When a team improves from one year to the next, it’s easy to point to a rookie playing well or a free agent addition that is making the difference. It’s also good to take notice of the players who were already around and have stepped up their game. This week’s 32 Observations takes a look at those players who, regardless of how their team is doing overall, have made a leap in performance from 2012 to 2013.
Buffalo Bills: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has more run stops in 2013 at 21 than he did in 2012 at 17. He did so in less than half the number of snaps (324 to 150).
Miami Dolphins: Even though defensive tackle Jared Odrick has only one sack this year compared to six last year, in general his pass rushing has improved. He was getting pressure on one in every 15.3 pass rushes in 2012, and that has improved to one in every 9.0 pass rushes in 2013.
New England Patriots: Cornerback Aqib Talib has seen his Yards Per Coverage Snap get cut in half from 2012 with New England to 2013. It was at 1.74 in 2012 and is now at 0.81.
New York Jets: Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has seen his Drop Rate decrease from 6.67 in 2012 to 4.00 in 2013.
Baltimore Ravens: Both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil had down years in 2012 but have rebounded in 2013. Suggs was getting pressure on one in every 14.6 pass rushes last year, and now gets pressure twice as often with a pressure on one in every 7.1 pass rushes. Dumervil has also improved from 8.6 to 5.9.
Cincinnati Bengals: Despite having fewer pass routes (265 to 142) and fewer targets (36 to 26) in 2013 so far compared to 2012, wide receiver Marvin Jones already has more receiving yards in 2013 (235 to 247).
Cleveland Browns: If you take the four best games in 2012 from outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard in terms of pass rush grade, he had a Pass Rushing Productivity of 9.3. In his four games so far in 2013, he has a Pass Rushing Productivity of 13.3.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Guard David DeCastro has increased his Pass Blocking Efficiency from 93.5 in 2012 to 96.4 in 2013, and has also increased his run blocking grade from -0.8 to +5.1.
Houston Texans: In 2012 when a Texans running back ran to either gap to the immediate left or right of the right guard, they averaged 1.9 yards before contact. In 2013 when running to those same gaps, they have an average yards before contact of 2.6. This is in part thanks to right guard Brandon Brooks who had a negative run blocking grade in 2012 that is now sitting at +4.1 and ninth-best among guards.
Indianapolis Colts: In 2012 when quarterback Andrew Luck was under pressure, he had a completion on 29.8% of his drop-backs, a sack on 15.2% and an interception on 2.8%. In 2013, his completions are up to 37.4% of his drop-backs, while sacks are down to 14.0% and interception down to 1.9%.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Since becoming a starter, right tackle Austin Pasztor has allowed a pressure on one in every 31.3 pass blocks. This is significantly better than the one in 18.9 he was allowing last year, and it’s even more impressive considering he was playing guard last year and tackle this year.
Tennessee Titans: Last year when quarterbacks were throwing at the receiver cornerback Alterraun Verner was covering, they completed 63.1% of passes which is close to league average. This year, they are completing a league low 36.4% of passes.
Denver Broncos: Defensive tackle Malik Jackson had a negative rating in both run defense and pass rushing as a rookie, but this year has a positive rating in both. He had a stop on just 1.6% of plays he was in last year, and that is up significantly to 4.3% this year.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have gotten a lot more pressure from their defensive line in 2013 compared to 2013. Dontari Poe has 17 pressures this year compared to 12 last year while Tyson Jackson has eight this year compared to seven last year.
Oakland Raiders: In 2012, wide receiver Denarius Moore had one of the worst drop rates in the league at 15.0 due to dropping nine of 60 catchable balls. This year he has one of the best at 3.85 after dropping just one of 26 catchable balls (though he’s had two drops wiped out by penalties).
San Diego Chargers: Two reasons we’ve seen a better Philip Rivers in 2013 is he is under pressure less frequently (38.3% of drop-backs to 28.0%), and he is more accurate on his passes when under pressure (57.6% Accuracy Percentage to league leading 75.9%).
Dallas Cowboys: Offensive tackle Doug Free was allowing pressure on one in every 13.2 pass blocks in 2012, and that has become less frequent in 2013. This year he has been allowing a pressure on one in every 23.5 drop-backs.
New York Giants: Although the Giants pass rush isn’t doing as well as it has in the past, they have done a great job stopping running backs. Defensive end Justin Tuck had a good Run Stop Percentage in 2012 at 7.3%, but in 2013 that has increased to 9.2% which is fourth best amongst 4-3 defensive ends.
Philadelphia Eagles: In 2012, halfback LeSean McCoy was getting stopped for a loss of yardage on 14.5% of his carries. In 2013 that is down to 7.8% of his carries.
Washington Redskins: Last year left guard Kory Lichtensteiger has the lowest run block grade of all guards at -15.0. This year he has a much more respectable grade of +2.7 in run blocking, which has put him at an overall grade of +10.2 on the year which is third-best among guards.
Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery has had his Yards Per Route Run increase from 1.41 as a rookie to 2.21 this year.
Detroit Lions: From 2010-2012, linebacker DeAndre Levy had a total of four interceptions. So far this year Levy already has four interceptions. This ties Bryan Scott in 2012 and Brian Cushing in 2009 as the most interceptions by a 4-3 outside linebacker in the PFF era, and Levy has another nine games to attempt to take the record for himself.
Green Bay Packers: Defensive End Mike Daniels has a Run Stop Percentage of 14.3, which is third best for all 3-4 defensive ends with at least 15 run snaps. This is double his Run Stop Percentage in 2012 of 7.1%.
Minnesota Vikings: Right guard Brandon Fusco has improved on both his run blocking and pass blocking in 2013. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 94.8 was tied for worst in the league amongst guards in 2012, and now it’s an average 96.3. His run blocking was below average last year with a grade of -2.7, and now his +8.6 is the best for any guard not playing in Philadelphia.
Atlanta Falcons: The defensive tackle with the worst run defense rating in 2012 was Corey Peters at -12.2. In 2013 Peters has the 11th-best run defense grade at +4.5.
Carolina Panthers: Safety Michael Mitchell has the exact same coverage statistics in terms of targets and catches allowed from 2012 to 2013 at 12 targets and nine catches allowed. The difference is in 2012 he didn’t have an interception where this year he has three which is tied for second most among safeties.
New Orleans Saints: Defensive end Cameron Jordan has doubled the frequency he gets pressure from 7.4% of his pass rushes in 2012 to 14.9% in 2013.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As a rookie, linebacker Lavonte David showed he could stop the run and play in coverage. In 2013 he has shown he can be a triple threat. He had a below average 9.9 Pass Rushing Productivity last year, where this year he has a league-leading 35.7. On 42.8% of his pass rushes he has gotten pressure, and on 19.0% of his pass rushes he has either sacked or hit the opposing quarterback.
Arizona Cardinals: In both 2012 and 2013, guard Daryn Colledge has been the highest rated player on the Cardinals’ offensive line due to his strong pass blocking and below average run blocking. The difference for him this year is he was tied as the eighth-most-penalized guard in 2012 with seven penalties, and this year he just has one.
St. Louis Rams: Defensive end Chris Long has pressured the quarterback at least four times in five of his seven games this year. In 2012 he achieved that in just four of his 16 games.
San Francisco 49ers: In 2012, cornerback Tramaine Brock allowed a high 87.5% of passes thrown his way to be caught. This year he has decreased that to 52.5%.
Seattle Seahawks: Last year defensive end Red Bryant had a Run Stop Percentage of 4.4% which was in the Bottom 10 in the league for 4-3 defensive ends. This year it is at 9.6%, which is in the Top 10.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke