Secret Superstars: Week 7
Once again it’s time for our weekly look at those unheralded players that we like to call our Secret Superstars. You won’t find quarterbacks like Peyton Manning or playmakers like Adrian Peterson here with both getting plenty of the credit they deserve elsewhere.
Instead, you’re more likely to see players who have impressed us on a smaller snap count, or those who have stepped up into a starting role and are performing admirably. Players like Cincinnati’s star defensive tackle Geno Atkins were once dubbed Secret Superstars before going on to greater acclaim.
This week we’re taking a closer look at an undrafted wide receiver in Jacksonville, a rookie defensive lineman in Atlanta, a linebacker in Seattle and a safety in Dallas.
Mike Brown, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
While the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t been able to pick up a win yet this season, they were able to get a big performance out of 2012 undrafted free agent wide receiver Mike Brown (+2.8) on Sunday. After dropping the only pass thrown his way in his rookie year, Brown has put up an impressive 169 yards in the past two weeks and has now forced six missed tackles on just 14 receptions this year.
Against the San Diego Chargers he hauled in five receptions for 120 yards, including an impressive 32-yarder on 1st-and-10 with 10:38 left in the game. Brown made the reception on the wheel route from the slot just beyond the first down marker as he cut inside of the attempted tackle from cornerback Derek Cox to gain extra yardage. Adding some nice work as a blocker in the screen game, it was the type of performance that can give Jaguars fans faith that things are turning around.
Malliciah Goodman, DE, Atlanta Falcons
After a disappointing outing in the second game of his young career against the St. Louis Rams in Week 2, Atlanta’s fourth-round rookie defensive end Malliciah Goodman (+3.8) has started to find his feet in the league. Finishing with positive grades in the four games that followed the outing against the Rams, he really stood out as part of the Falcons’ defensive line rotation against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
His work as a pass rusher, with a hit and two hurries from 20 pass rushing attempts was solid enough, but what really caught our attention was his play against the run. Both of his tackles resulted in defensive stops; however he impressed even when he wasn’t getting in on the tackle. Plays like his work on 1st-and-goal with 6:41 to go in the game highlight this, with Goodman easily beating right tackle Demar Dotson to the outside to force the cut from the running back.
Malcolm Smith, LB, Seattle Seahawks
In his third year in Seattle, linebacker Malcolm Smith (+4.5) has seen five starts and certainly hasn’t looked out of place. His only negative graded game of the year so far came against the Indianapolis Colts (-0.4) where he played just six snaps. Smith is our second-highest graded 4-3 outside linebacker at this point having graded positively in the three main phases of his game. Thursday was the best performance of his career by a considerable margin, impressing in prime time against the Arizona Cardinals.
As a pass rusher he registered a sack and two quarterback hurries on his only three pass rushes, though all three pressures were fairly easy to come by, with one coming in pursuit and the other two unblocked. He was targeted seven times in coverage by Carson Palmer and while he did allow five completions, they went for a total of 34 yards with none going for more than 9, and he added a pass breakup for good measure. It was against the run where he really impressed, though. With all four of his tackles resulting in stops, coming on just 16 snaps against the run, he had a Run Stop Percentage of 25.0% trailing only Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David in Week 7.
Barry Church, S, Dallas Cowboys
Barry Church (+3.1) arrived in Dallas as a free agent back in 2010 after finishing his college career at Toledo, and he has finally entrenched himself as a starter in the Cowboys’ secondary this year. His 464 snaps so far this season are already more than the 399 he saw in his first three seasons combined. Despite a disappointing showing against Washington last week he is having a solid year that sees him as our 12th-ranked safety after seven games. Though Sunday wasn’t his best outing of the year — that came against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 — it wasn’t far off.
Church recorded defensive stops on all five of his tackles against the run. That’s impressive enough on its own, but his play within eight yards of the line of scrimmage was even more so. Playing just five snaps there, admittedly a small sample size, he was able to get in on three tackles. Add to that his work in coverage, where he allowed no receptions from the three passes thrown into his coverage and it’s clear why he got our attention. He capped off his big game by taking advantage of one of Matt Barkley’s many errant throws on 3rd-and-10 with 4:13 left in the contest. The pass was horribly overthrown by Barkley, who had broken free from pressure in the pocket, but Church still had work to do, getting across to make the diving interception.
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