Secret Superstars: Week 12
Week 12 in the NFL saw the two longest games of the year, with one resulting in a tie, and saw a number of players produce some quite fantastic performances. Sam Monson highlighted Robert Quinn‘s showing against the Chicago Bears in this week’s Analysis Notebook, and we also saw J.J. Watt and Gerald McCoy extend their leads atop their respective positional rankings.
There seemed to be big-time performances throughout the league, and they also came in the form of this week’s Secret Superstars. Often we’re highlighting performances which were good, if not great, but this week they feature some of the highest-graded performances we’ve seen all season.
This week we’re casting our eye over performances from an offensive lineman in Denver, an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh, and a pair of NFC South defensive linemen from Carolina and New Orleans.
Manuel Ramirez, C, Denver Broncos
Ramirez (+7.7) wasn’t the first choice to be the starting center in Denver this past season but, after having to rely on him after retirements and season-ending injuries, they have somewhat lucked into a player who is currently our second-highest graded center. A large part of that is because of his big performance against the New England Patriots, but even taking that grade away he’d still rank in the Top 10. Not bad for a player who moved to the middle after playing guard in Detroit and last year in Denver.
It’s difficult to do more than Ramirez did as a run blocker against the Patriots but what was impressive was how well he performed both at the point of attack and also when moving to the second level. He blocked defensive lineman Joe Vellano to the ground on two plays in the span of three in the first quarter, starting on 2nd-and-8 with 6:05 left in the opening quarter, turning him to the right before sending him to the turf. His blocking at the second level was consistent, with him routinely getting to linebackers like he did to Dane Fletcher on 1st-and-10 with 10:17 in the third quarter. It was a game that many will want to watch time and time again, and it’s worth doing so for the performance of Ramirez alone, one of the best you’ll see from a center.
Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Drafted out of Virginia Tech in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Jason Worilds (+4.3) career in Pittsburgh hasn’t been much to write home about. Even with the team drafting linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the draft this year, he was still given his chance to replace James Harrison, at least until Jones was ready. He started the season slow, however, and Jones found himself as a starter earlier than expected. He wasn’t ready, though, and the team turned back to Worilds, with the results being much the same. What’s interesting is that with Lamarr Woodley out last week, Worilds moved to the left and found much more success as a pass rusher.
With a sack, a hit, and a hurry from 46 pass rushing snaps, he finished the game with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 10.3, the fifth-highest mark of any 3-4 outside linebacker in Week 12. His impressive performance wasn’t just limited to pass rushing as he also finished second at the position with a Run Stop Percentage of 21.7%, with all five of his tackles resulting in a defensive stop, and coming on just 23 snaps against the run. With Woodley doubtful for tonight’s AFC North clash in Baltimore, we’ll see if he can continue to impress from the left.
Mario Addison, DE, Carolina Panthers
Sometimes, when things are going well for you as a team, things just seem to fall into place. That’s what happened for the Carolina Panthers, who saw Mario Addison (+6.3) go out and dominate as a pass rusher as he filled in for the injured Charles Johnson. An undrafted free agent out of Troy State in 2011, Addison exploded in just the second start of his career, making life miserable for Miami Dolphins’ left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
He started as he meant to go on, beating McKinnie inside on the very first play from scrimmage, drawing help from the left guard in the process. That was just the beginning as he would go on to beat him inside for a pressure, then outside for a sack, both on third downs, in the first five minutes of the game alone. He didn’t let up as the game went on, beating him routinely and finishing the game with a sack, three hits, and six quarterback hurries, with all but one of those pressures coming against McKinnie.
Akiem Hicks, DE, New Orleans Saints
As we embarked on preseason grading for the first time back in August, we caught a glimpse of Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks (+7.3), with the 2012 third-round draft pick from Regina in Canada having two positively graded performances out of the four. His first season as a starter began with little excitement, never grading above +2.6 but never below -1.9 in those first 10 games. So to say his performance against the Atlanta Falcons came as a bit of a surprise would probably be quite accurate.
As a pass rusher he registered two sacks, a hit, and a pressure after producing just eight total pressures from the first 10 games, but it was against the run where he really stood out. Playing just 18 snaps against the run, he found a way to register five tackles which resulted in a defensive stop. That included making light work of right guard Garrett Reynolds on 2nd-and-18 with 13:54 to go in the second quarter, giving up just a yard on the tackle. Performances on Thursday Night Football are easy to forget by the time we’ve got through the weekend’s slate of games, but J.J. Watt was the only 3-4 defensive end to have a higher grade in Week 12.
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