All-Star Team of the Week: Week 9
We’re now past the halfway stage of the 2014 season, with the push for the postseason now in full swing. We can already see which teams are likely to run away with their division and which teams are going to face a tough battle if they want to still be playing into January.
You already know all that, though, and you’re here instead to see who, in our opinion, the most impressive players have been from this week’s slate of games. So here it is, our Week 9 Team of the Week.
(Note: Team will be updated as needed after Monday Night Football and by Wednesday when All-22 footage helps us study plays in even more detail.)
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, MIA (+5.6)
The Dolphins have started the season well and their third year signal caller had his best game of the season on Sunday. Completing 70.6% of his passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns, there was little to fault about his play against the Chargers.
Honorable Mention: Drew Brees, NO
Running Back: Andre Ellington, ARZ (+3.3)
A close contest between Ellington and fellow NFC West running back Marshawn Lynch, ultimately it came down to the fact that Ellington was a better runner on the day. 135 yards from scrimmage, a touchdown and two forced missed tackles. A nice day all round from him.
Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch, SEA
Fullback: Will Ta’ufo’ou, JAX (+1.5)
Playing just 14 snaps, he made the most of them with his grade coming entirely from his work as a run blocker. We’ve seen flashes from him in the past, but that was his best performance of 2014 so far.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Hewitt, CIN
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, NE (+6.0)
If you needed any confirmation after last week, there it is. He’s back. Fantastic as a receiver, where he forced three missed tackles, picked up 105 yards and scored a touchdown, and brilliant as a run blocker to go along with it.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Graham, NO
Wide Receivers: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (+4.1) and Jeremy Maclin, PHI (+2.4)
Two impressive performances from the same game here as Maclin and Hopkins stood out. Hopkins averaged 19.2 yards per reception on his way to a 115-yard receiving day while Maclin caught all six passes thrown his way for 158 yards and two scores.
Honorable Mentions: Percy Harvin, NYJ and Mike Evans, TB
Tackles: Jason Peters, PHI (+6.0) and Zach Strief, NO (+3.3)
Peters allowed a sack and a hit in pass protection, but his work as a run blocker was sublime. Strief on the other have was solid as a run blocker but it was his pass protection that really caught our attention, with him shutting out the Carolina pass rush from his side all game long.
Honorable Mentions: Andrew Whitworth, CIN and Ricky Wagner, BAL
Guards: Zane Beadles, JAX (+1.5) and J.R. Sweezy, SEA (+3.8)
Both of our starting guards allowed just a single hit in pass protection, but find themselves in our Team of the Week for their run blocking. By far the best performance we’ve seen from Sweezy this year, while Beadles now has six positively-graded games through the first nine weeks of the season.
Honorable Mentions: Oday Aboushi and Mike Pollak, CIN
Center: Jason Kelce, PHI (+2.9)
Taking over right where he left off, Kelce had another fine day as a run blocker in the middle of the Eagles offensive line. It’s a big boost for them to get one of the best center’s in the game back on the field for the second half of the season.
Honorable Mention: Nick Mangold, NYJ
Click to Page 2 for the defense…
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 (+6.4) and Cameron Heyward, PIT (+4.1)
Two sacks, four hits and a hurry, the best player in football shows no signs of slowing down. Utterly dominant once again. Heyward might not be Watt, but that was an impressive performance all the same. Six total pressures and some solid work against the run.
Honorable Mentions: Geno Atkins, CIN and Sheldon Richardson, NYJ
Defensive Interior – Nose: Dan Williams, ARZ (+5.4)
A big reason why the Cardinals were able to hold DeMarco Murray under 100 yards, the man in the middle of the Cardinals’ defensive line had six defensive stops in Sunday’s win, easing his way to the highest grade amongst nose tackles in Week 9.
Honorable Mention: Johnathan Hankins, NYG
Edge Rushers: Junior Galette, NO (+8.1) and Robert Ayers (+11.9)
Unstoppable on Thursday night, Galette came away with two sacks, a hit and seven hurries, making life miserable for Cam Newton and the Panthers. Opposite him, Ayers had a career night on Monday against the Colts. A sack, six hits and six hurries gave the sort of output many wouldn’t have believed he was capable of.
Honorable Mentions: James Harrison, PIT and Olivier Vernon, MIA
Linebackers: Alec Ogletree, STL (+4.8) and K.J. Wright, SEA (+6.7)
Two weeks ago Ogletree had one of the worst performances you’ll see from a linebacker all year, but he flipped that on its head with a great showing against the San Francisco 49ers yesterday, grading positively against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher. Wright was equally impressive, finishing the game with nine tackles resulting in defensive stops.
Honorable Mentions: Mychal Kendricks, PHI and Jamie Collins, NE
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, SEA (+5.3) and Joe Haden, CLE (+3.7)
Neither Derek Carr or Mike Glennon were afraid to throw the ball into the coverage of Sherman or Haden, but perhaps they should have been. Six passes into Sherman’s coverage netted just 15 yards, while he broke up one pass and picked off another. Haden gave up just 13 yards from the eight passes his way, and broke up three of them on his own.
Honorable Mentions: Antonio Cromartie, ARZ and Jumal Rolle, HOU
Safeties: Donte Whitner, CLE (+5.7) and Patrick Chung, NE (+4.7)
Just one pass was thrown into Whitner’s coverage on Sunday, and the former 49ers safety picked that off. Grading positively in coverage, against the run and as a pass rusher, he had one of the best and most well-rounded displays you’ll see from a safety all year. Chung saw plenty of work, with nine passes thrown into his coverage, but he allowed just four receptions for 52 yards while breaking up three passes.
Honorable Mentions: Reshad Jones, MIA and Antoine Bethea, SF
Kicker: Billy Cundiff, CLE: Not a banner week for kickers, with just one successful attempt from 50+. That didn’t come from Cundiff, but was a perfect 3-for-3.
Punter: Andy Lee, SF: A big performance from the leg of Lee saw him just edge out Johnny Hekker for the starting spot in this Team of the Week. Good distance, location and hang-time from the 49ers’ punter this week.
Returner: Julian Edelman, NE: There were several strong performances from returners this week, but the nod goes to Edelman for that excellent punt return for a touchdown against the Broncos.
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