Secret Superstars: Week 13
After the Thanksgiving weekend slate of games, we’re now finally onto the home stretch of the 2013 regular season with teams positioning themselves to make a run at the Lombardi trophy and players putting forth performances to prove they are deserving of postseason honors.
You already know about the Peyton Mannings and J.J. Watts of the NFL world though, so let’s dig a little deeper as we take a look at the Secret Superstars from Week 13. These players may not be household names, at least not yet anyway, but all four of them put forward impressive performances on the field this past week.
This week we’re focusing on a wide receiver in Oakland, a fullback and a linebacker in Minnesota, and a cornerback in Seattle.
Andre Holmes, WR, Oakland Raiders
Coming into the game with five career receptions, 2011 undrafted free agent Andre Holmes (+3.0) exploded in the Thanksgiving Day clash with the Dallas Cowboys, reeling in seven receptions for 136 yards in a losing effort for the Raiders. He has only seen 172 snaps on offense this year, but his performance showed that he’s worth more attention down the stretch, as he and fellow undrafted rookie Matt McGloin formed a nice partnership throughout the contest.
With those 136 yards coming from just 30 snaps in route, he put up a Yards Per Route Run average of 4.53, trailing just three receivers on the week. He had two big receptions in the game, but the most impressive came on a hitch-and-go route on 3rd-and-9 with 11:48 to go in the second quarter. Lined up opposite Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr, he was able to get a step on his opponent with the double move. To his credit Carr was able to recover, but Holmes used his 6’4 frame to leap up and grab the ball at a height that the corner had no hope of reaching.
Jerome Felton, FB, Minnesota Vikings
There’s many things we love here at Pro Football Focus but, as you’ll know by now if you’re a Secret Superstars veteran, we’re always partial to some nice lead blocking. Considered by many to be a position from days gone by, there’s something quite special about watching a throwback fullback clear the way like a battering ram for a running back. In Minnesota they already have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson so it’s almost unfair to gift him with fantastic play from his lead blocker, but that’s exactly what he got in the form of Jerome Felton (+6.8) in Sunday’s overtime win over the Chicago Bears.
Coming up just short of Lousaka Polite (+7.1 in Week 5 of 2009), Felton put together the second-highest graded game we’ve ever seen from a fullback, and the highest ever when considering run blocking alone. Linebacker Jon Bostic was able to stand him up at the point of attack on 2nd-and-10 with 13:45 left to go in the opening quarter, but that was his lone negatively graded play. Consistently getting to linebackers and defensive backs, he cleared the way for Peterson with an utterly dominant performance. Watch what he does to safety Craig Steltz on 1st-and-10 with 8:10 remaining in the first half, meeting him at the line of scrimmage and driving him inside, bulldozing him to the ground. These type of performances don’t come around often, especially in today’s NFL, but thankfully this one will live on for a long time on our Page of Fame.
Audie Cole, LB, Minnesota Vikings
While we’ve seen big things from Felton before, the play of another Viking came as more of a surprise. Deputizing for linebacker Erin Henderson, Audie Cole (+3.3) shone in his second start of the season, just a year after being drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft out of North Carolina State. Playing predominantly special teams earlier in the year, he had seen just six snaps on defense before starting for the first time in Week 12 and looked a bit out of place, struggling against the run in particular. Thankfully he was able to improve drastically this past week, and finished as our highest graded inside linebacker from the full slate of games.
He wasn’t outstanding against the run by any means, but he still looked much improved on a week ago, missing just one tackle and picking up several unblocked defensive stops. In coverage he allowed just 11 yards from three targets, adding a pass breakup as well. However, it was his play on 2nd-and-11 with 6:57 left in the game which will be the lasting impression from his day against the Bears. Tipping the ball after quarterback Josh McCown had tried to flip it to running back Matt Forte, he watched as it landed in the hands of offensive lineman Kyle Long. Cole reacted quickly, ripping the ball from his grasp as he went to the ground, gifting the Vikings the ball in the red zone.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Seattle Seahawks
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive backfield, with Walter Thurmond suspended and Brandon Browner out hurt and now facing a suspension of his own. Not exactly what you want when the explosive New Orleans Saints offense is coming to town. However, as we saw on Monday night, that wasn’t enough to stop Seattle, with reserve cornerback Byron Maxwell (+2.7) stepping up in his first career start.
His lone reception allowed went for 20 yards on 3rd-and-6 with 10:12 remaining in the first half, seeing him beaten by tight end Jimmy Smith on a post route. He would be targeted just twice the rest of the game, with both coming on throws 20 yards or further downfield, and both being broken up by Maxwell. That included preventing a touchdown to wide receiver Robert Meachem, knocking the ball away in the end zone on 2nd-and-10 with 14:10 left in the game. Nobody is saying it’ll be easy for the Seahawks losing players through injury and suspension, but players like Maxwell stepping up is why many believe they’ll be good enough to overcome it.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.