HOU-IND Grades: Brandon Brooks delivers in critical AFC South win
– RG Brandon Brooks (+5.5) is the Texans’ best offensive lineman. After an excellent 2014 season, where he ranked as the fourth-highest graded right guard in the league (+22.3), Brooks has struggled with consistency this year. He had a good start to the year, recording a +8.1 grade in the first five games, but had since tailed off with only one positively-graded game since. Brooks was back to his best against the Colts, finishing with the best offensive grade on the team. In pass protection, he allowed only a pair of hurries on 39 dropbacks and he moved people in the run game, finishing with a +4.7 grade in that facet of play. Brooks’ performance has boosted him to 23rd in our rankings this year, with a couple of weeks to keep climbing the list.
– Despite being unable to use one of his hands, J.J. Watt still played a good game (+1.6) against the Colts. As a pass rusher, predominantly off the offensive right side, he had a sack, hit, and pair of hurries from 36 rushes, culminating in a +1.6 grade. Watt had offensive lineman beat a couple of other times, too, but quick releases prevented further pressure. In run defense, he picked up three stops from 19 snaps, but did miss a tackle. His most impressive play of the day came against the ground game. Watt was able to make a stop from DRE on a run over RG by driving LT Anthony Castonzo into the backfield, and then shedding him for a tackle around the line of scrimmage. Only an offsides penalty prevented Watt’s grade from being even higher.
– While second-round pick Benardrick McKinney has had a good rookie year (+1.4), his partner at inside linebacker looks lost. Brian Cushing (-3.1) continues to struggle. He has just two positively-graded games, compared with nine negatively graded games since Week 4. Cushing has fallen to 39th amongst inside linebackers with this performance. In run defense, he made five tackles but only two of them were stops. As a pass rusher, he failed to generate any pressure on 15 rushes, and now has just one hit and five hurries from 138 attempts. Unsurprisingly, such a poor return sees him ranked last in pass rush productivity. Finally, Cushing also graded negatively in coverage, where he gave up a first down to Coby Fleener. Overall, he’s allowing a QB rating of 102.0 when targeted this year.
RG Brandon Brooks (+5.5)
SCB Kareem Jackson (+2.3)
WR DeAndre Hopkins (+2.1)
ROLB Jadeveon Clowney (+1.8)
RCB A.J. Bouye (+1.7)
– The Colts have been struggling to find a competent starting center since Jeff Saturday retired. An injury to the under-performing Khaled Holmes (-4.0) has given Jonotthan Harrison a shot to stake his claim. Harrison hasn’t played well, though, with a -8.1 grade in 533 snaps. He had particular difficulty against the Texans in pass protection, where he gave up a pair of hits and a hurry from 36 dropbacks. Harrison was beaten with ease by a spin move from blitzing linebacker John Simon on one play. Since he became the starter in Week 8, Harrison has allowed 16 total pressures, which is tied for fifth-worst in the league. It’s unfair to single out one young player for criticism, but Harrison’s performances are symptomatic of the issues the Colts have had at center over the past few years.
– The inconsistency of another young player is also hurting the Colts’ defense. It was perhaps optimistic to expect rookie NT David Parry (-11.4) to light it up in his first year in the NFL, but he’s had some poor games this season. He recorded his second worst grade of the season against the Texans, and had a team-low -3.4 run defense grade. Although he made a pair of stops, there were times when the nose tackle was moved with ease on Houston’s trademark outside zone runs. Parry was also shut out as a pass rusher from 13 snaps, although that’s less of a concern considering his main priority is to clog the middle. With this performance, Parry fell to 67th of 70 qualifying defensive tackles, in terms of overall grade. Hopefully this is just an adjustment period for him, and he can bounce-back in the last few weeks of this season.
– ILB Jerrell Freeman (+3.7) has been one of the most productive inside linebackers over the past few weeks. In his past six games, he has a +23.4 grade and has not graded negatively in run defense or as a pass rusher. He had an impressive game against the Texans, recording five stops without missing a tackle. Freeman also had a hurry from his only pass rush. Overall, he’s moved up to fourth in our inside linebacker rankings with the joint second-highest grade in run defense (+14.7). In contrast, D’Qwell Jackson (-9.3) is having a poor year. Although he made four stops on Sunday, he also missed a pair of tackles and busted a coverage, resulting in a -2.9 overall grade. Jackson has proved his talent in the past, but at age 32, father time might be catching up with him.
– ILB Jerrell Freeman (+3.7)
– FS Mike Adams (+3.6)
– LOLB Robert Mathis (+2.8)
– LCB Jalil Brown (+2.2)
– LOLB Jonathan Newsome (+1.9)