Week 13 saw the Oakland Raiders topple the New York Giants by a score of 24-14. While the score was close, the domination wasn’t.
Not everyone is a huge name star at this level. In a far more light-hearted attempt at studs and duds, we take a look at just exactly who should be playing versus who shouldn’t be.
These are your unsung heroes, the little people if you will, who have made those contributions crucial to sustaining drives and points or creating stops and turnovers.
Dexter McDonald – The first time we saw him in a lineup one thought came to mind, we’re doomed. But it needs to be said that McDonald has looked every bit the starter in this league and under Pagano, is playing even tighter coverage and really coming into his own. Against the Giants, he recorded a PFF Grade of 87.8 which is unheard of for this Raiders secondary.
— Austin Gayle (@AustinGayle_PFF) December 5, 2017
Clive Walford – Walford has been the odd man out. Between the receiving abilities of Jared Cook and the blocking abilities of Lee Smith, there has been little use of 13 personnel and therefore no demand for his services. On Sunday, Walford was steady and reliable and finished as the teams second leading receiver catching four passes for 57 yards with a long of 26.
Justin Ellis – Shedding weight in the offseason and a switch to more of a nose tackle role under John Pagano has Ellis looking like a penetrating force in the middle. The push he has been providing at the point of attack has been crucial in helping the defense account for eight sacks in the last two weeks.
Calls from the bench
The bench is a magical place, it’s a place where struggling players either get sent to “get right” or ultimately await their ticket out of town. It has done wonders already for Sean Smith, he went from being a “meme” to looking like the guy Reggie McKenzie signed for all that money in just two weeks.
Jalen Richard– the low man in rotation at running back and masquerading as the punt returner, Richard hasn’t looked good this year at all muffing three punts so when you only have one job that’s the kind of look that gives naysayers plenty of ammo.
Reggie Nelson – It seems as if his name is singled out the most when one speaks about this secondary. The coaching staff and upper management love him, unfortunately so do opposing offenses, they like to go directly at him all the time. The last straw had to be watching him run parallel with Sterling Sheppard for what seemed like 15 yards before moving in for the tackle. The best athlete on the defense is a guy who can’t get on the field because Nelson is holding a spot.
I might be told I’m a moron often (and often justifiably) but yeah, this checked out pic.twitter.com/IiF0QJg18J
— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) December 6, 2017
Eddie Vanderdoes – After a great initial pop against the Tennessee Titans, Vanderdoes has been more of “Vander-doesn’t” with no sacks, no pressures, and no sightings. Trayvon Hester, on the other hand, has one of the fourth highest grades for a rookie player.
Candidates for fish out of water
Like it’s namesake, appears a fish out of water is a player being asked to do something they just can’t. Think Obi Melifonwu starting his first game ever as a corner against Tom Brady in a foreign country.
Karl Joseph – Joseph was a free safety at the University of West Virginia in a 3-3-5 defense. Trying to convert a 5-9 free safety to strong safety in the NFL is folly. With a 6-4 stud sitting on the bench capable of manning up a tight end and taking him out of the game it would seem only right that Joseph no longer be asked to cover guys who are nearly a foot taller than him.
Jamize Olawale – A fullback who runs a 4.3, 40-yard dash and can be the lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch? Hard to believe that for the most part this weapon finds himself primarily on the bench and isn’t utilized more. He’s made big plays every time he’s touched the ball, be it special teams in the passing game and carrying it himself.