News & Analysis

10 free-agent additions already making an impact

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing against the Chicago Bears at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

The days following Week 1 of the NFL season are rife with knee-jerk reactions, drastic swings in opinions, and hot takes. This list isn’t trying to be that. Some free-agent signings are already paying off dividends, though, and it’s worth highlighting those guys who have made big impacts on their new teams early on.

1. Brock Osweiler, QB, Texans (84.5 grade in Week 1)

Osweiler may have had one unsightly interception, but there’s no doubt that he’s already been an upgrade at the most important position on the field. The former Bronco was the sixth-highest graded quarterback in Week 1 after gaining 244 yards through the air, including drops. If he can keep it up, Osweiler is well on in his way to justifying his contract.

2. Chris Long, DE, Patriots (82.3)

Sunday night’s game was vindication on many fronts. For Long, it proved that he still has plenty left in the tank after two injury-plagued seasons in St. Louis. And for the Patriots, it looks like trading Chandler Jones for a second round pick and Jonathan Cooper will be a net gain. Long had two sacks and a hurry along with a forced penalty.

3. Brent Grimes, CB, Buccaneers (82.2)

For a much-maligned secondary a season ago, Grimes presence has been a godsend. Against the Falcons, he allowed a mere 5 yards on three targets and had two pass breakups. No full-time starter allowed fewer yards or had more passes defended—quite the introduction for the former Dolphin.

4. Brandon Mebane, DT, Chargers (81.7)

To say that the Chargers' interior defensive line was an issue a season ago would be an understatement; they had our lowest-graded run defense by a comfortable margin. Mebane’s production at the nose Sunday was a sight for sore eyes in San Diego. He had two sacks, a hit, and three hurries on only 18 pass rushes.

5. Alex Mack, C, Falcons (86.3)

Mack was well on his way to one of his best seasons back in 2014 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the year. Kyle Shanahan didn’t forget, and now Mack is once again in a scheme that suits him perfectly in Atlanta. The Falcons' run game never quite got off the ground against the Bucs, but don’t blame the center; Mack was downgraded only five times all day in 65 snaps.

6. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Bears (80.1)

Only Tampa Bay's Kwon Alexander recorded more stops than Freeman’s eight on Sunday. Where the former Colt really shined, though, was in coverage. Freeman may have been responsible for coverage on five catches against the Texans, but those five plays went for a total of 15 yards.

7. Bruce Irvin, OLB, Raiders (82.6)

After multiple quietly-impressive years in the loaded Seahawks' defense, Bruce Irvin made his arrival known in Week 1 against the Saints. Irvin recorded the 10th-highest pass-rushing productivity mark among 3-4 OLBs after one game, notching a sack, two QB hurries, one QB hit, and two defensive stops in the Raiders' win.

8. Brandon LaFell, WR, Bengals (77.9)

After the Bengals were unwilling to shill out big bucks to Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason, the No. 2 receiver spot was up in the air. They brought in LaFell for significantly less than what Jones and Sanu were paid in Detroit and Atlanta, respectively, and through one week, there was no dip in production across from A.J. Green. LaFell hauled in all four of his targets for 91 yards.

9. Isa Abdul-Quddus, S, Dolphins (84.7)

The most surprising defensive performance of the week had to belong to the Miami Dolphins. They held Russell Wilson and company in check for much of the game, and new safety Isa Abdul-Quddus was a big reason why. He only allowed one catch for 9 yards and picked off his only other target for the highest coverage grade of any safety in Week 1.

10. Matt Slauson, C, Chargers (81.8)

One of our favorite budget signings this offseason, Slauson was a drastic improvement over the mess that was the Chargers' center position in 2015. He didn’t give up a single pressure against the Chiefs, and was the fourth-highest graded center in the league in Week 1. No Chargers center had a single game a year ago grade as highly as Slauson’s debut.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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