The Third Phase: Week 3

Neil Hornsby lays out the Top 5 list of special teamers from Week 3.

| 4 years ago

The Third Phase: Week 3

third-phase-wk03Firstly an apology regarding the timing of this article. Now that we have got our special teams data collection processes worked out, you can expect to see it regularly on Thursdays – certainly some time before Thursday Night Football and the next week officially starting. For a whole host of reasons, none of them good, this week’s “issue” has been delayed until Saturday and that’s unacceptable – it won’t happen again.

For those who missed it last week, here’s my explanation of how this came about:

“In the offseason we went out to the NFL teams who are our customers and asked them what they would additionally like to see this year. One of the messages that came through strongly was about improving our offering with regard to special teams. They wanted us to provide full player participation including positions and roles, collect additional data on top and also spend more time grading the players. Previously this had been almost impossible because of the requirement for high quality All 22 footage and until this year it had never been filmed in HD. Thankfully that all changed in 2013.”

“While the detailed data is limited to the teams we support, we wanted to give you, our readers, some of the benefits of this work by providing a new weekly article we’re going to call “The Third Phase” [NB. Thanks to Khaled for the name]. While it will tangentially mention kickers, punters and returners this is really about giving more notoriety to the guys who do the “heavy lifting” – effectively those players would be eligible for the Special Teamer role in the Pro Bowl.”

So, as with last week, we’ll be ranking our Top 5 special teamers from the third group of games and will offer some detail about why they were selected, mentioning some plays to look out for and also listing the guys who have picked up the weekly top honor.


1.  Jeremy Lane +3.0 – Seattle (25 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): Vice (8), KO Coverage (8), Left Gunner (4), FG Blocks (3), KO Returns (1), Kick Returner (1)

This is now two weeks in a row for Lane who made it as our No. 4-ranked player last week following some superior work at vice against the 49ers. In that article I asked the question if the high grade was opposition related because Trumaine Brock (against whom he played) is not one of the NFL’s better flyers. However, one team’s gunners are on a par with San Francisco’s – Jacksonville’s.

Let’s not take too much away from Lane, though, on the only kickoff return he was in on, he made the tackle, he also downed a punt, did a great job on the Jaguars’ right gunner, Denard Robinson and drew a flag playing gunner himself.


2. John Wendling +2.5 – Detroit (26 snaps)
Roles: KO Coverage (7), Personal Protector (6), KO Returns (5), FG Blocks (4), Vice (3), Punt Returns (1)

When all is said and done, tackles need to be made and no one picked up more this week than Wendling’s three; two in kickoff coverage and one from his role as personal protector on punts. However, sometimes it’s about a little bit more, like occupying blockers to allow others to make the tackle as he did on the first of the consecutive kickoffs at 5:44 in the first quarter and getting in a position to make the tackle as he did on the very next play.


3t. Andrew Gachkar +2.0 – San Diego (17 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): KO Returns (5), Punt Coverage (5), KO Coverage (4), Punt Returns (3)

We don’t grade effort at PFF. I could go out, run around as enthusiastically as anyone (for as many plays as I survived) and get killed on every snap. So in the end, while only delivery matters, it’s still great to see someone who stands out because of his motor get rewarded with production. Both of Gachkar’s tackles came as the result of beating a blocker and he delivered some quality blocking in all phases as well.

As an aside, it was absolutely no surprise to see him also grade well on defense too with 20 snaps as part of the Chargers’ nickel package yielding a +2.8 against the Titans.


3t. Kevin Reddick +2.0 – New Orleans (20 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): Punt Returns (8), KO Coverage (6), Punt Coverage (4), KO Returns (2)

For those seeing the gamebook and thinking most of this grade came as the result of a forced fumble on a punt return, you couldn’t be more wrong. Reddick was not responsible (David Hawthorne was the tackler on this play) but that didn’t mean he didn’t play well. He displayed excellent lane discipline, was always around the ball and consequently picked up a tackle and an assist as well as doing his job on returns too. He consistently did the basics very well which resulted in his production.


3t. Jamari Lattimore +2.0 – Green Bay (21 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): KO Returns (5), KO Coverage (6), Punt Returns (2), Punt Coverage (3), FG Blocks (5)

Of Packers Special Teamers, only Robert Francois has played more snaps than Lattimore this year (his 64 being a single play more) but this is the first game in which he has been able to make much impact. On two occasions he broke through the blocking wall to make tackle on kickoffs and also drew a holding penalty on a punt.

On the first kickoff of the second quarter, over enthusiasm did cause him to over-pursue to the inside on a return but this was his only error of the day.


NB: These are just a few of the Special Team ratings we have. For every player graded please subscribe to our Premium Statistics


PFF Special Teamer – 2013 Roll of Honor


Winner Team Comment


David Bruton


One blocked punt, a penalty drawn preventing him from blocking another and quality blocking for the returner when the Ravens actually managed to get the ball away.


Blake Constanzo


Consistently excellent blocking on kick-off returns and a forced fumble when covering a kick-off.


Jeremy Lane


Primarily for his work as a vice holding up gunners but also made a tackle on a KO, downed a punt and drew a flag while playing gunner himself.



Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Bubs Solo

    Justin Bethel +2.5