TB-CAR grades: Jared Allen turns back the clock
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Panthers’ 38-10 win over the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– Jameis Winston’s season started with his lowest grade of the year, and ended yesterday with his second lowest (-4.7). His struggles with inaccuracy and decision-making down the field aren’t indicative of his season as a whole, but it’s unsettling that those issues reared their head again in Week 17, even if it was against one of the top defenses in the NFL. Maybe the most concerning thing I saw though was his pocket presence. Winston was feeling the pass rush even when it wasn’t there on Sunday, and all too frequently his first move was backwards—a big no-no. That type of floating in the pocket needs to be addressed this offseason, as it can create pressure when none exists.
– It’s nice to see right tackle Demar Dotson (+3.9) come back from injury and have a strong end to the season. With Donovan Smith and Gosder Cherilus combining for the second-lowest pass blocking grade of any starting tackle tandem in the NFL, it definitely would have saved some wear and tear on Winston had Dotson been healthy the whole season. It will be interesting to see if they still move Dotson over to left tackle in the offseason, or let the maligned rookie Smith (-4.1 on Sunday) stay entrenched there.
– Yet another discouraging season from Johnthan Banks in year three. The former second-round pick had one game graded above +1 this season, and his -5.0 performance Sunday was the lowest of his career. Banks allowed 76 yards on six-of-seven targets that included a touchdown, and he also missed two tackles. The Bucs have many needs come draft time, and corner should once again be high on that list.
RT Demar Dotson (+3.9)
LG Logan Mankins (+3.4)
C Joe Hawley (+2.3)
RB Charles Sims (+2.1)
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (+1.4)
– Sunday’s performance likely locks up the MVP honor for Cam Newton (+2.9). He put a couple balls in harm’s way, but the good far outweighed the bad, overall. He absolutely killed the Bucs’ defense with slant routes, going seven-of-seven for 96 yards and a touchdown, with only one completion not resulting in a first down. Aiding in Newton’s big day was the emergence of Devin Funchess (+1.7), who graded out well despite an early fumble.
– Possibly the biggest surprise this year for the Panthers offense wasn’t Newton’s breakout season, as he’s had stretches of high quality football in the past. No, it’s the fact that they somehow got Michael Oher (+3.4) to perform like a competent left tackle in pass protection. Newton’s blindside protector hadn’t had a positive pass blocking grade since his rookie year of 2009, and even then, it came mostly at right tackle. This year, he finished with a +7.5 pass blocking grade, the 11th best in the NFL, and on Sunday, he didn’t allow a single pressure. He still has his struggles in run blocking, but the Panthers couldn’t be happier with his performance after trudging through a season with Byron Bell a year ago.
– After being generally ineffective in his first nine games since coming to Carolina, Jared Allen has turned back the clock a bit in the last three. Yesterday, he earned his highest grade (+4.7) since Week 17 of the 2011 season. He collected three hurries and four stops in the run game. Obviously, some of that can be attributed to facing one of the NFL’s lowest-graded LT’s in rookie Donovan Smith, but it’s nice to see Allen can still dominate a lesser opponent.
DE Jared Allen (+4.7)
LT Michael Oher (+3.4)
QB Cam Newton (+2.9)
LG Andrew Norwell (+2.2)
WR Devin Funchess (+1.7)