Overlooked NFL players who are having strong seasons

Which overlooked NFL players are having strong seasons?

11/6/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

When a quarterback, running back, or receiver begins to dominate at his position, NFL fans immediately take notice. They see the highlights, the numbers on ESPN's Bottom Line, and the media constantly talking about the blossoming superstar. For players at other positions, however, it often takes much longer to gain recognition. Take Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, for example - Atkins has been dominating since his rookie year in 2010, but didn't get a whole lot of attention outside of Cincinnati until his All-Pro season in 2012.

Yesterday, I posted an article about some of the big names who have struggled in 2013. In this article, I am going to discuss some of the lesser-known, under-the-radar players who are having great seasons. Just as yesterday, I'll start with the defensive side of the ball:

Defensive Ends

Robert Quinn (STL): 
One of the better known players on this list, I added Quinn because, though many people recognize that he is having a good season, I'm not sure if people realize just how good he has been. His 10.0 sacks are just 0.5 short of his career-high, and 1.5 short of the league-leader (Robert Mathis). On 243 pass rushes, Quinn has applied some sort of pressure (a sack, hit, or hurry) 47 times - that's the best rate of any 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. To top it off, Quinn has also excelled in run defense. He has become a complete package and is the real deal.

Blog Photo - Overlooked NFL players who are having strong seasonsLamarr Houston (OAK): The Raiders don't have a whole lot to like about their team this year, but Houston is one of the few bright spots. He has racked up 38 total pressures (sacks + hits + hurries) despite being the only Raiders who is a threat to successfully rush the passer. Where he really excels, however, is in the run game. On 175 run plays, Houston has made 20 stops (a "stop," according to Pro Football Focus, is when a defender essentially shuts down an opponent's play without allowing a significant gain), giving him an 11.4% stop rate that leads all 4-3 ends.

Brian Robison (MIN): Playing opposite of four-time All-Pro Jared Allen, Robison does not get a lot of attention. Another reason that he gets such little recognition is because he rarely stands out in your standard box score - he has just 3.0 sacks in 2013. What most people do not realize, however, is that Robison leads the league - by far - with 40 quarterback hurries. The next closest 4-3 end in hurries is Charles Johnson (CAR) with 28. Robison is one total pressure behind Robert Quinn for the league lead at his position. The Vikings rewarded Robison in October for his strong play with a four-year contract extension.

Fletcher Cox (PHI): One of the late risers in the 2012 NFL Draft, Cox has been relatively quiet since entering the league. He had a decent rookie season as a 4-3 tackle, but has taken a huge step forward in 2013 as a 3-4 defensive end. He has generated one less total pressure than reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who leads all 3-4 ends. To top it off, Cox has been viable in run defense as well.

Cameron Jordan (NO): The 24th overall pick in 2011, Jordan looked to be heading towards bust status after a rookie season in which he started 15 games and registered just 1.0 sack. He's come on in 2013, however, and is a big part of the Saints' defensive turnaround. With 6.0 sacks through eight games, he is on pace for a career-high, and as far as pressures per pass rush, only J.J. Watt is a more efficient pass rusher from the 3-4 end position.
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