I put out a player for every team in the league who I think really stood out and I was impressed of. Sorry I’m a little late with this one, but I had to watch all 16 games to give a relevant opinion. So this it it:
Chicago Bears – Zach Miller, TE: A loaded Bears offense might have found another playmaker at the tight end position. He provided some stability as a reliable target down the middle of the field. I can see the bears using some double-tight sets this year with him and Martellus Bennett in the lineup.
Lance Briggs, OLB – Bear Bear Brings once again ran around like a wild man.
Jordan Lynch, RB – I was just impressed by a former quarterback running as hard as he did.
Detroit Lions –George Johnson, DE: He didn’t really stand out or make any splash plays, but did a solid job rushing the passer for a guy who didn’t really see the field at all in five years and has yet to start a game.
Green Bay Packers – James Starks, RB: Eddie Lacy will be the workhorse for the Packers in the ground game this year, but they still need someone to back him up. Starks looked pretty good at the end of last year and once again showed what he can do. Now it’s time for him to produce.
Minnesota Vikings –Adam Thielen, Returner/Special Teamer: He might not have done anything on offense, but he was awesome on special teams. Whether that being returning punts or running them down. Even if the Vikings don’t want to keep him as a wide receiver, they can’t let him go if he continues to contribute on special teams the way he did against the Raiders.
Cordarelle Patterson, WR – I expect big things out of this guy and he made a good impression already, seemingly beating Tarell Brown with ease.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB – The former Panther did a good job in coverage and racing up against the run.
Dallas Cowboys – Ahmad Dixon, S: He was all over the field against the Chargers and that also showed on the stat sheet, as he combined for 12 tackles. He raced up against the running game and took down receivers in the open field. A Cowboy defense that lacks playmakers should get some help from this guy.
New York Giants – Jordan Stanton, DE: The Giants are looking for another guy on the defensive line to rush the passer and this undrafted rookie showed some potential to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. This could end up as a great free agent pickup.
Notables: Zack Bowman, CB: With all the new guys at cornerback for the Giants, Bowman really stood out.
Philadelphia Eagles – Allen Beau, DT: This giant was a force in the middle, standing his ground and bench-pressing offensive linemen into the quarterbacks face. If he continues to be that kind of a monster at the line, he could see himself ending up in the starting lineup at some point of the season.
Vinnie Curry, DE: He took on blockers really well and got after the quarterback. A lot of times two guys slid to him, trying to keep him from making plays.
Marcus Smith, OLB: He was impressive because of the complete game he played – stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing the passer.
Washington Redskins – Lache Seastrunk, RB: In another article I recently wrote, I listed him as a late rounder to really keep an eye on. He showed his explosiveness against the Patriots and although he still has to work on some things – pass protection for example – he could be the number two running back on the depth chart soon.
Atlanta Falcons – Devonta Freeman, RB – The Florida State product had a pretty strong performance against the Dolphins, showing his power and speed running the ball as well as grabbing a short pass and going for 57 yards. That backfield has three backs who are really trying to steal some carries from Steven Jackson and Freeman has to earn them by playing the way he did in the first game.
Carolina Panthers – Chase Blackburn, OLB: Going into the offseason, the Panthers were looking for a linebacker to team up with Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly and finally healthy Thomas Davis to complete one of the best front sevens in the league. With Blackburn coming to Carolina, they might have found just that. He didn’t really jump out on film against the Bills, but looking closely at him, did a pretty good job securing that spot.
New Orleans Saints – Mark Ingram, RB: In an article I published a couple of weeks ago, I had him on my list of players that will step up their game this year and he supported my case with a great showing against the Rams. He ran for 82 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. What I’d like to see out of him is a better job in pass protection, but he said he worked on that a lot over the summer and should do a much better job in that regard this season.
Notables: Brandin Cooks, WR: He showed his awesome skill set – that speed combined with unbelievable shiftiness. Just watch this play.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Glennon, QB: With all the enthusiasm concerning Josh McCown as the starting quarterback, Glennon could make some noise with another couple of other strong showings over the course of the preseason. He probably won’t be starting the regular season as the number one guy, but if McCown struggles that could change quickly.
Arizona Cardinals – John Brown, WR: He’s got a lot of attention in training camp and put his mark on his first game as a professional. The hype’s beginning to build and deservedly so. This kid’s got a lot of upside and might be a real difference maker in years to come.
Saint Louis Rams – Darren Woodard, CB – He didn’t really pop out against the Saints, but you can understand what coaches see in him. He breaks on the ball very fast, which allows him to play off man-coverage and bat down balls. In a Rams secondary as an area which needs improvement, he could be a big help.
San Francisco 49ers – Quinton Dial, DL: When he was still at Alabama I saw a lot of potential with him and I still do. Last season he didn’t see the field much until the end of the year, but I think he’ll do much more in 2014. With his long arms he locks out offensive lineman, keeps the holes small and then has the ability to shed the blocker and make a play on the ball carrier. Two forced fumbles won’t hurt his spot on the depth chart either.
Notables: Carlos Hyde, RB – If there wasn’t an 8 instead of the 1 on his jersey, I probably couldn’t have told that wasn’t Frank Gore running through the Ravens defense.
Seattle Seahawks – Paul Richardson, WR: He didn’t really wow anybody, but ran good routes and caught the ball well. With the Seahawks not having that many wide receivers they can really count on, Richardson could be a very important piece to their run-heavy offense.
Baltimore Ravens – The entire offensive line: I know I’m cheating a little right here, but I was just impressed what a couple of new guys and a full offseason of practice together could do and how well they played together. Almost 300 yards rushing speaks volumes. And the pass protection looked good as well.
Notable: C.J. Mosley, ILB: The nation’s top inside linebacker really looks like he will be the Ravens man in middle for years to come and is my favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Cincinnati Bengals – Darqueze Dennard, CB: Coming from Michigan State I already knew he could shut down receivers, but he did it all in his first ever NFL game, picking off passes and taking them to the house, playing some zone and blitzing the quarterback (and getting a sack). He should be an immediate starter once the regular season starts.
Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB: He certainly didn’t have a game comparable to what he did at Texas A&M, but he did show good presence in the pocket and made some good decisions. With that being said, he has to play mostly within the pocket and not get to aggressive and run in close games to be effective, because otherwise those feisty AFC North defenses will eat him up.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Dri Archer, RB: Explosive – that’s all I have to say. Sure, he has to work on his reads and decisions and he will have his problems in pass protection against 250+pounds linebackers, but he is deadly in the open field and if the Steelers find the right way to use him he could be a real difference maker on offense and special teams.
Buffalo Bills – Bryce Brown, RB: That Bills backfield is loaded and he will have to fight for carries. But if he continues to deliver and most of all holds on to the football coaches will put the ball in his hands. He played very well in Philadelphia when LeSean McCoy was hurt two years ago.
Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB: He was perfect on his only drive of the game, while looking calm in the pocket and finding the open spots in the Falcon defense (although those holes were pretty big). With Jarvis Landry being a guy who I think will really help that offense, he should produce more this year.
New England Patriots – Brian Tyms, WR: Has anybody heard his name before? I don’t think there are a lot of people who do. For all of those who don’t – he wasn’t drafted in 2012 and since then has a total of 12(!) receiving yards in the regular season. So coming out against Redskins and catching five passes for 119 yards plus a touchdown is very impressive.
New York Jets – David Harris, ILB: This should be a very familiar name around the NFL, especially if you ask offensive coordinators, as he has been one of the premier run stoppers in the game. But he did a pretty good job blitzing the quarterback as well. With the defensive line he has in front of him, he will have a great chance to shine this year.
Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, OLB: In just limited time he spent on the field he already showed the trait coaches are looking to get from him with the first overall pick – he’s extremely disruptive. Offensive tackles seem to always be a step late when he’s coming off the edge or jumping inside. But the thing we also know – he was a defensive end and shouldn’t be matched up one-on-one against tight ends.
Indianapolis Colts – Henoc Muamba, ILB: The star linebacker from the CFL flew around the field totaling 11 tackles. He has a knack for the ball and gets there with some thump. I look for him to have some more big collisions with ball carriers and adjust to the NFL well, much like Cameron Wake did. (I’m not saying he will play at the same level.)
Jacksonville Jaguars – Sen’Derrick Marks, DT: He was on fire against Bucs and made life hell for everybody in their backfield. He really looked like a man amongst the boys and while he played well for a big part last year, he could really emerge as one of the top defensive linemen in the league if he continues to play like this.
Notables: The rest of the defensive line – They absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage.
Tennessee Titans – Bishop Sankey, RB – He looked like an all-purpose back, while running effectively and showing a sense for the big play – example A. I think the Titans want him to be their lead back and if he shows the coaches that he can do it on a regular basis, he should take over that role.
Notables: Taylor Lewan, OT – He looked solid in his first ever NFL game and the Titans might let Michael Roos go next year if they want Lewan to be their franchise left tackle.
Denver Broncos – Demaryius Thomas, WR: It doesn’t look like Thomas has lost a step, but rather has gotten even better. He beat the Legion of Boom’s man coverage repeatedly and was the key piece of an impressive nine minute drive of the Broncos offense. He seems to be Peyton Manning’s favorite target once again this year.
Kansas City Chiefs – DeAnthony Thomas, RB/Returner: I’ve got the same word for you as I had for Dri Archer – explosive. And, like a mentioned in another article recently, the Chiefs want him to take over the role of Dexter McCluster, who now plays for the Titans. He can make plays from everywhere on the field and could be a big weapon for the Chiefs.
Oakland Raiders – Sio Moore, OLB: He has quietly become one of the top players at his position. He took on blockers very well and got after the quarterback. He might not have been that impressive, but did everything right and should be an important piece on the Raider defense.
San Diego Chargers – Donald Butler: His tackling was textbook. Pretty much like everything he did the time he was on the field. He’s another guy who’s fallen under the radar, but will maybe open some eyes with his play this year.