32 Observations, Week 17
Every year we see players get better as the season goes on. In some cases it was healing after an early-season injury that led to improvement. In others, perhaps it was a sign of growth and a hint that the player is on to better things in the future. In still others, it might just be a good run that sees the player regress next year.
Regardless of the reason, here are 32 players who had a much better second half the season than first. Included is their overall PFF grade from Week 1 to Week 9 which will be considered their ‘early season’, as well as their grade from Week 10 to Week 17 which will be considered ‘late season’.
Buffalo Bills: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (-3.2 to +7.1) allowed a catch rate of 78.1 over the first half of the season which was fifth-worst among cornerbacks. Over the second half that was down to 48.6 which was 11th-best among cornerbacks.
Miami Dolphins: Running back Lamar Miller (-2.9 to +8.4) had a drop rate of 16.0 early in the season which was second-worst among running backs. Late in the season that was down to 5.56.
New England Patriots: When quarterbacks threw to wide receiver Julian Edelman (-7.7 to +5.1) early in the year, they had an NFL Passer Rating of 96.2, which was 40th-best for a wide receiver. Late in the year, that was up to 116.7 which was ninth-best for receivers.
New York Jets: Linebacker David Harris (-5.5 to +4.3) averaged 2.1 stops per game over the first 11 games of the season, and 3.8 stops per game over the last five.
Baltimore Ravens: Quarterback Joe Flacco (-1.8 to +8.4) averaged 7 yards per attempt or less in six of his nine early games. He did so just twice in his last seven.
Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (-4.3 to +12.6) had four or more pressure in just one of his first five games. Over his last 11, he had four or more pressures in nine.
Cleveland Browns: Over the first five games of linebacker Chris Kirksey’s career (-4.5 to +1.3), he had a Run Defense grade of -5.5 with a negative run defense grade in all five games. Over the next five games he was closer to average. Then he had a positive run defense grade in five of his last six games which led to a Run Defense grade of +4.3 over that time.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Four of Heath Miller’s (-8.0 to +8.4) five-best games in run blocking occurred over the last seven games of the season. Similarly four of his five-worst games in run blocking occurred over the first seven games of the season.
Houston Texans: Offensive Tackle Derek Newton (-5.9 to +14.9) was allowing a pressure on one in every 10 pass plays early in the season. Late in the season that improved to one in every 17.8 pass plays.
Indianapolis Colts: Tight End Coby Fleener (-7.1 to +5.3) had a Yards Per Route Run of 1.16 early in the year which was just 28th-best among tight ends. Late in the year that was up to 2.18 which was third-best.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive end Chris Clemons (-20.2 to +1.8) recorded a pressure on one in every 18.9 pass rushes over the first 10 weeks of the season. Over the last seven, he averaged a pressure on one in every 9.7.
Tennessee Titans: Right guard Chance Warmack (-8.0 to +13.6) had an overall grade of +1.2 or higher in each of his last seven games after having an overall grade of +0.7 or lower in each of his first nine. He had a positive run block grade in each of his last eight games after having one in three of the first eight. In pass blocking he allowed two sacks, two hits and 20 hurries over the first nine games. He allowed no sacks, no hits and just five hurries in the last nine.
Denver Broncos: Over his first 11 games with the Broncos, safety T.J. Ward (-5.9 to +7.8), he had just two games with an overall positive grade, with his-best game being a +1.1 overall. Over his last four games with Denver, he’s had a grade above +1.5 in each game.
Kansas City Chiefs: Early in the season, defensive end Jaye Howard (-4.4 to +2.8) has a Run Stop Percentage of 6.0 which was close to league average for the position. Over the second half of the season, that more than doubled to 12.8 with 17 run stops on 133 run snaps. That is good for second-best for 3-4 defensive ends behind just Watt.
Oakland Raiders: For the first 14 weeks of the season, rookie guard Gabe Jackson (-0.7 to +5.4) failed to have a run block grade above +0.7 in any game. Over the last three weeks of the season, he had a run block grade above +1.2 in two of the last three.
San Diego Chargers: Early in the season, there were two weeks where offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (-8.4 to +0.1) was among the two-worst right tackles in run blocking. Fluker ended the season with back-to-back weeks among the top two right tackles in run blocking.
Dallas Cowboys: Center Travis Frederick (-0.6 to +18.9) had a positive run block grade in four of his first eight games, and a run block grade above +2.0 once. He had a positive run block grade in each of his last eight games, and a run block grade above +2.0 in five of those eight games.
New York Giants: Early in the year, wide receiver Rueben Randle (-0.8 to +8.2) had a Yards Per Route Run of 1.23 which was 68th-best among wide receivers. Late in the year, he had a Yards Per Route Run of 1.91 which was 27th-best.
Philadelphia Eagles: Tight End Zach Ertz (+0.8 to +9.1) improved his blocking as the season went on. After allowing three pressures early in the year he didn’t allow a single pressure late. He also improved in run blocking where his grade was -1.7 early and +3.3 late.
Washington: Linebacker Keenan Robinson (-10.3 to +4.1) allowed a Yards Per Coverage Snap of 0.7 early in the year which was 16th-best for inside/middle linebackers. Late in the year he nearly cut that in half to 0.38 which was third-best for the position.
Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery (-1.3 to +5.3) only had three touchdowns early in the year. Since Week 10, Jeffery had seven touchdowns which is tied for the fourth-most among wide receivers during that time.
Detroit Lions: Running back Joique Bell (-4.5 to +2.5) had an Elusive Rating of 26.1 early in the season, a figure that ranked 32nd among backs. Late in the season that was up to 67.3 which was fourth-best.
Green Bay Packers: Cornerback Tramon Williams (-3.1 to +4.7) missed eight tackles over his first nine games this season. He didn’t miss a single tackle over his last seven games.
Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (-5.1 to +8.6) had an Accuracy Percentage of 72.9% which was 24th among quarterbacks early in the season. Late in the season that was up to 81.6% which was the best among quarterbacks.
Atlanta Falcons: When quarterbacks threw to a receiver covered by safety Kemal Ishmael (-5.1 to +2.5) over the first half of the season, they had an NFL Passer Rating of 120.5. Over the second half of the season, that was down to 87.5.
Carolina Panthers: Defensive end Charles Johnson (-7.8 to +20.1) had an average Pass Rushing Productivity of 8.5 early in the season. Late in the season that was up to 15.5 which led all 4-3 defensive ends.
New Orleans Saints: Wide receiver Kenny Stills (+0.4 to +4.7) had a Drop Rate of 11.11 early in the year which was among the worst in the league. Late in the year that improved to 2.5 which was 13th-best. He has not dropped a pass in his last seven games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Over his first nine games with the Buccaneers, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (-3.0 to +3.6) was averaging a pressure on one in every 30 pass rushes. Over his last five games, he was averaging a pressure on one in every 8.8 pass rushes.
Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback Patrick Peterson (-5.9 to +1.8) allowed six touchdowns over the first half of the season, and didn’t have an interception or pass defensed. Over the second half of the season, he allowed two touchdowns, had three interceptions and three passes defended.
St. Louis Rams: Safety T.J. McDonald (-8.6 to +10.1) allowed a Yards Per Coverage Snap of 1.34 over the first half of the season, and cut that down significantly to 0.53 over the second half.
San Francisco 49ers: Running back Frank Gore (-4.2 to +2.4) average just over 2.0 yards before contact per carry both early and late this season. However early in the season he averaged 2.0 yards after contact per carry, while late in the season he averaged 2.5 yards after contact per carry.
Seattle Seahawks: Quarterback Russell Wilson (-1.9 to +9.2) averaged 11 yards per completion early in the season, and 13.6 yards per completion late, while also improving his completion percentage.
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