The PFF analysts are conditioned to stay strong, though, and watch what happens on the field, rather than getting distracted by the zebras, so those poor performances haven’t escaped us.
It’s name and shame time.
Quarterback: Josh Freeman, TB (-3.3)
After two impressive performances it was like the 2011 Freeman showed up. Three drops and two throwaways didn’t help his 35.7% completion percentage, but you can’t excuse the sheer number of over and under throws. He needs to be better than that.
Running Back: Toby Gerhart, MIN (-3.6)
Lost in the official giving the 49ers an extra timeout was the fact that Gerhart fumbled the ball away three times in five carries. That’s astonishingly bad, in case you were wondering.
Full Back: Erik Lorog, TB (-1.7)
He wasn’t on the field much, but Lorig failed to distinguish himself. Getting beaten and watching your man get a tackle for a short gain — as happened to him twice — is not ideal for a fullback.
Tight End: Jason Witten, DAL (-3.9)
It took a fine effort to keep Brandon Pettigrew (two drops, one fumble, and a penalty) out of this team, but when you drop two balls of your own, give up a hit and sack, while picking up two penalties … well, you make us question whether it’s the injury that’s causing these problems, or something more long-term.
Wide Receivers: Anthony Amrstrong, MIA (-3.5) and Demaryius Thomas, DEN (-3.4)
Our duo of receivers have quite rightly earned the boom-or-bust tag for their performances in the past. This week they were most certainly more bust as they combined to drop five passes and pick up just 45 yards between them despite being targeted 17 times.
Tackles: D’Anthony Batiste, ARZ (-8.9) and Austin Howard, NYJ (-6.8)
The honeymoon is over for both of our tackles who know now the hard life of the NFL. Batiste was always overmatched against the Eagles’ pack of pass rushers and it showed as he gave up two sacks and a further five hurries. In Miami, Howard just couldn’t contend with the speed of Cameron Wake as he ended up giving up three quarterback hits and five hurries. Throw in a penalty each and two negatively-graded games in run blocking and you’ve got guys who could end up making repeat performances on this list.
Guards: Quinn Ojinnaka, STL (-3.9) and Mackenzy Bernadeau, DAL (-4.3)
You just don’t want your guards giving up a sack and four hurries like Ojinnaka did on Sunday, especially when your QB is Sam Bradford. Bernandeau gave up one fewer hurry but, with some poor run blocking, he earned the lowest grade of all guards this week.
Center: Jeff Saturday, GB (-2.6)
In giving up a sack, hit, and hurry, Saturday started to look his age. Scott Wells, you are missed.
Defensive Front 4-3
Defensive Ends: Kyle Vanden Bosch, DET (-5.3) and Robert Geathers, CIN (-5.3)
Going up against Michael Roos isn’t easy, but KVB spent most of the game swallowed up by the Titans’ tackle. His work in the run game didn’t help matters as we continue to wonder how long Jim Schwartz and his loyalty can last. Over in Cincinnati, we can’t see Geathers’ playing time picking up much as Carlos Dunlap gets healthier, especially with performances like this one.
Defensive Tackle: Tommy Kelly, OAK (-4.3) and Kendall Langford, SL (-3.1)
Our defensive tackles combined for just the one assist this week. Odd when you consider Kelly should have feasted on the Steelers’ offensive line and Langford must have been licking his chops the way the Bears have played so far.
Linebackers: Will Witherspoon, TEN (-4.9), Rey Maualuga, CIN (-6.2) and James Anderson, CAR (-3.1)
Not a great day for Witherspoon who gave up six receptions and found life hard going when linemen got to the second level. Two missed tackles didn’t help either. James Anderson was the worst offender in a poor Carolina linebacker corp, continuing to show that his 2010 may have been the exception and not the rule. Neither man had quite as bad a day as Maualuga. He allowed all seven balls into his coverage to be complete and missed three tackles.
Defensive Front 3-4
Defensive Line: Darnell Dockett, ARZ (-4.0), Cam Thomas, SD (-1.9) and Kendall Reyes, SD (-3.0)
In the middle, if Thomas wants to push for more playing time, he needs to do more than he did against the Falcons. Dockett continues to baffle. He was so good in Week 1, disappeared for large portions of Week 2, and was quiet as a mouse in Week 3. I may have jumped the gun on Reyes after his impressive Week 1. He got more playing time against the Falcons, but failed to make a positive impression on the stat sheet; his only contribution: a missed tackle.
Outside Linebackers: Connor Barwin, HST (-6.1) and Calvin Pace, NYJ (-3.5)
That was the kind of performance from Barwin that will impact his agent when he sits down to negotiate his new deal. Pace, normally a fine run defender, didn’t even have that going for him against Miami, and probably would have expected to have some more joy against Jonathan Martin.
Inside Linebackers: Kavell Conner, IND (-4.0) and D.J. Smith, GB (-3.7)
We’ve seen both men play better with Conner losing his individual battles with Jacksonville’s fullbacks. Meanwhile, in Seattle it seemed at times as if the Seahawks’ linemen had a bullseye on Smith, such was the speed with which they found their way to him at the second level.
Cornerbacks: Cary Williams, BLT (-4.6) and Michael Huff, OAK (-3.1)
We wouldn’t suggest the Michael Huff-to-cornerback move is made permanent after watching him struggle against the Steelers. Williams wasn’t playing out of position, though he did find himself out of position a number of times as the tricky Brandon Lloyd made life hard for him.
Safeties: Charles Godfrey, CAR (-4.2) and Erik Coleman, DET (-2.5)
Both of our starting safeties gave up a touchdown, and did so in a manner that left you smacking your head on the table. For Coleman we’ve seen better, but it’s sad to say it’s what we’ve come to expect from Godfrey.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled