While the past several weeks have been spent looking at specific positions, this week’s 32 observations will open up to any spot on the field. Here are players from all 32 teams who have improved from 2011 to 2012, and some statistic to help demonstrate the bump in their performance. Some were in danger of being benched, but instead showed they deserve to remain in the starting lineup. In other instances, a great player was able to move closer to elite status.
No matter how good or bad your favorite team has played as a unit this year, you have at least this reason to be optimistic about 2013.
Buffalo Bills: Jarius Byrd was already one of the elite safeties in the league, but in 2012 he has been even better. He had an interception on one in every 11 balls thrown his way, and this year he has intercepted an astounding one in every three passes thrown his way.
Miami Dolphins: Safety Reshad Jones went from having the fourth-worst coverage rating among safeties to the second best. This is in part due to decreasing his catch percentage allowed from 76.9 to 48.3.
New England Patriots: Last year Ryan Wendell only had three starts and a few more games with significant playing time, and in that time managed a Run Block rating of +2.2. This year as the starter he leads all centers with a +16.2 run block grade.
New York Jets: Both Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson have lowered their Yards per Cover Snap from 1.06 and 1.43, respectively, to 0.88 and 1.04.
Baltimore Ravens: Even though Ray Rice is getting the ball less, he is doing more once he has it. In 2011 he caused a defender to miss a tackle on him for 5.4% of his carries. This year he has increased that to 8.1%.
Cincinnati Bengals: In his sophomore season, A.J. Green has increased his 14th-ranked 2.12 Yards Per Route Run last year to a fifth-ranked 2.47 YPRR this year.
Cleveland Browns: Although Sheldon Brown isn’t getting younger, his coverage hasn’t seen any drop-off. In 2011 he allowed 13.9 yards per catch, this year he has decreased that number to 11.6.
Pittsburgh Steelers: This year Heath Miller has increased both his catch rate from 69.1% to 76.7%, as well as his touchdown rate from 2.5% to 9.6%.
Houston Texans: Cornerback Kareem Jackson allowed a catch rate of 61.3 in 2011, which was close to league average. This year he has allowed a catch rate of 46.4, which is the 10th-best in the league.
Indianapolis Colts: Receiver Reggie Wayne managed only 1.66 Yards Per Route Run in 2011 with the various quarterbacks throwing to him. This year he has increased that to 2.11.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s hard to image that in 2011 Cecil Shorts dropped more passes (three) than he caught (two). This year he still has a rather high eight drops, but he has 43 catches as well for 824 yards.
Tennessee Titans: Although he has only been able to increase his sack total from three to four, Derrick Morgan has increased his Pass Rushing Productivity from 5.9 to 9.6.
Denver Broncos: Left guard Zane Beadles has made a dramatic improvement in his pass blocking. He was the second-worst pass blocker with a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 93.4, and was tied for a league-high six sacks allowed. This year his Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.6 is 13th-best, and he has yet to allow a sack.
Kansas City Chiefs: After being an average 3-4 outside linebacker with a Pass Rushing Productivity of 9.3, Justin Houston has moved himself to the top of the Pass Rushing Productivity chart at 12.9.
Oakland Raiders: Last year as a rookie Stefen Wisniewski allowed two sacks, five hits and 18 hurries on 603 pass blocks, which was decent. This year on his 504 pass blocks, he has yet to allow a sack, and has allowed just two hits and four hurries. On top of that, he has yet to have a game where he has allowed multiple pressures.
San Diego Chargers: Second-year defensive end Corey Liuget has more than tripled his Run Stop Percentage number. It has gone from 2.5%, which was second-worst in 2011, to 7.7%, which is 10th-best for 3-4 defensive ends.
Dallas Cowboys: While it is no surprise Jason Witten is going to be the target on a lot of passes, it might surprise you that Witten has been able to increase his catch rate from 69.3 to 74.6.
New York Giants: In 2011 William Beatty was already the best pass blocking linemen for the Giants after allowing four sacks, three hits and 24 hurries on 399 pass blocks. He has already been in for more pass plays this year at 439, but has allowed fewer sacks (two), hits (none), and hurries (20).
Philadelphia Eagles: With all that has gone wrong in Philadelphia, the improvement of DeSean Jackson has stayed quiet. In 2011 he dropped nine passes and caused one missed tackle. This year he basically flipped those numbers with one dropped pass and eight missed tackles forced.
Washington Redskins: Nose tackle Barry Cofield has made a lot more of a pass rushing impact in his second year with the Redskins. He went from getting a pressure on one in 28.4 pass rushes to getting one on every 14.5 pass rushes.
Chicago Bears: While Charles Tillman has become a defensive player of the year candidate for his forced fumbles, he has also become a better tackler in general. He had six missed tackles in the pass game last year compared to one this year, and has allowed 8.6 yards per catch this year compared to 12.7 this year.
Detroit Lions: In an increased role, Nick Fairley has been able to get to the quarterback more frequently. He has a sack or hit on 2.6% of his pass rushes in 2011, and this year has done it on 3.9%.
Green Bay Packers: Last year left tackle Marshall Newhouse was allowing a pressure on one in every 10.6 pass plays. This year that has decreased to one in every 17.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have improved their offensive line which has caused Adrian Peterson’s yards before contact to increase from 1.6 to 2.3. He has also improved after contact from 3.1 yards to 3.9.
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive End Kroy Biermann has seen not only a role increase, but also has made more plays in the run game. His Run Stop Percentage has increased from 4.2 to 11.4 which is the best for 4-3 defensive ends who have played 50% of their team’s snaps.
Carolina Panthers: Last year Charles Johnson played on both the left and right side, and had a Pass Rushing Productivity of 9.5. This year he has played almost exclusively on the left, and has a Pass Rushing Productivity of 13.1.
New Orleans Saints: Brian De La Puente was the only starting offensive linemen for the Saints last year without a positive run block rating (-2.2). This year, not only do all five players have a positive run block rating, but he has the highest: +10.6.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While keeping his catch rate relatively constant (54.6% to 53.1%), receiver Mike Williams has increased his yards per catch from 12.0 to 16.7.
Arizona Cardinals: Last year Left Guard Daryn Colledge was giving up a pressure on one in every 19.4 pass plays. This year he has decreased the frequency to every 30.7 pass plays.
St. Louis Rams: Although he has missed a lot of the season, Rodger Saffold has shown a bit of improvement in his pass blocking. In his six games, he has allowed just five overall pressures. Three times last year Saffold allowed five or more pressures in a single game.
San Francisco 49ers: All five offensive linemen have seen an increase in their run blocking grades from 2011 to 2012. The five players currently starting had a combined +21.1 rating last year, and this year have a combined +75.4 rating.
Seattle Seahawks: Both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have been able to increase their touchdown rates. Tate has gone from getting a touchdown on 8.6% of his catches to 20%, while Rice has gone from 6.3% to 16.3%.
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