Every year there are players across the league that don’t get the recognition they deserve. In this week’s 6-Pack Thursday, my goal is to bring some publicity to six of the players I’ve grown an appreciation for this year that I don’t believe receive the praise they deserve.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.
Let’s crack this thing open.
Chandler Jones, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals
Jones is an elite NFL defensive playmaker and he might be the most underrated player in the league. The NFL’s current sack leader with 12.5 in 11 games, Jones has racked up 89.5 sacks, 101 tackles for loss and 24 forced fumbles already across his first eight seasons. At 29 years old, Jones is already inside the top-50 for career sacks.
Jones has played in a variety of defensive schemes for way too many coordinators already in his career, and no matter what the circumstances are around him he produces at a high level. Amid a streak of double-digit sacks in five consecutive seasons, it’s time to start recognizing Jones as on the football’s elite defensive playmakers.
John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills
Who is the leading wide receiver in the AFC? DeAndre Hopkins? Nope. Odell Beckham? Wrong. Keenan Allen? Negative. It’s John Brown.
Racking up 805 yards and four touchdowns on 56 receptions, Brown has emerged as Buffalo’s go-to receiver. One of the best free agent signings last offseason, Brown is producing like a legitimate No. 1 receiver for Josh Allen who has displayed considerable growth in Year Two of his career. Brown joins Michael Thomas as the only two wide receivers in the NFL that has at least 50 receiving yards in every game this season.
Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos
General manager John Elway hasn’t been able to solidify the right coach/quarterback combination since Peyton Manning retired, but he has drafted some gems and his best find is arguably safety Justin Simmons in the third round of the 2016 draft.
A subpackage stud as a rookie, Simmons is now entrenched as a starter and has developed into one of the most well-rounded defensive backs in the game. Simmons is a standout run defender and tackler while also proving to be one of the most sound coverage safeties in the game. He’s allowing just a 38.1 passer rating against his coverage this season, coming into his own with head coach Vic Fangio.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Without question, Cook has performed like top-three back in the NFL this season. Second in the NFL with 1,472 yards from scrimmage, Cook leads the league in rushing touchdowns. He’s a multifaceted running back that excels as both an inside and outside runner but he’s also a dynamic receiving threat.
Cook has always impressed when he’s been on the field, but injuries plagued his first two seasons in the league. The production speaks for itself and it’s to talk about Cook in the Offensive Player of the Year discussion.
Quinton Dunbar, CB, Washington Redskins
There hasn’t been much in the way of positives regarding the 2019 Washington Redskins, but the emergence of Dunbar has been impressive. A receiver in college at Florida, Dunbar went undrafted in 2015 and transitioned early in his rookie season from wide receiver to cornerback. Dunbar has been sprinkled into the lineup and dealt with injuries from 2015-2018, but now he’s not only Washington’s No. 1 corner but among the best in the league this year.
Hauling in three interceptions and breaking up five passes, Dunbar is allowing only a passer rating of 51.3 to his coverage this season. He’s been a sound run defender to complement his lockdown coverage. His play this season is at a level that forces him into the Pro Bowl discussion.
Matt Feiler, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers
I give general manager Kevin Colbert a lot of credit for this one. He didn’t hesitate when Chris Hubbard left after the 2017 season, inking a five year, $37.5 million contract with the Browns. Hubbard has been a disaster in Cleveland, meanwhile Feiler has been on the NFL’s most steady blockers.
Taking over as Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle in 2018, Feiler has taken a step forward this season, especially in pass protection. The Steelers’ offense has been plagued with injuries, but Feiler has been a steady presence up front and has the makings of the latest offensive line gem in Pittsburgh.