Secret Superstars: Week 17
Gordon McGuiness shines the spotlight on a few unsung players who seized their moment in the sun during Week 17, and showed they could yet be stars.
Secret Superstars: Week 17
Week 17 saw plenty of games where starters got out of harms way early, or were even rested altogether. And while the lack of games with playoff implications doesn’t exactly scream entertainment, it does give us the chance to look at fringe players hoping to make an impact as we head toward next year.
That, as you might imagine, is perfect for searching for Secret Superstars and seeing those players who have performed in limited roles all year get extended playing time.
This week we’re highlighting a scrambling quarterback in Baltimore, a pair of right sided offensive linemen in Houston, and defensive ends in Cleveland and Green Bay.
Tyrod Taylor — QB, Baltimore Ravens
With Joe Flacco out of the game before the end of the first quarter, Sunday’s clash against the Cincinnati Bengals gave us our first extended look at Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a regular season game. A sixth-round pick a year ago, Taylor had seen just 17 snaps heading into the game.
However, this wasn’t a vintage passing game by any means, and it’s certainly not something that will have many sensible people calling for him to replace Flacco as the team’s starting quarterback. His performance as a passer isn’t what got our attention this week, rather it was his play on the run, as he had the highest rushing grade for a quarterback since Cam Newton in Week 13. Showing just how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands, his day was highlighted by a 28-yard run on 1st-and-10 with 2:47 left in the first quarter. After stepping up in the pocket to be faced with the sight of Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins coming toward him, Taylor turned and took to the edge, showing his pace to beat linebacker Manny Lawson outside. Turning up field he was able to get away from linebacker Rey Maualuga before forcing a missed tackle by safety Chris Crocker.
Ben Jones and Derek Newton — RG and RT, Houston Texans
Fans and players alike of the Houston Texans will still be trying to figure out how they went from such a strong position, to having to host a game on Wild Card weekend after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday dropped them from the No. 1 seed down to No. 3. While that’s obviously disappointing, what wasn’t was the play on the right side by right guard Ben Jones and right tackle Derek Newton. Used in a rotational role, with Brandon Brooks and and Ryan Harris playing in their place at times, the pair had one of their strongest games of the season together on Sunday.
Neither had any plays where they dominated as run blockers, instead they impressed through being solid all game with just one negatively graded play against the run between them. As pass blockers they were just as error free, with the sack allowed by Newton on 1st-and-10 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter the only pressure allowed by either all game. That play dropped Newton’s Pass Blocking Efficiency rating to 96.7, while Jones obviously had a perfect 100.0, something he’ll do well to maintain in this Saturday’s playoff game as he gets set to face Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins.
Juqua Parker — DE, Cleveland Browns
With the Cleveland Browns set for plenty of changes in the coming days, including a new head coach and general manager on the horizon, it’s worth highlighting one defender who showed how good he can be when he’s on his game. Despite some up and down performances, defensive end Juqua Parker ended the season on a high note, earning his highest PFF grade of the year in the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Against the run he saw just 11 snaps but, in making one tackle which resulted in a defensive stop, finished the game with a Run Stop Percentage of 9.1%. It was his play as a pass rusher however, that caught our attention. With all 11 of his pass rushing attempts coming from the right side, Parker recorded a hit and four hurries, giving him a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 34.1. The hit, coming on 2nd-and-Goal with 4:50 left in the third quarter, was particularly impressive as he beat left tackle Max Starks so badly with a bull rush that the offensive lineman ended up on the ground.
C.J. Wilson — DE, Green Bay Packers
While Adrian Peterson ran wild on the Green Bay Packers’ defense on Sunday, one player on their defensive line actually stood out for his play against the run. A seventh-round draft pick back in 2010, defensive end C.J. Wilson turned in his best performance of the season as the Packers missed out on the chance to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.
On the field for 13 plays as a pass rusher, Wilson registered just a single hurry, giving him a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 5.8. It was against the run where he really excelled though, making three tackles which resulted in a defensive stop from 18 plays against the run. That gave him a Run Stop Percentage of 16.7%, highlighted by a tackle for loss where he beat first-round draft pick Matt Kalil on 1st-and-10 with 6:22 left in the third quarter. Beating Kalil to the outside, he was able to meet Peterson in the backfield along with linebacker A.J. Hawk, with the Vikings running back fumbling the ball on the play.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon
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.