Chris Simms' All-22 Team for NFL Week 9

Chris SimmsNFL Lead AnalystNovember 9, 2016

Chris Simms' All-22 Team for NFL Week 9

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    My teammates and I ribbed Jon Gruden all week about his pet project.

    Never in a million years did we expect him to actually roll out the "Sapp Formation." And never in a billion years did we think we’d see our All-Pro defensive tackle dancing like Beyonce in the end zone.

    It happened—and Gruden is a genius for it. He suspected the Falcons would view the big guy as either a distraction or a lead blocker. Atlanta didn’t know what we all knew; Sapp might’ve been an average-sized tackle, but he was a world-class athlete with receiver’s hands. Brad Johnson could throw a dart his way, and he’d catch it.

    Sapp would’ve thrived in today’s NFL, where positional mobility is the rule and not the exception. So in his honor, I’ve placed five equally freakish interior pass-rushers on my latest All-22 team—including a guy who plays exactly like my old Hall of Fame teammate. They’re all athletes who happen to play defensive tackle, and they all deserve your immediate respect.

QB: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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    What an incredible display of deep passing from the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback.

    Russell Wilson took a torch to Buffalo’s secondary. He dropped two perfect throws right in Jimmy Graham’s breadbasket for scores. He also connected with Doug Baldwin deep on an onion throw—it brought a tear to the eye.

    If he’s protected, Wilson can tear a defense to shreds. He can also scramble outside the pocket, and that’s a sign his lower-body injuries are healing up. He’ll only gain confidence from here.

RB: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

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    Melvin Gordon turned in an All-22 performance for the second straight week.

    He’ll make it three if he runs like he did against the Titans. The Wisconsin product posted the best rushing game of his career and never stopped churning his legs.

    One prime example: Gordon’s never-say-die fourth-quarter run for 47 yards. Tennessee’s stout run defense had him stopped in the backfield from the waist up. Gordon never fell down and somehow found the sideline.

    Philip Rivers must be thrilled. He doesn’t have to carry San Diego’s offense anymore, and he has a capable receiver (65 yards on four catches) out of his backfield.

RB: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

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    Latavius Murray is an Adrian Peterson clone in terms of physical stature.

    He’s closing the gap on AP when it comes to breakaway speed too. Murray separated from defenders for the first time in a long time. When those defenders suit up for the Broncos, that’s saying something.

    His greatest attribute isn’t power or speed, though. It’s vision. On his long second-quarter run, Murray slid through a small hole, somehow saw a lane nearby and made a jump-cut to it. He’s not just some big powerful guy taking handoffs in Oakland.

WR: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    He spent the summer training with Randy Moss.

    Now, Mike Evans is playing like him. The second of his two touchdown grabs was vintage No. 84. He boxed out a defender and snatched the football out of his hands like it was no big deal.

    Evans also slid perfectly under coverage and got open for Jameis Winston in the corner of the end zone. Add another receiving touchdown for the NFL’s leader.

    Then there’s that one-hander. Good gracious. Winston doesn’t need to be accurate with the football; he just needs to get it in No. 13’s area.

WR: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

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    Michael Thomas stepped right in where Marques Colston stepped out.

    He’s not the fastest. He’s not the best route-runner. But even when a cornerback is on his hip, he’s open for a catch. His ability to high-point a ball is second to none as well (see Thomas’ two end-zone catches against San Francisco).

    No one knows that better than Drew Brees after years of throwing back-shoulder Colston fades. Thomas is his new target for those in New Orleans’ passing attack, and it’s impossible to defend.

WR: Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

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    Let this sink in: Detroit’s passing game lost Calvin Johnson yet gained physicality.

    It’s all because of Golden Tate. He’s not the sexiest target in football, but Tate makes up for it with grit and nasty play.

    He sprung his own game-ending overtime touchdown by stiff-arming the soul out of Harrison Smith. Put that freak play aside and Tate still caught tons of balls underneath for six, seven, eight yards. Each one was punctuated with a lowered shoulder.

    Minnesota’s defense played tough in Week 9. Tate was just tougher.

TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    Quarterbacks come, and quarterbacks go.

    Only Jason Witten remains. He’s 104 years old in tight end years, but he's every bit as spry for Dak Prescott as he was for Tony Romo.

    Case in point: Witten’s out-breaking touchdown in the first quarter against Cleveland. He drew Jamie Collins up the field, snapped his route right and entered the weak part of a zone defense.

    Sound familiar? That’s how he built an entire Hall of Fame career.

OL: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs

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    No. 61
    No. 61Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Throw a dart at any AFC West offensive line and you’re bound to hit an All-Pro center.

    Morse might be the best of the bunch. His knowledge of Andy Reid’s offense is staggering, given that he’s only a second-year player. He’s also the key to all of Kansas City’s jet sweeps and screens; Morse is one of the most mobile blockers I’ve ever seen suit up.

    It looks natural to him on film too. He glides over to guys such as Malik Jackson and Sen’Derrick Marks on film. Then once they’re squared away, he glides to the next linebacker or safety.

OL: Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

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    Oakland’s big running play of the night featured two double-teams on two of Denver’s down linemen.

    Then, there was Kelechi Osemele all by himself. Why? Because Oakland’s prized free-agent pickup is a human double-team in terms of strength and size. Put simply: He doesn’t need any damn help.

    Just ask Sylvester Williams. Denver’s big defensive tackle might’ve faced Osemele on 50-ish snaps and lost about 48 of them. There’s no getting around an immovable object like that.

OT: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

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    No. 77
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    Ezekiel Elliott can outrun any oncoming defender.

    He just can’t outrun his franchise left tackle. Tyron Smith is a professional freak who happens to play left tackle. Time and again, he showed amazing range and ability against Cleveland.

    Take an early second-half toss to Elliott, for example. Smith got out in front and stayed there, despite Elliott's reaching peak speeds. You know how many other tackles could do that? None.

OT: Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans

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    Did you hear Joey Bosa’s name called?

    Did you hear Melvin Ingram’s name called?

    Marcus Mariota threw 43 times, and he didn’t take a single sack. That means Taylor Lewan did his job to perfection again. He’s an All-22 mainstay.

DL: Damon Harrison, New York Giants

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    Want to know how the Giants can possibly compete with the NFC East-leading Cowboys?

    Two words: Big Snacks.

    Damon Harrison is the best run-stuffer in professional football. He almost always gets double-teamed, and he almost always wins that double-team. There’s no one more athletic in short spaces, and there are few as adept at shedding blocks.

    All those traits came together on Carson Wentz’s failed fourth-down run to start the second quarter. Jason Pierre-Paul brought the initial pressure, but Harrison split his double-team and kept contain. That let a host of other defenders come crashing in for the huge stop on New York's 23-yard line.

DL: Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins

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    The Dolphins are finally getting what they paid for.

    Ndamukong Suh continuously collapsed New York’s pocket in Week 9. I haven’t seen that level of output from No. 93 since he was No. 90 and played for the Lions.

    The stat sheet doesn’t do Suh’s afternoon justice. His four tackles were suplexes, bending ball-carriers back and dropping them violently. Ryan Fitzpatrick made an effort to avoid him before exiting the football game.

DL: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Giants wasted precious bye-week time trying to repair their broken running game.

    It didn’t do them any good in Week 9. Not with Fletcher Cox in the middle of Philadelphia’s defense. And especially not with a reserve guard filling in for Justin Pugh on New York’s line. That trench battle was the biggest mismatch of Week 9.

    When the dust settled, the Giants gained—wait for it—54 net rushing yards. The longest run of their day was a 14-yard toss play to Cox’s opposite side. If that’s not a clear sign of his impact, I don’t know what is.

DL: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

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    No. 99
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    I played alongside a Hall of Famer in Warren Sapp.

    Aaron Donald is better. He’s the best pass-rushing interior defensive lineman I’ve ever seen on film. He’s the Von Miller of 3-techniques.

    Donald’s two sacks couldn’t have happened at bigger moments. The first forced Carolina out of field-goal range; Donald interrupted a surefire Cam Newton-to-Greg Olsen touchdown with the second.

    It wasn’t the only time he met the reigning MVP in the backfield. The tape shows he caused at least five or six early Newton throws. That means Donald—not a quarterback or any other major-money position—single-handedly kept L.A. competitive.

DL: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

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    He’s back. And he’s better than ever.

    Khalil Mack has recaptured the pass-rushing prowess that landed him at two All-Pro spots in 2015. Only Jadeveon Clowney rivals his brute strength, and even then I’d still take Mack.

    Mack didn’t rewrite any technique textbooks in his dominant Sunday night outing. He just used two moves: a deadly shoulder-fake/dip-underneath combination and that dominant hand-to-shoulder pad stiff arm.

    Broncos tackle Donald Stephenson couldn’t deal with either one on Mack’s two sacks. Oakland’s pass rush is on another level, and No. 52 is leading the charge.

LB: De'Vondre Campbell, Atlanta Falcons

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    Others point to Deion Jones as the catalyst for change in Atlanta’s linebacking corps.

    The film points elsewhere. Fellow rookie De’Vondre Campbell is Jones’ longer, speedier teammate. I’d put him up against any inside linebacker in the 40-yard dash. He’s the next Jamie Collins in terms of pass rushing and coverage ability.

    That second skill is key to Atlanta’s defense. Coach Dan Quinn had a star over the middle in K.J. Wright who was just too lanky for opposing tight ends. Campbell is an inch shorter than Wright, but he swallows up the tight end position in a similar fashion. He was instrumental in canning Tampa Bay’s run game as well.

LB: Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers

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    This is the second straight week Thomas Davis has defied his age (33) and his knees.

    I’ll put his leaping interception of Case Keenum up against any defensive play in football this year. His ability to drop in coverage and read quarterbacks is unparalleled. And the vertical elevation he had to reach Keenum’s pass was unreal.

    Davis impacted more areas of Los Angeles’ passing game too. He was all over Todd Gurley whenever a screen play was called up. Keep in mind: It’s his job to stick with Gurley in the passing game and the run game. He handles both roles like the consummate pro he is.

LB: Alec Ogletree, Los Angeles Rams

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    Alec Ogletree is the Rams’ garbage man. Boy, does he clean up well.

    Here’s what I mean. On Sunday (and basically every other week), defensive linemen such as Aaron Donald have the full green light to go raise hell. There’s no assignments. There’s no gap discipline. When that front four messes up, Ogletree has to play sound football on the back end—or else.

    He did just that against Carolina. Ogletree rarely fell for any Cam Newton fakes, be they to Jonathan Stewart or jet-sweepers. He always maintained contain, knowing if one ball-carrier got behind him, it was lights-out.

    Carolina won the football game but couldn’t get its brand of offense going at all. That’s because of Ogletree.

DB: Nolan Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Catch all those big pass plays to Odell Beckham Jr. and others?

    Nolan Carroll was sitting pretty on the other side. There’s no reason for opposing offenses to target him; Carroll routinely holds up on his half of the field in both zone and man coverage. There’s a reason he had a quiet afternoon at cornerback.

    Carroll made his mark in other ways, though. For instance, he stripped Beckham in a strange fumble-interception scenario. That turnover helped Philadelphia climb back into a game most thought could’ve been a Giants cakewalk.

DB: Darius Butler, Indianapolis Colts

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    Ordinary cornerbacks have little to no shot at outwitting Aaron Rodgers.

    Darius Butler’s play wasn’t ordinary in Week 9. He disguised a "robber" coverage right up until Green Bay’s star quarterback snapped the football. He rotated down to the middle. And he snatched an interception that got Andrew Luck another possession.

    That’s textbook safety play from one of the NFL’s more improved coverage guys.

DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers

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    You pick Andrew Luck off not once, but twice?

    You get a spot on my All-22 list. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was an absolute ball hawk Sunday afternoon. Like fellow Alabama safety Landon Collins, he looks faster and lighter after an offseason of hard training.

    His two interceptions couldn’t have been more different. Clinton-Dix broke out of a perfectly disguised zone for No. 1. He got pushed, fell down, recovered and still caught a throw.

Full Week 9 All-22 Team

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    QB: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

    RB: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

    RB: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

    WR: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    WR: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

    WR: Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

    TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    OL: Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs

    OL: Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

    OT: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

    OT: Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans

    DL: Damon Harrison, New York Giants

    DL: Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins

    DL: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

    DL: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

    DL: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

    LB: De'Vondre Campbell, Atlanta Falcons

    LB: Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers

    LB: Alec Ogletree, Los Angeles Rams

    DB: Nolan Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles

    DB: Darius Butler, Indianapolis Colts

    DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers