Stock Report: NFC, Second Quarter
Ben Stockwell checks in on the NFC, noting players who've improved and declined in the past month for each team.
Stock Report: NFC, 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 while 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 of form 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 NFC gaining and losing form, click here for the same look at each team from the AFC.
Stock Up: Daryn Colledge (+7.5, Q2 2013; +1.4 Q1 2013)
One of the form guards in the league, Colledge started the season with a couple of poor outings as a run blocker against St Louis (-3.4) and Detroit (-1.9) but has since rebounded with consistently strong play in both the run (+4.4) and pass game this month. Among guards who have played at least 200 snaps this month only Brandon Brooks and Josh Sitton have conceded fewer than the three pressures (1 Ht, 2 Hu) Colledge has allowed.
Stock Down: Carson Palmer (-7.6, Q2 2013; +4.2, Q1 2013)
Optimism abounded for the Cardinals’ improvements this season when Carson Palmer played so well in Week 1 against the Rams, but while the team has snagged a couple of wins at home to NFC South opponents, that optimism has not remained at the quarterback position. Eight interceptions this month and a couple of extremely poor displays in the Cardinals’ two divisional games have made for a tough second month in the desert for Palmer.
Stock Up: Tony Gonzalez (+7.3, Q2 2013; +2.3, Q1 2013)
Positivity has been thin on the ground in Atlanta this month with only a victory over the hapless Bucs to bring any real joy to the team. On an individual level, Gonzalez has been the real bright spot for the team putting in some spectacular performances especially when framed against the treatment he is getting from some defenses. Even at his advancing age Gonzalez continues to produce and might just have the best hands in the league, 14 games since Gonzalez last dropped a pass.
Stock Down: Matt Ryan (-3.2, Q2 2013; +12.0, Q1 2013)
Even through their early season struggles the Falcons could count on their signal caller to do his level best to try and drag the team out of the mire. This month, however, Ryan’s performances have slipped, most notably in a disastrous display in the 27-13 loss to Arizona (-6.0). His seven interceptions this month was topped only by Carson Palmer and was one of the bigger rises in the league from the first month of the season to the second.
Stock Up: Travelle Wharton (+10.6, Q2 2013; -2.5, Q1 2013)
Surplus to requirements in Cincinnati, Wharton has settled back into the Panthers’ starting lineup having played around 20 snaps per game in the Panthers’ first four games of the season. Wharton played well enough this month to earn an honorable mention for our team of the month behind only the ever-consistent Evan Mathis. Both Wharton’s run and pass blocking grade this month were among the Top 10 at the position.
Stock Down: None
The Chiefs were the only team to earn this accolade in the first month of the season, but the Panthers are a team on the rise right now with no one on their team losing significant form with the defeat to Arizona in Week 5 the only blot on the copybook after their Week 4 bye.
Stock Up: Corey Wootton (+4.8, Q2 2013; -1.9, Q1 2013)
Never able to make the starting defensive end spot opposite Julius Peppers his own, Wootton has filled a dire need for the Bears sliding inside to defensive tackle following the successive injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins. The Bears were short of an inside pass rusher and Wootton has filled that role extremely well coping admirably with a mid-season position change. In the last three games at defensive tackle Wootton has recorded 15 pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 13 Hu) and a +8.0 pass rush grade.
Stock Down: Julius Peppers (-6.0, Q2 2013; +4.7, Q1 2013)
Off to a poor start to the season, Peppers started to recover towards the end of the first month but has been an almost complete non-factor this month. Until a better game as a pass rusher against the Packers (2 Sk, 3 Hu) on Monday, he had only three hurries in three games with his biggest troubles coming in run defense. Getting consistently pushed around by tackles and tight ends and earning a -6.4 run defense grade, only Daniel Te’o-Nesheim earned a lower grade against the run this month.
Stock Up: Sean Lee (+8.0, Q2 2013; +2.3, Q1 2013)
Off to a solid start after missing most of last season through injury, Lee kicked his performance into a higher gear on an individual level this month. Earning a spot in our Team of the Month, Lee tied Lavonte David for the league lead with 28 defensive stops along with getting his hands to five passes (3 Int, 2 PD).
Stock Down: Doug Free (-0.3, Q2 2013; +13.7, Q1 2013)
A step back for Free this month, but still solid play a level above what we saw from him in 2012. Consistency was a problem this month with difficulties in pass protection (20 pressures allowed) and a trio of penalties against the Eagles leading to his grade fluctuating from the +2.0 range to the -3.0 range over the last four games.
Stock Up: Matthew Stafford (+9.1, Q2 2013; +5.5, Q1 2013)
The Lions have held steady in terms of form for the most part this month with Stafford epitomizing their solidification and gradual growth in form over the last few games. After his late game heroics against the Cowboys in the Lions’ last game Stafford will be riding a wave of momentum that with Aaron Rodgers absence, at least in the short term, he will be hoping can put the Lions in position to take the NFC North this season.
Stock Down: Ezekiel Ansah (-7.0, Q2 2013; +2.8, Q1 2013)
As someone who came into the league so widely recognized as talented but raw a drop-off like this at some point in his rookie season shouldn’t be a surprise. Ansah recorded only five pressures this month (eight fewer than in his first four games) and hasn’t registered a defensive stop — only one tackle — in the last two games. The Lions will be looking for Ansah to rebound after their bye week.
Green Bay Packers
Stock Up: Eddie Lacy (+7.6, Q2 2013; +0.9, Q1 2013)
Along with Zac Stacy, Eddie Lacy has helped make this the month of the rookie runner, both earning an honorable mention for our Team of the Month. Only Marshawn Lynch forced more than Lacy’s 24 missed tackles on the ground this month as he averaged 2.6 yards per carry after contact. With Aaron Rodgers lost (for at least the immediate future) to injury, the pressure will be on Lacy to continue this form.
Stock Down: Don Barclay (-10.7, Q2 2013; +6.5, Q1 2013)
Emphasizing the sometimes yo-yo nature of form Barclay’s stock was up after a strong start to the season but has fallen away with struggles in both pass protection and run blocking during the Packers’ five-game second month. Barclay surrendered 20 pressures this month including three sacks and four hits. The bright point of Barclay’s month was a strong run-blocking display on Monday night against the Bears which featured a mid-game switch to guard.
Stock Up: Erin Henderson (+7.0, Q2 2013; -8.4, Q1 2013)
Has the light gone on for Henderson at middle linebacker? A terrific 2011 season showed what Henderson is capable of, but he struggled to repeat that last year and early this year in a more expanded three-down role. En route to registering 19 stops, Henderson has graded positively in run defense each week and, showing his improvement this month, earned two positive grades in coverage for the games against the Giants and Green Bay.
Stock Down: Jerome Simpson (0.0, Q2 2013; +5.5, Q1 2013)
A fast start to the season with two 100-yard games has ebbed away to mediocrity in the last month with 32 yards against the Giants his best output. Though not helped by the inept merry-go-round at quarterback, Simpson is not creating after the catch when given the opportunity as he did at the start of the season gaining just 10 yards after the catch this month and forcing no missed tackles.
New Orleans Saints
Stock Up: Kenny Vaccaro (+2.0, Q2 2013; -4.8, Q1 2013)
Blitzing the passer is a significant part of Kenny Vaccaro’s snap count (35 times this season) but isn’t a big part of his productivity (only three pressures) which has held back his grade a little this season. Off to a solid start in his rookie season, he has earned solid grades his last two games with a strong game in run defense against the Bills and his highest grade of the season against the Jets this Sunday capping off a solid second month.
Stock Down: Cameron Jordan (+2.2, Q2 2013; +15.5, Q1 2013)
Injury has this annoying habit of affecting form and with Jordan reportedly playing through an ankle injury that might explain his drop this month, illustrated graphically in his season grade chart. After registering 23 pressures in the first month of the season, Jordan slipped to 14 this month and hasn’t made the same consistent impact as a run defender that we saw in the first three weeks. Still a solid month by any other measure, we’ll see if Jordan can get back to full health and recover the form we saw in the first month of the season.
New York Giants
Stock Up: Justin Tuck (+7.2, Q2 2013; +2.4, Q1 2013)
After pairing solid run defense with inconsistent pass rush in the first month of the season, Tuck has been more consistent all-around this month. Tuck recorded all 10 of his pressures in two games in the first month, but this month notched at least three pressures every game to register 20, only topped by five other 4-3 defensive ends.
Stock Down: David Diehl (-14.3, Q2 2013; DNP, Q1 2013)
Their 0-4 start behind them, the Giants have moved forward this month but with Chris Snee unavailable at right guard they were pressed into using David Diehl again with all too predictable results. Diehl surrendered 13 total pressures this month and his run blocking display against the Eagles in Week 8 (-8.8) is about as bad as it can get for a guard as Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton gave him the run around.
Stock Up: Fletcher Cox (+14.9, Q2 2013; +3.3, Q1 2013)
Speaking of the Eagles’ defensive end pairing, Cox and Cedric Thornton are right up there with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson as the form 3-4 DE pairing in the league. This month Cox topped all 3-4 ends (yes, including J.J. Watt) with 29 total pressures. That is more pass rushing output in one month than Cox mustered in his entire rookie season. His run defense isn’t quite at the same level but his +3.5 grade this month is plenty solid in that regard especially when paired with Thornton’s (+13.0 this month) stifling run defense.
Stock Down: Matt Barkley (-12.1, Q2 2013; DNP, Q1 2013)
The latest in a long line of “if he’d come out a year ago…” quarterbacks Barkley got his chance this month as injuries took their toll on the Eagles’ quarterbacks and he was found to be woefully out of his depth. Barkley suffered a precipitous fall from where many draft observers initially had him pegged and his performances this month will not have helped him recover that stock in the near future.
St Louis Rams
Stock Up: Jake Long (+13.4, Q2 2013; +5.8, Q1 2013)
There was a time when Jake Long was right there with the best left tackles in football, but injuries took their toll in recent seasons to the extent that the Rams were able to outbid the Dolphins for his services. On the evidence of the last month, the Rams are being rewarded for that gamble with Long getting close to re-discovering his best form. Only a dominant month from Joe Staley kept Long out of the Team of the Month (and only just) with a strong month in pass protection (eight pressures allowed in five games) and run blocking (+5.2) highlighting Long’s ability to be the complete tackle, not just a pass protector.
Stock Down: Chris Williams (-8.9, Q2 2013; -2.2, Q1 2013)
Though his pass protection improved this month (four fewer pressures allowed and no sacks) Williams’ run blocking fell away this month including a particularly rough outing against the Titans this Sunday. Williams was also penalized three times this month with his poor outing against Tennessee capping off an inconsistent month.
San Francisco 49ers
Stock Up: Joe Staley (+15.3, Q2 2013; +1.5, Q1 2013)
After the way he played in 2012 the frankly average (at best) start to the season we saw from Staley in run blocking terms was a genuine puzzle. A dominant display against the Rams to end the first month of the season was the indicator that better was to come as he returned to his best form on the ground as the 49ers’ offense took flight again. To add to this return to form as a run blocker, Staley surrendered a league-best two pressures this month.
Stock Down: None
After a tough start to the season that featured a two-game losing streak, the 49ers have capitalized on a relatively soft section of the schedule to round into form again, just in time for the visit of the upstart Panthers in a game that will serve as barometer for both teams as we head into the second half.
Stock Up: Tony McDaniel (+7.3, Q2 2013; -1.8, Q1 2013)
Leading the Seahawks’ defensive line in snaps (along with Michael Bennett) McDaniel has been a revelation in the last four weeks with stifling run defense and useful contributions in the passing game. On a team stacked with contributors on the defensive line Seattle are able to rotate to keep players fresh and players like McDaniel are producing good football as a result. McDaniel’s 11 defensive stops this month are 10th most among defensive tackles.
Stock Down: None
Red Bryant’s poor game on Sunday against the Bucs is an outlier that Seattle won’t want to see repeated, but it is in only a loss of form in an extremely short time frame. With only the defeat to Indianapolis at the start of the month as a setback, the Seahawks are still firmly in position as one of the favorites in the NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stock Up: Lavonte David (+9.2, Q2 2013; +2.7, Q1 2013)
Bright spots on the Bucs’ defense have been few and far between but David is one of the consistent positives in a disastrous season in central Florida. There might not be a linebacker in the league with a better nose for the football than David who does more than just make a lot of tackles anywhere on the field, he makes a lot of tackles around and behind the line of scrimmage. With 46 stops at the midway point in the season David is on course to comfortably top the 70 he recorded as a rookie.
Stock Down: Mason Foster (-13.5, Q2 2013; +4.1, Q1 2013)
An unexpected bright spot early in the year, Foster has fallen away to some of the worst form of his career since that impactful start against the Jets and the Saints. Foster has missed eight tackles in the last three games including five in Seattle on Sunday as the Seahawks clawed their way back from a three-touchdown deficit to an overtime victory.
Stock Up: Ryan Kerrigan (+8.6, Q2 2013; +1.8, Q1 2013)
His sack numbers may be down on the first month of the season but Kerrigan was able to maintain and in fact increase his pass rushing production this month earning a +6.8 pass rush grade this month, fourth best among 3-4 OLBs. A workhorse and consistent producer for the Washington defense Kerrigan has registered at least two stops in every game this season.
Stock Down: Kory Lichtensteiger (-0.7, Q2 2013; +10.0, Q1 2013)
Another player showing the sometimes yo-yo nature of form Lichtensteiger has had a far more inconsistent month after a strong start to the season, especially in pass protection. After surrendering only four hurries in the first four games of the season Lichtensteiger surrendered nine pressures this month with two thirds of that pressure being converted into sacks (two) and hits (four) by opposing defenders. Lichtensteiger had the third biggest drop-off in pass protection grade from the first month (+5.3) of the season to the second (-2.5).
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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.