The 2020 regular season is now beyond the midway point and as we’ve gone over in recent weeks, there have been plenty of surprises as well as plenty of letdowns.
But the surprises tend to run more deep and extend beyond just unsuspecting players performing at a high level. There are also several household names who have exceeded expectations and are playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Here is a look at five of those players.
5. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos
Over the first three seasons of his career, Garett Bolles looked like a potential draft bust in the making. During that span, he was among the most penalized offensive lineman in the game. He even drew the public ire of his general manager, John Elway. Outside of the penalties, Bolles was average at best, and at his worst, struggled in pass protection. Here in 2020 however, the former first-round pick has completely — and we mean completely — turned a corner. Not only has Bolles seen a dramatic decrease in the number of penalties called against him, he leads all tackles with a 90.2 Pro Football Focus grade and is top four in both pass protection and run blocking grades (1st). That’s Pro Bowl stuff any way you slice it, and the reason why he got a big contract extension from Denver.
4. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Brandon Graham feels like a player who will forever be underrated, and it’s no different here in 2020. Through eight games this season, the relentless smack-talking Graham has recorded 7.0 sacks, which is just 2.5 shy of his career high. His 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade is also tops among Eagles defenders, second overall on the team, and within the top 15 (11) league-wide at his position. Graham is consistent and can be relied upon for a certain level of play each week and that speaks volumes about his overall value to the team away from statistics, numbers and analytics. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s played well for 11 consecutive seasons and never once been named to the Pro Bowl. That could very well change this year.
3. Leonard Williams, DL, New York Giants
When the Giants acquired Leonard Williams from the New York Jets in 2019, general manager Dave Gettleman faced overwhelming criticism. However, it may be Gettleman who gets the last laugh after all. Williams is second on the Giants (250-plus snaps) with a 79.9 Pro Football Focus grade and leads the defense with 6.0 sacks. Always stout against the run, Williams has drastically improved his pass rush, and he’s arguably the best all-around player in East Rutherford. His play has helped elevate a defense that has unexpectedly kept the Giants in all but one game this season.
2. Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers
Robby Anderson spent an entire career with the New York Jets hovering around 750-800 yards per season with the sole exception of 2017 when he broke out, finishing the year with 941 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a glimpse of what Anderson could achieve, but a plateau he never reached again — until now. Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, and that appears to have been the right move for his career. Through 12 games this season, Anderson has hauled in 75 receptions for 912 yards and two touchdowsn. His 74.7% catch rate also represents a career high by nearly 20%. If Anderson gets those TD numbers up, there’s no denying that’s Pro Bowl-level play.
1. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Miami Dolphins
Entering his fifth NFL season, Emmanuel Ogbah had never recorded more than 5.5 sacks, which he did twice in his career — first as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns and then again in 2019 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Through 11 games in 2020, Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 8.0 sacks and 14 QB hits. But his impact is not exclusive to rushing the passer. Ogbah also has three forced fumbles and is third on the team with five passes defensed. Collectively, those numbers also make him one of the most successful all-around defensive ends in football and should warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration.
Photo: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia via CC-BY 4.0
It may be hard to believe, but there are just two weeks remaining in the 2019 regular season. For some players, there is more on the line over the final two weeks than others. These last two games could be the difference between a massive contract and a one-year prove-it deal or, in some cases, the difference between playing again or being forced into retirement.
Here’s a look at five players with the most to gain over the final two weeks.
5. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos
Those in Denver appear to be at a breaking point with the former first-round pick out of Utah. Bolles has been a model for inconsistency over his first three seasons. He has frequently struggled with basic technique and, as a result, racked up a laundry list of penalties, including 12 holding penalties this season (five accepted). However, over the previous three weeks, Bolles appears to have finally broken some ground and played completely mistake-free football. It’s the first time he’s shown the Broncos he’s capable of remaining a starting tackle. If he can play well over the final two weeks, he will force Denver into a difficult decision about whether to pick up a $9-10 million fifth-year option for 2021 or not.
4. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Buccaneers
It’s been an up-and-down season for Winston, which is a trend that seems to manifest each time he plays. At times, Winston looks like an All-Pro. At others, he looks like a guy who should be in some other line of work. As a result, there has been a lot of speculation about Winston’s future and whether or not Tampa Bay is the right fit for him. Either way, Winston needs to show up over the final two weeks of the season and show some level of consistency if he wants to sell the Buccaneers on keeping him around for 2020 (or beyond), or convincing another team to take a flier on him.
3. Vic Beasley Jr., DE, Atlanta Falcons
Beasley was rumored to be on the market ahead of the NFL trading deadline, but he drew very little interest from contending teams — for good reason. After leading the NFL in sacks in 2016 (15.5), the edge rusher has essentially fallen off the map. He recorded just five sacks in both 2017 and 2018, and entering December of this season, had logged just four sacks. However, in the last two games, Beasley has gotten hot and recorded three sacks, bringing his season total to seven. In a league that pays big money for edge rushers, Beasley stands to earn a good chunk of change if he can continue his hot streak over the final two weeks of the season and enter free agency with a double-digital total for 2019.
2. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, San Francisco 49ers
After several down years in Denver, Sanders was traded to the 49ers earlier this year amid much fanfare. He’s made the most of that opportunity, reminding those around the league that he’s still an explosive player capable of making an impact offensively, but he’s still on pace to fall short of some of his career-highs. After just a nine-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, Sanders now has only two games to get back on track and potentially reach the 1,000-yard mark, which will dramatically increase his value heading into free agency. And at 32 years old, this is likely Sanders’ final opportunity earn a multi-year deal with a solid salary, so he’s got two more games to earn the most amount of money possible.
1. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
For a moment earlier this year, the Trubisky era in Chicago appeared destined to end. He was benched at one point this season (later attributed to a hip injury), but returned a week later and has remarkably played much better since. However, Trubisky still needs to play well (if not at much higher level) over the final two weeks of the season if he wishes to convince the Bears that picking up his fifth-year option worth more than $24 million is a prudent move. Yes, Chicago could move on from him without a dead cap hit if they were to pick up his option and he later suffered an injury, but if not, they would be tied to Trubisky and his massive salary for an additional year. That’s a difficult position Chicago may wish to avoid, but if the quarterback can go out and continue his hot streak (a two-interception game against the Packers not withstanding), he may earn himself a cool $24 million-plus.
The Denver Broncos dodged a bullet concerning left tackle Garett Bolles.
The rookie first-round pick went down with a leg injury during the third quarter of his team’s win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. There was initial fear that he could have broken his ankle. However, as of Monday, reports said Bolles avoided a serious injury.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph says Bolles has a lower leg bruise and is week to week.
This result is even better than what 9News’ Mike Klis reported, as he said Bolles had a high ankle sprain.
Allen Barbre took Bolles’ place at left tackle after he exited the game.