Team of the Preseason: the Starters
It’s not long to go now until we get to the stage of meaningful action. But just because we’re excited about that doesn’t mean we should neglect the preseason.
Indeed we’ve been grading every player on every play of every game. Want to see? Well you just need a year-long PFF Premium Stats subscription, and then you’ll get yourself access to this preseason, the upcoming season and all our historical grades dating back to 2007.
For now get a small glimpse with our team of the first three weeks of preseason – this time looking at the guys who were starters.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson, SEA (+7.1)
Looks eerily on point right now, showing very little signs of either complacency or starting slow. He has been very good so far but is he preparing to take another step forward? An 83.3% Accuracy Percentage score bodes well even in preseason.
Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan, ATL
Running Back: Mark Ingram, NO (+1.5)
As to be expected there’s not been a lot of carries for the lead backs of this league, but Ingram looked impressive enough averaging 7 yards per rush. A nice one-two effort when you think what his teammate Pierre Thomas showed in the receiving game.
Honorable Mention: Pierre Thomas, NO
Full Back: Jovorskie Lane, TB (+2.8)
Again you’re not going to get a lot of preseason action for fullbacks given the violent nature of what they do, but Lane made an impression with the Bucs.
Honorable Mention: Henry Hynoski, NYG
Tight End: Zach Ertz, PHI (+2.6)
It’s easy to see why so many people are expecting big things from Ertz this year. Even with just a 69-snap cameo he’s shown that we can expect some fireworks in the receiving game from him in 2014.
Honorable Mention: Julius Thomas, DEN
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green, CIN (+4.0) and Antonio Brown, PIT (+3.6)
Another nice effort from Green whose 5.11 Yards per Route Run bested all receivers. Don’t expect a slowdown from him this year. Brown is another one not to sleep on, turning just seven receptions into 173 yards.
Honorable Mention: Larry Fitzgerald, ARZ and Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
Tackles: Jason Peters, PHI (+3.2) and Justin Pugh, NYG (+3.2)
Perfect in pass protection outside of one hit allowed, Peters is taking his late-season form into the preseason and the Eagles will be hoping it carries on into the regular season. Pugh has once again impressed in the run game, but you’d like a little less pressure allowed.
Honorable Mention: Joe Thomas, CLV and Zach Strief, NO
Guards: Logan Mankins, NE (+3.2) and T.J. Lang, GB (+5.8)
Just two games for Mankins to show what he’s capable of but his standout effort against Carolina is enough with few left guards really wowing us in preseason. The right guard selection was a little tougher, but Lang gets the nod as he looks in fine form with the season getting closer.
Honorable Mention: James Carpenter, SEA and J.R. Sweezy, SEA
Center: Nick Mangold, NYJ (+3.4)
After an inconsistent 2013 season, Jets fans will be happy to see that Mangold has looked more like his old self during the 112 preseason snaps he’s managed.
Honorable Mention: Alex Mack, CLV
Click over to Page 2 for the Defense…
We put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: Gerald McCoy, TB (+16.5) and Jonathan Babineaux, ATL (+3.5)
No player has impressed more than McCoy. Indeed it’s only taken him 67 snaps to earn this ludicrous grade as he’s made guards look like they don’t belong in this league. Babineaux promises to be the biggest playmaker on the Falcons’ defensive line (once again) in their hybrid front.
Honorable Mention: Clinton McDonald, TB and Randy Starks, MIA
Defensive Interior – Nose: Brandon Williams, BAL (+6.4)
Just what the Ravens want to see from their third-round pick from a year ago. Williams has looked like an imposing obstacle in the middle of their defense.
Honorable Mention: Roy Miller, JAX
Edge Rushers: Cameron Jordan, NO (+6.5) and Tamba Hali, KC (+6.7)
With the Saints looking more like a 4-3 team right now, Jordan is spending more time at end and isn’t looking any worse for it with a splendid effort in preseason so far. As for Hali it’s worth watching his play against Matt Kalil to decide if he’s ready for the regular season.
Honorable Mention: Everson Griffen, MIN and Elvis Dumervil, BAL
Linebackers: Brandon Spikes, BUF (+5.2) and Nigel Bradham, BUF (+6.2)
A lot of love for the Bills’ linebackers right now who have taken the playing time they’ve got and shown that with Jim Schwartz coordinating them they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Honorable Mention: Keith Rivers, BUF and Brad Jones, GB
Cornerbacks: Melvin White, CAR (+4.4) and Malcolm Butler, NE (+3.1)
Starters rarely get tested during preseason, but the Panthers will be encouraged that sophomore White is looking to build upon his rise from undrafted free agent to NFL starter. Over in New England, Butler might not get on the field much once the regular season rolls around, but surely he’s got himself a roster spot locked up somewhere.
Honorable Mention: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, NYG and Carlos Rogers, OAK
Safeties: Calvin Pryor, NYJ (+7.4) and Nate Allen, PHI (+4.9)
Pryor has already got Jets fans salivating at the thought of what he can do, making plenty of plays that you just don’t see from a lot of safeties. Allen has really put a shift in to prove himself worthy of a starting spot, and on the evidence of preseason it’s paid off.
Honorable Mention: Isa Abdul-Quddus, DET and Eric Weddle, SD
Kicker: Steven Hauschka, SEA
Beats out Tucker with his better work in kickoffs.
Honorable Mention: Justin Tucker, BAL
Punter: Pat McAfee, IND
Is booming it and not giving returners much of anything to work with.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Morstead, NO
Returners: Deonte Thompson, BAL and Adam Thielen, MIN
A new format for us this year, giving a kickoff return and punt returner the praise they deserve.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Ellington, SF and Preston Parker, NYG
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