Secret Superstars, Week 16
The holidays haven't stopped Gordon McGuinness from preparing yet another edition of Secret Superstars featuring unheralded players.
Secret Superstars, Week 16
We’re at that point in the season where teams are either preparing themselves for a run at the Lombardi Trophy, or are trying to find out as much about their rosters as possible. That means that we starting to see players who wouldn’t normally have seen much playing time get a little more, giving us more opportunities to unearth Secret Superstars.
Players like former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison saw their first significant action in a meaningless late season game and, while there’s no guarantee that we’re going to see a similar caliber player impress in the final week of the season, we know that we’re likely to see more players take the field at least.
Week 16’s Secret Superstars include a running back from Detroit who has featured before, a defensive lineman in Baltimore, and a pair of AFC West defensive tackles in Oakland and Denver.
Joique Bell, HB, Detroit Lions
This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned the Lions other running back but, after another incredible showing, it’s impossible not to give him credit again. Undrafted back in 2010, he was brought along slowly last year before bursting onto the scene in 2013 and forming a formidable partnership with Reggie Bush in Detroit. Shifty enough to leave a defender clutching at air on an outside run or a screen pass, and with enough power to run through tackles too, Bell is our ninth highest graded running back heading into the final week of the season.
With 30 touches on offense on Sunday, Bell racked up 154 yards, with 91 yards coming on the ground. A total of 56 of those yards came after contact but it was his seven missed tackles which really caught our attention. Breaking them in a varied manner of ways, watch what he does on his 17 yard run on 3rd-and-7 with 11:18 left in the 3rd Quarter, cutting past linebacker Jon Beason at the line of scrimmage before racing forward into space.
DeAngelo Tyson, DE, Baltimore Ravens
While the Ravens were on the wrong end of 41-7 hammering by the New England Patriots, a game which got ridiculously out of hand in the fourth quarter, they at least got something of an intriguing performance from defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson (+2.8). A seventh round draft pick a year ago, many wondered if Tyson would even make the final roster this year. He managed that, and has seen himself active on game days ahead of rookie defensive lineman Brandon Williams this year. He hasn’t played a great deal, with just 144 plays this year, but splash plays like his interception against the Detroit Lions in Week 15 have lead to a little more notice being paid to the former Georgia Bulldog.
Nineteen snaps against the Patriots may have marked his second highest total of the season, but still didn’t leave much room for him to make plays. However that’s exactly what he did. Beating left guard Josh Kline for a quarterback hit on 2nd-and-8 with 3:52 to go in the second quarter was the sole product of six pass rushing snaps, but all three of his tackles against the run resulted in a defensive stop. Tyson faces an interesting offseason, with fellow defensive lineman Arthur Jones a free agent in 2014, so more performances like this increase the possibility that he sees a larger role next year.
Pat Sims, DT, Oakland Raiders
Given that their starting quarterbacks throughout the year have been Terrelle Pryor, Matthew McGloin and Matt Flynn, and considering their roster has more holes than it does star players, it’s easy to see why the Raiders aren’t still in the playoff hunt late in the year. Still, they have seen some nice individual performances, with defensive tackle Pat Sims (+7.2) putting together his best performance of the year as he finishes 2013 strong. A 2008 third round draft pick out of Auburn, Sims has seen his role increase since moving on from being part of the Cincinnati Bengals defensive line rotation this past offseason.
Sunday’s game saw him grade positively both as a pass rusher and against the run, with Sims registering a sack and two hits from 28 pass rushing snaps. Against the run he was an absolute nightmare for guards Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary. Even when he wasn’t making one of his seven tackles which resulted in a defensive stop, he was still able to cause plenty of disruption forcing cuts from running backs and squeezing running lanes. Those seven defensive stops included two tackles for loss, with one coming on 1st-and-10 with 7:30 left in the first half. Beating Rinehart to the inside with ease, he was able to meet running back Ryan Matthews three yards deep in the backfield.
Terrance Knighton, DT, Denver Broncos
It’s easy for defensive players to get a bit lost in the shuffle in Denver, what with quarterback Peyton Manning breaking single season passing records and an offense that has generally proved tough to stop. Such has lead to the play of our tenth and twelfth highest graded defensive tackles going largely unnoticed and, after featuring Malik Jackson earlier in the season, it’s the turn of Terrance Knighton (+6.4) to get his dues after two eye popping performances in a row. A 2009 third round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Knighton has been consistent all year, never grading below -1.7. His play has seen a real upturn in Weeks 15 and 16 though, going from solid to disruptive.
Against the run he played just 15 snaps, but both of his solo tackles resulted in a defensive stop, including beating left tackle Duane Brown inside on 2nd-and-10 with 8:46 to go in the first quarter to record a tackle for no gain. He saw 18 pass rushing snaps, with a sack, a hit and three hurries giving him a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 22.2. That sack, coming on 2nd-and-6 with 4:06 left in the third quarter, included a forced fumble, with Knighton punching the ball free after beating center Chris Myers to get to quarterback Matt Schaub.
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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.