Chris Simms' All-22 Team for NFL Week 1

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 13, 2016

Chris Simms' All-22 Team for NFL Week 1

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Where did you take in the NFL's opening weekend?

    A barstool? A couch? Maybe a La-Z-Boy recliner? All great choices. 

    But you really haven't watched football until you've watched five simultaneous games (and NFL RedZone, of course) on a six-way flat screen. I don't mean to brag, but Bleacher Report really hooked it up.

    I'll happily repay the favor by providing 22 players—11 on offense and 11 on defense—who stood out when I matched the notes I took from Sunday with the film I watched Monday. Like my preseason list, this one will shed some light on why each one performed so well. Unlike that list, I have much more to go on now that these games actually mean something.

    In short: Keep an eye on each of these names. I have a good feeling they could turn some heads in Week 2 and beyond.

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Is putting the greatest quarterback of all time atop this list unfair?

    Probably. But nothing about Aaron Rodgers is fair. Only one team gets to use him, and 31 others just have to watch.

    It was the Jaguars' turn on Sunday. Rodgers didn't fill the stat sheet up, but he continued to carry that offense, particularly when his team got in scoring range. Take this rushing touchdown from the six-yard line; zero out of five possible receivers gained any separation. Like usual, A-Rodg just took it on himself.

    Oh, and this was one of his passing touchdowns. Every week, I swear this guy makes one or two unreal plays. Best of all time.

QB: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Timing? Touch? Leadership ability?

    I've listed them all as reasons why Jameis Winston can take the leap in his second season. But on Sunday, one trait stood out above the rest: his willingness to climb the pocket for long, downfield routes.

    Dirk Koetter's offense is not a dink-and-dime one. Winston really is his dream quarterback because he’s patient enough to wait on a big play and strong enough to get the ball there with zip.

    Look at the touchdown he threw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Winston waited and waited for ASJ to break free, noticed a linebacker with his back turned and then planted a throw by that linebacker’s ear. The only possible result? A touchdown.

RB: Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Only four running backs last season had 100-yard receiving days.

    For all his talent, Jamaal Charles has only had two of those 100-yard games himself... ever.

    I used to think of Spencer Ware as a sledgehammer, goal-line type back. He can be that if, say, his team needed a game-tying five-yard score. But 129 of his 199 total yards came through the air, where the Chiefs put the ball in his hands regardless of match-up. San Diego's linebackers and safeties looked helpless in the fourth quarter and overtime.

    Simply put: Alex Smith looked at Ware first, not Jeremy Maclin or Travis Kelce, with a historic comeback on the line. 

RB: Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders

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    Associated Press

    Latavius Murray's game involves a few broken tackles and five-yard gains.

    He can wear a defense down, but Jalen Richard can run it off the field.

    The undrafted rookie out of Southern Miss is a speed merchant. He doesn’t need Murray’s 20-plus carries to do damage—just give him three. He might just pop a 75-yard run like he did in Week 1 versus New Orleans. I saw plenty of positive preseason tape on Richard as a receiver coming out of the backfield, too.

    Richard, not Murray, was on the field for Oakland’s game-winning drive. Expect to see more of that as the season goes along.

WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis told George Willis of the New York Post that he didn’t have his best game against A.J. Green.

    I would say that’s a bit of an understatement. Revis trailed Green all afternoon—a testament to what a truly great receiver can do against any kind of coverage.

    Green’s down-the-field speed is what separates him, both literally and figuratively. He doesn't look as fast as he actually is. Then suddenly and without warning, he’s caught 180 yards worth of offense.

    I’ve thrown to enough good wide receivers in my day to know what a great one looks like. Green is a great one.

WR: Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    On 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line?

    With the game on the line?

    New Orleans dialed up Willie Snead’s number. That should tell you everything about where he stands in the Saints’ pass-catching ranks.

    You can't call Brandin Cooks the top target in this offense anymore. Snead gets open with more regularity and gains more separation from defenders. He never drops a ball, either; Snead caught all nine of his targets en route to a 172-yard day.

    Get to know Snead. It's clear Drew Brees already has.

WR: Will Fuller, Houston Texans

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    I saw a whole lot I liked from Will Fuller on a fourth-quarter bubble screen.

    The first-round rookie caught a low (and frankly, bad) ball from Brock Osweiler. But he was fast enough to boost by two oncoming defensive linemen and smart enough to cut back to the middle of the field. He might've gone untouched for a score.

    DeAndre Hopkins isn't going to make that play. I was wrong about Fuller coming out of the draft; his yards-after-catch ability and elusive game make him such a big asset in Houston's attack.

TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

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    Associated Press

    Andrew Luck appreciates a good tight end.

    So he'll really appreciate Jack Doyle heading into Week 2. The Western Kentucky product found the end zone twice and found a home as one of Luck’s security blankets in a three-wide receiver attack.

    In the red zone, though, the Colts revert to more of a Stanford-type offense. There, Luck can use Doyle like he once used Coby Fleener, flex Doyle out wide or use him as an in-line blocker.

    The Colts need more Jack Doyles on their team. The guy does everything well.

OL: Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

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    Associated Press

    Notice anything in particular about the Raiders running game?

    I sure did. Because more often than not, it involved a ball-carrier in silver and black running right behind Kelechi Osemele.

    It's a wise play by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. His prized new guard can move people out of the way. Why not use him if you paid so much for him?

    Why not use him at left tackle too? That’s what the Raiders did when injuries on the right side forced some reshuffling. What a luxury for this offense to have a guy who is so versatile.

OL: Brian Winters, New York Jets

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    Matt Forte and Bilal Powell actually found success running at Geno Atkins.

    That seems counterintuitive until you pop on the film and watch Brian Winters work.

    Winters isn't small at 320 pounds, but he was flexible and athletic enough to withstand Atkins at his best. I counted a handful of up-the-middle-runs where the Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle was sealed off entirely.

    The fourth-year guard had a huge role in that. The right side of the Jets O-line doesn't look like such a problem area anymore.

OL: Matt Paradis, Denver Broncos

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Here's the thing about Carolina's fronts: They're multiple, deep, and just really talented.

    Matt Paradis was never overwhelmed. I saw a Broncos center who attached to someone like Kawann Short or Star Lotulelei and didn't detach until the whistle blew. His role in calling out protections for a green quarterback in Trevor Seimian probably can't be overstated, either.

    C.J. Anderson's big day? Credit Paradis. Rookie fullback Andy Janovich's surprising run? Credit Paradis. Offensive line play isn't a concern for head coach Gary Kubiak with an anchor at center.

DL: Leonard Williams, New York Jets

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    You’re not watching the same guy who hit a rookie wall out of USC last year.

    Leonard Williams is different this year. He outclassed the entire Bengals offensive line on a 2.5-sack day and put the Jets’ next 15 opponents on notice.

    There's no one answer for what Williams can do. He’ll line up in every technique—over tackle, over guard, over center—and rely on speed to get home. Andy Dalton knows that better than most.

    The Jets lost in Week 1, but it’s clear their defense has a breakout candidate.

DL: Steve McLendon, New York Jets

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    Associated Press

    Sheldon Richardson is on his way back from a suspension in Week 2.

    Still, the Jets better make room for the player they tabbed to replace Damon "Snacks" Harrison. Steve McLendon was that good in his Jets debut.

    McLendon has always been a quality football player dating back to his Steelers days. Now, he's sandwiched by All-Pros. More two-sack days could be coming if he keeps facing single blocks.

DL: Kerry Hyder, Detroit Lions

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    Associated Press

    I like the Lions' three-man defensive-end rotation. Hyder is a big (literally) reason why.

    The Texas Tech product popped on preseason film, particularly versus Buffalo in the exhibition finale (three sacks). That momentum kept rolling in the regular season when Hyder took down Andrew Luck twice.

    Hyder’s job is to keep Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor fresh. He’ll be in line for a promotion if he keeps working like this, though.

DL: Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks

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    Associated Press

    The uglier the game, the better Michael Bennett plays.

    It's the ultimate compliment I can pay to one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces. He made Dolphins running backs go a different way. And when he wasn’t draped all over Ryan Tannehill, he coerced premature throws.

    Bennett won’t stuff the stat sheet. He’ll just stuff a play in the backfield before it ever has a chance.

LB: DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    DeMarcus Ware doesn’t need OTAs or training camp.

    He sat out both of them, came back in Week 1 and still reminded us why he’s this generation’s sack master.

    Ware can still turn a corner like he's a 20-something. I saw him bend so low on a one-on-one block against Michael Oher that his chest nearly scraped the turf. After that, sacking Cam Newton was the easy part.

    Ware is still a top-tier pass-rusher. He’ll get his share of single blocks—you can’t double them all—and he’ll win approximately 94 percent of them.

OLB: Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    Whitney Mercilus started this season the way he ended last year.

    He got after the quarterback. Then he lined back up and got after the quarterback again.

    After a 12-sack year, the Texans can expect him to produce—particularly when they're creative with formation like they were against Chicago. Jay Cutler had no answer for a package including Mercilus as the third pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

    The end result? Two sacks for a guy who flashed a little speed move where he might have used power last year.

LB: Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Eric Kendricks never needs to come off the field.

    He's as true of a three-down 'backer as they come. On first and second down, he chases runners as if he were shot out of a cannon. On third down, he drops back in coverage as smoothly as a safety.

    The Vikings asked him to do both in Week 1. In the third quarter, he wound up in the end zone for what ultimately was the game's deciding score. That's no coincidence.

DB: Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    The Phillies wish they had a center fielder who can hit like this.

    Rodney McLeod laid the lumber on his sole tackle for loss. It previewed the kind of versatile deep secondary the Eagles can have, with McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins acting as interchangeable parts.

    Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will love McLeod's nose for the ball as much as his run-support skills. The guy tipped one pass, picked another one off and sold me on the fact that his signing was underrated.

DB: Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos

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    He has the toughest job in football—alone, in man coverage, on an island or in the slot.

    So let's credit Chris Harris Jr. when Denver's pressure defense hits home. Because No. 25 is the glue that holds the whole scheme together.

    He does it by holding his own on an island. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips expects Harris to win when he asks him to play Cover Zero or in the slot with no help. It's unfair for most defensive backs, but not for Harris.

    When he does win—like he did on that leaping interception versus Cam Newton—it validates that trust and further cements Harris as one of the game's best.

DB: Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Breshad Perriman got behind the Bills' coverage on a deep sideline throw.

    That's the only knock you can make on Stephon Gilmore's game. Against a deep ball chucker like Joe Flacco, the Bills star cornerback rarely came up. Rex Ryan knows that's a good thing.

    Gilmore plays on an island -- alone, single coverage, etc. -- more than most cornerbacks. Ryan was free to throw some different defensive looks at Flacco and Co. (with a shorthanded/injured team, no less) because he can trust his guy on the outside. 

DB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Let's review what DRC accomplished Sunday afternoon. It's damn impressive.

    First, he manned up quite a few times against Dez Bryant. No X's were thrown up Sunday; Dez finished with only one catch for eight yards.

    Then, strangely enough, the Giants shifted their career outside corner to the slot. He fared well there too.

    Lastly, Terrance Williams' clock mishandling was really a Rodgers-Cromartie creation. He crashed in hard from the sideline as time ticked off; Williams must have thought dipping out of bounds was not an option.

    Gotta love a savvy veteran move like that.

All-22 Team for NFL Week 1

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    Associated Press

    QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

    QB: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    RB: Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs

    RB: Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders

    WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

    WR: Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints

    WR: Will Fuller, Houston Texans

    TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

    OL: Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

    OL: Brian Winters, New York Jets

    OL: Matt Paradis, Denver Broncos

    DL: Leonard Williams, New York Jets

    DL: Steve McLendon, New York Jets

    DL: Kerry Hyder, Detroit Lions

    DL: Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks

    LB: DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos

    LB: Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans

    LB: Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings

    DB: Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia Eagles

    DB: Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos

    DB: Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills

    DB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants


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