Stock Report: AFC, First Quarter
Ben Stockwell charts the risers and fallers from the first quarter of NFL season 2013, beginning with the AFC.
Stock Report: AFC, First Quarter
The first month of the 2013 NFL season is in the books and that means it’s time for the first regular season edition of the Stock Report. The offseason break offers a long time for things to change, and while some players have used the grind of OTAs and training camp to launch a positive change in their form, others have faltered out of the blocks in comparison to fast finishes from last season.
Just before the regular season got underway we took a look at a selection of players from the AFC riding a wave of momentum into the season and those needing to rebound. While some have built on that positive momentum, others have fallen away from it significantly. Conversely, some have continued their poor form while others have rebounded, including some in emphatic manner.
Stock Up: Terrell Suggs (+8.4, Q1 2013; -3.3, Q4 2012)
Hampered by injury throughout last season, Suggs made a valiant if not impactful return to the fold late last season and for the playoffs. Back to full strength, and now arguably the veteran leader on a new look Ravens defense, Suggs has got off to a fast start with 20 total pressures (t-2nd among 3-4 OLBs with Justin Houston) through four games and his 17 defensive stops also tie Houston for the same spot behind only Ahmad Brooks with 19.
Stock Down: Bryant McKinnie (-6.4, Q1 2013; +3.9, 2012 Playoffs)
After playing a pivotal part in the Ravens Super Bowl run last season, only entering the starting lineup in the Wildcard round, McKinnie failed to carry that form into the first month of the new season. His pass protection has been passable in the first month (-0.9, 1 sack, 13 total pressures allowed) but his poor run blocking is borne out in the Ravens averaging less than 2.0 yards per carry off left tackle and left end this season. Eugene Monroe’s arrival from Jacksonville would suggest McKinnie won’t get the chance to rebound.
Stock Up: Cordy Glenn (+10.0, Q1 2013; -2.0, Q4 2012)
An honorable mention in our team of the month, Glenn made a fast start (+5.8) to his rookie season too before injury derailed his season, so his pedigree as a fast start appears to be well set in only his second season. This time last year Glenn had let up only one hit and four hurries, and he has gone even better this season letting up only one hurry, against the Jets in Week 3.
Stock Down: Colin Brown (-26.9, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
At least things got a little better for Brown this week against the Ravens with only a -1.2, grade but those first three weeks were about as bad as it gets for a guard in the NFL. Our lowest graded run blocking and pass protecting guard, only Tim Lelito (53 pass block snaps) and Lucas Nix (63 pass block snaps) have a worse Pass Blocking Efficiency rating.
Stock Up: Michael Johnson (+13.6, Q1 2013; +1.3, Q4 2012)
Playing under the franchise tag, Johnson has got off to a roaring start as he looks to take the Bengals’ defense further in 2013 and earn himself a bumper payday next spring. Johnson’s talent is unquestionable but his consistency has been in doubt in years past. Johnson put in two tremendous games in the middle of the month against Pittsburgh (+5.4) and Green Bay (+8.1), but a down game against Cleveland (-3.0, one hit) was a disappointing finish.
Stock Down: Geno Atkins (+5.8, Q1 2013; +25.4, Q4 2012)
It speaks volumes to the high standard that Atkins set himself by his performances last season that a +5.8 grade, 11th among defensive tackles this month, is a sizeable step back. In Houston, J.J. Watt carried his 2012 form immediately into 2013, but Atkins took a few weeks to re-find that form. A strong display against Cleveland (+5.5, eight pressures) might suggest that he is ready to show that form again starting in the second month of the season.
Stock Up: Jordan Cameron (+8.1, Q1 2013, -1.6, Q4 2012)
The league’s most improved tight end to start the season, and arguably the league’s breakout star of the first month as well. He and the Browns have taken every opportunity to allow his receiving to flourish in the first month — his 30 receptions lead all tight ends, with only Jimmy Graham topping his five touchdowns. To his credit as well he hasn’t allowed his blocking to be any sort of detraction to his receiving, as can be the case with receiving tight ends.
Stock Down: Paul Kruger (-0.5, Q1 2013; +6.2, Q4 2012)
A solid start to life in Cleveland for Kruger, but not quite the impact player yet that we saw toward the end of his time in Baltimore. His 13 pressures is a decent start but those pressures are coming with a lower conversion rate (23.1% hits and sacks) than we saw from him last season (42.7%). His strong suit this month has been his run defense (+4.3, 7 stops), and Browns fans will hope he can bring down the quarterback more as he builds on a solid, but unspectacular, start.
Stock Up: Chris Clark (+5.4, Q1 2013; 41 snaps, Q4 2012)
Perhaps the best embodiment of the “next man up” philosophy in the NFL Clark has taken over almost seamlessly for the injured Ryan Clady on Peyton Manning’s blindside in Denver. Back-up linemen like Clark have to make the most of the few extended opportunities they get and Clark is surely helping not only the Broncos but himself. Through two starts, Clark has graded positively in pass protection and didn’t allow a single pressure against the Eagles on Sunday.
Stock Down: Eric Decker (-2.9, Q1 2013; +8.4, Q4 2012)
A fall from grace for Decker to start the season, which featured five drops and a fumble in the first two games. By comparison, Decker finished last year’s regular season with only one drop in four games to go with five touchdowns and 362 yards, finishing the year as one of the league’s form receivers. Crucially for Decker’s chances at a rebound he is still one of the league’s 20 most targeted wide receivers (35, t-17th) through his first month struggles, suggesting that Peyton Manning still has faith in him.
Stock Up: Whitney Mercilus (+2.7, Q1 2013; -5.3, Q4 2012)
The Texans showed their faith in Mercilus’ ability to step up into a starting role by not getting involved in a bidding war to retain Connor Barwin during the offseason. Mercilus has responded with a solid start to the season and capped it off with a big game against the Seahawks (+4.1, nine pressures) taking advantage of a favorable matchup against Paul McQuistan. Now we need to see more against better tackles as the season progresses.
Stock Down: Derek Newton (-9.3, Q1 2013; +3.0, Q4 2012)
After a rough start against Cameron Wake to open the 2012 season Newton performed reasonably as a pass blocker in 2012 with only a handful of down displays in that regard. The same cannot be said for him this season with two seven pressure games (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 5 Hu in each) in the last two weeks. By comparison in the final month last season (3 games) Newton surrendered just one sacks and seven hurries.
Stock Up: Anthony Castonzo (+8.7, Q1 2013; +3.5, Q4 2012)
After a rough opening day display against Lamarr Houston and the Raiders (-4.2, 7 pressures) this didn’t look to be on the cards for Castonzo, but he has responded emphatically. In the ensuing three games he has let up only four pressures (1 Ht, 3 Hu) and graded +4.0 or above in each game. To add to his improved pass protection, he had a consistent presence as a run blocker as well.
Stock Down: Gosder Cherilus (+0.2, Q1 2013; +10.3, Q4 2012)
On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, the Colts haven’t quite got the same Gosder Cherilus that we saw last year in Detroit, particularly in the last month where he surrendered only five pressures (2 Ht, 3 Hu) on 207 pass block snaps for a +9.8 pass block grade. While this is “stock down” for Cherilus’ individual performance, it is “stock up” for the Colts at right tackle with this solid month being far better than what the Colts were getting from Jeff Linkenbach and Winston Justice in the final month of 2012.
Stock Up: Will Blackmon (+4.9, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
Not much to cheer in Jacksonville so far this season, but Blackmon can be counted as a rare bright spot after backing up three solid games with a quality performance (+4.3) against the Colts on Sunday. On eight targets on Sunday, Blackmon surrendered only three receptions for 38 yards while getting his hands to three passes — picking off one and breaking up two more. Blackmon surrendered a 13.5 passer rating to the Colts on those eight targets.
Stock Down: Will Rackley (-13.1, Q1 2013; -1.9, Q4 2011)
With many players starting off from a low stock position there aren’t actually many players on the Jaguars’ roster whose stock went down over the first month of the season. Rackley was one of those, but with the caveat that having missed the 2012 season his most recent form isn’t as recent as the others we’re looking at. However, his final month in 2011 did show signs of improvement, but the struggles in pass protection that he suffered early in his rookie season have re-surfaced (15 pressures allowed) at the start of 2013.
Kansas City Chiefs
Stock Up: Justin Houston (+14.0, Q1 2013; -1.5, Q4 2012)
We knew all along that Houston was capable of this, and he has flourished in a less conservative Kansas City defense this season. Houston has registered at least four pressures in three of the Chiefs’ four games to start the season, and in combination with Tamba Hali has given Kansas City arguably the league’s best edge rush duo at the start of the season.
Stock Down: None
No surprises here considering the Chiefs have started the season 4-0 having picked No. 1 in April. The closest to stock down you could come would be Eric Fisher, who has struggled (-6.5) as a No. 1 overall pick, but playing through some injuries and stepping up from the MAC to the NFL some growing pains were always likely.
Stock Up: Mike Pouncey (+5.5, Q1 2013; -1.6, Q4 2012)
For much of last season Pouncey was one of the league’s top centers, but his form fell away over the last month of thanks to a poor game against the Jaguars (-3.9) and a sub-par game against the Patriots (-1.5) to close out the year. Pouncey has opened 2013 closer to (but not all the way back to) the form he showed for much of last season, most notably with two strong run blocking performances against the Falcons (+1.2) and the Saints (+2.3) on Monday Night Football.
Stock Down: Philip Wheeler (-7.8, Q1 2013; +1.5, Q4, 2012)
The Dolphins made wholesale, and somewhat unexpected, changes at linebacker this offseason and to start with at least they haven’t got good returns from Wheeler as a three-down linebacker. Only two 4-3 outside linebackers have been targeted more than Wheeler (Bruce Carter and Lance Briggs) who has let up 22 receptions on 26 targets at 10.9 yards per reception, two of which have turned into touchdowns. What doesn’t help is the astonishing six tackles that Wheeler missed in one game against the Falcons in Week 3, as many as he missed in his first eight games with the Raiders last season.
New England Patriots
Stock Up: Aqib Talib (+6.8, Q1 2013; -1.6, Q4 2012)
Moving teams mid-season is never an easy thing to deal with, and coming back from injury during a season is never easy to deal with, so perhaps it’s no surprise Talib didn’t have a massive impact for the Patriots immediately last season. After a full offseason with New England he has hit the ground running in 2013, earning a spot in our Team of the Month. Talib has got his hands to seven passes (4 Ints, 3 PDs) and capped his start to the season by letting up no completions on seven targets to Roddy White and Julio Jones on Sunday night, conceding a passer rating of 0.0 to Matt Ryan.
Stock Down: Ryan Wendell (-3.9, Q1 2013; +7.0, Q4 2012)
Pass protection was always a problem for Wendell last season, and those struggles have continued to start this year, as he has surrendered 12 pressures in his first four games. Crucially though, he offset his sub-par pass protection with consistently strong run blocking — not so this season, with poor games at home to the Jets (-3.1) and Tampa Bay (-1.4).
New York Jets
Stock Up: Damon Harrison (+10.5, Q1 2013; 3 snaps, Q4 2012)
One of the reasons for Wendell’s struggles in that Jets game was Damon Harrison, who has quickly and seamlessly replaced Sione Pouha as the Jets’ nose tackle. Our top graded run defending defensive tackle (+11.8), Harrison has proved equally adept shedding blocks to make stops as he has moving blocks around to divert runners and occupy blocks for the likes of David Harris to make stops.
Stock Down: Muhammad Wilkerson (0.0, Q1 2013; +18.8, Q4 2012)
Somewhat the forgotten man last season, Wilkerson, much like Geno Atkins, has struggled in the first month to replicate the exceptional form he showed during 2012. Wilkerson’s best and most consistent month, especially as a pass rusher, was his final month of the season and he has only shown that form, like Atkins, in one game so far this season against the Bills (+3.6, four stops, eight pressures).
Stock Up: Tony Pashos (+7.8, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
Cast off by Washington after a solid preseason, Pashos has seamlessly embedded himself into the Raiders’ starting lineup, though he would have hoped to have played better (-1.2, four pressures allowed) against Washington this Sunday. Prior to this Sunday he had surrendered only one hurry in the first three games of the season.
Stock Down: Nick Roach (-6.3, Q1 2013; +0.2, Q4 2012)
Making a reasonable start in coverage (+1.5) Roach’s troubles have been in run defense, as he has struggled to work off blockers and find the ballcarrier as you’d like your middle linebacker to do. Among inside linebackers, only Dannell Ellerbe, A.J. Hawk, Daryl Smith, and Michael Wilhoite have a lower Run Stop Percentage than Roach, who has only five stops in run defense on 107 snaps.
Stock Up: David DeCastro (+4.8, Q1 2013; -2.8, Q4 2012)
His rookie season was almost a complete write-off after suffering a knee injury in preseason and receiving a baptism of fire from Geno Atkins when he returned to the lineup late in the year. After a full offseason to prepare, DeCastro has started to show the ability that made him a first-round pick with strong run blocking displays against the Bengals (+2.1) and Bears (+1.6). The next step will be to improve as a pass protector, where he has been only average thus far.
Stock Down: Mike Adams (-9.7, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
Switching sides to left tackle has not gone well for Adams in his second season, with three dire displays in a row letting up at least six pressures against the Bengals, Bears, and Vikings. His confidence will hardly have been helped by the Steelers’ acquisition of Levi Brown from the Cardinals, though unless Brown sees a miraculous turn around in his own form his arrival is hardly likely to close the door on Adams’ time as a starter for the Steelers.
San Diego Chargers
Stock Up: Philip Rivers (+12.3, Q1 2013; -0.3, Q4 2012)
Almost certainly the league’s most improved quarterback in the first month of the season, Rivers has looked like the Philip Rivers of three years ago — who looked poised to take the step toward the league’s elite quarterbacks, but then fell away to a shell of his former self. Rivers is getting the ball out much quicker at the start of this season (2.29s average time to throw, 66% of throw released in 2.5s or less), but at the same time is being more productive when he does hold the ball with a league high passer rating of 139.4 on pass attempts when he holds the ball for 2.6 seconds or longer.
Stock Down: Kendall Reyes (-6.8, Q1 2013; +4.9, Q4 2012) and Cory Liuget (-5.9, Q1 2013; -0.8, Q4 2012)
Our two lowest graded 3-4 defensive ends at the start of the season, Liuget and Reyes have not built on their solid 2012 campaigns. Along with Cam Thomas, the entire Chargers’ defensive line has a negative grade to start the season, both as supplemental pass rushers and as run defenders. The undisputed star of the Chargers’ defense, Dwight Freeney, has been lost for the season and players like Reyes and Liuget need to raise their game so that the onus doesn’t fall on Freeney’s replacement to pick up the load.
Stock Up: Jake Locker (+7.6, Q1 2013; -4.2, Q4 2012)
Another candidate with Rivers to be the league’s most improved quarterback over the first month of the season, Locker has cruelly been struck down by injury just as he appears to be turning the corner. Unlike Rivers, Locker hasn’t so much focused on getting the ball out sooner as much as simply doing a better job of it when he does. His average release time is marginally down on last season, but his completion percentage and passer rating on throws released in less than 2.5 seconds is up. His passer rating of 120.8 on quick passes (48/66) is bettered only by Peyton Manning’s 140.1 rating.
Stock Down: Robert Turner (-7.4, Q1 2013; -0.7, Q4 2012)
This is as much of a downgrade for the Titans as it is for Turner individually, after the team decided to move away from Fernando Velasco. While Turner has struggled as both a run blocker (-4.3) and pass protector (-2.9, 7 pressures), Velasco has made a more solid start (+0.3) to life in Pittsburgh, having been drafted in after Maurkice Pouncey’s Week 1 injury.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.