Making Their Case
With three weeks of preseason football now behind us we have seen most of what we will see from the first team units and it feels like a good time to cast our eyes over who has stood out this preseason. Some players come in with much to prove, either after struggling a year ago, or perhaps through not seeing much attention in free agency, and some of them have given their respective teams plenty to think about this August.
Some of them may have benefitted from going up against weaker competition, it is of course easier to stand out against players that won’t be in the league in a few weeks, but you can only beat the player you’re lined up against, and these guys have certainly done that.
Let’s take a look at 10 players who have shown something this preseason.
Matthew McGloin, QB, OAK: +7.4
McGloin started six games as an undrafted rookie in Oakland last year and, while solid enough, there didn’t seem to be much support for him to start in 2014. Enter Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr and suddenly McGloin is at the bottom of the pecking order again. So how has he responded? By being our second highest-graded quarterback through three preseason games, of course! Taking advantage of his familiarity with the offense, McGloin graded positively in all three games. He has shown himself worthy of keeping an eye on going forward.
Key Stat: Tied for fourth with an Accuracy Percentage of 55.6% on passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield.
Ryan Harris, OT, KC: +4.8
Harris struggled as he rotated into the line up at both left and right tackle in Houston last year, making little impact as a run blocker and allowing 28 total pressures on 306 pass-blocking snaps. He’s looked good this preseason in limited duty against weaker competition, though, and is our highest-graded player at the position so far. With Donald Stephenson suspended for the first four games of the year, he’s now potentially in position to start on the right side of the Chiefs’ offensive line to open the season.
Key Stat: Has a Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 98.0 this preseason.
J.R. Sweezy, RG, SEA: +5.6
A converted defensive lineman when he entered the league, Sweezy was always going to be something of a project in Seattle. Showing improvement from his rookie year in 2012 to last year, he has shown this preseason that he is in position to take another step forward in 2014, with his run blocking standing out the most.
Key Stat: Sweezy is our second highest-graded run blocker among guards through three preseason games.
Margus Hunt, DE, CIN: +6.1
Another player who was deemed to be more of a project, but who had off-the-charts measurables, Hunt was a 2013 second-round pick for the Cincinnati Bengals. Even at 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds, he struggled to make much impact in 2013, seeing just 170 snaps and being pushed around in the run game. He’s looked much better this preseason, however, impressing both against the run and as a pass rusher as he begins to understand how to use his physical gifts.
Key Stat: Hunt has a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 11.0 this preseason.
Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, NYG: +3.5
Kiwanuka really struggled on the Giants’ defensive line last year, finishing the year with a grade of -31.5. This preseason he has graded positively both as a pass rusher and against the run, looking much better than the player we saw in the 2013 regular season.
Key Stat: After having a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of just 6.7 in 2013, Kiwanuka has a rating of 10.1 this preseason.
Pernell McPhee, OLB, BAL: +5.6
Back in his rookie year of 2011 McPhee looked like a poor man’s Geno Atkins as an interior pass rusher. Sadly, injuries seemed to prevent him from reaching his potential in recent years but he looks to be back to his best, impressing both at outside linebacker and when lined up on the defensive line as an interior pass rusher.
Key Stat: McPhee has produced 10 total pressures from 43 pass-rushing snaps through three games.
Landon Cohen, DT, BUF: +7.7
Signed in late July, Cohen clearly came into the preseason a man on a mission, starting fast out of the gates and taking home the PFF Game Ball for his performance in the Hall of Fame Game. Excelling against the run, he’s made a strong case to make the Bills’ final roster.
Key Stat: Cohen’s Run Stop Percentage of 11.6% is the third-highest mark among defensive tackles who have played at least 32 snaps against the run this preseason.
Davon House, CB, GB: +6.6
A 2011 fourth-round pick, House’s play was up and down on the 533 snaps he saw in Green Bay last year, giving up 480 yards and five touchdowns but coming away with an interception and nine pass break-ups, too. This preseason he saw a big game against the Oakland Raiders last week push him to the top of our cornerback rankings as he battles for playing time in the Packers’ defensive backfield.
Key Stat: Has allowed just one reception from the six passes thrown into his coverage in the past two games.
Melvin White, CB, CAR: +4.9
Starting in the second half of 2013 as an undrafted rookie, White had an uneven run: three games with a coverage grade “in the green” and five “in the red”. He’s continued as a starter this preseason, looking solid and allowing just one reception of 20 yards or more through three games.
Key Stat: White has allowed just 0.61 Yards Per Coverage Snap in preseason.
Chris Clemons, S, HOU: +2.6
One surprise for me was how little interest Clemons got this offseason as a free agent. While not up there with the elite safeties in the league, he’s more than competent and there were plenty of free safety-needy teams this offseason. Clemons has been solid this preseason, firstly as a backup and then starting the game against the Broncos. He’s competing with Kendrick Lewis for the starting spot, and hasn’t done himself any harm with his play on the field.
Key Stat: Three of his four tackles against the Atlanta Falcons resulted in defensive stops.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon