It’s that time of the year again where we reward the excellence of football players by naming them to the team of the week.
Unlike other places this isn’t about reputation or merely about nodding our head in agreement at the highlight reel plays that can capture the screen time. It’s about choosing the best from having watched every player on every play of every game.
And now is the time for Week 1.
(Note: Team will be updated after Monday Night Football games are analyzed and on Wednesday when All-22 footage helps us study plays in even more detail where needed with a * noting a change)
Quarterback: Carson Palmer, ARZ (+5.7)
He may have ended up losing, but he played like a winner. In a flashback to his glory years, Palmer showed everyone just exactly why the team coveted him. Others may have had flashier stats, but none combined accuracy down the field (14-of-20 on passes aimed over 20 yards) while coping under a torrent of pressure.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy, PHI (+4.0)
A late entry from McCoy who finished with a huge 184 yards (something that was helped massively by breaking nine tackles). Perhaps we should have all spent more time thinking about him and less about who the quarterback would be?
Full Back: Colin Mooney, TEN (+3.2)
We like our backs to block and it’s that fact that edged Mooney ahead of new Chief Anthony Sherman. Called up from the practice squad after Quinn Johnson went down for the year, Mooney was expected to spend the season developing. More performances like this and he’ll have spent it punishing linebackers. It was slightly unlucky that the Seahawks, Derrick Coleman didn’t make our snap eligibility number or he would have been in with a very good shout.
Tight End: Julius Thomas, DEN (+1.9)
We’re not in love with his pass blocking grade, but then what tight end should be able to stop Elvis Dumervil? His blocking was still better than Jared Cook, who lost out on a spot in the team marginally because of that and a poor fumble. Both men proved themselves difference-makers though.
Wide Receivers: Anquan Boldin, SF (+4.7) and Danny Amendola, NE (+3.8)
There was never a doubt Boldin would make this team. He picked up 13 catches for 208 yards and broke five tackles in the process in a standout display. The second spot was more contentious. Andre Roberts, Demaryius Thomas and others made cases, but it was Amendola delivering the goods with chain-mover after chain-mover that won us over.
Tackles: LT, Branden Albert, KC (+3.6) and RT, Austin Howard, NYJ (+4.2)
There was a time when Howard was something of a liability. He may never be a stud in pass protection (he gave up a hit and a hurry here) but he can do a job, and he’s imposing in the run game. Albert put a difficult offseason behind him, allowing just the one quarterback disruption and putting on some good tape in the run game that will help him get paid at the end of the year.
Guards: LG, Evan Mathis. PHI (+4.5) and RG, Marshal Yanda, BAL (+4.2)
Two guys who are far from strangers to this team. Yanda wowed with a performance that had to be good to keep Larry Warford out of the team, with the rookie making a big push for a spot. On the left side, Mathis put a poor preseason behind him with his usual regular season standard of quality blocking. He’s already thriving under Chip Kelly.
Center: Jason Kelce, PHI (+3.5)
He wasn’t great in pass protection but he was phenomenal in the running game. Executing on a series of a difficult blocks, his return from injury looks set to be a pivotal one in the renaissance of the Eagles.
Each week we put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: J.J. Watt, HOU (+7.2) and Gerald McCoy, TB (+6.2)
Now you see the creativity of what we can do. Watt is the five technique who can play anywhere across the line, and is already on top form in 2013. He added his usual batted pass to two hits, a hurry, three defensive stops and a boatload of disruption in the running game. Some All-22 review pushed McCoy into the lineup in place of Suh (barely) with his three quarterback hits and three hurries complementing some excellent work against the run.
Defensive Interior – Nose: Jurrell Casey, TEN (+4.9)
There won’t be many times that Casey gets a pass rushing grade (+3.9) as high as what he managed versus the Steelers. The big defensive tackle is hard to block with just one man on him, regularly commanding extra attention. If you don’t he makes you pay, much like he did Pittsburgh.
Edge Rushers: Robert Quinn, SL (+8.2) and Cameron Wake, MIA (+8.3)
A tough break for Shaun Phillips, who would have thought himself a shoe-in to make this team after his Thursday Night play. Not so. That’s because Quinn had a massive game against the Cardinals, picking up three sacks and two hits he went to work on Levi Brown. Meanwhile, the victim for Wake was Mitchell Schwartz and when it was all said and done the ‘Phin had 10 quarterback disruptions already on the season.
Linebackers: Derrick Johnson, KC (+5.0) and DeAndre Levy*, DET (+2.9)
You may struggle to see a finer display of inside linebacker play all season than what Johnson produced. Five defensive stops, a hit and hurry, and some close coverage tormented the Jaguars. Partnering him is Levy who was denied a touchdown by a flag but still did a lot of good work in the run game.
Cornerbacks: Chris Harris, DEN (+3.3) and Cary Williams, PHI (+3.7)
Displacing Revis from this team is Williams who got off to the kind of start all free agent signings want to. Thrown at five times with a pass break up, pick and just one catch allowed. Harris, the underrated and versatile Bronco, allowed just three of eight balls into his coverage to be complete, while picking off one.
Safeties: Eric Berry, KC (+3.3) and Ryan Mundy, NYG (+3.4)
Maybe this is the Berry we’ll become accustomed to seeing. After a 2012 where he looked off the pace at times, he started this season in fine form. He has a nose for the ballcarrier and, with four defensive stops, it shows. Mundy will have enjoyed his debut for the Giants even if some of his teammates can’t say the same. He picked off a pass and made the kind of opening-day impression that makes you think a perceived weakness might not be one.
Kicker, Nick Folk (NYJ): Three out of three and a big game-winner to get Gang Green off to a winning start.
Punter, Sam Koch (BAL): He had plenty of attempts and really found his range.
Returner, Dexter McCluster (KC): There wasn’t an awful lot to get excited about on special teams this week when it came to returning.
Special Teamer, David Bruton (DEN): He did more than just block a punt with a lively showing.
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