By: Shasky Clarke
Player of the Week
Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Houston: 7 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD
Hopkins stepped up as a pass catching weapon down the stretch of the Texans’ overtime win over the Titans. Displaying his Anquan Boldin-like ability to consistently make tough catches in traffic, Hopkins was the go-to guy, his day culminating in a three yard game-winning touchdown catch. Going forward, the reliable and polished Hopkins should be productive in a number two role in Houston.
E.J. vs. Geno
Quarterback E.J. Manuel, Buffalo 27-39 296 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 lost fumble
Manuel had a busier day in his week two win versus the Panthers. He remained accurate and showed a strong willingness to check down and take what the Carolina defense was yielding underneath. Manuel, however, still puts the ball in harm’s way a couple times per game and has been fortunate to not have thrown more interceptions thus far.
Quarterback Geno Smith, New York Jets 15-35 214 yards, 3 INT, 4 sacks
In comparison to Manuel, Geno Smith struggled to carry his offense on Thursday night. But his numbers probably don’t accurately reflect his game. Smith suffered from several drops and general ineffectiveness from his pass catchers. He still needs to lessen his stare downs and had a rough fourth quarter.
Flashing Pass Rushers
Edge Rusher Bjoern Werner, Indianapolis: Werner has largely played in Colts sub-packages and took advantage of Miami’s suspect tackle tandem, exhibiting good bend around the edge and grabbing a half sack. Super productive at Florida State, Werner needs to prove that he has the speed to be a consistent bookend to Robert Mathis.
Edge Rusher Michael Buchanan, New England: A seventh round pick, the long and rangy Buchanan is unheralded. But in passing situations, he enters the game as a weak side edge rusher and showed his speed, notching a sack on Thursday night against the Jets. His presence allows the team to use Chandler Jones inside, creating a significant mismatch that has been super disruptive so far.
Edge Rusher Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland: In his first appearance of the year, top ten pick Mingo had a sack on his first NFL play against Baltimore, beating left tackle Bryant McKinnie around the edge.
Inside Linebacker Kiko Alonso, Buffalo: Alonso is an active, frenetic and athletic player. In week two, he proved himself to be a capable playmaker, even as a rookie. To go along with his ten tackles, Alonso notched a sack and an interception in zone coverage. The Bills defense has been excellent and Alonso is a candidate for defensive rookie of the year honors.
Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei, Carolina: An impact interior player, Lotulelei consistently flashes and grabbed another tackle for loss.
Running Back Andre Ellington, Arizona: The under-drafted sixth round pick is a dynamic and explosive, big-play threat with polished receiving skills out of the backfield. In week two, Ellington averaged more than ten yards on six touches, including a receiving touchdown.
Running Back Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati: The Bengals back showcased his top-level open field quickness and foot speed as both and runner and pass catcher, adding another exciting weapon to the offense.
Safety Eric Reid, San Francisco: New 49ers free safety Eric Reid caught his second interception of the year in only his second game, taking advantage a Seattle receiver’s slip and utilizing his range and ball skills. But Reid’s run support is still inconsistent, again showing the propensity to whiff on open field tackles, badly missing on a Marshawn Lynch gash early. Reid should be a really good one, but now must recover from a game-ending concussion.
Wide Receiver Marlon Brown, Baltimore: Marlon Brown continues to be a sought-out wide receiver in Jacoby Jones’ absence. Brown has great size but it is unclear that he is very fast or gets much separation. Nonetheless, he once again caught four balls and a touchdown.
Right Tackle Eric Fisher, Kansas City: Fisher showed his athleticism but struggled some to contain Cowboys defensive linemen George Selvie and Jason Hatcher. Though a dominant player in college, he was overpowered at times and is clearly still adjusting to life in the NFL trenches.
Center Travis Frederick, Dallas: First round pick Travis Frederick had a tough match-up, having to facing break-out nose tackle Dontari Poe of Kansas City. The issue here is Frederick’s ability to handle short area quickness in pass protection, and it was exposed on at least one Poe sack.
Running back Montee Ball, Denver: His week two stat line – 12 carries, 16 yards, 1.3 yards per carry, two receptions. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno has been substantially more productive, carrying the ball 13 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide Receiver Aaron Dobson, New England: Although Dobson caught three balls, including a long touchdown pass off of busted coverage, he struggled to be on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady. He also dropped three balls.
Cornerback Dee Milliner, New York Jets: Dee Milliner is a great talent. But, mostly utilized in one-on-one coverage, Milliner is consistently giving up separation, similar to the way teammate Kyle Wilson did in his rookie season. The Jets defense, however, has been a top three defense, regardless, due to their front seven and aggressive scheme.