Secret Superstars: Week 5
Week 5 in the NFL saw Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos continue to put up points for fun, while Peyton’s successor in Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, put on an impressive showing as the Colts knocked the Seattle Seahawks from their unbeaten perch.
As usual though, we’re not here to talk NFL headlines. Instead, it’s time to dig a little deeper and unearth the performances that haven’t received the credit we at PFF feel they deserve. From backups on limited snaps to forgotten players, our weekly Secret Superstars article aims to find the best under-the-radar performances and shed some light on them.
This week we’re highlighting an offensive lineman in St. Louis, a defensive lineman in Cincinnati, a wide receiver in San Diego. and a pair of run-stuffing defensive tackles in New York.
Joe Barksdale, OT, St. Louis Rams
Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of LSU, Joe Barksdale (+4.3) struggled to make an impact in his rookie year, finishing the season with a grade of -4.5 on just 156 snaps, and allowing six total pressures on just 70 pass blocks. His time in Oakland was short lived, with Barksdale winding up in St. Louis last year, and starting twice at left tackle. Again he had his struggles in pass protection, giving up two sacks, three hits, and two hurries on just 77 pass block attempts. Despite this, he again found himself in the starting line up this year, replacing an injured Rodger Saffold at right tackle. He played well in his first two starts of the season, but it was in Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that he really shone.
Given his struggles in the past as a pass blocker, it was encouraging to see him put forward a performance like this, with just his one sack allowed serving as the only blemish on his record. Coming on 38 pass blocking snaps, that gave him a Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 97.4, tied for fourth highest among all offensive tackles in Week 5. Combine that with some solid run blocking, like his work on 3rd-and-1 with 9:21 left in the opening quarter where he sealed linebacker Russell Allen inside, and it was easily his best day as a pro to date.
Wallace Gilberry, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Arriving in the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2008, Wallace Gilberry (+3.1) spent his first four seasons in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs. Flashing ability as a pass rusher, his highest snap count came back in 2010, when he was on the field for 530 snaps. In total, 402 of those snaps came as a pass rusher, with Gilberry recording seven sacks, six hits and 29 hurries. His time in Kansas City would end at the end of the 2011 season, leading him to join an already talented Bengals defensive line rotation in 2012. After a solid, if unspectacular, first season in Cincinnati, he got the opportunity to start in place of Michael Johnson last week, and he seized the opportunity with a fine performance.
Playing 13 snaps against the run, both of his solo tackles resulted in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 15.4%, albeit on a small sample size. It was as a pass rusher where he really impressed however, registering two sacks, two hits, and two hurries on 39 pass rushes. That would give him a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 14.3, fifth-highest among 4-3 defensive ends in Week 5.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers
Lost in the defeat to the Oakland Raiders in the late, late game on Sunday night, was the performance of 2011 third-round draft pick Vincent Brown (+2.8), who put together the best performance of his three-year career. Brown missed all of 2012, and pulled in just 19 catches for 329 yards as a rookie in 2011, however, with injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd, he’ll likely see plenty of opportunities this season.
On Sunday he took advantage of the increased number of targets, pulling in eight of the nine passes thrown his way, and averaging 18.4 yards per reception along the way. Three of those targets came on passes 20 yards downfield or further, with Brown pulling in the two which were deemed catchable for receptions of 51 and 30 yards. He was also effective from the slot, averaging 2.42 Yards Per Route Run from 12 routes. There’s a long way to go in the 2013 season, but after as complete a performance as this there’s every reason to believe Brown is capable of putting together a solid season.
Mike Patterson and Johnathan Hankins, DT, New York Giants
It might be bending the rules slightly to mention both Mike Patterson (+2.8) and Johnathan Hankins (+3.7) here, but it didn’t feel right to mention one and not the other. They arrived in New York in different circumstances with Hankins a second-round draft pick out of Ohio State in April’s NFL Draft, while Patterson came over after playing just 136 snaps in his final season in Philadelphia, with questions about his health after his last few years. He’s fast answering those questions however, as part of an impressive Giants defensive tackle rotation that includes Hankins.
Neither were much of a factor as pass rushers, with Hankins the only one to record any pressure, and that coming in the form of a single hit and hurry. That role was covered by Cullen Jenkins, while our pair of Secret Superstars were dominant against the run. Hankins, playing just 21 snaps against the run, recorded five tackles, with four resulting in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 19.0%. Patterson registered just the one tackle, for a loss at least, but was a handful for the Eagles’ interior offensive line throughout, forcing two cuts by running backs and blowing up the option by beating center Jason Kelce on 1st-and-10 with 8:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.