Welcome to Bleacher Report's NFL1000 Scouting Notebook, a weekly series where we'll use the power of the 16-man NFL1000 scouting department to bring you fresh insights into the league and explain some of the more interesting (and potentially controversial) grades we give players every week.
The full list of NFL1000 grades will be released Thursday, and we will attempt to preview some of what we are seeing in our film analysis here.
This week, we will go through a few hot topics, including a pair of Washington Redskins who are breaking out, and scouts will answer questions on Aaron Rodgers, Jadeveon Clowney and much more. But first, let's start out with some film analysis of Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley.
The All-22: Robert Kelley Becoming a RB Revelation in Washington
Written by John Middlekauff
When opportunity comes in the NFL, players must be ready to take advantage, and rookie running back Robert Kelley has taken full advantage of every carry this season. An undrafted free agent, "Fat Rob" became Washington's full-time starter three weeks ago and has not looked back since. Over that time, he has rushed for 321 yards (4.79 yards per carry) and scored four touchdowns. His quick rise to stardom has relegated former starter Matt Jones to the bench—Jones has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks—and it looks like that won't change anytime soon.
Kelley has been a force for the Redskins. He is a natural inside runner, especially in the zone scheme. He has excellent vision and patience when pressing the hole, and a natural north-and-south style allowing him to get upfield in a hurry. He wants to get downhill and has no problem lowering his shoulder on contact. He is always falling forward and is a physical finisher. The play below captures all of this and shows Kelley breaking arm tackles with ease.
While Kelley isn't the most elusive back, he is able to make defenders miss in space. He's big and has great feet that allow him to get around guys despite being more of a straight-line player. In the play below, he eluded one of the best safeties in the NFL, Harrison Smith, while breaking off a big run.
Plays like that have to excite Washington head coach Jay Gruden.
While Kelly isn't going to blaze past anyone with 4.3 speed, he does have more than adequate speed and endurance, which makes him seem to get faster as the game goes on as defenses wear down. A great example of this was his 23rd carry against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night:
This 66-yard gallop was the final nail in Green Bay's coffin, as Kelley ran in a four-yard touchdown to ice the game on the next play. As games wear on and defenses fatigue, Kelley seems to build momentum and wear out his opponents.
In the passing game, the Redskins do not ask Kelley to do much because they rely on Chris Thompson for those situations. Kelly is solid in pass protection, though, as he's strong enough to handle linebackers and has a good feel for moving in the pocket, picking up potential blitzing defenders.
The Redskins have found a gem in Kelley. He is a great complement to their deep passing game, bringing an old-school physical element to the nation's capital. The Redskins will need him to continue producing if they're to make another late playoff push in 2016.
Scouting with Schofield: Jamison Crowder
Written by Mark Schofield
In his second season out of Duke University, Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder is developing into a major threat in the passing game for Kirk Cousins. Through 10 games, he has caught 47 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns, putting him on pace for a 70-reception, 1,000-yard and 10-touchdown season. To help break him down in my video this week, I enlisted the help of Justis Mosqueda, football genius and, unfortunately for him, a Packer fan.
|NFL1000 WR Rankings—Week 11 (Sneak Peek)|
|NFL1000 Scouts (Justis Mosqueda)|
Crowder only caught three passes against the Packers, but they went for 102 yards and a touchdown. Looking at these three receptions, you can see how Crowder is becoming a nuanced route-runner, and how the Washington coaching staff is using designs that are both quarterback-friendly and able to stretch a defense from sideline to sideline and deep down the field. In addition, Crowder's ability after the catch, using both speed and strength, is a weapon that defenses need to be wary of every time he has the ball.
Ask the Scouts
Question: There's been constant discussion this season around Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, with many blaming Aaron Rodgers for the Packers struggles. Early in the season, those criticisms looked warranted, as the Green Bay offense sputtered through the first five weeks of the season. But in Green Bay's recent four-game skid, Rodgers has thrown for 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions with the offense scoring 24 or more points in all four games. Is it safe to assume, despite the team's larger struggles, that Rodgers and the offense are back on track?
Answer from Cian Fahey, QB Scout: Aaron Rodgers was the top-ranked quarterback at midseason in the NFL1000. He's had a couple of bad games this year, but his level of play overall has been very impressive. Rodgers' numbers will continue to fluctuate, but they are changing because of his supporting cast's inconsistency. When his receivers get open and catch the ball, he's productive. When they don't, he's not. It's that simple.
Question: Jadeveon Clowney tied for the highest score in Week 11 among all 3-4 outside linebackers. Many felt that Clowney wasn't living up to the hype coming into this year, but this is now the third week where the NFL1000 has ranked him in the top three at his position and, particularly of note, he's been perhaps the best run defender at the position for a guy known as a pass-rusher. What have you seen from him this year, and do you think he can ultimately become the generational player that he was once billed?
Answer from Zach Kruse, OLB Scout: The Texans have been moving Clowney around, using the former top pick as a base 3-4 defensive end while also giving him more opportunities to play on the edge as a traditional rush linebacker in a three-man front. He's been disruptive against the run regardless of where the Texans put him, which is a credit to his ability to consistently beat blocks. Monday night in Mexico City was a showcase of Clowney's block-beating skills.
The Raiders have one of the game's best offensive lines, but no one among Oakland's talented front five had an answer for Clowney, who won with power and quickness to produce a pair of tackles for losses. On the first, he beat a reach block on the backside, literally pushed over the pulling tackle and stopped the running back in the backfield. Later, he disengaged with ease on the edge and made the stop. The Raiders tried double-teams, but he bullied his way through those, too. Clowney does everything well against the run, and he's already one of the NFL's best run defenders. But he still needs to get more consistent as a pass-rusher to become a generational talent.
He has all of the physical talent required to be a highly productive pass-rusher, but getting to the quarterback is an art form. Clowney needs a better counterattacking plan, especially in terms of setting up certain moves and beating blockers when initially stopped. Mastering the intricacies of pass-rushing could transform Clowney into one of the NFL's top defensive players.
Question: Carolina's Kurt Coleman isn't a guy many fans would name if you were to ask about the best safeties in the league. But the veteran safety has put up some strong weeks this season, with Week 11 being the strongest. He ranked as the NFL1000's top safety and tied for the second-highest score overall, earning extremely high marks in coverage and recovery. What did you see from him this week?
Answer from Mark Bullock, Safety Scout: Coleman initially caught our eye with two big plays in the first half: a forced fumble, which the Saints recovered, and an interception. The fumble came on an early 3rd-and-2 for the Saints on the Carolina 10-yard line. Coleman quickly diagnosed a stick route to tight end Coby Fleener and was the first to break on the throw. While he couldn't get there in time to stop the catch, his hit forced the ball out and the Saints recovered behind the first-down marker. The play from Coleman saved the first down, causing New Orleans to attempt a field goal rather than having a 1st-and-goal.
Coleman's interception was equally impressive. He appeared to be cheating to the inside before spotting a receiver breaking to the sideline on a corner route. He did a great job recovering to get back on top of the route outside and then breaking down on the throw, jumping the route and pulling in the interception.
Another flash play came in the third quarter. Coleman sat in zone coverage as he read Saints receiver Brandin Cooks running a crossing route. He recognized the danger and broke down on it to take it away from Saints quarterback Drew Brees. That forced Brees to hold on to the ball and look elsewhere, allowing the pass rush an extra couple of seconds to get home and register the sack.
Coleman typically plays in the box as an extra run defender or part of a two-deep safety zone coverage scheme. He has rarely had much of an impact this year, particularly in coverage, in part because that's the nature of zone defenses. But against New Orleans, he was more alert to underneath routes and was quicker to react to them. He also did a better job staying on top of deep shots in Week 11 than he usually does. He has been caught on occasion this season as teams look to take deep shots against the Panthers. But this week, Coleman did a better job staying over the top and making sure receivers to his side of the field weren't running past him.
Question: Mike Nugent earned the lowest grade in the NFL1000 this week with a score of 45 and a putrid score of 8/40 on kick accuracy. What does a kicker have to do to earn a grade that low? How bad was this performance?
Answer from Chuck Zodda, K/P Scout: Kicks are graded based on distance and also accounting for weather. In Nugent's case, he attempted just two kicks, both extra points. He missed both. He effectively missed two of the easiest kicks possible, where he has a choice of where to place the ball between the hashes, and he had no makes from any distance to balance it out. A kicker doing this every week would grade out as below the quality necessary to play in the NFL, which is how Nugent fared this week.