Stock Report: NFC, First Quarter
Ben Stockwell continues his report into the risers and fallers around the NFL, this time checking the form of the NFC.
Stock Report: NFC, First Quarter
The first month of the 2013 NFL season is in the books and that means 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 surge 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 NFC 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: Larry Fitzgerald (+7.0, Q1 2013; +0.9, Q4 2012)
What a difference a quarterback can make! Comparing the last month of 2012 to the first of 2013, Fitzgerald’s targets are comparable but he has snagged six more receptions for 97 yards and three more touchdowns, even helping himself by dropping zero passes this month. Fitzgerald’s talent was never in doubt, but it’s good to see him get some competent quarterbacking play to show that talent.
Stock Down: Calais Campbell (-1.3, Q1 2013; +15.3, Q4 2012)
Not always the most consistent run defender until last season, Campbell has at least been an impactful and dependable pass rusher for the Cardinals — not so to start 2013. His eight pressures to start the season is poor by his own standards, and especially so in comparison to his final month of the 2012 season when he made a strong comeback having missed the previous four games for the Cardinals.
Stock Up: Justin Blalock (+5.6, Q1 2013; -2.1, Q4 2012)
Not the start the Falcons might have hoped for, but their guard play has been improved at least over the first month of the season. Blalock’s biggest stride from the end of last season, his pass protection is rarely a weakness, has been moving from sub-standard run blocking to average run blocking. His form as a run blocker may be tested more in coming weeks if the Falcons can establish a lead and look to run the ball more often to close out games.
Stock Down: Akeem Dent (-5.7, Q1 2013; +1.6, Q4 2012)
Such can be the yo-yo effect of form in the NFL, Dent’s stock was on the up at the start of the season after a strong finish to 2012. However, with five missed tackles in the first month of the season (t-5th among inside and middle linebackers) he hasn’t carried that form into 2013, a rebound in the wrong direction. Dent’s lowest grade comes in coverage, where he has let up a pair of touchdowns and a league-worst (among inside linebackers) 147.6 passer rating allowed.
Stock Up: Ryan Kalil (+4.4, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
Consistently among our Top 10 graded centers in recent seasons, Kalil was lost to injury last season but has hit the ground running in 2013. surrendering only two hurries in the Panthers’ first three games, to pair with his customary strong run blocking that was absent before he went down injured last season.
Stock Down: Chris Scott (-7.9, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
Not such a strong start next to Kalil though, with Chris Scott struggling badly as a run blocker in starts at both left and right guard. His pass protection recovered against the Bills and Giants, having struggled in the opener against Seattle, surrendering only one hurry in each game after Week 1. With Amini Silatolu showing improvement in his second season, Scott is the only missing piece in what could be a strong run blocking interior for the Panthers.
Stock Up: Matt Slauson (+4.4, Q1 2013; +0.5, Q4 2012)
The preseason improvements we saw in the Bears’ offensive line haven’t been as dramatic as they appeared to be, but Slauson has maintained the positive momentum he built in the second half of the season with the Jets. His pass protection has been about good enough (nine pressures on 170 pass protection snaps), but his run blocking, especially over the first two weeks, has been his strong suit.
Stock Down: Martellus Bennett (-6.3, Q1 2013; +2.9, Q4 2012)
The same can’t be said for Martellus Bennett who, though providing an impact as a pass catcher for Jay Cutler, hasn’t produced anything like the caliber of run blocking that we know he is capable of. Yet to earn a positive single grade game for his run blocking this season, he also let up three pressures (1 Sk, 2 Hu) in pass protection against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Bennett has never suffered such a poor run of form as a run blocker in his career to date.
Stock Up: George Selvie (+4.5, Q1 2013; +0.1, Q4 2012)
I was spoilt for choice here for the Cowboys, with more than half a dozen players who could have been noted, but I went for the surprise package in Selvie. Replacing Anthony Spencer in the starting lineup Selvie has carried some strong preseason displays into the regular season, netting four pressures or more in each of the first three games while provide strong run defense in those games as well. On the other side, DeMarcus Ware has made a seamless, as expected, transition to playing as a 4-3 defensive end.
Stock Down: Bruce Carter (-4.2, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
The Cowboys had their two promising linebackers struck down by injury last season, and while Sean Lee has got off to a solid start, Bruce Carter has got off to a rough one in coverage, surrendering 24 completions on his 34 targets for 254 yards and two scores (both against the Chargers) ND getting his hand to only one pass for a pass defense against the Chiefs. Carter also leads the Cowboys with four missed tackles through four weeks.
Stock Up: Ndamukong Suh (+18.3, Q1 2013; +4.6, Q4 2012)
Much like the Cowboys, I had plenty to choose from in Detroit with as many as 10 options spread over both offense and defense. Suh is the man to retain his spot in this article, however, maintaining the form he showed over the second half of last season with some solid run defense paired with consistently terrifying pass rushing. Suh has recorded no less than half a dozen pressures in each game and has taken the quarterback down, with a hit or a sack, every outing this season.
Stock Down: Brandon Pettigrew (-4.2, Q1 2013; -0.7, Q4 2012)
On the other end of the scale for the Lions there was very little choice ,with Pettigrew’s poor start as a run blocker earning him his spot this time around. To add to this, Pettigrew also has a drop and a fumble over the first month to dent a far from blazing start to the season as a receiver. The good news for Lions fans is that Pettigrew’s slight drop in form is far outweighed by the numbers of players making big positive leaps in form. Can they maintain it throughout the season?
Green Bay Packers
Stock Up: Don Barclay (+6.5, Q1 2013; -3.6, Q4 2012)
Stepping in to start as an undrafted free agent late in the season, Barclay had a rough end to the year including the playoffs, letting up 25 pressures in six starts. Starting his first full season, Barclay has let up only six pressures (2 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) through three games and has made strides with his run blocking as well.
Stock Down: B.J. Raji (-1.3, Q1 2013; +10.4, Q4 2012)
Fewer pressures, fewer stops, less impact. Raji was our fourth-highest graded 3-4 defensive end over the final month of the 2012 regular season and only bettered by J.J. Watt for run defense grade in the same time span. However, the start to 2013 hasn’t been to the same level, not poor but a big step below the form he showed to close last season, with only two hurries and four stops through three games.
Stock Up: Brandon Fusco (+6.0, Q1 2013; -4.7, Q4 2012)
Fusco dominated the snaps in a nominal timeshare at right guard with Geoff Schwartz last season, but he is flourishing in 2013 without the threat to his starting spot. Grading positively as a run blocker each week (including a terrific display, +3.1, against the Bears) the only blot on Fusco’s copybook thus far was a woeful pass protection display against the Lions (-5.1). Without that he would have been in with a shout for making the Team of the Month.
Stock Down: Harrison Smith (-1.9, Q1 2013; +4.6, Q4 2012)
Letting up leads late in games has been an unfortunate theme for the Vikings over the first month of the season, with big pass plays coming late in matches. After finishing the season so strongly last season, Smith looked to be building on that with a strong showing (+2.2 coverage) against the Lions to start the season, but hasn’t matched that since with five missed tackles against in the ensuing three weeks.
New Orleans Saints
Stock Up: Cameron Jordan (+15.5, Q1 2013; -1.8, Q4 2012)
The latest change of defensive coordinator has been the perfect tonic for the Saints’ defense, and for no-one more-so than Cameron Jordan. Second only to J.J. Watt in our 3-4 defensive end rankings, Jordan ties Watt for the positional lead with 23 pressures through the first month of the season. Jordan was prone to producing just occasional big games last season, but has shown more consistency in the first month of the season, thriving in Rob Ryan’s defense.
Stock Down: Brian De La Puente (+1.3, Q1 2013; +7.9, Q4 2012)
A solid start to the season for De La Puente who is a case in point that “stock down” doesn’t necessarily mean playing poorly. Simply put, De La Puente’s solid start to the season is not up to the strong close he had to the 2012 campaign, particularly in regards as a run blocker after a sub-par showing against the Falcons to open the season and failing to redress that with one of the displays he showed so frequently last season.
New York Giants
Stock Up: Ryan Mundy (+3.4, Q1 2013; 1 snap, Q4 2012)
Having projected the Giants to win the NFC East (I probably shouldn’t be so forward in acknowledging that) I’m left in the unenviable position of saying that I have very slim pickings for players whose stock is on the rise. Mundy is one of the few Giants to fit the bill, after a strong debut month as a starter after his move from Pittsburgh. Only some poor run defense (-1.7) against the Chiefs this week takes any shine off of what was a solid month for Mundy on an individual level.
Stock Down: William Beatty (-9.7, Q1 2013; +7.7, Q4 2012)
It took a long time for Beatty to unseat David Diehl as the Giants’ starting left tackle, and after the former’s strong all-round showing last season it was really puzzling to understand why. Beatty’s start to this season is even more puzzling when compared to his consistent form last year, when he had an overall negative game grade only three times, and never below -0.9. Through the first month, Beatty has surrendered at least four pressures in every game and is already only one pressure short of the 25 pressures he allowed in the entirety of last season.
Stock Up: Cedric Thornton (+2.7, Q1 2013; -1.3, Q4 2012)
We all know about the Eagles’ explosive start on offense, but there hasn’t been much to cheer on defense. Thornton is a rare bright spot, especially as a run defender where he has been one of the few constants. His 11 defensive stops is topped only by J.J. Watt (who else) and his run defense grade is t-5th among 3-4 defensive ends.
Stock Down: Mychal Kendricks (-17.6, Q1 2013; +3.5, Q4 2012)
Featuring in the Stock Report for the second time, Kendricks drops into stock down this time around after seeing his stock rise in the final month last season. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, Kendricks has reproduced his mid-season form from last season to start the new one. His -17.6 overall grade and eight missed tackles are comparable to the -16.2 overall grade and seven missed tackles he produced from Week 5 to Week 9 (four games) last season.
St Louis Rams
Stock Up: Robert Quinn (+16.2, Q1 2013; -8.1, Q4 2012)
The league’s most improved 4-3 defensive end, but can he reproduce this form against better offensive tackles? You can take nothing away from how he demolished Levi Brown and Sam Baker in the first two weeks of the season, but what you can do is ask to see him show better form against superior offensive tackles. Since then he has matched the six stops he produced in the first two weeks, but only has four pressures from games against Dallas and San Francisco.
Stock Down: Cortland Finnegan (-15.1, Q1 2013; -3.4, Q4 2012)
Coverage, run defense, penalties — Finnegan is grading negative in each aspect of the game. He’s missed three tackles, is surrendering a perfect 158.3 passer rating on the 19 passes targeted into his coverage, and has committed five penalties (three of which were declined or offset). However you slice it, Finnegan has got off to a dreadful start to the season, failing to repeat his strong first month (+6.4) in St Louis.
San Francisco 49ers
Stock Up: Glenn Dorsey (+7.9, Q1 2013; DNP, Q4 2012)
As a nose tackle in an ever increasing three-wide NFL, Dorsey hasn’t got many snaps in the 49ers’ defense, but when he is on the field he is making an impact. On only 64 run defense snaps, Dorsey has eight stops for a Run Stop Percentage of 12.5%, bettered only by Brian Sanford of the Raiders (on 27 snaps) and Mike Patterson (on 61 snaps). As a different string to his bow Dorsey, has even added a pair of sacks so far this season, one each on the road to Seattle and St Louis.
Stock Down: Anthony Davis (-0.6, Q1 2013; +10.4, Q4 2012)
Davis finished 2012, both regular and postseason, in terrific form but has got away to an inconsistent start in 2013. Strong displays against Green Bay and Indianapolis have been offset by poor (-4.0) and sub-par (-1.4) displays against Seattle and St Louis respectively. Davis has let up a dozen pressures in the first four weeks and hasn’t been the same force as a run blocker that he was in the last month 2012 and through the playoffs.
Stock Up: Cliff Avril (+7.2, Q1 2013; -9.2 Q4 2012) and Red Bryant (+6.4, Q1 2013; -6.2 Q4 2012)
The Seahawks have been in terrific nick up front to start 2013, with Avril and Bryant in particular rediscovering their best form after rough finishes to 2012. Avril is flourishing in a defense that allows him to rotate in and out, chipping in with big plays at every turn with sacks, batted passes, and a forced fumble. Bryant is the Seahawks’ third 4-3 defensive end in our early season Top 10 at the position (Michael Bennett comes in third), rediscovering the sort of run defense that abandoned him for much of 2012.
Stock Down: Russell Wilson (+1.2, Q1 2013; +16.3, Q4 2012)
This one is sure to draw some heat, but Wilson’s start to the season has been simply “solid” and not up to the standard he was showing toward the end of last season. It speaks to the ever increasing standards that Wilson set for himself over the course of his rookie season, that a +1.2 grade for the first month of his second year can be seen as a significant drop in form. Most second-year quarterbacks would see this start to their season as a success, but Wilson has made us expect more and has suffered, with the rest of a Seattle offense, from a slow and disjointed start to the new season not helped by a fractured offensive line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stock Up: Demar Dotson (+8.1, Q1 2013; 0.0, Q4 2012)
One or two storylines have dominated the news coming out of Tampa Bay this season, but up front Dotson is off to a strong start at right tackle. Grading positively in run blocking, thanks to a strong showing against the Saints, his strong suit has been pass protection, earning a positive grade every week and letting up only eight pressures (1 Ht, 7 Hu)- — which places him inside the league’s Top 20 tackles in our Pass Blocking Efficiency rating.
Stock Down: Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim
The Buccaneers chose not to pay the requisite contract to keep Michael Bennett in town, and on the evidence of the first month at least they are being left to rue that decision. Each of their defensive ends is grading negatively, with Bennett’s direct replacement at left end, Te’o-Nesheim, earning the lowest grade of the trio at -9.6 and registering only eight pressures (3 Ht, 5 Hu) on 114 pass rushes, and failing to replace Bennett’s strong run defense (-4.4) to boot. Clayborn and Bowers each grade below -4.0 as pass rushers, with the 24 combined pressures between all three pass rushers only just ahead of the 20 that Bennett has produced on his own in Seattle.
Stock Up: Kory Lichtensteiger (+10.0, Q1 2013; -2.6, Q4 2012)
Only the ever consistent Evan Mathis robbed Kory Lichtensteiger a spot in our Team of the Month for the first quarter. Only four hurries allowed in pass protection have been paired with a strong start as a run blocker and zero penalties conceded. Pairing with Trent Williams at left tackle, Lichtensteiger has given the Redskins one of the best left sides to an offensive line in the league thus far.
Stock Down: Chris Chester (-5.0, Q1 2013; +4.8, Q4 2012)
Things haven’t gone quite as well for fellow starting guard Chester, however, whose form both as a pass protector, but most notably as a run blocker, has fallen away since the end of last season. People have pointed to the demise of the read option and the lack of threat from Robert Griffin III as a runner, but simply put Chester isn’t winning as many one-on-one battles against defenders as he was at the end of last season, which is having its own effect on the Redskins’ ground game.
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.