Team of the Month, Q2
This season is flying by and the end of Week 9 brings with it a slew of mid-season All-Pro teams, but also our second ‘Team of the Month’ for the season. While other nominated teams (including our own) will be honoring the players doing the best work for the season to date, here we’ll focus on the players over a shorter period of time, looking in on the best over the last five weeks as they bed in from the start of the season.
Here we’ll see who has really hit their straps in the second month as players start to find the form they will be hoping to maintain through the rest of the season. Whether they’re building on a solid start or rebounding from a poor one we’ll give credit to the best players in the league from the last month right here.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson, SEA (+11.7)
One of the disappointments of the first month of the season, Wilson has re-discovered the form of his rookie season, elevating his performances beyond what such a patchwork offensive line should allow. After the disappointment of their Week 5 loss in Indianapolis, Wilson has led the Seahawks to four straight wins earning a positive grade both through the air and as a runner.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
Running Back: Marshawn Lynch, SEA (+10.8)
An all-Seattle backfield is completed by Lynch whose greatest quality this month and this season has arguably been his consistency. Capable of the jaw-dropping moments of physicality to dominate opponents, Lynch has used that ability to consistently pound opposing defenses and extract everything and more from plays than the Seahawks’ injury-riddled offensive line is giving them. Lynch led all backs this month forcing 28 missed tackles on the ground.
Honorable Mention: Eddie Lacy (GB) and Zac Stacy (SL)
Full Back: Mike Tolbert, CAR (+6.4)
This year’s Marcel Reece? Tolbert has emerged as the snap leader in the Carolina backfield and has contributed, as Reece did last season, in every phase of the game. As a ball-carrier he has notched three touchdowns this month with two more through the air on his way to racking up 224 offensive yards. He even added more “conventional” fullback support with a strong game of run blocking (+1.5) against the Vikings in Week 6.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Sherman (KC)
Tight End: Vernon Davis, SF (+7.2)
Yet to rediscover his best form as a run blocker, Davis has had a tremendous month as a receiver snagging four scores and 382 receiving yards, including a dominant display at home to Arizona in Week 6. Davis earned a +1.0 receiving grade or higher in all four games he played this month.
Honorable Mention: Ben Hartsock (CAR)
Wide Receivers: Marvin Jones, CIN (+11.8) and Andre Johnson, HST (+8.8)
Only playing 156 snaps this month, 73 receivers earned more playing time than Marvin Jones, but none had a bigger impact proportional to their time on the field. Catching 21-of-28 targets with no drops and six touchdowns, Jones exploded into life to outshine A.J. Green and help spark one of the better short stretches of Andy Dalton’s career. Alongside him, Johnson retains his place with consistent performance, but most notably his stellar game against the Colts on Sunday night.
Slot Receiver: Wes Welker (DEN)
Honorable Mention: Brandon Marshall (CHI), Calvin Johnson (DET)
Tackles: Joe Staley, SF (+15.3) and Tyler Polumbus, WAS (+11.6)
Back to his best from last season after a shaky start, Staley was recently dominant as both a run blocker and pass protector, earning a grade of +2.4 or higher in all four starts. Surrendering only two pressures (1 Sk, 1 Hu) in pass protection, Staley was also our highest-graded run blocking tackle this month. On the opposite side, one of the surprise performers of the season in Polumbus whose run blocking the last two weeks (+1.6 each game) has matched his pass protection, surrendering only six pressures (2 Ht, 4 Hu) this month for the Redskins.
Honorable Mention: Jake Long (SL) and Gosder Cherilus (IND)
Guards: Evan Mathis, PHI (+13.4) and David DeCastro, PIT (+6.5)
Outside of J.J. Watt, probably the league’s most consistent performer in recent seasons, Evan Mathis, retains his spot with more powerful work as a run protector, his +9.6 run block grade this month topped only by his teammate in Philadelphia, Todd Herremans (+12.6). Alongside the ever present Mathis is DeCastro who has rounded into form this season after an injury struck rookie season. The Steelers former first round pick highlighted a strong month with an excellent run blocking display in the victory over Baltimore in Week 7.
Honorable Mention: Travelle Wharton (CAR) and Brandon Brooks (HST)
Center: Chris Myers, HST (+6.8)
Not without his struggles as in pass protection this month Myers has had some excellent games as a run blocker especially in Week 6 against the Rams (+3.5). The Texans have run behind Myers through the A-gaps 48 times this month for 201 yards at 4.2 yards per carry and two scores.
Honorable Mention: John Sullivan (MIN)
Using the defensive format you will now be familiar with from the Team of the Week articles we nominate two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (defensive tackles or 3-4 defensive ends) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: J.J. Watt, HST (+23.1) and Randy Starks, MIA (+18.3)
Life, death, taxes and J.J. Watt playing absolutely unbelievable defense, Watt’s level of performance is becoming one of life’s constants as Watt put together another astonishing month dominating against the run (+11.0) and as a pass rusher (18 total pressures). Alongside him Starks put together a similarly dominant month highlighted by two games either side of Miami’s bye week where he demolished both Baltimore’s (+7.7 overall) and Buffalo’s (+7.1 overall) offensive lines.
Honorable Mention: Geno Atkins (CIN), Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ) and Fletcher Cox (PHI)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Dontari Poe, KC (+13.6)
You wouldn’t expect many interior defensive linemen to play 324 snaps in a month, but Poe has shown his value and versatility in the Chiefs’ defense this month combining stifling run defense with some solid pass rushing (13 total pressures) that ensures he isn’t just occupying space on passing plays. Only Marcel Dareus (19) has recorded more stops than Poe’s 17 this month.
Honorable Mention: Damon Harrison (NYJ)
Edge Rushers: Robert Quinn, SL (+18.0) and Robert Mathis, IND (+10.6)
In the last team of the month I asked if Quinn sustain this form having only shown flashes in his career to date. Turns out he can and he has, in fact earning a marginally higher grade (+18.0) this month than last month (+16.2) while playing one more game. More importantly, Quinn sustained his form against better opposition such as Duane Brown, Michael Roos and Jordan Gross. Alongside him Mathis may not have matched the raw production of some edge defenders but big performances against the Seahawks (+5.9) and Broncos (+6.4) were crucial in statement victories for the Colts’ this month.
Honorable Mention: Mario Williams (BUF) and Justin Houston (KC)
Linebackers: Sean Lee, DAL (+8.5) and Lavonte David, TB (+9.6)
Both linebackers have registered 28 stops this month to tie for the lead among inside and outside linebackers. To go with his value chasing down runners and receivers David has added value as a blitzer with eight pressures (2 Sk, 1 Ht, 5 Hu) and has a nose for the football like few linebackers in football. Lee is finding his form this season at the point when injury cut his 2012 season short flourishing in run defense and coverage netting a positive grade in both aspects of the game this month.
Honorable Mention: Erin Henderson (MIN) and Brandon Spikes (NE)
Cornerbacks: Jason McCourty, TEN (+8.3) and Darrelle Revis, TB (+6.3)
The Bucs might have taken their team figuring out how best to make use of Revis (hint, it’s the blueprint Rex Ryan provided) but that hasn’t stopped him playing extremely well in coverage. Targeted only eight times this month Revis surrendered only 14 yards on four receptions getting his hands to two passes against the Panthers in Week 8. Alongside him McCourty maintains the Titans influence at corner (Alterraun Verner last month) and joins his twin brother in the secondary. Targeted 25 times this month McCourty has surrendered only 143 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) earning a positive coverage grade each week.
Slot Corner: Nickell Robey (BUF)
Honorable Mention: Marcus Cooper (KC) and Patrick Peterson (ARZ)
Safeties: Devin McCourty, NE (+10.3) and T.J. Ward, CLV (+7.5)
McCourty’s incredible consistency continued this month extending his streak to 16 games since his last negative overall grade. Grading positively in run defense and coverage this month McCourty is currently the league’s best and most disciplined free safety. Joining him in the secondary this month is Ward who led all safeties with 20 stops this month, that’s more than any other safety has recorded in the entire season let alone this month.
Honorable Mention: Earl Thomas (SEA) and Bernard Pollard (TEN)
Kicker: Nick Folk, NYJ (+9.7)
Maintaining a perfect record for the season Folk has gone 15-for-15 in the past month including a perfect 7-for-7 beyond 40 yards.
Punter: Kevin Huber, CIN (+10.3)
Of his 22 punts in the last month Huber has had seven fair caught and place three out of bounds, leaving the opposing offense to start inside their 20-yard line 11 times.
Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN (+5.1)
The Vikings have not been quick in giving him opportunities to spark their offense but Patterson is taking every opportunity to exact that impact on special teams. Only eight returns this month have resulted in 373 yards (46.6 per return) and a score.
Special Teamer: Jamie Collins, NE (+4.5)
Positively grade on both kick and punt plays this month Collins recorded four special teams tackles with no missed tackles in five games.
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