Key takeaways and stats to know from Week 2

Here are all of PFF's key takeaways and stats to know following all of the NFL games in Week 2.

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Terry McLaurin is the clear No. 1 target in Washington

Scary Terry is taking over the nation’s capital. The Redskins’ third-round pick, former Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin, has quickly emerged as the team’s top target just two weeks into his rookie year. The 6-foot, 208-pounder has played 90.3% of Washington’s offensive snaps through Weeks 1 and 2, a figure that leads all at his position. He also leads his team and all rookie pass-catchers in aimed target share (21%). And the results from his heavy usage have been nothing short of spectacular. McLaurin ranks fifth in receiving grade (82.4), 15th in yards per route run (2.49) and 14th in passer rating when targeted (142.4) among wideouts with 40 or more routes run in 2019.

Vikings’ offensive line off to a sluggish start in pass protection

Mike Zimmer's love for the running game may be putting Kirk Cousins behind the eight ball, but Cousins' problem is also being made worse by an offensive line that has failed to protect him when he has dropped back to pass. Through two games, Cousins has faced defensive pressure on 60.9% of his dropbacks which is by far the highest rate in the league, and his offensive line has now earned the second-worst team pass-blocking grade (43.8) and the second-worst team pass-blocking efficiency (77.2) in the NFL.

The Patriots' looks as formidable as ever

The New England Patriots look unbeatable, blowing out the Steelers 33-3 and the lowly Dolphins 43-0 through the first two weeks of the NFL season. How have they gotten off to such a fast start? Having Tom Brady doesn’t hurt, but so far the story of the season has been their coverage on defense.

Part of PFF’s offseason studies was to investigate the relationship between coverage and pass-rush. We found that with all things being equal, coverage is more important than pass-rush in terms of overall defensive success. Bill Belichick’s squad is perfect case study so far. The Pats currently have the NFL’s best coverage unit with a team grade of 90.0. The next closet unit, The Los Angeles Rams are nearly a full 10 points lower at 80.4.

The classic rebuttal would be that they are likely generating pressure on the quarterback in order to force errant throws. That is not necessarily the case, as the team’s pass-rush is currently ranked 13th among teams through two games. In their opening game against the Steelers, the Pats defense only pressured Ben Roethlisberger on 22.4% of his dropbacks, which was 30th that week.  This past weekend, the Patriots racked up 19 total pressures which were third-most in Week 2.

Yet, as the pressure has changed, the coverage has not. As a defense, the Pats allowed a passer rating of 65.6 and 25.7 in Week 1 and Week 2, respectively. Their team passer rating allowed on the season is 45.4, which is nearly 20 points lower than the Green Bay Packers, who are the next closest team (64.5).

The grades also back up the stats. Their secondary is home to the first- and fourth-rated corners and the fifth- and seventh-rated safeties by PFF grade. Also, none of those players are named Stephone Gilmore, the NFL’s best overall corner from 2018.

The sample size is still relatively small, with just two games in the books, but the Patriots secondary is off to a hot start. They bear watching to see if they can keep this level of domination up as they face tougher draws at quarterback this year.

Mark Andrews deserves an increased role in Baltimore

Through two weeks of play, Mark Andrews is the highest-graded offensive player in football with 50 or more snaps played, and he still hasn’t played more than 55% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in a single game. That’s just unacceptable. Not only does he lead all qualifying offensive players in overall grade (93.4), but he also ranks second among all offensive players with 40 or more routes run through Week 2 in yards per route run (4.83), trailing only his teammate Marquise Brown (5.18).

Dak Prescott is thriving in Kellen Moore’s offense

Former NFL quarterback Kellen Moore has been given the keys to the Cowboys' offense and has had free rein to make this offense, his offense. It's so far, so good for Moore, as Dak Prescott has been the NFL’s highest-graded quarterback through Week 2.

In the first two weeks, Dallas has ramped up their usage of play-action to the highest in the league, at 43.1% (25% in 2018). Prescott has been sharp out of play-action generating 12.3 yards per attempt, a 96.3% adjusted completion percentage and a 157.6 passer rating.

The Cowboys have also used 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) on 73.2% of their offensive snaps, and Prescott has been elite once again in this package. When passing out of 11 personnel, Prescott has been the second highest-graded quarterback and has thrown three big-time throws to zero turnover-worthy plays.

Kellen Moore has also taken a page out Andy Reid’s playbook in having the fifth-highest rate of run-pass options (RPOs). These plays are an extension of the run game and generate more yards per play on average than a designed run. With that said, no quarterback has pulled on an RPO and opted to pass more than Dak this season, and he has been highly effective when doing so, completing 100% of his passes, at 9.9 yards per attempt and a 108.0 passer rating.

Kirk Cousins and Mitch Trubisky are struggling out of the gate

Both Kirk Cousins and Mitchell Trubisky have been under fire after underwhelming 2018 seasons and needed to have a great start to 2019. But so far, neither has been able to improve their public perception.

Through two weeks, Cousins owns the NFL's lowest passing grade (36.7) and has averaged 3.25 seconds to throw, which is by far the highest rate in the league. Things have not gone at all well for him when he's held onto the ball, however, as he's managed to record a 67.4 passer rating, three turnover-worthy plays and an uncatchable-throw rate of 44.4% when he's taken longer than 2.5 seconds to throw the ball.

As for Trubisky, his issues rely on his accuracy. As the fourth-lowest-graded quarterback so far, 28.8% of his passes have been uncatchable (second-worst rate in the league) and only 3.0% of his passes have been put in the “perfect” spot, per PFF's QB charting data.

Even when he has had an open receiver, Trubisky still can’t get the job done. Not only does he have the NFL's worst passing grade when throwing to a receiver with a step or more of separation, but he has also recorded a lowly 6.7 yards per attempt when doing so.

Chris Godwin, Michael Gallup taking steps forward

Michael Gallup was one of PFF’s highest-graded wide receivers in college football in his final year at Colorado State (2017), but the young wideout underwhelmed as a rookie in Dallas. He’s off to a much better start in Year 2, as he currently ranks second in receiving grade (85.0) among all wideouts with 40 or more routes run so far this season. He ranks second in yards per route run (4.35) and ninth in yards after the catch per reception (6.9). Gallup also leads the team in aimed target share at 24.2%. Dallas' offense will miss his production now that he's sidelined for two to four weeks.

Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin, a third-year wide receiver out of Penn State, is also off to a fiery start in 2019. Through two games, Godwin ranks fifth in receiving grade (82.7), 12th in yards per route run (2.56) and eighth in passer rating when targeted (151.1). And he’s done so as the team-leader in aimed target share (25.9%).

D.J. Chark off to a strong start, thriving as Jags’ top target

Jacksonville is without its starting quarterback, down 0-2 on the year and battling injuries in several areas on the defensive side of the ball (e.g. Yannick Ngakoue, AJ Bouye). The good news, however, is that 2018 second-rounder D.J. Chark Jr. has seemingly taken a major step forward in Year 2. The 6-foot-4, 198-pound LSU product has hauled in 11-of-13 targets for 201 yards, four first downs and two touchdowns while owning a team-high 20.3% aimed target share. He ranks fourth in yards per route run (3.09) and seventh in receiving grade (81.8) among all NFL receivers with 40 or more routes run through Week 2.

Donte Moncrief is running out of second chances

Moncrief is only two regular-season games into his Steelers career, but over those two games, he has earned the lowest and third-lowest single-game grades of his career. He is the lowest graded wide receiver through two weeks of the 2019 season (43.3), and his 0.13 yards per route run are also the lowest in the NFL. One of the poster boys for “high upside” in recent years, Moncrief didn’t see the field again after a pass from Mason Rudolph went through his hands only to bounce off his head and into the hands of a Seahawks defender in Week 2.

The Bengals' offensive line is struggling to create room in the run game

Nobody is going to confuse the Bengals’ offensive line with that of the Dallas Cowboys since the only thing they have in common is spending first-round draft capital on the unit in recent years. Cincinnati will enter Week 3 as the 26th-ranked run blocking team (53.3); altogether, the unit has given their rushers less than a yard before contact per attempt (-0.1) resulting in a league-worst 1.8 rushing yards per attempt this season.

Jameis Winston offers a much-improved performance

After a tumultuous Week 1, all arrows were pointing down on Jameis Winston’s season while all the buildup from the offseason of hype over the hiring of quarterback guru Bruce Arians as head coach had become a bust. Fast forward only four days later, the narrative around Winston is very different thanks to a much-improved performance against a division rival in the national spotlight on Thursday Night Football.

Against the 49ers in Week 1, it was hard to find a facet in the game that Winston didn’t struggle in. He lumbered his way to a 43.6 passing grade (last in NFL) and of his 36 attempts, Winston targeted his first read only 47.2% of the time (last in NFL). Even though it wasn’t as often as the rest of the NFL, it affected the game plenty when he did. Winston earned the lowest passing grade (43.6) on such passes and it accounted for two of his three turnover worthy plays.

That wasn’t the case Thursday night, as Winston bounced back to target his first read on 76% of his passes and more than doubled his passing grade to an impressive 89.5. That includes a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin to go along with his three big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.

Ravens' play-action passing has been potent

While the average NFL play-action rate sits at about 25% through two weeks of play, a handful of teams have taken it to the next level — one being the Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson and company are running play-action more than 40% of the time through Week 2, one of two teams to do so.

In 2018, the Ravens did so on less than 30% of their pass plays, still ranking in the top 10. But thus far in 2019, it has been Jackson’s bread and butter. He is tied for sixth in adjusted completion percentage on such throws, and his 142.9 passer rating slots him in at fifth-best. A season ago, Jackson managed just 42 completions on 72 attempts off play action, including more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws.

It’s been a different story early in 2019, as Jackson already has one more play-action touchdown pass than he did all of last year. And tight end Mark Andrews, one of Jackson’s favorite targets, already has six catches on seven targets for two touchdowns on play-action. That’s a torrid pace to begin the season — one that opposing defenses will need to keep an eye on.

Quenton Nelson was steam-rolling his opposition in Week 2

Down in the trenches, few NFL GMs wouldn’t choose Quenton Nelson as a player to build their offensive line around. He’s tough, he’s nasty and he gets the job done. That was true in 2018 as a rookie, and it’s true yet again in 2019. After surrendering one pressure on 30 pass-blocking snaps in Week 1, he one-upped himself with none allowed on 35 pass-blocking snaps.

That culminated in an 88.3 pass-blocking grade for Week 2, fourth-best among all offensive linemen who played at least 30-plus blocking snaps and second-best among guards. Nelson was strong in run-blocking too, posting a 71.4 grade in that facet to slot himself in as the sixth highest-graded guard in Week 2.

NFL Week 2: PFF recaps for all 16 games

PFF’s ReFocused series features immediate takeaways from the two analysts who graded the game live. The two offer a detailed breakdown of the game’s most notable performances before the grades and advanced stats are reviewed and finalized by Senior Analysts. Read all 16 game recaps…

Read More PFF Analysis


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