Before we get into this week’s edition of Secret Superstars, a hat-tip is due to two players who have already featured this season, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones and Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington, who both had career games on Sunday.
Ideally we want to feature players we haven’t mentioned before, though there will always be exceptions, but it was worth noting they have both continued to develop since that appearance here, both getting the attention and credit their play deserves.
But onto this week, where four new players get the spotlight shined their way for their impressive work on the field. Your Secret Superstars this week are an offensive tackle from Detroit, a defensive tackle from Cincinnati, a linebacker in Green Bay, and a safety in New York.
LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Detroit Lions
An undrafted free agent from Texas Tech, LaAdrian Waddle (+3.8) first caught our eye in preseason, where he allowed just a single hurry from 76 pass blocking snaps, which was good for second among all offensive tackles in the month of August. As we’ve seen with other players, that doesn’t always mean they’ll be able to step up by the time the regular season rolls around, and when Waddle took to the field for the first time in Week 7, he wasn’t quite at the level he looked to be in preseason — allowing a hit and three hurries on just 30 pass blocking snaps. Seeing his first start in Week 8 however, was a very different story.
Again he allowed a hit and three hurries, but this time it came on 52 pass blocking snaps. Not quite at his preseason level, but much better than the week before. It was as a run blocker where we saw him stand out the most, an area he struggled with in the preseason finale, as he made life easier for Reggie Bush and the Lions’ running backs all game. This is best demonstrated on 2nd-and-3 with 10:36 left in the opening quarter, where he came off the double-team block to drive Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter 5 yards down field — it was one of the best performances we saw from an offensive lineman in Week 8.
Brandon Thompson, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
As they’ve turned themselves from perennial laughing stock of the NFL into potential Super Bowl contenders, the Bengals have become very good at one thing in particular — finding standout defensive lineman. Their top three defensive lineman, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap, were all drafted somewhere outside the top 53 picks in their respective drafts, and they’ve also found success via free agency, where Wallace Gilberry has added to their rotation. In Week 8 we saw another non-first-round draft pick step up in the form of second-year man Brandon Thompson (+2.2).
It was primarily his work against the run which caught our attention, with both of his solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop. Two tackles might not seem like an awful lot, but when you consider they came on just 12 snaps against the run, it’s clear he made the most of his limited opportunity. More importantly, he finished the game without a negatively graded play, showing that he wasn’t willing to be pushed around by opposing offensive lineman. It’s a tough ask to have him replicate the feats of his teammate, and most famous Secret Superstar, in Atkins, but the challenge now is for Williams to make this kind of performance a consistent feature of the Bengals’ defensive line rotation.
Jamari Lattimore, LB, Green Bay Packers
An undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee in 2011, linebacker Jamari Lattimore (+3.3) hadn’t featured much for the Green Bay defense in his first two years in the league. Playing just 38 snaps over that time, and grading negatively in the process, there wasn’t much to get excited about. That was until he got his opportunity against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6, putting on an impressive performance in the Green Bay win. We didn’t mention him then, and perhaps we should have, but thankfully he was kind enough to have an even better performance this past week to allow us to make up for it.
He was solid against the run, even when he didn’t recorded a tackle, but it’s his play as a pass rusher that the focus really should be on. The highlight was blowing past Minnesota Vikings right guard Brandon Fusco right off the snap to record a sack on 1st-and-10 with 14:08 to go in the game, but it was his overall production on a limited snap count that stood out. Rushing the passer just six times, he was able to record that sack and add in a hurry for good measure. After two big performances in the past three games, Lattimore just needs to keep this momentum going to turn in a fantastic second half of the season.
Will Hill, S, New York Giants
In the case of Giants’ safety Will Hill (+3.4), his talent has never really been too much in question. Undrafted out of Florida last year, that was more down to off the field issues than anything else. Those issues came up again this past offseason, however, and Hill found himself suspended for the first four games of the season. He was straight into the line up when he returned in Week 5 though, delivering a solid performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. Two games where he didn’t stand out, for good or bad, followed before he got the opportunity to face the Eagles again on Sunday, bettering that Week 5 performance.
His biggest play was his game-sealing interception of Matt Barkley on 2nd-and-10 with 22 seconds left in the game, stepping in front of the lofted pass to DeSean Jackson to ensure the Giants left Philadelphia with their second win on the year. That by itself was impressive, but he also added two third-down tackles on receivers short of first-down yardage earlier in the game, ending Eagles drives long before he ultimately ended the game.
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