Best players at every position for Preseason Week 2
We have suffered through the offseason, OTAs, minicamps, training camps, and now we are finally seeing some live football. It may only be preseason, but this is still the first real action for a lot of the impact players who will reveal themselves during the 2016, and an early glimpse at some players languishing further down depth charts who are trying to play themselves into a larger role and the notice of the rest of the league.
Not everybody on this list is a first-team player, and not all of them will be facing the best the NFL has to offer during their preseason action, but preseason is about getting yourself noticed and earning a role against those players if you don’t currently have one. We are judging the performances that might be getting a player noticed, not whether he did it against the league’s all-pros.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s been separating themselves with our Team of the Week for the second week of preseason action:
QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
The raw numbers suggest Dak Prescott should be here, but the key bad decision nullified by a penalty is hidden by his box score, but not his grades. Instead, Tannehill had a near-perfect outing in his first preseason action, scoring a pair of touchdowns, completing a fantastic pass on a corner route, and not earning a single negative-graded play against the Cowboys.
RB LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
There were no better outings at the running back position than LeGarrette Blount, who averaged 6.3 yards per carry, gained 51 of his 69 yards after contact and broke three tackles on his 11 carries.
WR Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans
Sharpe doesn’t just look like an unlikely starter in Tennessee, but like their No. 1 receiver. This week he caught all six of the passes sent his way for 68 yards, including a couple of excellent grabs that showed his array of skills.
WR Robby Anderson, New York Jets
With the Jets backups, Anderson was moving the chains all day, notching three first-down catches, a touchdown, and another that picked up nine yards on first and 10. He scored on a double move deep down the left sideline late in the game over Jeremy Harris, where his double move didn’t get him any space but he won the ball at the catch point anyway for an easy score.
Slot WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
This wasn’t a great week for slot receivers, but rookie Boyd caught a couple of passes including a touchdown against Detroit on three targets. His other catch was a diving grab by the sideline despite being held at the time by the Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs.
TE A.J. Derby, New England Patriots
New England has a pretty impressive TE stable to learn from, and so far this preseason Derby is showing he’s picked up a few things. He caught 86 percent of the passes sent his way this week at an average depth of target of 12 yards downfield, scoring a touchdown and notching 71 receiving yards.
LT Charles Leno Jr., Chicago Bears
Chicago’s offensive line had a fine week overall, and Leno was the best left tackle in the league this week, grading well against the run but also having a perfect day in pass protection, surrendering no pressure at all in his 33 snaps.
LG Martin Wallace, Chicago Bears
The second member of the Bears line to make the team this week, Wallace also had a perfect day in pass protection over his 36 snaps, and also had some solid run-blocking plays.
C Austin Blythe, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts haven’t been used to impressive displays from their offensive linemen over the past few seasons, but Blythe had an excellent day with the backups against Baltimore. He played 44 snaps and didn’t surrender a single pressure, as well as adding positive plays in the run game and on the move during screens.
RG Connor McGovern, Denver Broncos
Denver’s offensive line overall had a good day against the 49ers, paving the way for their backs to average 5.0 yards per carry. McGovern was the best performer of the group, executing some excellent reach blocks in the run game and grading well as a pass-blocker. He surrendered two marginal hurries, but did so over a huge preseason workload of 68 snaps.
RT Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
If you want an indication of the gulf in quality between the top of the NFL and roster bubble guys, watch Johnson playing late in the game against them this week for the Eagles. Johnson found himself with the backups after news that he will be suspended for 10 games, and just laid waste to the bodies in front of him, driving defensive linemen 10 yards off the line on some plays.
Edge defender Marcus Rush, San Francisco 49ers
It came against the Denver backups, but Rush was a force for the 49ers, notching three sacks and four more hurries from his 43 snaps. His grade was significantly higher than any other edge rusher this week, and his seven total pressures were the highest among 3-4 outside linebackers.
Interior defender Nick Fairley, New Orleans Saints
Fairley is in danger of appearing like a journeyman, on his third team in as many years, but he remains a quality impact player capable of influencing games in a major way. Fairley had a sack this week, but also three more hurries. He also recorded five defensive stops and graded well in the run game.
Interior defender Jerel Worthy, Buffalo Bills
In 30 snaps of action, Worthy, a former second-round pick back in 2012, recorded just one hurry but was a monster in the run game, notching four stops and seven total tackles, consistently affecting the play and making life difficult for the Giants blockers.
Edge defender Frank Clark, Seattle Seahawks
For the second preseason in a row, Clark is taking names and making plays. Against the Vikings, Clark had a sack, hit and two hurries as well as a batted pass and three defensive stops. His sack came despite being held on the play by Jeremiah Sirles, the Vikings left tackle, and he also posted a solid grade against the run.
LB Tyler Matakevich, Pittsburgh Steelers
A favorite of many draft fans, Tyler Matakevich was a seventh-round draft pick despite an exceptionally productive career at Temple because of his limited athletic profile. This week he made the case that won’t prevent him making plays in the NFL any more than it did in college, grading atop the linebacker group by recording three defensive stops, a hurry and forcing cuts away from the point of attack multiple times in the run game.
LB K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks
One of the best linebackers in the league, Wright had another excellent game in his 28 snaps, making six tackles, four stops (second in the league among LBs) and giving up just one catch for five yards in coverage.
Slot CB Vernon Hargreaves III
When you play 17 snaps, are targeted three times, and allow a passer rating of 0.0, you have had a pretty good day in coverage. That’s the day Hargreaves had this week, intercepting two of the three passes sent his way for one of the best days of any corner this week and the best day of any slot corner.
CB Corey White, Buffalo Bills
White had by far the highest grade of any corner this week. He was thrown at four times, and had two pass breakups, but also broke up another pass with a hit on a slant route, and forced a fumble.
CB Nolan Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles
Carroll fought through Sammie Coates at the top of the route to intercept a pass from Landry Jones and take it back for a touchdown this week against the Steelers, and also broke up a pass to Darius Heyward-Bey on the only other pass thrown his way.
S Landon Collins, New York Giants
His rookie season did not go well, but this week at least Collins had a fine game for the New York Giants. He recorded eight tackles, three defensive stops, a forced fumble and even corralled Bills QB Tyrod Taylor for a short gain when he took off scrambling from the pocket. This was the do-it-all safety the Giants have been looking for.
S Vonn Bell, New Orleans Saints
Bell had a sack and seven tackles this week against Houston, with six of those being defensive stops. He was consistently around the football and able to work his way quickly to the play against the Houston backups.
ST Clayton Fejedelem, Cincinnati Bengals
Three special teams tackles was tied for most in the league this week from Fejedelem, who played on the kick coverage, kick return, punt and punt return teams this week.