10 most surprising performances from NFL Week 5

Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Baron Browning (56) celebrates after a play with linebacker Bradley Chubb (55) and defensive tackle D.J. Jones (97) in the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Taysom Hill capitalizes on touches: The Swiss Army knife scored four touchdowns in Week 5 and excelled through the air, on the ground and as a blocker.

Darius Slayton emerges amid banged-up WR room: He played 57 total snaps on offense and had just one catch for 11 yards through four weeks but caught six of seven targets for 79 yards and was the Giants' highest-graded player in Week 5 (89.6).

Alijah Vera-Tucker‘s versatility proves crucial: The second-year man has now started a game at four different offensive line spots during his 21-game career — and has largely succeeded in doing so.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 mins

TE Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

Was former Saints head coach Sean Payton holding Taysom Hill back? OK, that's probably not the case, but this was easily the best game of Hill's career. He did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Hill was New Orleans' leading rusher, totaling 112 yards and three touchdowns, and he also threw a touchdown to Adam Trautman to help secure a big win at home. 

Not only did Hill score four touchdowns in this game, but he also made a huge block for Alvin Kamara to help seal the win. 

Hill was the Saints' highest-graded player  (94.6) in Week 5, and this was a dominant performance by him, despite playing only 23 offensive snaps. The Saints would be wise to figure out a way to make him a staple of their offense, especially with Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas out of the lineup. 

WR Darius Slayton, New York Giants

It felt like Slayton would never be a thing in New York under Brian Daboll. After back-to-back 700-yard seasons to start his career, Slayton had been fazed out of the offense despite the Giants having a ton of injuries at the wide receiver position. And through the first four weeks of the season, Slayton played 57 total snaps on offense and had just one catch for 11 yards.

But he finally got his opportunity in Week 5 with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson all out of the lineup. He caught six of seven targets for 79 yards and was the Giants' highest-graded player in Week 5 (89.6). While his average depth of target continues to be low (10.4 in Week 5), he is getting open and is now even making contested catches more consistently. We shall see if the Giants use more of Slayton in upcoming weeks, as his performance against the Green Bay Packers was impressive.

EDGE Baron Browning, Denver Broncos

Before Week 5, Baron Browning never had tallied more than two pressures in a single game in his NFL career. He was primarily used as an off-the-ball linebacker, playing 304 of his 528 total snaps in coverage as a rookie. But Randy Gregory going on injured reserve forced Browning into a full-time EDGE role in Week 5.

So, how did the second-year defender perform in that spot? He led the NFL in pressures in Week 5 (10), recording five hurries, three quarterback hits and two sacks against the Colts. He finished the week with a 92.3 pass-rush grade and was the team's highest-graded player. 

Browning is an exceptional athlete, and the Broncos might have just found another pass-rusher to pair with Bradley Chubb and Gregory. And it appears they’ve found a permanent home on the edge for the former third-round pick from Ohio State.

EDGE Rashad Weaver, Tennessee Titans

The Titans have been decimated with injuries to their pass-rushers, as Harold Landry III tore his ACL earlier in the year and Bud Dupree has missed time. That has forced second-year defensive end Rashad Weaver into the lineup, and he just put together the highest-graded game of his career (88.7) in Week 5. 

Weaver recorded two pressures on 32 pass-rush snaps, but his true value came as a run-defender. He earned the second-highest run-defense grade for the Titans (71.1) and made a huge stop on defense. He also broke up a pass that led to the Titans getting off the field on defense. So, while nothing in the box score suggests Weaver had a big game, his actual play on the field was fantastic. And his performance was exactly what the Titans needed to get a win and improve to 3-2 on the season.

WR Dyami Brown, Washington Commanders

Brown was a third-round pick by the Commanders in the 2021 NFL Draft and, until Week 5, that was considered a big whiff by the franchise. He was a healthy scratch multiple times as a rookie and totaled just 171 yards on 13 receptions in his first 19 games.

But with Jahan Dotson out of the lineup, Brown made two huge plays for Washington to help the team stay competitive against the Titans. Brown caught just two passes, both touchdowns in Week 5. One of his scores was a 75-yarder, and the other was on an incredible one-handed snag. 

Brown has certainly earned more snaps with his two big plays in Week 5, and he was the Commanders' highest-graded player (90.9). Look for him to continue to get downfield looks from Carson Wentz over the next few weeks until Dotson returns to the lineup. 

RT Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets

The Jets have had some bad luck with the offensive tackle position to start the season. Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown, George Fant and Max Mitchell have all missed at least one game. Brown played for the first time in Week 5, starting at left tackle. 

But the story on Sunday was Vera-Tucker, who got the start at right tackle. That is notable considering he started at right guard for the first three weeks of the season, moved to left tackle in Week 4 against the Steelers and then played on the right side in Week 5. As a rookie, Vera-Tucker played all 1,039 snaps at left guard, meaning he has now started a game at four different offensive line spots during his 21-game career.

Not only was Vera-Tucker serviceable at right tackle on Sunday, he was dominant. He did not allow a single pressure, hurry or quarterback hit on 26 pass-blocking snaps. He was also the team's highest-graded run-blocker, with a 76.7 grade. At this stage of his career, Vera-Tucker is now one of the NFL's most valuable offensive linemen. 

WR Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills

Another receiver who performed well in his first extended action was Khalil Shakir, a fifth-round choice by the Bills in this year’s draft. Before Week 5, he had played 40 offensive snaps. That resulted in just two receptions of 23 yards, as he was playing behind Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder. But with both players out of the lineup on Sunday, Shakir shined. 

He caught three of his five targets for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. He finished the game with a 75.9 grade and made an incredible acrobatic catch down the middle of the field for a huge gain.

Shakir is likely a slot player in the NFL, but he has the size and speed to make plays down the seam, as he did here. Don't be surprised if the Bills continue to use him more, even when McKenzie returns to the field. Shakir’s route running and body control make him a perfect fit with quarterback Josh Allen

CB Siran Neal, Buffalo Bills

Injuries in the secondary have decimated the Bills, forcing them to dig deep into their depth chart to find solutions. One of those players is 28-year-old Siran Neal, who had played just 539 defensive snaps in five seasons with the Bills before Sunday. 

He started in the slot in Week 5 and allowed one catch for seven yards on seven targets. He was credited with three pass breakups and a quarterback hit while not allowing anything over the middle of the field. Neal was the Bills' highest-graded defender in Week 5 and, of course, this was the highest-graded game of his career. He's likely to return to a reserve role once Tre’Davious White is healthy, but what a luxury it is for Buffalo to have someone like Neal stashed on their bench. 

DI Derrick Brown, Carolina Panthers

Things have not been going particularly well in Carolina. Head coach Matt Rhule is out after the team's 1-4 start. But one player that has seen his career take off this year is defensive tackle Derrick Brown. After back-to-back mediocre seasons to start his career, Brown has finally begun to turn things around in Year 3.

He put together the best performance of his NFL career in Week 5, finishing the game with a team-high 88.8 grade. While he did not record a pressure, he tallied four stops on defense and had two batted passes. He still requires a ton of attention inside, as he is almost unmovable in the run game. However, if he can become an average to above-average pass-rusher at any point in the near future, he could be one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.

EDGE Sam Williams, Dallas Cowboys

It’s been a rocky start for Williams for the Cowboys after he was a second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Before Week 5, Williams didn’t have a single game grade above 65.0, and he had just three pressures on 51 snaps.

But Williams enjoyed the best game of his career, grading out as the Cowboys' best player in Week 5 (91.6). He totaled three pressures on 16 pass-rush snaps and had a  25% pass-rush win rate. He also made two stops in the run game, including an impressive tackle for a loss. He is still just the fourth or fifth defensive end in Dallas, but he is starting to become an impact player on one of the best and deepest defenses in the NFL.


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