Secret Superstars: Week 10
Lost among the NFL headlines this week were some great performances by players who need some recognition -- here it is.
Secret Superstars: Week 10
Week 10 saw the Atlanta Falcons finally lose, the Baltimore Ravens finally show their dominance, and four injuries to starting quarterbacks. Those quarterback injuries, and another Tim Tebow story in New York have dominated the headlines, leaving little time for the performances that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. Thankfully (I hear you say), your weekly selection of Secret Superstars is here to give those players the credit they deserve.
This week we’re highlighting a pair of players from the game between the Giants and Bengals who made key plays on special teams, a defensive end exploding with a performance we never saw coming in Tampa Bay, and a versatile full back in Oakland.
Adam Jones, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Though it’s normally his off-the-field antics that draw attention to him, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones showed this week why the team was willing to take a chance on him despite his character concerns. His performance on the field has been up and down since signing for the Bengals, with time missed in his first two seasons through injury. This season has seen more ups than downs, with the Week 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only poor game from the former first-round draft pick. Sunday’s win over the New York Giants however, was the best game we’ve seen from Jones in a long time.
Against the run his grade was elevated by his forced fumble on running back Ahmad Bradshaw on 1st-and-10 with 10:06 left in the third quarter. Outside of that he did little to merit a mention, but didn’t make any errors either. In coverage he was targeted 10 times by Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, giving up six receptions for 53 yards and just 5 yards after the catch all game. More impressive were his three pass breakups, with two coming on third downs. His most impressive play of the day, however, didn’t come on defense at all. Showing his agility in making three tacklers miss with 11:34 left in the first quarter, Jones returned Steve Weatherford’s punt 68 yards to the Giants’ 11-yard line.
Chase Blackburn, LB, New York Giants
In the same game that saw Jones catch our attention, Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn put on the kind of display that we saw from him back when we first started grading players in 2008. After struggling at the beginning of this season, including particularly ugly performances against the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins, Blackburn turned in his best performance of the season for the second week in a row.
In coverage for 24 snaps, he wasn’t tested even once by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, not that Dalton needed to go after him given the success he found targeting his wide receivers, of course. Against the run he was solid with two of his four solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 7.4% for the game. Like Jones however, it was a play on special teams that proved to be his most impressive of the day. In punt coverage with 8:45 left in the first quarter, his tackle on returner Brandon Tate was enough to make him fumble, setting up the Giants first points of the game.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the first two men to feature this week were players who had shown themselves capable of those level of performances in the past, even if they were few and far between, Buccaneers defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim’s performance on Sunday came out of the blue. Cut after a disappointing rookie season in Philadelphia in 2010, the former third-round draft pick saw the field for just eight snaps as a Buccaneer last season. This season has seen an increase in opportunities for him but he had failed to impress on many of his 325 snaps, registering just one sack, two hits and four hurries going into Sunday.
Against the run he had a Run Stop Percentage of 9.5%, with two of his three solo tackles resulting in defensive stops. That paled in comparison to the damage he did as a pass rusher, however. With all 34 of his pass rushes coming from the right, Te’o-Nesheim registered a sack and seven hurries on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. That gave him a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 18.4, the second-highest among 4-3 defensive ends in Week 10. His lone sack of the game came on 1st-and-10 with 3:53 left in the game, with the Buccaneers leading by 7. Beating left tackle Michael Harris to the inside, he was able to get to Rivers quickly and record the sack for a loss of 10 yards.
Marcel Reece, FB/HB, Oakland Raiders
While most players make our Secret Superstars feature based on a big game where they caused their opponent plenty of problems, Raiders running back Marcel Reece features because of how versatile he has been while performing at a high level. Though not your traditional fullback, Reece’s play as a receiver this season, where he has 328 yards and has forced six missed tackles, has led him to be our highest graded fullback through 10 weeks of the season. With injuries to Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson at running back, he was called on for an even bigger role in the loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
Pushing his versatility to the limit, he was lined up at halfback, fullback, in the slot and out wide as a receiver against the Ravens. He finished the game averaging 3.7 yards per carry, with an average of 2.5 of those yards coming after contact and as a receiver pulled in seven of the eight passes thrown his way for 56 yards. His only missed tackle of the day came on a reception on 1st-and-10 with 12:23 left in the third quarter as he rumbled past Ed Reed for an extra six yards but it was his overall play at different positions and the fact that he had just one negatively graded play that impressed us the most about him. Obviously it’s not an ideal situation for the Raiders having their top two running backs missing, but Reece showed on Sunday that they need to continue to find ways to utilize him on offense, even once those players are back healthy.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.