Week 15 was a blast to watch. Backups took center stage, and stars lit up the scoreboard as multiple Oregon State heroes had big performances. Even three offensive linemen played like Pro Bowl veterans. Seriously, this was a really fun week, minus a Thursday night battle in the NFC West.
The Rams and Seahawks matchup featured a former Oregon State player in Johnny Hekker, so it’s the perfect jumping off point for discussion. First, let’s recap which former players are on practice squads or injured reserve.
Practice Squad Players/Injured Reserve Players:
1. Jordan Poyer - S Cleveland Browns - Jordan Poyer is on Injured Reserve with a lacerated kidney.
2. Scott Crichton - DE/DT Minnesota Vikings - Scott Crichton is currently on Injured Reserve.
3. Kyle Peko - DT Denver Broncos - Kyle Peko is currently on the Broncos Practice Squad.
4. Dylan Wynn - DT Cleveland Browns - Dylan Wynn is on the Browns Injured Reserve.
5. Obum Gwacham - DE New Orleans Saints - Obum Gwacham is on Injured Reserve with an undisclosed ailment.
6. Connor Hamlett - TE Cleveland Browns - Connor Hamlett is on the Browns practice squad.
7. Markus Wheaton - WR Pittsburgh Steelers -Markus Wheaton is on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury.
Beavers on Bye: None
Johnny Hekker - P LA Rams - Johnny Hekker wasn’t as busy on Thursday night as the Jeff Fisher-less Rams fell to the division rival Seahawks. The punter only punted four times for an average of 50 yards and a long of 66. Hekker also had an incompletion on a fake punt pass intended for Mikel Thomas. This desperation trick play was doomed from the start as Thomas ran short of the first down marker, and Hekker threw a bad pass into the dirt. This was fairly unusual given that Hekker is money on his pass attempts, especially against the Seahawks.
Sean Mannion - QB LA Rams - Sean Mannion was inactive against the Seahawks while Case Keenum served as Jared Goff’s backup.
Matt Moore - QB Miami Dolphins - With Ryan Tannehill recovering from ACL and MCL sprains in his left knee, Matt Moore started at quarterback for the first time since 2012. The former Beavers quarterback was understandably sluggish at first given the amount of time spent on the bench (four years, 11 months, 16 days), but he quickly warmed up during the first quarter. Moore led a quick drive early where he hit Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and MarQueis Gray on big passes to set the Dolphins up at the one-yard line. Two goal line rushing attempts failed, so Moore dropped back on third down looking to run for the end zone. The Jets blocked the path, forcing him to scramble to the right and throw a dart to a diving Dion Sims. The play was initially called incomplete before a challenge turned it into a touchdown and kickstarted a flurry of passes to put the Dolphins up big time.
The four touchdown passes make for great stats, but they don’t truly show how brilliantly Moore played. For example, the Jets blitzed Moore eight times in the first half alone. On these eight drop-backs, Moore went 5-8 for 79 yards, two touchdowns, and a 134.9 quarterback rating. The veteran was fantastic as he recognized the incoming pressure and constantly delivered the ball to the right receiver. During the third quarter, the Dolphins were facing third-and-13 from inside their own 20. Moore dropped back and saw that all of his receivers were covered. Instead of forcing a pass to Kenny Stills or Parker, Moore scrambled around for a while, took some time off the clock, and slid down for a sack on the stat sheet. This running around also gave Matt Darr more room for his punt. A more inexperienced quarterback would have forced the pass and probably thrown an interception, which is something that Jets quarterback Bryce Petty did about two plays later.
The only black mark came in the second half when Moore didn’t put enough juice on a pass to Parker that was intercepted by Juston Burris. He recognized the blitz and threw a deep sideline pass to the open receiver, but he just didn’t throw it far enough. The rest of the day was phenomenal as Moore finished 12-18 for 236 yards with four touchdowns and one interception (passer rating of 126.2). This stat line made him the first Dolphins quarterback to throw four touchdowns against the Jets since Dan Marino in 1994.
Moore’s performance rewarded fantasy players who took a risk with 25.32 points in standard scoring and up to 50 points in enhanced.
D.J. Alexander - LB - Chiefs - D.J. Alexander was quite busy during a loss to the surprisingly tough Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs officially placed Derrick Johnson on Injured Reserve with a ruptured left Achilles, so Alexander made his first career start. The performance was a little inconsistent at times as the second-year linebacker occasionally took the wrong angle of pursuit when Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray ran for the sidelines. Other times, however, Alexander was fantastic stuffing runs up the middle.
The Oregon State linebacker tallied four tackles on the day and played virtually every snap before the Titans up-tempo offense forced the Chiefs to play nickel defense. He should be the starter next to Ramik Wilson for the final two games.
Steven Nelson - CB Chiefs - Like Alexander, Steven Nelson was very busy against the Titans with seven solo tackles, one assisted, and a pass defensed. Surprisingly, the majority of his tackles came against DeMarco Murray on running plays. The Titans focused on running the ball early, and Marcus Mariota didn’t really target any of the receivers being covered by Nelson. He instead focused on Marcus Peters and former Ducks defensive back Terrance Mitchell.
Nelson may have racked up the tackles, but he had a much quieter performance against the pass. His best play of the day came in the red zone when Mariota targeted Rishard Matthews on a deep pass. Nelson had perfect coverage and dove at the right time to knock the ball away.
Terron Ward - RB Atlanta Falcons - For the second week in a row, the Falcons were dominating a team so badly that Dan Quinn pulled his starters in the fourth quarter. Good news for Terron Ward, who had six rushing attempts against the 49ers starting defense. The second-year undrafted back responded with 52 yards rushing, including a 45-yard scamper where Ward burst untouched through the right side of the line and raced up the sideline. The 49ers eventually shoved him out of bounds around midfield.
Terron Ward has only played in five games, and in very limited fashion, but he has rushed 31 times for 151 yards and a 4.9 average. Not too shabby for the number three back in Atlanta.
Andy Levitre - Guard Falcons - As mentioned earlier, the Falcons offense was unstoppable for the second week in a row as a Julio Jones-less unit put up 41 points against the 49ers. Matt Ryan was only sacked once, and Devonta Freeman racked up 139 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Andy Levitre was heavily involved once again, leading the way on most of those runs and avoiding penalties. Freeman’s biggest run of the night was a 34-yard score/dagger that went right between Levitre and Jake Matthews.
The Falcons offense is entirely too much fun to watch when operating at full capacity, but it wouldn’t reach those heights without some help from Levitre, Matthews, and Alex Mack.
Mike Remmers - T Carolina Panthers - The Panthers may not be in the playoff race, but they deserve credit for constantly competing no matter the circumstances. The Redskins hosted the Panthers in desperate need of a victory, but they simply couldn’t compete. Carolina controlled the time of possession (34:39 to 25:21) and the ground game. Sure, Cam Newton and his offense didn’t light up the scoreboard like the 2015 team, but they made some big plays in the most critical times.
Mike Remmers was integral to this victory as he kept Newton clean from the left tackle position and was fantastic as a run blocker. On a night where Jonathan Stewart ran for 132 yards, Remmers led the way with his kickback blocks and sheer dominance. The perfect example was the Panthers final drive where Stewart and Mike Tolbert combined for five straight runs into field goal territory. The first of these runs was a humdinger as Stewart followed Remmers’ block and raced for 34 yards into Washington territory.
Once again, Remmers was a huge part of the Panthers’ victory, even if he didn’t get the main recognition.
Derek Anderson - QB Carolina Panthers - Derek Anderson didn’t see the field as Cam Newton stayed healthy, and the Panthers defeated the Redskins on Monday night.
Jacquizz Rodgers - RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jacquizz Rodgers was inactive on Sunday night as the Buccaneers headed to Dallas. According to the Bucs official web site, the inactive status had nothing to do with any injury, so the move was most likely caused by Charles Sims and Doug Martin being healthy. So much for those big claims by Dirk Koetter...
Brandin Cooks - WR - Saints - After back-to-back weeks of underwhelming play, Drew Brees was back in all star form for Sunday’s high flying contest against the Cardinals. Of course, this resurgence was huge for Brandin Cooks as he enjoyed another spectacular game. The speedy receiver ran his routes to perfection like usual, but the difference was that the passes were on target.
In the first half alone, Cooks caught four passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. One of these passes was a 65-yard beauty where he completely outran safety DJ Swearinger’s coverage, and Brees hit him in stride for the score. The second touchdown was almost as impressive as Cooks caught a low five-yard pass on third down crossing route and outran the Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu for a 45-yard score. Don’t forget that Mathieu is one of the best corners in the NFL, and he didn’t stand a chance against Cooks’ big play ability.
Of course, this is Cooks so his touchdowns weren’t the only great plays. Late in the fourth quarter, the speedy receiver had two huge plays that led to a Saints touchdown. The first was a sideline catch where he beat perennial Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson and somehow tapped both his feet inbounds. The second was a 36-yard catch-and-run where he beat zone coverage and raced to the Arizona 16-yard line.
Cooks finished his spectacular day with seven catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Isaac Seumalo - G Philadelphia Eagles - Isaac Seumalo may have been inactive to start the season, but he won’t be heading back to that list anytime soon. The rookie guard has played well enough that he has officially taken over as a starter on the right side side of the line. However, Seumalo is actually playing right tackle instead of his listed position at guard, and he is doing quite well with the change.
The Eagles offensive line struggled against the Ravens pass rush, except for Seumalo. He held up well in pass protection and kept Terrell Suggs (T-Sizzle) at bay. Minus an early holding penalty--declined by the Ravens--Seumalo had a near perfect performance. He even led the way for Ryan Matthews and two Ducks in Kenjon Barner and Byron Marshall as they ran for more than 150 combined yards. Even Matthews’ touchdown scamper went right through the hole that Seumalo created with his blocks.
It’s a little surprising that Seumalo has suddenly gained a starting role after the Eagles refused to play him early on. Oh well. The important thing is that he’s an important member of the line now.
Josh Andrews - G Philadelphia Eagles - Josh Andrews was active once again on Sunday, but he didn’t log any snaps against the Ravens.
Stephen Paea - DL Browns - Stephen Paea didn’t have any stats during yet another Browns loss, but he was active early on. The big defensive tackle mostly spent the entire game pushing the pocket and occupying double teams while the other defenders attempted to tackle LeSean McCoy. The majority of plays went to the boundaries away from Paea and left him few opportunities to contribute.
Week 16 of the NFL season starts Thursday with a battle between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, so Isaac Seumalo will be in primetime. BeaverBlitz will keep you updated as the week progresses.