Chris Simms’ NFL All-Week 1 Team

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    Sometimes, you don’t realize how great an NFL player is until you study his game film. 

    Back when I was working with the New England Patriots, I was tasked with advance scouting the upcoming opponents. Basically, I would dig through film and hand in scouting reports Saturday so if Tom Brady or members of the coaching staff wanted to start studying the next opponent after the game Sunday, they could.

    I’ll never forget watching tape of the Seattle Seahawks defense in 2012—a week before we played Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos—and realizing Seattle was the bigger threat. Guys like Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman weren’t household names yet, and I didn’t realize just how special they were until I watched the film.

    This is precisely why I try to put lesser-known players on my All-Week teams as often as possible. When well-known guys like Calais Campbell get four sacks in a game, I can’t help but put him on my list. However, I like to draw attention to the upcoming stars you may not yet recognize. Maybe it’s the scout in me that never left, but I feel a responsibility to go past the stats and the star names and show you the things I see on film you might otherwise miss.

    As we navigate the 2017 NFL season, my All-Week teams will vary greatly. I’m going to pick my 11 best offensive and 11 best defensive players regardless of position, statistical prowess or profile. This week, for example, you’re going to find plenty of Kansas City Chiefs on the team. Complain if you want for favoring Kansas City, but the reality is that the Chiefs put together some of the best game film of the week.

    Who else put together tremendous performances in Week 1? Let’s break it down.

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    I’ve been extremely critical of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith over the years. I’ve even called him Charlie Checkdown in the past. Well, against the Patriots on Thursday, he was more like Bobby Bombs Away.

    Not only was Smith patient in the pocket against New England, but he had some big-time throws down the field as well. Few expected him to outduel Tom Brady in the season opener, but that’s exactly what he did.

    When you put up 368 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots in Foxborough, you deserve to be recognized. Smith’s movement, poise, accuracy and aggressiveness were somehow even more impactful than his stat line would show.

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    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford had the best game of his career Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.

    This is the first time Bradford has been part of a complete offense. He has a solid offensive line, a workhorse running back and some playmaking receivers. It’s amazing what those types of things will do for a guy—especially one as physically talented as Bradford.

    You might not realize how big Bradford is and how powerful of an arm he has, but it was on full display against New Orleans. Having a solid offense around him and a full offseason under his belt—he had about nine days to get ready for last season and still played well—is allowing Bradford to reach his potential.

    Bradford put on a show Monday night with some of the throws he made. He was on point, he threw receivers open and he showed his ability to zip a 100 mph fastball into tight windows.

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    Jacksonville Jaguars second-round offensive tackle Cam Robinson got his first NFL start Sunday against the Houston Texans. For him, it was “Congratulations, rookie, you get to face J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Come on down!”

    Robinson impressed in his debut, and he was a big reason why Blake Bortles was able to play well. He was an even bigger reason why Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory had big holes to run through.

    While Robinson wasn’t dominant all game long, he consistently battled guys like Watt and Clowney to a stalemate. He deserves credit for that. Most of the time when you turn on film, Clowney and Watt typically ruin the guys in front of them and ruin the opponent’s offensive game plan.

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    Mitch Morse is one of the NFL’s best centers. If you’re wondering why Smith had time in the pocket and why Kareem Hunt had open running lanes against New England, Morse deserves much of the credit.

    Playing center is no easy task against the Patriots, who almost always put a nose tackle right over the top of the center. What Morse did to some of the big guys on the Patriots line, especially Alan Branch, was impressive. Branch was one of the league’s most disruptive interior linemen last season, but Morse had him on skates the entire night.

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    Oakland Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele is one of those guys I try to avoid featuring here because for my money, he and Zack Martin are the two best guards in football.

    But what Osemele did against the Dick LeBeau-coached Tennessee Titans defense Sunday was remarkable. He saw a lot of different looks up front and almost never gave up ground in pass protection. His ability to open holes for Jalen Richard and Marshawn Lynch was even more impressive.

    There were times in the game when the Titans knew Oakland was going to run the ball. Regardless, Osemele managed to handle guys like Jurrell Casey in those situations. Actually, he did so all game long.

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    There’s a new freight train in the NFL, and his name is Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars rookie shined in his debut, and he should already be in the conversation for the NFL’s most violent, powerful runner.

    Fournette carried 26 times for 100 yards and a score, but those stats don’t do him justice. Several of his runs were in short-yardage situations, which hurt his yards-per-carry average. Regardless, he ran hard on every opportunity.

    You know defenders are scared to tackle running backs when they drag them down 10 yards downfield and then talk trash. That tells you they’re just glad they got the guy to the ground. That’s what we saw with Fournette against the Texans.

    Fournette also caught all three of his targets in the passing game for 24 yards. His pass-catching ability will help bail Blake Bortles out of countless jams this year.

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    Kareem Hunt terrorized the Patriots in Week 1, setting an NFL record with 246 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns in his debut. The most impressive thing about his performance might be that he did all of that after fumbling on his first NFL carry.

    Not only did Hunt prove he has mental toughness, he showed that he has speed and power in the run game. He’s a legit threat in the passing game, too, as evidenced by his 78-yard catch-and-run touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter.

    When you have 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns in your first regular-season game, you’re going to make the All-Week team.

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    The Chicago Bears may have something special with second-year power back Jordan Howard and fourth-round rookie Tarik Cohen in the backfield. The duo is a smash-and-dash combination.

    Cohen’s ability in the passing game is amazing. He’s a lot like Darren Sproles but with more power. He has the speed to run past guys and turn the corner upfield for big gains, and he can certainly make people miss. Don’t be fooled by Cohen’s small size, though, because he has the strength to run through arm tackles, too.

    Cohen was Chicago’s biggest bright spot on offense against the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears will continue to need that difference-making presence—especially in the passing game—because they’re suddenly lacking healthy talent at the receiver position with Cameron Meredith and Kevin White both done for the year.

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    Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown is another well-known player who just can’t be kept off this All-Week team. Look, the guy had 11 targets and came down with 11 receptions against the Cleveland Browns. He essentially was the Steelers all by himself.

    Brown’s ability to make yards after the catch was on full display Sunday. It’s amazing how he can jump up and make a leaping catch in the middle of three guys. Receivers his size typically can’t do that, but there’s a reason why Ben Roethlisberger has enough faith to throw Brown a jump ball.

    Brown is a special, fearless player, and Pittsburgh doesn’t beat Cleveland in Week 1 if Brown doesn’t go off the way he did.

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    It’s also kind of hard to exclude the most explosive guy in football. Nobody puts more fear into a defense than Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. Teams don’t just fear his ability to explode on speed sweeps, they fear his ability to gain yards after the catch and make an impact in the return game.

    When Hill lines up at receiver, defensive backs are frightened. They run backward almost immediately. Even then, Hill still has the quickness to run by them.

    Yeah, Hill had seven catches for 133 yards and a score against New England, but his night could have been even bigger. There were times when Hill was open down the field, but Smith either didn’t have time to find him or didn’t work through his progressions to that side of the field.

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    Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay had four catches for 69 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, but the quality of those catches was impressive. Two of them, of course, went for touchdowns.

    Golladay’s second touchdown catch made most of the week’s highlight reels, as he rolled over to secure the ball. His first touchdown catch, where he grabbed it in the back corner of the end zone, was not easy either.

    Golladay is a big, physical guy who can make plays over the middle, but he also has enough speed to threaten on the outside. This was his first NFL game, and he looked like he belonged.

    The Northern Illinois product appears poised to add a new dimension to the Lions offense. With Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and now Golladay, Detroit has a little bit of everything at the receiver position.

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    Defensive end Akiem Hicks was all over the field for the Bears in Week 1—both in the run game and the pass game. The stat line says Hicks had three tackles and two sacks against the Falcons, but again, the stat line doesn’t always do justice.

    There’s no statistic that shows how many times Hicks collapsed the pocket or got into the backfield to help derail a play. He did that with frequency. Not only did he push the running backs off course, he consistently got into the face of Matt Ryan and forced bad throws.

    Hicks is one of the NFL’s most underrated defensive linemen. His film from Sunday says he shouldn’t be.

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    Rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes was a big reason why the Raiders kept the Titans under 100 rushing yards. He consistently won the battles against Tennessee’s guards and even put All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin on his ass on one play.

    Vanderdoes was disruptive, but a lot of people might not even realize he’s starting in the middle of the line as a rookie. He was one of Oakland’s best defensive players Sunday, if not its best player, which you wouldn’t realize by reading the stat sheet.

    Vanderdoes recorded one tackle. His impact on the game was much more significant.

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    One thing people might not realize is that Vic Beasley isn’t a starter at defensive end for the Falcons. Derrick Shelby and Brooks Reed started at end against the Bears, and Beasley moved into the spot on passing downs.

    Yet Beasley is a bigger star than Reed.

    Reed had two huge sacks against the Bears, including the game-clincher. What was even more exciting, though, was his run defense. He did a great job against both of Chicago’s tackles, and he consistently set the edge in the run game. Though stout at 6’3″ and 254 pounds, Reed is a guy who plays even bigger and with more strength in the trenches.

    There were a lot of good Falcons defenders on the field Sunday, but Reed stood out above the rest.

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    Sacks are not easy to come by against the Patriots. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston got two of them. However, his impact on the game wasn’t limited to sacks. Houston made Brady uncomfortable throughout the second half, and he was solid against the run too.

    One of Houston’s biggest plays came when the Patriots had 4th-and-short in the fourth quarter. He stonewalled Nate Solder and put a stop to the play before it could get started.

    Houston is more physically imposing than people realize—he’s 6’3″, 258 pounds and all shoulders, legs and ass—and he looks as good as ever. More importantly, Houston looks on the field like the 22-sack guy he was just a few years ago.

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    It sucks that this is the only time I’ll be able to put Eric Berry on my All-Week team this year. We’ve talked about what Houston did for the Chiefs defense, but I’m not sure Kansas City would have won in Foxborough without Berry.

    First of all, Berry made the first 4th-and-short stop, when the Patriots were deep in Chiefs territory and in position to jump out to a big lead. More importantly, he did a better job of covering Rob Gronkowski than perhaps anyone I’ve ever seen.

    Everyone knows Gronkowski is going to be a focal point of the Patriots offense every week. Berry made Brady uncomfortable throwing the ball to one of his favorite targets, which is rare.

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    There’s no way to keep Campbell off this list. His first game with the Jaguars resulted in a franchise record for sacks. That justified his four-year, $60 million contract and helped show why the Jacksonville defense shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    Campbell was dominant in all phases against the Texans. He was good against the run and when pushing the pocket into the face of the Houston quarterbacks. That’s not surprising given his 6’8″, 300-pound frame.

    I remember stepping onto the field with Tennessee when we scrimmaged Arizona in the preseason in 2010. I looked across the field and said, “Holy crap, who is that tree trunk of a man?”

    The television doesn’t do Campbell justice when it comes to his size. The game film does when it comes to his ability.

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    The Baltimore Ravens have had one of the slowest secondaries in the NFL over the past few years. That is no longer the case, thanks to the addition of guys like safety Tony Jefferson.

    If you turn on the film against the Cincinnati Bengals from Sunday, the first guy you notice in the back seven is Jefferson. Not only is his speed and range impressive, but his read-and-react skills are phenomenal.

    Jefferson isn’t afraid to come up and make tackles or play the run. The way he’s willing to throw his body around like he’s 270 pounds is amazing, and it made him a difference-maker against Cincinnati.

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    In the first game of the year for a team that hasn’t been good over the past couple of seasons, cornerback Trumaine Johnson helped get the Los Angeles Rams off to a good start.

    Johnson recorded the big pick-six to start the game, and shortly after that, he added a forced fumble on wideout T.Y. Hilton. Those plays started the avalanche against the Indianapolis Colts.

    While Johnson might not be one of the five best corners in football, he’s somewhere between eight and 15. There aren’t a lot of defensive backs with his size and strength who can also move the way he moves. He was one of the league’s best defenders Sunday.

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    The Green Bay Packers’ Mike Daniels was the most disruptive defensive lineman of Week 1 other than Campbell. He finished the game against the Seahawks with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble.

    As is often the case, though, his full impact could not be measured just by the stats.

    The Seattle line isn’t on the same level as, say the Dallas Cowboys’, but Daniels was consistently in the Seahawks’ backfield. He was in Russell Wilson‘s face early and often, and he regularly busted through the line and rerouted the running back.

    Daniels is the best player on the Green Bay defense, hands down. He showed it Sunday.

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    Listen, people are probably going to wonder why rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson is on this team when he gave up a few receptions against the Raiders. Well, whoop-de-do, this is the modern NFL, and the rules mean even Deion Sanders would give up a few receptions per game.

    Jackson was making his first NFL start and going against perhaps the most dangerous receiver duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He didn’t have the benefit of a top-tier pass rush pressuring Derek Carr either. Considering that, he handled himself remarkably well.

    Jackson was phenomenal in man-to-man and was never cleanly beat. He gave up a few contested catches, but he continually bounced back. He broke up his fair share of passes as well.

    At no point did Jackson look like he didn’t belong. He’s an exceptional man corner, and he’s smart enough to understand exactly how to play zone defense when the situation calls for it. He understands what his roles are, and he understands what offenses are trying to do.

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    There’s been a lot of talk about a rookie linebacker named Reuben Foster over with the San Francisco 49ers. Well, people may have forgotten about Lions rookie Jarrad Davis. Coming out of the draft, I thought Davis was every bit as good as Foster but had more physical ability.

    Davis is an elite sideline-to-sideline player and a violent tackler. This is the type of defender Detroit has been missing the last few years. He’s a guy in the middle of the defense who can wreak havoc against the run but also run out and smack a receiver on a bubble screen.

    With nine tackles and a fumble recovery, Davis certainly stood out in his NFL debut. By the end of the season, don’t be surprised if he’s one of the best middle linebackers in the entire NFL—not just among rookies.


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