The Third Phase: Week 7
We’re back again with this week’s installment of The Third Phase, giving you the top special teamers of Week 7 (excluding kickers and returners). While we usually try to keep it to the five best players, this week proved difficult with a Viking claiming the top spot and six others tied for second at +1.5.
As with the previous weeks, we’ll be giving you some detail about why they were selected, mentioning some plays to look out for, and also providing a “roll of honor”, listing the guys who each week picked up our top mark and a link back to the associated article.
1. Larry Dean +2.0 – Minnesota (24 snaps)
Roles: KO Returns (6), Punt Returns (9), KO Coverage – L5 (2), Punt Coverage (7)
Not a whole lot went right for the Vikings on Monday night, but they did have a standout on special teams. Dean first showed up late in the first quarter when he made a key block inside to help spring Marcus Sherels for an 86-yard punt return, giving the Vikings an early lead. And on the ensuing kickoff, he made the tackle to bring down KR Jerrel Jernigan short of the 25-yard line. As good as Dean was on that sequence, his best play occurred later in the game in punt coverage (3Q, 14:15); he stripped Reuben Randle just before the returner went out of bounds, giving the Vikings great field position down three points.
2t. James Casey +1.5 – Philadelphia (24 snaps)
Roles(including snaps): Punt coverage (9), KO Coverage – R5 (2), Field Goals/EP (2), KO Returns (4), Punt Returns (7)
Nothing terribly impressive here, but with no negative plays in 24 snaps, Casey was at least consistent for the Eagles. He gave his returner room on the opening kickoff, blocking Cowboy Kyle Bosworth to the outside. Doing work in punt coverage as well, his two cleanup tackles combined to limit returner Dwayne Harris to just 1 yard.
2t. Carlos Dunlap +1.5 – Cincinnati (6 snaps)
Roles: FG/EP Block (6)
Blocking a kick is almost a surefire way to get in the mix for the top special teamer of the week, and that’s exactly what Dunlap did against the Lions. It was a similar play to one he had in Week 4 when the defensive end partially blocked a Cleveland field goal attempt. On Sunday he got all of it, however, knocking down David Akers’ 34-yarder late in the second quarter, with the Bengals gaining 40 yards of field position on the recovery. The kick wasn’t guaranteed to go in, but given that the game was decided by three points, it was a monumental play by Dunlap, and one that earns him a spot on this list.
2t. B.W. Webb +1.5 – Dallas (24 snaps)
Roles: Punt Returns (9), KO Returns (2), Gunner (9), KO Coverage – L2/L3/R3 (4)
Something about opening kickoffs must have sparked something in Webb; he started the game well, stopping the Eagle returner short of the 20-yard line on the game’s first kick. And then to begin the third quarter, his block on Casey Matthews paved the way for a big return by Dwayne Harris, with the Cowboys taking advantage of the field position on a scoring drive.
Webb also made a pair of impressive plays as a gunner, when he got downfield to force a fair catch late in the first and later downed a punt inside the 5-yard line (4Q, 5:24).
2t. Michael Hoomanawaunui +1.5 – New England (12 snaps)
Roles: KO Returns (7), Field Goal/EP (5)
Hoomanawaunui appeared to have some sort of vendetta against New York’s Ellis Lankster, as he singled out the Jet on three of New England’s four returned kickoffs. On each he came from his spot on the middle wall to take Lankster outside right, with his best block a pancake early in the third.
2t. Kayvon Webster +1.5 – Denver (32 snaps)
Roles(including snaps): Vice (11), FG/EP Blocks (7), KO Returns (6), KO Coverage – L1/L2 (8)
Among our Top 15 special teamers so far this season, Webster made two great plays on punts against the Colts, first a de-cleater of Sergio Brown to open the outside for his returner in the first quarter, and later he did an excellent job slowing down gunner LaVon Brazill as solo vice. Add to that a tackle in kick coverage and it was a pretty solid performance for the Bronco, who also notched a +2.0 grade at cornerback.
2t. Matt Slater +1.5 – New England (27 snaps)
Roles: KO Coverage – R5 (6), Gunner (8), KO Returns (7), Punt Returns (6)
He’s the second Patriot to make our list with a combination of positive plays on both kick and punt returns, and kick coverage. Watch his play at 5:15 of the second quarter, when Slater made his way down the middle of the field from R5 to tackle Josh Cribbs at the 15-yard line, even beating a block on his way there. He made two successful blocks on returns to round out his grade, though it would have been higher had he not allowed the Jets’ vice to slow him down in overtime.
PFF Special Teamer – 2013 Roll of Honor
|1||David Bruton||Denver||One blocked punt, a penalty drawn preventing him from blocking another and quality blocking for the returner when the Ravens actually managed to get the ball away.|
|2||Blake Constanzo||Chicago||Consistently excellent blocking on kick-off returns and a forced fumble when covering a kick-off.|
|3||Jeremy Lane||Seattle||Primarily for his work as a vice holding up gunners but also made a tackle on a KO, downed a punt and drew a flag while playing gunner himself.|
|4||Damontre Moore||N.Y. Giants||Three tackles on coverage units, an assist and a partially blocked punt together with some excellent blocking.|
|5||Justin Bethel||Arizona||A positive impression on eight of the 12 snaps he played – two tackles, beating a triple team, drawing a holding penalty, downing a punt, and great work as the single vice.|
|6||Taiwan Jones||Oakland||Outstanding work on punts. Slowed down the gunner on returns as solo vice to go along with three tackles in coverage.|
|7||Larry Dean||Minnesota||Did his part to keep the Vikings competitive with a key block on a punt return touchdown and forced fumble in punt coverage.|
Follow Thomas on Twitter