The football analysis website Pro Football Focus (PFF) looks at every single snap over the course of the season and they have started to release their grades from week 6 of play. The New England Patriots handled their business against the Cincinnati Bengals and three players rank in PFF’s top 10 players of the week.
9. LB Dont’a Hightower
“Two sacks will get him plaudits, but just as important is the fact [Hightower] notched five total pressures from only 10 pass-rushing plays on the blitz,” PFF writes. “In coverage he was up quickly to stop the play for minimal gains, and one of his sacks produced points in the form of a safety.”
PFF also notes that Hightower allowed just 13 receiving yards in coverage and has the best pass rushing grade of all NFL linebackers. Let’s hope that he stays in one piece when Jamie Collins returns to the field.
3. TE Rob Gronkowski
“New England’s Gronkowski-Brady connection is back in full force, with the tight end racking up a career-high 162 receiving yards against the Bengals on Sunday,” PFF notes. “Cincinnati simply did not have an answer for Gronk, with LB Karlos Dansby, LB Vontaze Burifict, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S George Iloka, S Shawn Williams (twice), and CB Josh Shaw each surrendering a catch to the TE. In total, Brady connected with Gronkowski on seven of eight pass attempts for an average of 23.1 yards per reception and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.”
Gronkowski is back and is unstoppable. When TE Martellus Bennett is healthy, the Patriots will have the most dynamic offense in the NFL. Gronk and Bennett are basically the offensive equivalent of Collins and Hightower.
1. CB Malcolm Butler
“Butler was thrown at seven times by the Bengals in New England’s victory, but he gave up just three catches for 17 yards,” PFF writes. He broke up the other four passes, and only surrendering a touchdown tarnishes an otherwise excellent performance.”
People might complain about the Patriots secondary allowing passing yards to the Bengals, but the blame doesn’t go to Butler who has been playing his best football in recent weeks. This defensive unit appears to be getting its footing and will continue to improve.