The Third Phase: Week 4

PFF special teams review is in and Neil Hornsby looks at the week's Top 5 players.

| 4 years ago

The Third Phase: Week 4

third-phase-wk04As promised welcome to “The Third Phase” in its regular Thursday spot. It may arrive a little earlier in future but it will now always be well before the next weeks games commence. For those who are new to this special team(er) extravaganza, here’s how it started and what it covers:

“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”. 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 that would be eligible for the Special Teamer role in the Pro Bowl.”

So, as with the previous weeks, we’ll be ranking our five top special teamers from Week 4 and giving you some detail about why they were selected and providing a “role of honor” listing the guys who each week picked up the top honor together with a link back to the associated article.

1. Damontre Moore +3.0 – N.Y. Giants (23 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): Gunner (7), KO Returns (6), Punt Returns (4), FG Blocks (4), KO Coverage (2)

This may not be a great time to be a Giants fan but they can at least be consoled by the play of their third-round rookie on special teams. Three tackles on coverage units, an assist and a partially blocked punt all stood in his favor, as did some of his blocking. For example, on the opening kickoff of the second half he hit the R3 so hard he lost both his bearings and contain on the return. The only downside was that particular play was his last positively graded snap of the game as he appeared to run out of steam early in the third quarter. I prefer to look at the positive however and think just how devastating he could be if he kept that up for 60 minutes.

2t. Marcus Easley +2.5 – Buffalo (28 snaps)
Roles: Right Gunner (11), Punt Returns (7), Kick Returner (5), KO Coverage (5)

To answer your question first – no, this grade does not include his work as a kick returner; it’s purely based on how he performed in the other facets of ST play. And what a job he did. There were only four punts returned (in no small part because of his work as a gunner) and he made the tackle on three of them while adding another on a kick return. In fact the only thing holding him back was a relatively minor false start on a punt that made a 4th-and-4, 4th-and-9.

2t. Colin McCarthy +2.5 – Tennessee (23 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): Punt Coverage (7), KO Coverage (7), Punt Returns (5), KO Returns (4)

Continuing the theme of high quality return coverage and in particular one person doing a high proportion of the work, McCarthy made the tackles on both returned punts and one of the three returned kick-offs. Not content with that, he threw in a couple of key blocks on punt returns. It’s clear that while he’s currently lost his job as middle linebacker he’s going to ensure he’s not a forgotten man.  

4t. Anthony Sherman +2.0 – Kansas City (19 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): KO Coverage (6), Field Goals/EP (6), Punt Coverage (5), KO Returns (2)

Take off his blocking for field goals and extra points (where it’s hard to do much positive), the fact that four of the kickoffs he was involved in were touchbacks and that leaves our current top-ranked fullback only 9 snaps to make a mark. In those 9 snaps he made three tackles and also drew a block in the back penalty. A quality effort.

4t. Anthony Walters +2.0 – Chicago (22 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): KO Returns (9), KO Coverage (5), Punt Coverage (5), Punt Returns (3)

Back-up safety Walters hasn’t played a single snap on defense so far this year and maybe that was weighing on him because, before Week 4, he’d not made a single tackle on special teams while missing three. Maybe he took that to heart (or was given a few words of encouragement) as he turned in a significantly improved performance against Detroit including a tackle, an assist and some good blocking on kickoffs.

4t. Steven Johnson +2.0 – Denver (26 snaps)
Roles (including snaps): KO Coverage (9), FG Blocks (5), Punt Returns (5), KO Returns (5), Punt Coverage (2)

Playing on every Broncos special team unit bar field goal and extra-point kicks, only David Bruton plays as many special teams snaps as Johnson. With these two players performing to such a high level it’s not surprising that the Broncos are our No. 1 special teams unit through Week 4. While we don’t give much for that punt block because the right guard (Brandon Graham) peeled away and gave you an unobstructed approach to the punter, if you then make the recovery, run it back and throw in a tackle earlier, you can still make this list.


PFF Special Teamer – 2013 Roll of honour


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.


Damontre Moore

N.Y. Giants

Three tackles on coverage units, an assist and a partially blocked punt together with some excellent blocking.


| 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.

Comments are closed.