Stock Report: AFC, Third Quarter
Ben Stockwell checks in on the AFC to highlight players who've shown marked improvement (and decline) in the past month for each team.
Stock Report: AFC, Third Quarter
As we turn for home after Thanksgiving it’s time to look back on the penultimate month of the season and take a look at the players shifting their form up and down as teams position themselves for the final push.
This is the fourth edition of the Stock Report this season and if you would think that a player’s form would have stabilized by now you’d be dead wrong — there are still wild fluctuations in form to be seen across the league both on the individual and unit level.
In this month’s AFC Stock Report we’ll take a look at a number of cornerbacks raising their game for contenders and basement dwellers alike as well as highlighting a few quarterbacks who didn’t match their performances form Weeks 5-9 in the stretch from Week 10 to Week 13.
And, for a look at shifts in form for the NFC, this month’s NFC Stock Report.
Stock Up: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham (Combined: +19.8, Q3 2013; -2.3, Q2 2013)
Returning from a season-ending injury last season, Webb had struggled to find his form this season but exploded with a +6.4 overall grade in the Ravens’ victory over the Bengals in Week 10. All three players had one game this month with a single game coverage grade of +3.0 or higher and combined to notch 17 pass defenses and interceptions. As a trio they allowed a combined 326 fewer yards and three fewer touchdowns this month than last.
Stock Down: Terrell Suggs (-0.7, Q3 2013; +4.2, Q2 2013)
Only a down month by the high standards that Suggs has set for himself in his career and earlier this season. Still recording 19 total pressures this month; only three pass rushers (including his team-mate Elvis Dumervil) registered more among 3-4 outside linebackers. Suggs showed his ability to rebound even in this slightly down month with a +2.3 run defense grade against the Jets just a week after notching a -3.2 run defense grade in Chicago.
Stock Up: Alan Branch (+7.5, Q3 2013; -3.3, Q2 2013)
Only J.J. Watt (+22.1 to +40.2) saw a higher grade increase this month than Branch’s jump of +10.8 among 3-4 defensive ends. Brought to Buffalo for his run defense Branch has been inconsistent in that regard but put in big games in two of the Bills’ three games this month. In only three games this month, Branch’s +8.5 run defense grade was topped only by Watt (who else) and Sheldon Richardson.
Stock Down: No one
Not wanting to pile on to a rookie quarterback making his comeback from injury and understandably struggling on that return, the Bills are short of other options at present in a season that isn’t make much progress, but also isn’t really dropping away either. The Bills are what they are it would seem this year and they will be looking for Manuel to finish strong and make an appearance in the ‘Stock Up’ section when we reconvene for the Stock Report after Week 17.
Stock Up: Vontaze Burfict (+12.8, Q3 2013; +5.2, Q2 2013)
Building on a good month with a great month Burfict made his appearance in our team of the month alongside K.J. Wright at linebacker with those playing well in coverage coming to the fore. On 16 targets in three games this month Burfict only surrendered 57 yards, 3.6 yards per attempt for opposing quarterbacks targeting his coverage this month.
Stock Down: Andy Dalton (-11.0, Q3 2013; +7.2, Q2 2013)
After back to back outings against the Lions and Jets you would have been excused for thinking that Dalton was ready to throw off the shackles and make the big strides that many are looking for him to make this year to put the Bengals over the top. After throwing for 1,584 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games last month, Dalton had a completion percentage only just scraping over 50% this month and six interceptions. Time is running short for Dalton but the state of the AFC North means he will get his chance to turn it around when it counts.
Stock Up: Josh Gordon (+9.3, Q3 2013; -2.2, Q2 2013)
Not exactly a surprise this is it after he notched back to back 200-yard games to finish the month. 29 receptions for 623 yards and four scores with only one of his six drops on the season coming in only three games; not a bad month as they go.
Stock Down: Paul Kruger (-1.9, Q3 2013; +3.8, Q2 2013)
Making his second appearance in the Stock Down category this season isn’t a great sign for one of the Browns’ marquee signings from this offseason. The Browns have been short of pass rush all year and that is exactly what Kruger was paid the big bucks to provide. After a solid time from Weeks 5 to 9 Kruger notched only five pressures this month (2 Ht, 3 Hu) on 57 pass rushes for a -3.5 pass rush grade.
Stock Up: Kevin Vickerson (+5.9, Q3 2013; -9.3, Q2 2013)
After a month that saw him commit far too many penalties (six), Vickerson got his head down this month and — ahead of being placed on I.R. with a dislocated hip — provided the kind of run support that made him a valuable cog in Denver’s 2012 defense. Green grades in run defense all month and he even provided some pass rush in the loss to New England with a sack, hit and hurry for his highest pass rush grade (+1.4) since Week 5 of 2009 in his time with the Titans.
Stock Down: Zane Beadles (-4.9 Q3 2013; +1.3, Q2 2013)
A rough month for Beadles with a couple of poor games in pass protection rounded out with an all-around awful game against the Chiefs in Kansas City this Sunday. Surrendering three pressures and struggling as a run blocker (-3.4) Beadles netted his worst single game grade since his inauspicious debut at right tackle (-9.8) back in 2010. His season-long form is a far cry from that which we saw last season.
Stock Up: Duane Brown (+9.9, Q3 2013; +2.8, Q2 2013)
Positives have been low on the ground for the Texans this season but Duane Brown’s play over the last month has been an under the radar bright point for the Texans. His run blocking isn’t up to his highest standards but his pass protection has been amongst the best of his career surrendering only five pressures, all hurries, this month netting a pass protection grade of +7.7 bettered only by Joe Thomas.
Stock Down: Case Keenum (-4.6, Q3 2013; +4.0, Q2 2013)
All part of the learning process for Keenum and perhaps predictable that after a successful start there would be a slight lull when defenses got tape on him and started to work him out a little bit. After his stellar Week 9 display against the Colts, consistent performance has been a bit harder to find. If he is to figure strongly in the Texans’ plans for next season, Keenum needs a more consistent finish to the season and to avoid another bizarre mid-game hook for Matt Schaub.
Stock Up: No one
A pair of close wins over the Titans, one of them requiring a big comeback, paired with a couple of drubbings against the third and fourth place teams from the NFC West have seen the Colts stagnate after their statement victories earlier in the season. Both individually and as a team the Colts need to be picking up form in the last four weeks of the season if this season isn’t to peter out into another one-and-done playoff run.
Stock Down: Samson Satele (-4.3, Q3 2013; -1.7, Q2 2013)
A generally stagnant month for the Colts but Satele’s run blocking fell away badly with three single games earning a -2.1 run block grade or worse. Only a strong showing in the first game against Tennessee (+2.8 overall) spared his grade drop from being any lower.
Stock Up: Alan Ball (+8.8, Q3 2013; -3.1, Q2 2013)
The Jags were a contender to have a litany of defensive backs in this spot (just as the Ravens had) with Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz making strides this month as well. Ball tied Xavier Rhodes for the most combined interceptions and pass defenses among corners this month with eight while surrendering only 117 yards on 23 targets this month.
Stock Down: No one
Entering this month out of their Week 9 bye week, many onlookers assumed, let alone predicted, the Jaguars would go winless. Four weeks later the Jags notched three victories and lost out to a good Cardinals team on home soil. Can they maintain this positive momentum in the final four weeks of the season as this new era in Jacksonville starts to take shape?
Kansas City Chiefs
Stock Up: Alex Smith (+6.6, Q3 2013; -4.8, Q2 2013)
The Chiefs as a team may have stumbled this month but crucially their quarterback finally started to show some signs of life as the shackles of the Chiefs’ passing game started to be loosened as teams started scoring on their defense. Smith tossed five more scores this month than last while not seeing his interceptions increase in spite of being asked to do more in the passing game.
Stock Down: Marcus Cooper (-13.0, Q3 2013; +7.6, Q2 2013)
One of the feel-good stories of the season, Cooper had a tough short month learning one of the hardest lessons as a corner in the pros that if teams think they can get something out of you they will go after you, relentlessly. In two fewer games Cooper was targeted almost as many times this month as last while surrendering 256 more yards (454 compared to 198) and only getting his hands to one pass compared to six in the prior month.
Stock Up: Mike Wallace (+1.1, Q3 2013; +0.5, Q2 2013)
Not the biggest of pickups in overall grade but the Dolphins have finally shown the ability and willingness to get Wallace involved down the field this month. But for a poor performance against the Bucs (-2.3) to open the month, his grade jump would have been more indicative of his increased involvement.
Stock Down: Dannell Ellerbe (-8.9, Q3 2013; +6.1, Q2 2013)
Consistency has been hard to come by for Ellerbe in his first season with the Dolphins with a strong second month (+6.1) bracketed by a poor first (-5.3) and third (-8.9) month of the season. Five missed tackles helped a precipitous drop in his run defense grade (-7.3) this month. The second month of the season shows the promise, the Dolphins will be looking for a strong finish from Ellerbe and more consistency in his second season.
New England Patriots
Stock Up: Tom Brady (+8.7, Q3 2013; +1.3, Q2 2013)
We hadn’t seen the vintage Brady consistently until this month with only the agonizing (controversial?) defeat to the Panthers in Week 11 robbing him of just about the perfect month. Stellar comebacks against the Broncos and Texans earned him an honorable mention in the Team of the Month behind Russell Wilson.
Stock Down: Nate Solder (-2.0, Q3 2013; +8.1, Q2 2013)
Given a thorough working over by Von Miller back in Week 12, Solder bounced back with his second highest grade of the season (+5.1) against the Texans to offer hope that his downward blip against the Panthers and Broncos in the two weeks prior were just a short-term blip.
New York Jets
Stock Up: Quinton Coples (+1.6, Q3 2013; -7.5, Q2 2013)
Still not exactly what you’d call a stellar month for an edge rusher but this was better from Coples who almost matched his production as a pass rusher in three games (10 pressures) this month that he managed in five games (11 pressures) last month. His run defense also took a step forward with two strong games (+1.6 and +1.2) in Buffalo and Baltimore.
Stock Down: Nick Mangold (-5.7, Q3 2013; +0.5, Q2 2013)
Center is a position short of a really dominant presence this year and Mangold’s sudden decline from being at least among the league’s elite has been a puzzling one. Since a +1.3 run block grade in Cincinnati back in Week 8 Mangold only has the marginal positive against the Dolphins this Week to break a streak of three games that saw him earn a -8.1 run block grade against the Saints, Bill and Ravens.
Stock Up: Matt McGloin (+5.1, Q3 2013; -1.2, Q2 2013)
Presumed by many to just be a camp body back in July McGloin has put in the sort of performances this month that could see him retain his starting job for the Raiders while they keep a lookout for the next man they want to entrust the franchise with for a longer period of time. Mistakes have been made but McGloin has made strides in each performance and has found a productive connection with fellow UDFA, Andre Holmes, in the last two weeks.
Stock Down: Phillip Adams (-8.6, Q3 2013; 26 snaps, Q2 2013)
Entering the lineup in a more expanded role at about the same time he had last season Adams has had very different fortunes 12 months on. In a similar spell last year Adams earned a +5.7 coverage grade interception two passes and breaking up another while giving up only six yards on six targets. This time around Adams has struggled tackling (six misses) and that has had a negative effect on his grade.
Stock Up: William Gay (+8.4, Q3 2013; -2.1, Q2 2013)
After finishing out the second quarter of the season with a dire display against the Patriots giving up nearly 100 yards and missing two tackles Gay has responded with a spectacular third quarter that nearly earned him a spot in the team of the month. On 24 targets Gay surrendered only 11 receptions for 80 yards and notched 10 stops.
Stock Down: David DeCastro (-4.1, Q3 2013; +6.5, Q2 2013)
A matter of consistency here for DeCastro rather than anything necessarily to panic about. His showings as a run blocker earlier in the season offered promise of some real quality on the Steelers’ offensive line but the best players in the trenches deliver that sort of performance consistently and with poor games in the run game against the Bills, Lions and Ravens, DeCastro hasn’t delivered that consistency this month.
San Diego Chargers
Stock Up: Lardarius Green (+5.9, Q3 2013; +2.4, Q2 2013)
In the running for the team of the month in spite of his limited playing time Green was a tremendous threat in the passing game this month notching 231 receiving yards (fifth most among tight ends) on 10 catches in spite of playing only 132 snaps (half of those in Week 13 against the Bengals). For the season Green has gained 3.40 yards per route run, if he had enough targets to cross the minimum threshold (he falls one short at present) that would be the most among tight ends.
Stock Down: D.J. Fluker (-11.3, Q3 2013; +3.1, Q2 2013)
Entering the league with the moniker of a “right tackle only” injuries have forced Fluker over to the left side midseason and he has served to fulfill that prophecy in pass protection this month. Switching sides midseason is not an easy thing to do and Fluker has not taken to the left side well surrendering the most total pressure of any offensive tackle this month more than half of his total pressure for the season (24/43) surrendered in the last four games.
Stock Up: Akeem Ayers (+9.9, Q3 2013; -1.3, Q2 2013)
Seizing his chance in a Von Miller-esque role Ayers as made his mark as a pass rusher and run defender this month with the Titans finally playing to his strengths. Only Miller (no surprise) recorded more total pressures than his 11 this month while he has also notched a very respectable 10 stops this month.
Stock Down: Michael Griffin (-4.3, Q3 2013; +6.0, Q2 2013)
Poor tackling has reared its head for Griffin on his return to the Titans’ lineup this month with three of his seven missed tackles this season coming in the Week 10 and 11 defeats at home to Jacksonville and Indianapolis. After a strong start to the season forming a solid partnership with Bernard Pollard his return from injury was further disrupted by a one-game suspension this week. He will want and need to re-discover his early season form as the Titans head to Denver this Sunday.
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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.