Commentary

New faces seize spotlight in Week 7

Originally Published: October 20, 2008
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders

Labels in the NFL don't always accurately describe the famous players they're attached to, even after they've stuck. That disconnect came out all over the place in Week 7.

Brad Johnson didn't come in for Dallas and throw checkdowns and dump-offs all day. Instead, he completed only half the passes he threw and attempted 16 passes of 10 yards or more. The Colts' Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, famed for preying on the weaker defensive backs and injury replacements of the league, couldn't exploit second-year Packers CB Tramon Williams. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't get better as the game progressed, and Terrell Owens didn't step up and help out his (new) quarterback.

Instead, the new combinations and label-free players of the NFL were out making names for themselves. Buffalo's Trent Edwards and Lee Evans starred in a victory over San Diego. Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha made Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery look like a Pop Warner player. Steelers RB Mewelde Moore proved that the only things between him and a spot as a starting running back were playing time and some luck. Even a veteran like Kansas City TE Tony Gonzalez showed that he had something to play for -- pride -- as his teammates gave up around him and laughed off another loss.

It's the performances of these stars you'll read about in Quick Reads, and it's because they helped their teams win. The top 10 quarterbacks in Week 7 by DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) saw their teams go 8-2. The top five runners and receivers went 9-1. That's no accident. They may be less-heralded, but the stars of Week 7 are no less important.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 7, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR statistics. Note that with seven weeks played, opponent adjustments are currently at 70 percent strength.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
1.
Trent Edwards BUF
25/30
261
1
0
168
164
4
390
Edwards came off a concussion and was successful (50 percent of needed yardage or more) on every single first down. Edwards was 10-of-10 on first down for 124 yards, six first downs and a touchdown.
2.
Aaron Rodgers GB
21/27
186
1
0
151
147
4
366
186 yards seems like a pedestrian day, but Rodgers didn't turn the ball over and wasn't sacked once despite being buzzed by defenders all day. This is what a game-manager actually looks like.
3.
Chad Pennington MIA
24/35
295
1
1
131
119
13
394
Pennington had only five successful passes in the first half against the Ravens' D. He started off the second half with five consecutive completions.
4.
Kyle Orton CHI
21/32
283
2
0
121
121
0
359
The biggest difference between Orton and your other name-brand joke quarterbacks is that Orton doesn't have happy feet when teams get pressure on him. That might be the reason why you can't consider him to be a joke quarterback anymore. He nearly took Greg Olsen's head off on a deep post route.
5.
Jake Delhomme CAR
14/22
195
2
0
120
117
3
291
Delhomme's rank in Quick Reads each week: 7, 26, 32, 2, 8, 17, 5. A little consistency, please!
6.
Jeff Garcia TB
28/34
310
1
0
116
114
2
358
Weird down split of the week: Garcia picked up successful chunks of yardage on 13 of 15 first-down plays. He was 3-of-11 in getting successful chunks of yardage (60 percent of needed yards) on second down.
7.
Joe Flacco BAL
17/23
232
1
0
88
111
-22
228
Flacco was 8-of-8 for 118 yards on passes to the left side of the field. Elsewhere, he was only 9-of-16 for 114 yards.
8.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
17/28
216
2
0
86
86
0
278
Big Ben was only 2-of-7 in the red zone, although one of the two completions was a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mewelde Moore.
9.
Eli Manning NYG
16/31
161
1
0
85
85
0
270
Manning was too inconsistent; the passing game picked up only eight first downs Sunday, after averaging more than 11 per game through the first five contests.
10.
Gus Frerotte MIN
25/40
298
2
4
72
72
0
330
One of the better four-interception games you'll see a quarterback play -- at least, until that last pick.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
11.
Matt Schaub HOU
26/31
267
2
0
68
67
2
302
Passing against the Lions is like shooting fish in a barrel. Only, in this barrel, the fish stop flopping around the second they see the gun and talk about how they established an attitude as you walk away. Schaub had three different eight-pass completion streaks in this game.
12.
Jason Campbell WAS
14/22
164
1
0
68
71
-3
212
Campbell attempted passes to only two wide receivers in this game, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. When will the Redskins throw to tall rookie WRs Malcolm Kelly (6-foot-4) and Devin Thomas (6-2)?
13.
Marc Bulger STL
14/19
173
1
0
48
52
-4
182
14.
Tyler Thigpen KC
5/11
76
0
0
42
29
13
151
Thigpen has dropped back to pass 90 times this year. Not once has he dropped back to pass with a lead. The Chiefs were tied 0-0 for a grand total of six snaps. Seventy-one of the 90 snaps occurred with Thigpen's team down 13 points or more. This is like using a flight simulator for a plane that has been cannibalized to shreds and is missing a wing.
15.
JaMarcus Russell OAK
17/30
203
1
0
39
39
0
200
16.
Dan Orlovsky DET
12/25
272
1
0
33
30
3
178
No pithy joke about him running out of the end zone. Just pity.
17.
Brodie Croyle KC
9/10
63
0
0
32
32
0
90
Croyle, to follow up on the Thigpen comment, has dropped back 30 times this year. He also has not been given the benefit of a lead on even a single one of those snaps. Strangely enough, he has never been down more than 10 points -- it's probably because he gets hurt and leaves before the defense can give up more touchdowns.
18.
Kerry Collins TEN
11/18
123
0
0
24
24
0
133
On Sunday, Collins was Ed O'Brien during the recording of Radiohead's "Kid A." He was useful, he showed up, occasionally performed and didn't do anything really wrong, but had he not been there, things would've gone exactly the same as they did otherwise.
19.
Drew Brees NO
21/39
229
0
1
16
16
0
241
Marques Colston wasn't ready. Brees' four throws to him ended in three incompletions and an interception.
20.
Philip Rivers SD
22/29
208
2
1
9
9
0
167
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
21.
Peyton Manning IND
21/42
229
0
2
3
3
0
225
Quarterbacks aren't generally to blame for the length of interception returns, but Manning's second interception was an ugly out pattern that gave Aaron Rouse a clear path to the end zone. On the other hand, Nick Ferguson's interception required a path worthy of "The Last Guy" to get him to the house.
22.
Damon Huard KC
9/15
96
0
0
-6
-6
0
73
The Chiefs have had only 30 dropbacks this season with a lead. Huard has all of them. None have come with a lead of more than seven points.
23.
Ryan Fitzpatrick CIN
21/35
164
1
0
-31
-41
9
213
Fitzpatrick is smart, but he wasn't quick enough to get the ball out on any of the seven times Pittsburgh's defense sacked him. Our advice: Sue the offensive linemen.
24.
Derek Anderson CLE
14/37
136
1
0
-37
-41
4
181
25.
Seneca Wallace SEA
12/23
73
1
1
-41
-44
2
85
26.
J.T. O'Sullivan SF
16/28
256
1
2
-84
-93
9
54
27.
Brett Favre NYJ
21/35
197
0
2
-91
-72
-19
41
Favre converted on three third downs out of 14. He fumbled on his only run, a 5-yard scramble on third-and-12.
28.
Brad Johnson DAL
17/34
234
1
3
-110
-110
0
33
Martellus Bennett: 2 catches, 67 yards, one touchdown, 39 DYAR. Miles Austin: 2 catches, 43 yards, 8 DYAR. Everyone else: 13 catches, 124 yards, -158 DYAR.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
LenDale White TEN
149
3
7
0
64
60
3
178
It's probably for the best that White's last carry of the day was his 80-yard touchdown run. There was no way he was going to top that. We're also not sure how many oxygen tanks Arrowhead Stadium has.
2.
Steven Jackson STL
160
3
16
0
61
49
12
212
Five first downs aren't that impressive, but three touchdowns against a once-feared Dallas run defense are. Could Akin Ayodele really have made that much of a difference?
3.
Willis McGahee BAL
105
1
47
0
55
53
2
162
Miami's run defense has been quietly impressive this year, making McGahee's day better than it looks. Just keep him away from the right side: McGahee gained zero yards on both of his carries to right tackle, and for the year, he has three other carries to right tackle for no gain or worse and none for more than 5 yards.
4.
Clinton Portis WAS
175
1
8
0
49
48
1
172
If the season ended today, Portis would be a very deserving MVP candidate. He has been a fantastic blocker in the passing game and leads the league in rushing yards, DVOA and DYAR. Even on his negative play Sunday, the fumble that gave the Browns a chance to score, he picked up 24 yards before coughing the ball up. For the first time since he arrived in Washington, Portis is outplaying Champ Bailey and making that trade look like a good one for the Redskins.
5.
Mewelde Moore PIT
120
2
14
1
44
64
-20
176
Two touchdowns and six first downs on 20 attempts? And a receiving touchdown to go with it? Moore is your argument against ever spending a first-round pick or serious dough on anything but an elite running back.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Justin Fargas OAK
74
0
7
0
-30
-25
-5
54
It took Fargas 28 carries to get those 74 yards, and he picked up all of three first downs. Whether or not Fargas' run of minus-8 yards on a third-and-7 before the Jets' final drive was designed to create space for Shane Lechler, it took the team out of Sebastian Janikowski's field goal range while tying Fargas with Joseph Addai (and believe it or not, Fargas himself!) for the worst carry of the year by a running back.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
1.
Antonio Bryant TB
6
6
115
19.2
1
67
136
Bryant was so persona non grata last year that the 49ers waived him one year into a big-money deal and no team bothered to pick him up. Now, he's Tampa Bay's latest reclamation project and, for the moment, top receiver.
2.
Lee Evans BUF
8
8
89
11.1
1
61
140
Eight catches for a touchdown and six first downs, with the one failure being on a third-and-15. Evans is essentially playing at 95 percent of Steve Smith's peak right now, with the difference being that he's about 0.0005 percent as crazy.
3.
Andre Johnson HOU
11
12
141
12.8
0
54
167
Throw in a defensive pass interference for good measure. When the Lions finally stopped an attempt to Johnson in the fourth quarter, down 28 points, the eight remaining fans in Ford Field let out a mock cheer the likes of which would've put goalies who make a save after giving up three goals on three shots and pitchers who get an out after allowing three consecutive homers to shame. OK, we're lying. The eight remaining fans at Ford Field were probably suiting up for the team at that point.
4.
Steve Smith CAR
6
8
122
20.3
1
51
128
Speak of the li'l fella, here's Smith himself. Smith wasn't as consistent as Evans was, but with four completions of 19 yards or more, I don't think anyone involved was complaining.
5.
Vincent Jackson SD
4
5
42
10.5
1
46
114
Only five attempts, sure, but one was a touchdown and two were third-down conversions.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
1.
Jerricho Cotchery NYJ
1
7
0
0.0
0
-45
-25
Welcome to the real black hole in Oakland: Asomugha, where wide receivers go to die. Not only is Cotchery's single catch mustering zero yards ignominious enough, but Brett Favre threw two interceptions on passes intended for Cotchery.

Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.