Stock Report: AFC, Second Quarter
Ben Stockwell checks in on the AFC, noting players who've improved and declined in the past month for each team.
Stock Report: AFC, Second Quarter
We’ve reached the halfway point of the NFL season and that means it’s time for the second in-season installment of the Stock Report. With two months of action in the books we can get our first look at how a player’s form has fluctuated through the season to date. While some players will have maintained their form (whether that be great, average or poor) others will have fallen from early highlights. Others will have risen from a slow start and others still might have fallen even further away from an already poor start.
As ever, there are various factors that go into players gaining and losing form and a drop in form doesn’t necessarily mean a player is playing poorly right now. A drop from scintillating performance to solid outings is a loss, but nothing to be concerned about, unless your team is overly reliant on that player to produce those top-drawer performances week in and week out.
This article will give you a look at one player from each team in the AFC gaining and losing form. For a look at the NFC teams, click here.
Stock Up: Eugene Monroe (+7.8, Q2 2013; -3.7, Q1 2013)
Sporting a 1-3 record this month, not much has gone right for the defending Super Bowl champions but their move to trade for Monroe has paid dividends with him among the most improved tackles in the league this month. Monroe conceded 11 fewer pressures this month compared to last (four compared to 15) with only three tackles who played at least 200 snaps conceding fewer.
Stock Down: James Ihedigbo (-4.5, Q2 2013; +10.4, Q1 2013)
Just to show how fragile form can be in the NFL, a member of our Team of the Month in the first quarter of the season has seen his form fall sharply away in the second. Ihedigbo had a penchant for stops early on (leading all safeties with 12) but this month registered more missed tackles (seven) then stops (six) with four misses coming in the narrow defeat to Green Bay.
Stock Up: Jerry Hughes (+7.9, Q2 2013; -0.7, Q1 2013)
Everybody loves a good news story of a player turning his career around and, in the last month, Hughes has shown that after failing to make his mark in Indianapolis there just might be a home for him in Buffalo. Hughes was among the Top 10 3-4 OLBs this month with 19 total pressures (4 Sk, 15 Hu) and with a knack for the strip sack (two this month) only Elvis Dumervil and Robert Mathis topped his +7.9 pass rush grade for the month.
Stock Down: Eric Wood (-5.3, Q2 2013; +0.2, Q1 2013)
Not in the best run blocking form all season, Wood’s last three games (all -2.0 or below) have been especially poor and helped ensure he earned our lowest run blocking grade for a center this month. Run blocking has rarely been Wood’s strong suit to this point in his career, but as a positive, he hasn’t surrendered a single pressure in the last two weeks.
Stock Up: Marvin Jones (+11.8, Q2 2013; +0.2, Q1 2013)
This month’s breakout skill position player, Jones has defied the number of snaps given to him this month to bring the sort of impact you’d be delighted to see from your No. 1 receiver. Jones snagged 75% of his 28 targets to register 355 yards and half a dozen touchdowns, of which, four came in the Bengals’ rout of the Jets. Jones registered a season-high 50 snaps against the Dolphins last Thursday, the start of a more expanded role in the offense as recognition for his emergence this month?
Stock Down: Kevin Zeitler (-3.6, Q2 2013; +6.2, Q1 2013)
In a five-game month, this is a short-term loss of form for Zeitler who struggled as a run blocker in the last three after an extremely strong start to the season. Earning a run block grade of a +1.0 or higher in five of his first six starts, Zeitler has earned a negative grade the last three weeks, struggling especially with the Jets’ terrific defensive line in Week 8.
Stock Up: T.J. Ward (+8.0, Q2 2013; +4.2, Q1 2013)
Our All-Pro strong safety at the midway point of the season, Ward has grown into the season after an already good start in the first month. Ward’s 27 stops are the most for any safety in the league (his 20 stops this month are more than any other safety has for the season) and ties Craig Robertson for the most on the Browns’ defense. Ward has already surpassed the 26 stops he registered in a strong 2012 season for the Browns.
Stock Down: Jordan Cameron (-2.5, Q2 2013; +8.3, Q1 2013)
A breakout performer in the first month of the season, Cameron has seen his productivity and role in the Browns’ offense reduce in the second month. In spite of playing an extra game, Cameron was targeted a dozen fewer times, caught 10 fewer passes for 120 fewer yards with four fewer touchdowns. Cameron established himself as a dangerous option for the Browns early in the season and they will be eager to see him re-discover that form to complement the threat of Josh Gordon on the outside more consistently.
Stock Up: Eric Decker (+3.5, Q2 2013; -2.9, Q1 2013)
The start of this season was an aberration for Decker and, crucially for him, Peyton Manning never lost his confidence with Decker remaining a featured part of the Broncos’ passing game through his trouble with drops and fumbles. Decker was targeted as many times this month as last, but didn’t drop a single pass this time around, a welcome return to normalcy for the Broncos’ second most targeted wide receiver.
Stock Down: Kevin Vickerson (-9.3, Q2 2013; -2.0, Q1 2013)
You need your defensive players to play with a certain edge but you also need them to play with controlled aggression. Vickerson over-stepped that mark this month and in a period where he wasn’t playing terribly well, he made it worse with half a dozen penalties on defense and added another on special teams against the Colts. Vickerson is struggling to re-discover the form he showed at the end of the last season.
Stock Up: Brandon Brooks (+5.2, Q2 2013; -2.2, Q1 2013)
The offensive line has been a problem for the Texans in the last year or so, in particular the right side after they took the decision to offload the veteran pairing of Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston at the same time. Brooks was selected in the third round last season and has looked the part most of the time this season. There were struggles towards the end of the first month (particularly in pass rush) but he has looked the part as a run blocker outside of the Seattle game and has graded positively as a run blocker in his last three starts.
Stock Down: Ed Reed (-7.6, Q2 2013; +1.1, Q1 2013)
Maybe the Texans thought they were getting some crucial veteran leadership in their defense. Instead, they got the aging safety whose limitations started to show through in his final season with the Ravens. Reed missed four tackles across Weeks 6 and 7 and only graded positively in coverage for one game this month, a +0.4 grade on only 32 snaps against the Colts on Sunday.
Stock Up: Robert Mathis (+10.6, Q2 2013; +3.8, Q1 2013)
Not necessarily the most consistent of months from Mathis but he timed his two best games of the month (and the season in fact) for the Colts’ two biggest games. Earning a +5.9 grade against the Seahawks and a +6.4 against the Broncos, Mathis has made big plays at big moments in the Colts’ statement victories this month. Of his 20 total pressures this month, Mathis recorded 13 of them (4 Sk, 2 Ht, 7 Hu) against Seattle and Denver.
Stock Down: Darrius Heyward-Bey (-6.0, Q2 2013; +3.3, Q1 2013)
Timing his dip in form with a gain in form for T.Y. Hilton, Heyward-Bey nevertheless maintained his playing time this month. On 19 targets this month Heyward-Bey caught only six passes for 66 yards with four drops. Six receivers put the ball on the ground five times this month, but Heyward-Bey was still around the league’s leaders in that unwanted category.
Stock Up: Maurice Jones-Drew (+4.4, Q2 2013; -2.3, Q1 2013)
While he may not be at his absolutely swashbuckling best, a solid month for Jones-Drew is about as good as it gets in Jacksonville right now. On only eight more carries this month, Jones-Drew added an extra 115 yards with 80 more yards after contact. Continuing to excel in pass protection, Jones-Drew is yet to allow a pressure this season (63 plays kept in to pass block) and hasn’t allowed a pressure since Week 6 of 2011.
Stock Down: Brandon Deaderick (-6.8, Q2 2013; +0.2, Q1 2013)
With such a low baseline of form from the first month of the season there wasn’t a great deal of room for players to lose form for the Jags, unfortunately. One of those who did was Deaderick who stepped up his playing time a little, but has struggled to make any sort of positive impact as a run defender. The former Patriot is without a pressure or a stop since Week 2.
Kansas City Chiefs
Stock Up: Dontari Poe (+12.6, Q2 2013; +2.1, Q1 2013)
You could make an argument that Poe was unfortunate to miss out on our mid-term All-Pro team (he had my vote) and having really kicked on in an expansive role in the Chiefs’ defense over the second month of the season. A consistent force against the run this month and far more than just a passenger on passing downs, Poe registered 17 defensive stops this month and his 13 pressures were among the Top 10 for defensive tackles.
Stock Down: Akeem Jordan (-4.3, Q2 2013; +5.0, Q1 2013)
Early in the season Jordan was an excellent complement to Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker for the Chiefs, but in recent weeks he hasn’t been finding the ball-carrier as much. Part of this could be due to Poe finding him first, but he has been struggling to shed blocks and make the impact he did in the first month of the season. After registering 10 stops in the first four games, Jordan has just five stops in the last five.
Stock Up: Dannell Ellerbe (+6.1, Q2 2013; -5.3, Q1 2013)
Settling in immediately with a new team isn’t always the easiest thing to do and Dannell Ellerbe certainly had his problems settling quickly with the Dolphins, missing five tackles in the first month of the season. Playing only two full games due to injury this month, Ellerbe has looked more like the player the Dolphins thought they were getting with a strong game in run defense (+2.1, five stops) against the Patriots and a terrific game in coverage (+3.4, three PDs) against the Bengals last Thursday.
Stock Down: Charles Clay (-6.5, Q2 2013; -0.5, Q1 2013)
Unable to replicate his impact in the receiving game from the first month, the focus has been on Clay as a blocker this month and he has been found wanting in the running game. Two poor games against the Bills and Bengals (-3.4 run block in each) form the majority of Clay’s fall away in grade this month.
New England Patriots
Stock Up: Rob Gronkowski (+5.7, Q2 2013; DNP, Q1 2013)
The NFL is a better place when the league’s best players are on the field rather than the treatment table and it’s a pleasant surprise this season to be able to comment on a player heading away from the treatment table rather than towards it. In only three games this month Gronkowski was targeted 32 times with only one drop offering his typical impact on intermediate targets. His run blocking was poor this week so he’s still got some work to do to return to his absolute best but time is on his side to play his way into his best form over the remainder of the season.
Stock Down: Julian Edelman (-5.8, Q2 2013; +4.8, Q1 2013)
In spite of being targeted 12 less times this month Edelman managed to drop three more pass (five) than he did in the first month of the season and was marginalized after being one of the league’s most targeted receivers in a tough first month for the Patriots’ passing game. The return of Gronkowski and Danny Amendola along with Tom Brady’s growing trust in the younger receivers may see Edelman’s role marginalized further next month unless injuries rear their ugly head again in the New England passing game.
New York Jets
Stock Up: Muhammad Wilkerson (+16.9, Q2 2013; 0.0, Q1 2013)
It shows how much we came to expect from Wilkerson after his breakout 2012 season that his average start to the season was cause for a little disappointment. Not such a problem over the second month of the season as he racked up 19 total pressures including five sacks to go with his excellent work in run defense (+11.5) that become customary in his short career.
Stock Down: Quinton Coples (-7.5, Q2 2013; -1.5, Q1 2013)
Inconsistent as a pass rusher from an interior spot last season, Coples was stood up this season and the results have been generally negative. Earning a negative pass rush grade every game from Week 5 to Week 8, Coples registered only four pressures (1 Sk, 2 Ht, 1 Hu) in the first four games this month. Promise was shown with four QB hits against the Saints on Sunday and the next month will help show whether that performance was a blip or the start of better things to come.
Stock Up: Matt McCants (+5.1, Q2 2013; 13 snaps, Q1 2013)
For the second time this season the Raiders’ “Stock Up” player is a right tackle. After losing Tony Pashos to injury, McCants has played 208 snaps for the Raiders earning a positive pass protection grade in every game. Surrendering only three pressures (all hurries, no hits or sacks) this month, McCants earned a pass protection grade (+5.5) among the Top 10 tackles in the season’s second month.
Stock Down: Jason Hunter (-9.3, Q2 2013; +0.4, Q1 2013)
Pass rush has not been a strong suit for the Raiders this season with Hunter’s 17 pressures on 232 pass rushes bringing those struggles into sharp relief. Hunter’s best pass rush grade this month was a -1.8 against the Steelers in Week 8 as he generated only eight pressures (1 Ht, 7 Hu) after having been solid in the first three games of the season (0.0 pass rush grade, 2 Sk, 3 Ht, 4 Hu).
Stock Up: Cameron Heyward (+5.3, Q2 2013; +0.8, Q1 2013)
Finally seeing a more expanded role in the Steelers’ defense (109 more snaps this month compared to last) Heyward is responding with the sort of performances that were all too rarely seen from Ziggy Hood. Showing well in both run and pass games, Heyward registered five pressures (2 Sk, 2 Ht, 1 Hu) against the Patriots last Sunday and has five stops in his last two starts.
Stock Down: None
If you were to take an extremely short-term look at matters, you would say that Troy Polamalu showed a sharp drop in form against the Patriots (-4.7) on Sunday but we’ll see how that transpires over the coming games. The Steelers’ slow start to the season ensures that the slight pick-up this month leaves them without a real candidate for a loss of form.
San Diego Chargers
Stock Up: Keenan Allen (+6.6, Q2 2013; +1.7, Q1 2013)
Thrust to the fore by injuries at receiver for the Chargers, Allen broke out snagging 72.2% of the targets sent in his direction this month for 417 yards and three touchdowns with a solitary dropped pass. Allen’s emergence has helped ensure that Philip Rivers’ revival this season has not eroded away for want of a reliable target.
Stock Down: None
Antonio Gates saw a precipitous drop-off in his overall grade from the first month of the season, but bearing in mind that that comes largely from his poor run blocking I wouldn’t consider that terribly surprising. Aside from Gates, the Chargers are generally holding steady or on the rise at present.
Stock Up: Bernard Pollard (+6.9, Q2 2013; -5.0, Q1 2013)
You’re unlikely to see a much bigger turnaround over an eight-week period than Pollard has managed in the first half of this season. Having earned a negative coverage grade in each of the first four games of the season, Pollard earned a coverage grade of +1.0 or above in every start this month. With run defense fairly solid throughout the season his increased presence against the pass, surrendering less than 20 yards in his last three games, is the driving force in Pollard’s rebound.
Stock Down: Nate Washington (-3.7, Q2 2013; +7.5, Q1 2013)
Coming off of back-to-back 100-yard games to end September, Washington barely topped 100 yards for the entire month snagging only seven receptions on 24 targets with three drops. Washington was able to make things happen after the catch last month, but collected less than 2 yards per reception after the catch this month. We’ll see whether the return of Jake Locker results in a re-discovery of Washington’s early season form in the coming weeks.
Follow Ben on Twitter @PFF_Ben
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.