Stock Report: AFC, Fourth Quarter
The AFC gets their turn as Ben Stockwell examines the improvements and declines of players form each team in the season's final month.
Stock Report: AFC, Fourth Quarter
The 2013 NFL season is in the books and didn’t it just fly by? It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were looking forward to the new season and wondering who would carry positive momentum from last season into the new year and who was looking to turn things around. Now we’re looking at who finished the season in style and who, of those that earned the right to continue, will be carrying good strides into the post season.
Positive or negative, for better or worse, this is the form that you are carrying into the offseason so here is one final look at those who ratcheted up to close the season and those who saw their play decline in the final month.
*Click here for the final NFC Stock Report of the season.
Stock Up: Marlon Brown (+4.1, Q4 2013; -3.9, Q3 2013)
After seeing his role in the offense dwindle over the third quarter of the season, Brown re-emerged as a favorite target of Joe Flacco’s in the final four games. Targeted 33 times in that last stretch (after only eight in three games in the prior month), Brown snagged 20 catches for 204 yards in his most productive month of the season. The Ravens clearly missed the presence of Anquan Boldin in the offense this season; can Brown develop the consistency to fill that role for 2014?
Stock Down: Daryl Smith (-4.0, Q4 2013; +2.5, Q3 2013) and Jameel McClain (-10.5, Q4 2013; +2.1, Q3 2013)
One of the league’s best coverage linebackers this season, Smith consistently struggled to make that same positive impact as a run defender and graded negatively in run defense in each of the Ravens’ final four games, bottoming out with his lowest grade of the year (-3.5) against the Bengals’ physical running game. Next to him, Jameel McClain shared in those struggles against the run without having the same positive impact in the passing game.
Stock Up: Stephon Gilmore (+6.7, Q4 2013; -3.6, Q3 2013)
After missing the first five weeks Gilmore made a difficult return to the field letting up plenty of yardage (70+ in five of his first seven games this season). He turned things around nicely to end the season, however, surrendering completions on only 11/27 targets, snagging two interceptions and breaking up four more passes. A 50-yard completion surrendered against Miami accounted for nearly 50% of his yardage total (122) for the month.
Stock Down: Doug Legursky (-8.1, Q4 2013; -2.0, Q3 2013)
I would say the Bills made the right choice in not breaking the bank to keep left guard Andy Levitre, but adequately replacing him was not something they managed to do. Colin Brown notched a disastrous -30.1 overall grade in only six starts and while Legursky was an improvement but still struggled as the season went on, earning a run block grade of -1.9 or worse in five of his final six starts. An area to improve in the offseason for the Bills.
Stock Up: Andrew Whitworth (+11.5, Q4 2013; +8.9, Q3 2013) and Anthony Collins (+6.3, Q4 2013; +0.7, Q3 2013)
One injury can throw a spanner in the works of an offensive line, especially when it leads to a re-jig of two positions on the quarterback’s blind side. After Clint Boling’s unfortunate injury Andrew Whitworth has shown his versatility and physicality sliding inside to guard while Anthony Collins’ performance in pass protection (eight hurries in five starts) only leaves more questions as to why Collins has never been given a chance to start elsewhere in the league when he has hit the open market.
Stock Down: Michael Johnson (+1.7, Q4 2013; +4.4, Q3 2013)
A positive grade every month of the season but Johnson’s form has deteriorated since his spectacular start which had his performances right up there with Robert Quinn in the early going. Only one sack and three hits since Week 11 Johnson has at least remained solid against the run while he struggles to make his impact as a pass rusher. His one-on-one matchup against King Dunlap this weekend will be a fascinating one to watch.
Stock Up: Jabaal Sheard (+2.1, Q4 2013; -1.0, Q3 2013) and Paul Kruger (+3.6, Q4 2013; -1.9, Q3 2013)
The Browns invested heavily in their edge rush last offseason and they didn’t get the rewards they were looking for. The end of the season was at least a little more solid from Kruger and Sheard with the former in particular putting in a big late season performance against the Patriots (+3.2 pass rush) when the Browns came up desperately short of a big name scalp.
Stock Down: Buster Skrine (-8.8, Q4 2013; +1.9, Q3 2013)
A rough end to the season for Skrine who let up nearly 75% of his targets and though he surrendered less than 10 yards per completion (130 yards on 15 completions) four of his 15 completions resulted in touchdowns. Having notched 15 pass defenses and one interception in the first 12 games of the season Skrine didn’t get his hands to a single pass in the final month of the season.
Stock Up: Terrance Knighton (+12.9, Q4 2013; +5.9, Q3 2013)
After a solid start to his first season in Denver, Terrance Knighton rounded into terrific form in the final month of the season pairing a big game as a pass rusher (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) in Houston with some terrific work as a run defender. With first rounder Sylvester Williams having his best and busiest month to close the season the Broncos’ interior defensive line is really raising its game as the season reaches its climax.
Stock Down: Manuel Ramirez (-1.5 Q4 2013; +4.5, Q3 2013)
An undoubted success story for the Broncos this season, Ramirez tailed off a little as the regular season wound to a close — letting up seven pressures in the final three games and failing to find his best form as a run blocker in the final four. Ramirez is capable of some dominant performances as a run blocker and the Broncos will be looking for him to hit the heights of his displays at home to Oakland (+4.6) and in New England (+7.3) when they resume their search for the Lombardi Trophy on divisional weekend.
Stock Up: Brandon Brooks (+9.4, Q4 2013; +1.4, Q3 2013)
The Texans haven’t adequately replaced Eric Winston at right tackle, but Brandon Brooks has flourished in his second season as the long-term replacement for Mike Brisiel. Consistent as a run blocker all season Brooks discovered his best and most consistent form to close out the year and earn a spot in our final Team of the Month after earning an honorable mention earlier in the season.
Stock Down: No one
The Texans have been down for a long time and rounded out their dire season with a 14th straight defeat against Tennessee on Sunday. They have followed that up by appointing Bill O’Brien as their new head coach after two strong rebuilding seasons for Penn State in the college ranks. The Texans will hope that they have no-one losing form at this point next season for a positive rather than a negative reason.
Stock Up: Anthony Castonzo (+3.7, Q4 2013; -1.9, Q3 2013)
A strong start to the season (especially as a run blocker) gave way to a more inconsistent middle spell for Castonzo that held some real struggles in pass protection. In the final month of the season things improved with only one slightly down performance (-1.4) against the Chiefs in Week 16. Only two hits surrendered in the last month of the season and no sacks, the Colts will look for Castonzo to keep Andrew Luck’s blindside clean in the postseason.
Stock Down: Kelvin Sheppard (-4.4, Q4 2013; +3.1, Q3 2013)
The swap of Jerry Hughes for Sheppard has worked out for Hughes and Buffalo but Sheppard has continued to struggle in Indianapolis. He doesn’t miss too many tackles (two this month, five for the season) but he also doesn’t do a great job of shedding blocks to find the ball-carrier and make impact plays or provide disruption against the run.
Stock Up: Uche Nwaneri (+5.5, Q4 2013; -4.6, Q3 2013)
A rough season for the Jaguars’ run blocking efforts but Nwaneri was one to make strides to end the season with three positive grades (+2.1 vs Buffalo and Tennessee) in run blocking to end the season and more solid pass protection. After surrendering three sacks in four games last month Nwaneri improved letting up only two hits in the final four games of the season.
Stock Down: Sen’Derrick Marks (-6.8, Q4 2013; +8.4, Q3 2013)
After a terrific month as a pass rusher when the Jags were winning games last month Marks found positive impact a little harder to come by this month. Marks had one of those freak spells when he was able to get his hands to five passes to bat them down last month which quite understandably dried up this month and he didn’t make as consistent an impact getting pressure either. He also only notched three stops (one sack) struggling to gain much traction in run defense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Stock Up: Brandon Flowers (+2.9, Q4 2013; -5.8, Q3 2013)
After letting up 306 yards and a trio of touchdowns from Week 10-13 Flowers got back to better form in his final three games of the season before sitting out the Chiefs’ final game of the season. Prior to that Flowers had surrendered just 90 yards on 19 targets (10 completions) breaking up three passes to boot. The Chiefs’ defense was key to their early season success and they need the likes of Flowers at their best if they are to break out of their funk and claim the playoff victory that most do not expect of them.
Stock Down: No one
No individual is on a particular downward curve for the Chiefs right now but that doesn’t mean that the team as a whole is moving forward. While most of the other teams entering the playoffs have good positive momentum to carry into the post-season Kansas City have only won two of their last seven games. As a whole momentum isn’t quite there but they do at least have their most important offensive player (Jamaal Charles) in absolutely scintillating form and he could spark a momentum shift when it counts this weekend.
Stock Up: Tyson Clabo (+7.2, Q4 2013; +2.6, Q3 2013)
Sometimes it takes a player a little while to settle in with a new team and even more so for an offensive lineman transitioning into a new scheme. Such was the turnaround we saw from Tyson Clabo who after a ropey start to the year rebounded from a benching with a very strong second half of the season. The league’s most improved tackle in the second half of the season Clabo surrendered 16 fewer total pressures which included five fewer sacks. His protection grade for Week 10-17 was +19.8 better than for Week 1-9.
Stock Down: Olivier Vernon (-7.1, Q4 2013; +5.5, Q3 2013)
The Dolphins ran out of gas at the end of the season with a franchise-turning playoff appearance there to be taken. Symptomatic of that drop-off was Vernon who, after notching five sacks and 16 total pressures in the third quarter of the season, could only notch five pressures 126 pass rushes in the final four weeks of the season.
New England Patriots
Stock Up: LeGarrette Blount (+10.0, Q4 2013; -0.2, Q3 2013)
You have to take your chances as a running back when they present themselves in the NFL and seeing an increased role after Stevan Ridley’s fumbling problems Blount certainly snatched his opportunity with both hands. Crossing the goal-line four times and forcing 11 missed tackles Blount averaged nearly three yards per carry after first contact for the month on 59 carries.
Stock Down: No one
There one slip up this month was a rare occasion where they failed to secure the division title at the first opportunity that it presented itself. They weren’t made to pay for that defeat in Miami though and with a week off wrapped up to get people healthy and rested and with Tom Brady rounded into excellent form the Patriots are getting hot at the right time.
New York Jets
Stock Up: Geno Smith (+7.2, Q4 2013; -12.3, Q3 2013) and Dee Milliner (+8.1, Q4 2013; -4.1, Q3 2013)
Two players who for so long seemed indicative of a bad season for the Jets turned things around in the final month of the season and are two of the biggest reasons for positivity moving forwards. Smith showed his confidence not allowing some appalling play earlier in the season to keep him from moving forwards and showing improvement late in the season. Meanwhile on the defensive side Milliner showed growth from his two spells on the pine and earned himself a spot on our team of the month for his fine work in a busy (38 targets) final four games of the season.
Stock Down: No one
The Jets finished well down the stretch, well enough to get their head coach another season in charge in the Big Apple. Riding through this season to 8-8 was a massive success for the Jets and the late season success of two of their top picks will have Gang Green excited that better times might not be too far over the horizon.
Stock Up: Sio Moore (+6.7, Q4 2013; -0.3, Q3 2013)
The only Raider to feature in our all AFC-West team at mid-season finished the season strongly as well. Moore graded positively as a run defender each week notching nine defensive stops across the four games. He also re-discovered good form as a supplemental pass rusher with two good games against Kansas City (1 Ht, 2 Hu) and Denver (1 Sk, 2 Ht, 2 Hu) to end the season.
Stock Down: Matthew McGloin (-9.0, Q4 2013; +4.1, Q3 2013)
Those solid starts when he first took on the starting role certainly ebbed away quickly didn’t they? For a short period of time McGloin looked like the sort of capable starter who could hold the starting job over even for as much as a season while the Raiders looked for their franchise quarterback but a disastrous display against Kansas City backed up a poor display in San Diego only served to reinforce the need for the Raiders to find their guy and fast.
Stock Up: David DeCastro (+4.6, Q4 2013; -4.1, Q3 2013)
A bit of a yo-yo season for DeCastro who has put in some terrific displays as a run blocker but has also shown some weakness in pass protection and hasn’t always sustained his excellent work on the ground. A consistent end to the season highlights his potential (+5.9 run block over the last three weeks), more consistent displays like that will see DeCastro as a centerpiece of the Steelers ground attack.
Stock Down: No one
A strong finish for the Steelers but they just left it that little bit too late to sneak into the playoffs. Had they managed to they would have been a dangerous team to face with a number of key players rounding into the sort of form that wouldn’t have been indicative of their season record.
San Diego Chargers
Stock Up: D.J. Fluker (+7.4, Q4 2013; -11.3, Q3 2013) and King Dunlap (+14.9, Q4 2013; -0.8, Q3 2013)
Two of the league’s most improved tackles in the final quarter of the season Fluker most importantly benefited from a shift back to the right side of the line after struggling on the left side. After letting up 24 pressures in his prior four games at left tackle Fluker surrendered only four pressures back on the right side in the last four weeks. Reverting back to the right side was made possible by King Dunlap’s return to the lineup who himself surrendered only five pressures (1 Ht, 4 Hu) and put in some terrific displays as a run blocker to help sneak the Chargers into the post-season.
Stock Down: No one
They got some help from the officials and from the Ravens and Dolphins losing out through the final two weeks of the season but they also needed to win out including that win at Mile High Stadium over the Broncos. Individually and as a team the Chargers rounded into excellent form in the last month of the season and will look to avenge their last defeat from Thanksgiving weekend when they head to Cincinnati this weekend.
Stock Up: Michael Griffin (+2.6, Q4 2013; -4.3, Q3 2013)
A strong start to the season ebbed away in the prior quarter of the season as his troubles with missed tackles and discipline in coverage returned a little. Griffin ensured that he bracketed that poor spell with the more solid form that he showed in the first half of the season. He recorded six stops across the Titans’ Week 14 and 15 defeats before putting in some strong play in coverage (+3.6) during the Titans’ season ending two game win streak against Jacksonville and Houston.
Stock Down: Brian Schwenke (-7.4, Q4 2013; +0.3, Q3 2013)
Pass protection was a consistent problem for Schwenke when he took over the starting role in the middle of the Tennessee line but when he got that sorted over the final two games of the season his solid run blocking disappeared. He surrendered 23 pressures for the lowest Pass Blocking Efficiency (94.3) of any center in the league this season but when he progressed in the final two games of the season surrendering just two pressures (1 Ht, 1 Hu) he regressed as a run blocker with his worst two games of the season (-1.3 at Jacksonville, -4.4 vs Houston).
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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.