Secret Superstars: Week 9
It was the week of the backup quarterback in the NFL in Week 9, with four of our five highest-graded quarterbacks all starting the season on the bench. That included impressive performances from rookies Mike Glennon and Case Keenum, and Nick Foles’ record-tying day.
All four are deserving of the credit they’ve received, but even as backups, quarterbacks just aren’t secret enough for us to focus on here. Instead, as we always do, we’ll seek out the under-the-radar performances that caught our eye as we dug into this week’s games.
This week we’re highlighting a running back in Tampa Bay, a defensive tackle in St. Louis, a defensive end in Dallas, and a cornerback in Cleveland.
Mike James, HB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Before the season began it would have seemed like an utterly preposterous thought that the best single-game performance from a Buccaneers running back wouldn’t come from last season’s breakout superstar Doug Martin, but instead from sixth-round rookie Mike James (+3.0). But, with Martin out due to injury, the former Miami Hurricane seized the opportunity in just his second career start.
He wasn’t much of a factor as a receiver, with just two receptions for 8 yards, but you can forgive that when he was as good as he was on the ground. Of his 158 yards, 89 came after contact, working out at an average of 3.1 yards after contact per carry. Adding six missed tackles as well, he finished the game with an Elusive Rating of 48.2. Not satisfied with all of that, he added a touchdown of his own on 1st-and-Goal with 2:23 to go in the first half.
Kendall Langford, DT, St. Louis Rams
It hasn’t been a great season in St. Louis, but fans can at least take solace in the play of some of the team’s lesser known players. Zac Stacy was a Secret Superstar earlier in the year and looks to have a very bright future ahead of him. Meanwhile, in their Week 9 battle with the Tennessee Titans, they got a big performance from defensive tackle Kendall Langford (+4.6). Arriving in St. Louis this past offseason after spending the first five years of his career in Miami, he turned in his highest-graded performance of the past three seasons.
Solid as a pass rusher, where he registered two sacks and two hurries from just 15 pass rushing attempts, it was against the run where he really stood out. With all five of his solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop, he led all defensive tackles with a Run Stop Percentage of 20.0%. Take a look at his play on 1st-and-10 with 5:27 left in the game, beating guard Andy Levitre with ease to register the tackle, allowing just 1 yard in the process.
Everette Brown, DE, Dallas Cowboys
There are many different routes players take to becoming Secret Superstars, with some coming in the form of late round draft picks, and others at positions that just don’t get a lot of attention. In the case of Everette Brown (+3.7) however, it was the result of a big performance in his first regular season action since Week 11 of the 2011 season. His play didn’t come as a total shock to us here at PFF, with Brown finishing the 2013 preseason with a grade of +5.3, but it was still good to see him play that well in his first real action in so long.
He didn’t make much happen from his 10 snaps against the run, though his lone tackle did result in a defensive stop, but as a pass rusher he was a joy to watch. With a sack, a hit and four hurries from 20 pass rushing attempts; he finished the week third among all 4-3 defensive ends with a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 23.8. That included beating left tackle Matt Kalil to the outside on 2nd-and-10 with 22 seconds left in the game to force a fumble from quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder was lucky to find the ball lying right in front of him, allowing for an easy recovery, but that doesn’t take away from a fantastic play by Brown.
Chris Owens, CB, Cleveland Browns
As the Browns got their first win in 11 meetings with the Baltimore Ravens, their star men were starting cornerbacks Joe Haden and Chris Owens (+3.3). Haden is obviously well known given his high draft status, but seeing Owens’ name at the top of our Week 9 cornerback rankings probably came as a surprise to many. Arriving from Atlanta, where he spent the first four years of his career, in the offseason, Sunday’s game saw him match the highest grade of his career in just his second start for the Browns.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wasn’t shy about going after him, with eight passes thrown into his coverage, but he didn’t find much success when he did. He may have allowed four completions, but they went for just 27 yards, with the longest going for 10 yards, and he allowed a mere 5 yards after the catch. He also came away with a pass defense, reaching his arm around to knock the ball down on a hitch route to Jacoby Jones on 1st-and-10 with 9:51 left in the game.
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