09/05/13Author: Sean Yuille - Pride of Detroit
Willie Young on All-Preseason NFL Team
Pro Football Focus' All-Preseason team includes both Willie Young and Bill Bentley. Young had a +8.4 grade for the preseason, while Bentley scored a +5.5 grade. Hopefully both of them will carry their strong play over to the regular season.
So preseason is over and that was quite an experience. For the first time in history, we here at Pro Football Focus brought our unique analysis to every snap of preseason to give you an unprecedented evaluation of all the guys fighting to get onto a roster.
There were a lot of fine performances, and it’s with that in mind we’re paying them the praise they deserve with our Team of Preseason.
We’ve largely gone with our grades but it’s worth noting at each position it was important that players were in on a sufficient number of snaps to qualify.
Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson, SEA (+5.7)
He locked up the backup job to Russell Wilson with some efficient play that saw him complete 72.2% of his passes (even with five dropped passes) for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Nicely done.
Running Back: Khiry Robinson, NO (+5.3)
If Joique Bell saw more snaps it would have been him. But it wasn’t and the Saints look to have continued their history of finding undrafted gems at the running back spot. Robinson broke a preseason-leading 16 tackles and while his blitz pick up needs work, it will be interesting to see what the team does with him this year.
Full Back: Will Ta’ufo’ou, JAX (+6.0)
Didn’t need a lot of snaps to show why the Jags have faith in him going forward. You don’t get statistics with fullbacks as much as you get guys who win their battles. He did.
Tight End: Ryan Griffin, HOU (+5.0)
The sixth-round selection didn’t just lock up a roster spot but also made a convincing case for playing time in a team not afraid to use three tight end sets. Caught all 14 balls thrown his way for 173 yards and added some more than decent blocking.
Wide Receivers: Kenny Stills, NO (+2.7) and Nick Toon, NO (+2.4)
Others got higher grades but these two played enough snaps to make the grades stick out. Stills looks like a fifth-rounder who could contribute immediately, with his play against Oakland and Houston raising expectations. Toon, a fourth-rounder from 2012, didn’t do much with his blocking but has enough talent that Drew Brees should be able to do something with him.
Tackles: Eugene Monroe, JAX (+7.0) and Tony Pashos, WAS (+7.9)
The Jags got their starters extra snaps, and Monroe looked all the better for it. He’s a player that they would say is already in midseason form and didn’t give up a single pressure or penalty in preseason. Pashos got cut but you’d think that’s more about his lack of versatility than his performance. He was manhandling second-stringers through much of preseason. He should be starting in this league.
Guards: Kyle Long, CHI (+7.9) and Richie Incognito, MIA (+4.2)
Long put forward a masterclass at guard against the Chargers in Week 2 to finish preseason our highest ranked guard. Meanwhile, Incognito avoided helmets to the head and had himself a very useful preseason, particularly with his run blocking.
Center: Kevin Matthews, WAS (+4.0)
Another player the Redskins cut. Matthews struggled in the regular season with the Titans for sure but did enough in preseason that his agent should be fielding some calls right now.
We’ve gone for a hybrid defense to make the roster work.
Defensive Interior: Glenn Foster, NO (+11.2), Terrence Cody, BAL (+7.1) and Vinny Curry, PHI (+10.7)
Cody found himself on the roster bubble after continually disappointing during his time in Baltimore. But he looked motivated and the performances followed suit, with him picking up the highest grade of any defensive tackle against the run. Either side of him we have two very different stories. Undrafted free agent Glenn Foster caught the attention of a lot of teams with four sacks, four hits and eight hurries. Meanwhile Vinny Curry took to the 3-4 defensive role asked of him like a natural, picking up plenty of pressure (10 quarterback disruptions) and holding his own against the run.
Edge Rushers: Willie Young, DET (+8.4) and Brandon Graham, PHI (+6.3)
You may as well call Young a preseason stud. He just delivers every year in that regard. Now he needs to take the production that made him our highest rated 4-3 defensive end during the period into the regular season. The other edge man is Brandon Graham and Philadelphia need to manufacture a lot of snaps for him if he’s not going to start.
Inside Linebackers: Daryl Smith, BAL (+6.7) and Dane Fletcher, NE (+6.0)
Smith has been a star under the radar for a long time in Jacksonville. His play in preseason may have taken some by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Next to him Fletcher locked up a roster spot with a positive grade in every area of the game.
Cornerbacks: Darin Walls, NYJ (+6.4) and Dwight Bentley, DET (+5.5)
Walls may have been on the roster bubble but he’s now making a case for playing time. He allowed just 4 of 15 balls into his coverage to be complete, while breaking up three passes. Meanwhile, sophomore Bentley delivered the goods to show why he should see plenty of playing time this year, picking-off one ball, deflecting two more and allowing just six receptions for 68 yards into his coverage.
Safeties: Tony Jefferson, ARZ (+8.3) and Delano Howell, IND (+6.0)
Jefferson made a big name for himself with two big interceptions and six very handy defensive stops. Just how did he go undrafted? While over in Indianapolis, the backup safety spots are worth keeping an eye on when you’ve got a LaRon Landry who has missed time over his career. Howell looks to be ensuring they’ll be okay whatever happens.
Kicker: Phil Dawson, SF: Looks to have settled nicely in San Francisco with three kicks from 50 plus.
Punter: Johnny Hekker, SL: Narrowly beat out Pat McAfee with some fine punting.
Returner: Bobby Rainey, BAL: Showed some nice moves to get some long returns going.
Special Teamer: R.J. Stanford, MIA: Led the league with six special teams tackles.
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