Sure we will miss some, but we've picked players, at least though three-fourths of the season, that have played duel roles, stepped in for injured starters, and have fit in as role players that have helped their team and have impressed.
Sometimes a starter will go down and these guys are the "next man up" or they just do multiple things. Maybe the guy ahead of them got traded or cut. Maybe they are the "1B" running back.
We love Patterson and Samuel as "slash" players. Even Cobb lining up in the backfield and running routes. But Deebo and Cordarrelle are special, even sometimes carrying the ball more than catching it. Impressive for wideouts. As of this post Patterson, a career wide receiver and return specialist, has more rushing yards than receiving and than kick return yardage.
In his last four games Samuel had eight receptions and one touchdown. He as 21 carriers for five touchdowns. Prior to that he had five carries and a touchdown and 49 receptions for 882 yards and four scores. Pretty good versatility.
In today's game slots are so important it sometimes is the outside receivers, the single-side receiver who is the specialist. Van Jefferson is often that and he's been getting deep and hauling in Matthew Stafford's bombs all season (six touchdowns) several long ones.
Marcedes Lewis is a blocking specialist and Mo Alie-Cox of the Colts is also one but as some good decent receiving numbers. Cox is 6-7, 270 or so pounds, and has 4 touchdown receptions.
The Colts Julie'n Davenport filled in for an excellent, but underrated, right tackle when Brady Smith went down and Yosuah Nijman of the Packers has done the same kind of thing for the Packers. Blake Hance of the Browns has filled on for both the left- and right tackle when needed. Nice.
Joseph Noteboom backs up 40-year old Andrew Whitworth but last week filled in for COVID-list right tackle Rob Havenstein but the week before he was the Rams tight end when they went heavy personnel and also did so this week, about half the time he was uncovered and therefore an eligible receiver. we expect this role to continue the rest of the season and the playoffs, as long as the Rams last in the tournament.
Connor McGovern of the Cowboys and Hakeem Adeniji of the Bengals are the fill-in guards. Wes Schweitzer took over for Brandon Scherff for a few weeks and Andrew Wylie was fine for the chiefs in the same role. Evan Brown took over for Frank Ragnow in Detroit and Tyler Larsen filled in for Washington's downed center Chase Roullier.
Gardner Minshew II was great for one game for the Eagles. Geno Smith did well filling in for Russell Wilson. Taysom Hill for the Saints may end up being the best choice by season's end but he's been nicked himself.
We liked what Jacoby Brissett did with the Dolphins (he just played his guts out) and also liked Colt McCoy's work with the Cardinals. His job was to hold the fort until Kyler Murray came back and he did winning two of three starts.
The Packers AJ Dillon is a beast. A "1B" running back, but gets starter's minutes. A scary-looking man to have to tackle. James Conner's role expanded when Chase Edmonds went down but Conner does the power running and has shown some great hands as well. Edmunds is slated to come back and if the Cardinals are going to make a run in the playoffs he and Conner will be a solid 1-2 punch.
When Cam Akers went down the Rams had to trade for a back and they chose Sony Michel and when the starter got nicked and sick Darrell Henderson Michel stepped in ran hard and has averaged over 100 yards a game rushing the last two weeks. Javonte Williams is the 1B back behind Melvin Gordon. A rookie, Williams looks like a future star. We'll see.
Carlos Dunlap gets pressure and bats passes in key moments like he's done his whole career. Rookie Darrell Taylor is doing very well as a classic designated pass rusher. We like his game so far.
Jaelan Phillips and Odafe Oweh are also rookie stud edge rushers. B.J. Hill of the Bengals and Solomon Thomas of Las Vegas and solid wave rushers from the inside. Sheldon Rankins deserves a spot, too. If we do a year-end update maybe he will supplant one of the tackles. When they come in, they all make plays. Phillips has 8.5 sacks and 16 QB hits and Oweh has five and 13 QB hits.
Greg Gaines of the Rams has really come on as of late. he's filling in for Sebastion Joseph-Day who went down with a pec injury and Gaines may have won the job in his absence. He's been getting some push, is good in the run game, and can chase down some quarterbacks, as he showed Monday night.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches spells the NFL's best most tackle, Tampa Bay's Vita Vea and there is not a lot of dropoff when he's in the game.
Derrick Barnes of the Lions is an excellent pass cover 'backer. He's started a few games and has 49 tackles. However, with that situation, he's easy to miss.
Kyle Van Noy is a special player, really, a Pro Bowl-level guy who may never make the Pro Bowl. he can play either a Sam or Will in a base defense, either in a 3-4 or a 4-3, and this year he's often the only linebacker in the Patriot's sub defenses. From there he can rush or cover in zones, match zones, man, whatever.
|Kyle Van Noy|
Rasul Douglas was acquired by the Packers in mid-October and has made a huge impact. Was a pickup. he's picked off three passes, taking two to the house, and dropped at least one more. One more pick six and he tied the Packer record for most in a single season.
Troy Hill is the Browns slot corner. he was signed away from the Rams where he played a similar role. Not only does he cover well from there he's nosey around the line of scrimmage—he's got two sacks and six other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Saints P.J. Williams is another guy who can get pressure from the slot (a sack and three Qb hits) and has three picks and deflected two other passes. A fine sub back.
When the Bills Pro Bowl corner Tre'Davious White went down Dane Jackson had to step into the breech and so far has acquitted himself well, considering how big a pair of shoes white left for him to fill.
Robert Alford gets too many holding penalties but is a battler in a fine Cardinal secondary. Chris Harris Jr. is our other pick. He's still playing pretty well. He's a starter on the right side but when Derwin James moves to Brando Staley's slot or "Star" position Harris moves to right safety, so his versatility is what we noticed. He's always been an interesting player but his dual roles is what we liked.
The Bucs Mike Edwards should perhaps be on the First-team, he does have a pair of pick-6s but because of his suspension and so forth, we just docked him and went with the Colts George Odum and Eric Rowe of the Dolphins.
When the Dolphins go with all those Cover-0 blitzes and looks Rowe has to be extra sharp. Odom has filled in as a starter and again, one of those guys who you notice. He's played pretty well.