Secret Superstars: Week 11
Hidden in the big stories of each week are the players who step up and make their presence known. PFF brings you four secret superstars to keep an eye on.
Secret Superstars: Week 11
Week 11 featured the impressive debut performance as a starter by Colin Kaepernick, to go along with three dominant defensive displays by Von Miller, Geno Atkins and Aldon Smith.
None of that is news to you by this point in the week though, so your weekly dose of Secret Superstars is here to highlight some of the lesser praised standout performances around the league.
This week we’re highlighting a pair of players from the overtime duel between the Jaguars and Texans, a wide receiver showing how good he can be when healthy in San Diego, and another young cornerback wowing us in Green Bay.
Davon House – CB, Green Bay Packers
For the second time this season, a Green Bay cornerback makes our Secret Superstars feature. Last time it was second-round draft pick Casey Hayward, who continues to play well, but this time our focus in on 2011 fourth-round draft pick Davon House. It may have taken him a season and a half to see action on defense, but in just his third career start he showed that the Packers have plenty to be excited about when it comes to the youth in their defensive backfield.
With 45 snaps in coverage, House allowed just a single 8-yard reception from the five passes thrown into his coverage. Simple math tells you that this works out to one reception every 45 snaps in coverage, the best snaps-to-reception ratio of any cornerback in Week 11. He may not have snagged an interception, but he did breakup a pass on 3rd-and-10 with 8:53 left in the third quarter. Battling Lions receiver Titus Young down field on a go route, House was able to rip the ball away from him as he went to the ground. The play may have been nullified due to offsetting penalties, but that doesn’t take away from what he was able to do.
Danario Alexander – WR, San Diego Chargers
With Vincent Jackson leaving for Tampa Bay in the offseason, the big question for the Chargers was who would replace his production, with Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem being the obvious choices. On Sunday however, it was Danario Alexander who produced the most. Coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Alexander showed flashes of his ability in his first two seasons as a member of the St. Louis Rams. Arriving in San Diego in the offseason, he finally got the chance to show what he could do in the past three weeks after struggling with injuries, and he didn’t disappoint.
Running 42 pass routes on Sunday, Alexander finished the game with nine receptions for 96 yards, working out at an average of 2.29 Yards Per Route Run — tied for 15th among all wide receivers in Week 11. He did most of his damage against the Denver Broncos’ Tony Carter, beating the cornerback for five receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns. The second of those touchdowns came on 4th-and-1 with 1:29 left in the game. Beating press coverage from Carter, he was able to reel in the back shoulder pass from Rivers at the Denver 4-yard line before turning and diving into the end zone. Things might not have gone according to plan for the Chargers this season, but the show put on by Alexander since his return to the field has at least given the offense a boost.
C.J. Mosley – DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars fans have been treated to a wide variety of different ways to lose games this season, but last week’s overtime loss to the Texans, despite leading in the fourth quarter, has to have been painful. Thankfully for those same fans, another Jacksonville defensive lineman caught our attention after defensive end Austen Lane featured earlier in the season. A sixth-round draft pick back in 2005, C.J. Mosley has quietly delivered some solid performances in the past five weeks, with the last two being a particular highlight.
He may not have been much of a force against the run, with neither of his two tackles resulting in defensive stops, but as a pass rusher he had an outstanding game. With a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 9.2, 11th among defensive tackles this week, he finished the game with two sacks and a hit on Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub. Both of his sacks came against right guard Ben Jones, but it was the first that was the most impressive. On 3rd-and-2 with 5:13 left in the first quarter, he beat Jones inside before diving and swatting the ball out of the hands of Schaub. It may not have won them the game, but in a season of disappointment for the Jaguars, Mosley stepped up on Sunday.
Garrett Graham – TE, Houston Texans
In the same game that Mosley impressed, a Texans tight end stepped up as well, though not the one you’d probably expect. A fourth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin in 2010, Garrett Graham has had a solid season as the Texans’ second tight end, with only two poor games against Tennessee and Chicago. As solid as he has been though, Sunday market the highest grade we’ve given to him in his short career.
Solid on his 18 plays as a run blocker, with just one negatively graded play, it was as a receiver that he did the most damage. Catching all eight of the catchable passes thrown him way, Graham finished the game with 82 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Both of his touchdowns came in the final 5:42 of the game, with his second tying the game on 2nd-and-Goal with 1:40 left, but his most impressive play came on 1st-and-10 with 9:11 remaining. Heading down field on a go route from his tight end position, he held onto the 30-yard pass despite a thunderous hit by Dawan Landry, for which the safety was flagged. It says a lot about the second-year player that with the game on the line Schaub went back to him time and time again.
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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.