Out of the running backs who have already amassed 100 carries or more this
season, the five that are proving to be the toughest to stuff for a loss are
the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown (6.4 percent), the Rams' Steven Jackson (7.0
percent), the Bengals' Cedric Benson (7.3 percent), the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew (7.4 percent) and the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (7.6 percent).
Heading into Week 8, the leagues top targeted pass catchers are Houston's
Andre Johnson (70), New England's Randy Moss (67), Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco (64), the New York Giants' Steve Smith (64), Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (63) and New England's Wes Welker (62). Out of those six
receivers, Welker and Smith have made the most of their opportunities
catching 46 and 45 balls respectively. But Johnson has the lowest number of
catches among the six with 38 despite having the most chances.
NFL talent evaluators really underestimated former Ohio State linebacker
James Laurinaitis when they allowed him to slip out of the first round of
the 2009 NFL Draft to the Rams at number 35 overall. The 6-foot-2, 247-pound
middle linebacker is currently tied for tenth in the league in solo tackles
with 40 after his first seven games in the NFL. He's also assisted with nine
more tackles, made two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
The Buffalo Bills have a pair of special teams aces battling for the
league lead in total tackles. Third-year safety John Wendling has 14 special
teams tackles, including a league-best 10 solo efforts. Fellow safety George
Wilson is tied for second with 11 stops along with Patriots linebacker
Pierre Woods. The only other players with double-digit special teams tackles
are Redskins linebacker H.B. Blades, Vikings linebacker Kenny Onatolu and
Chargers linebacker Brandon Siler who have 10 each.
Can QB Alex Smith reduce the 49ers' three-downs-and-out possessions?
Three-downs-and-out offensive series are frustrating for offenses and
wears down defenses who barely have time to catch their breath before
returning to the field. Yet five clubs' offenses have left the field after
just three plays on 30 percent or more of their possessions. The 49ers have
the league-worst mark of 40.3 percent while the Raiders (36.5), Buccaneers
(35.4), Vikings (32.1) and the Chiefs (30.6) round out the group. Honestly,
it's hard to believe that an offense that features Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson would be among that group. The teams at the other end of the
spectrum are the Cowboys (13.2 percent), the Packers (16.2), the Colts
(16.4), the Panthers (16.7) and the Patriots (16.7).
Six quarterbacks are getting plenty of help in their passing yardage
statistics thanks to the yards their receivers and running backs are tacking on
after the catch. The Cowboys' Tony Romo has a wide margin over all other NFL
quarterbacks with 7.6 yards per reception being added to his throwing
distance. The Raiders' JaMarcus Russell is getting plenty of help as well at
7.0 yards per reception. The others are the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (6.8),
the Chargers' Philip Rivers (6.8), Lions rookie Matthew Stafford (6.6) and
the Broncos' Kyle Orton (6.5). So which starters are getting the least
amount of help? The Chiefs' Matt Cassel (4.9), the Cardinals' Kurt Warner
(5.0) and Jets rookie Mark Sanchez (5.0).
Just three running backs are converting 30 percent or more of their
rushing attempts into first downs for their team. Leading the NFL in that
category is the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw (31.3 percent) who has moved the
chains on 25 of his 80 carries. The Cowboys' Marion Barber is on his heels
at 30.6 percent, and the Dolphins' Ricky Williams is at 30 percent.
Wondering which kickers are sending kickoff returners back to the
sidelines without a return most frequently? The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski and the Cowboys' David Buehler have each booted 13 touchbacks so
far. But the kickers who have the best percentage of kickoffs resulting in
touchbacks are Seattle's Olindo Mare (40.7 percent), Arizona's Neil Rackers
(39.3), Carolina's Rhys Lloyd (38.1), Dallas' Buehler (37.1) and Atlanta's
Michael Koenen (35.7). Gostkowski is sixth at 30.2 percent.
Follow Ed Thompson on Twitter
Click here for more coverage of your favorite NFL team.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.
Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2009 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such licensed materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.