUF), Week 8 vs. Washington (+4.2)
8. Jay Ratliff (DAL), Week 16 vs. Philadelphia (+4.1)
9t. Jay Ratliff (DAL), Week 8 at Philadelphia (+4.1)
9t. Cullen Jenkins (PHI) Week 11 at New York Giants (+4.1)
Top 10 Run Defense DT performances
1. Brodrick Bunkley (DEN), Week 11 vs. New York Jets (+7.3)
2t. Brodrick Bunkley (DEN), Week 15 vs. Chicago (+4.8)
2t. Linval Joseph (NYG), Week 13 vs. Green Bay (+4.8)
4. Sione Pouha (NYJ), Week 11 at Denver (+4.7)
5. Kevin Williams (MIN) Week 11 vs. Oakland (+4.6)
6. Kelly Gregg (KC), Week 5 at Indianapolis (+4.3)
6t. John Henderson (OAK), Week 9 vs. Denver (+4.3)
6t. Marcell Dareus (BUF), Week 16 vs. Denver (+4.3)
9. Haloti Ngata (BLT), Week 2 at Tennessee (+4.2)
10t. Brodrick Bunkley (DEN), Week 7 at Miami (+3.9)
10t. Brandon Mebane (SEA), Week 11 at St Louis (+3.9)
10t. Derek Landri (PHI), Week 14 at Miami (+3.9)