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: Gerald McCoy, TB (+16.5) and Jonathan Babineaux, ATL (+3.5)
No player has impressed more than McCoy. Indeed it’s only taken him 67 snaps to earn this ludicrous grade as he’s made guards look like they don’t belong in this league. Babineaux promises to be the biggest playmaker on the Falcons’ defensive line (once again) in their hybrid front.
Honorable Mention: Clinton McDonald, TB and Randy Starks, MIA
Defensive Interior – Nose: Brandon Williams, BAL (+6.4)
Just what the Ravens want to see from their third-round pick from a year ago. Williams has looked like an imposing obstacle in the middle of their defense.
Honorable Mention: Roy Miller, JAX
Edge Rushers: Cameron Jordan, NO (+6.5) and Tamba Hali, KC (+6.7)
With the Saints looking more like a 4-3 team right now, Jordan is spending more time at end and isn’t looking any worse for it with a splendid effort in preseason so far. As for Hali it’s worth watching his play against Matt Kalil to decide if he’s ready for the regular season.
Honorable Mention: Everson Griffen, MIN and Elvis Dumervil, BAL
Linebackers: Brandon Spikes, BUF (+5.2) and Nigel Bradham, BUF (+6.2)
A lot of love for the Bills’ linebackers right now who have taken the playing time they’ve got and shown that with Jim Schwartz coordinating them they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Honorable Mention: Keith Rivers, BUF and Brad Jones, GB
Cornerbacks: Melvin White, CAR (+4.4) and Malcolm Butler, NE (+3.1)
Starters rarely get tested during preseason, but the Panthers will be encouraged that sophomore White is looking to build upon his rise from undrafted free agent to NFL starter. Over in New England, Butler might not get on the field much once the regular season rolls around, but surely he’s got himself a roster spot locked up somewhere.
Honorable Mention: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NYG and Carlos Rogers, OAK
Safeties: Calvin Pryor, NYJ (+7.4) and Nate Allen, PHI (+4.9)
Pryor has already got Jets fans salivating at the thought of what he can do, making plenty of plays that you just don’t see from a lot of safeties. Allen has really put a shift in to prove himself worthy of a starting spot, and on the evidence of preseason it’s paid off.
Honorable Mention: Isa Abdul-Quddus, DET and Eric Weddle, SD
Kicker: Steven Hauschka, SEA
Beats out Tucker with his better work in kickoffs.
Honorable Mention: Justin Tucker, BAL
Punter: Pat McAfee, IND
Is booming it and not giving returners much of anything to work with.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Morstead, NO
Returners: Deonte Thompson, BAL and Adam Thielen, MIN
A new format for us this year, giving a kickoff return and punt returner the praise they deserve.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Ellington, SF and Preston Parker, NYG
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