With a quarter of the 2020 NFL season left to play, rosters still remain in flux due to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic. After connecting with my sources across the league and digging into the All-22 Coaches Film, here are six players poised for bigger roles in Week 14.
Replacing: Zack Martin (calf)
A better guard than tackle, Terence Steele will continue to play right tackle for the Cowboys, with Martin going on injured reserve. Steele is coming off one of his better pass-blocking performances, as he allowed just two pressures on 49 pass-blocking snaps against the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. Watching the tape, I observed that Steele showed good technique in pass protection and had a good anchor but encountered trouble against the inside rush and when blocking stunts. He handled the outside rush well, but keep an eye out for how he deals with a good speed rusher. As a run blocker, he is best in a limited area, because he can be inconsistent sustaining blocks against linebackers in space.
Replacing: Le'Raven Clark (Achilles)
The Colts are down to their third option at left tackle, with Clark and Anthony Castonzo sidelined with injuries, and Chaz Green is set to make his first start of the season. In 64 offensive snaps last week against Houston, Green played like I suspected he would as a O-lineman who has limited athletic ability, slow feet and trouble redirecting against the inside rush in pass protection. Green also struggles with speed rushes on the outside, but did show some anchor ability vs. the bull rush. As a run blocker, he played too high when blocking linebackers and had trouble adjusting to their movement in space. The Colts must get him some help in passing situations with an extra blocker.
Replacing: Carson Wentz (benched)
The book on Jalen Hurts coming out of college: Super athletic player with a quick release and strong enough arm to make all the throws -- however, his passes are occasionally batted down. I thought he was good at escaping the pass rush, but his decision-making, anticipation and accuracy were inconsistent. He had a tendency to hold the ball too long, but was able to make plays outside the pocket with his legs and arm.
Now, when looking at his performance in relief of Wentz last week against Green Bay, I thought Hurts did some good things. The rookie showed the ability to extend plays while also demonstrating a quick release and a strong arm, including excellent touch on a deep pass to Jalen Reagor. At times, though, Hurts took off with his legs when receivers were open downfield. More experience and work with the Eagles receivers should help him in this area. I look for Philly to use run-pass option, bootlegs and play-action to help move the chains with Hurts under center. Hurts will have to navigate a Saints defense that will force the rookie to beat it from the pocket while blitzing up the middle against the 6-foot-1 passer.
Replacing: Bud Dupree (knee)
Alex Highsmith showed some potential as an outside rusher in college, but lacked the strength to regularly beat tackles and set the edge to play the run. Now, he has big shoes to fill with Dupree, who has the fifth-most QB pressures (43) in the league this season, being lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in Week 12. The rookie was tasked with playing opposite T.J. Watt against Washington in Monday's game, aligning as the right edge on 50 of 59 defensive snaps and recording three QB pressures on 41 pass rushes (7.3%) in the loss. Watching his performance on the All-22 Coaches Film, I noticed that Highsmith struggled to beat the offensive tackle with his outside rush, but did have some success with inside moves, thanks to his quickness. I don't believe he is as good as Dupree as a pass rusher, but Highsmith is better in coverage. Against the run, I thought Highsmith would get engulfed by bigger blockers, but he played with quickness and a high motor and showed good hand use at times to shed blockers.
Replacing: Robert Spillane (knee)
Acquired in a trade with the New York Jets earlier this season, Avery Williamson is an excellent pickup for a Steelers team that is suddenly depleted at the linebacker position after injuries to Devin Bush, Ulysees Gilbert, Dupree and most recently Spillane. The veteran played well when filling in for Spillane in the second half of Monday's loss to Washington, recording six tackles in 37 defensive snaps (both highs since joining the Steelers). When watching the film on Williamson, I saw a player who is very instinctive against the run and pass. He often finds the ball and has a knack for slipping blocks against the run, but he can have some trouble shedding blockers if he is engaged. Williamson is best in zone coverage due to his above-average instincts, but will struggle in man coverage.
Replacing: Adam Humphries (concussion)
After missing the entire 2019 season with a shoulder injury, Cameron Batson could see an increased role as a slot receiver with Humphries going on IR this week. The third-year receiver has appeared in eight games this season and enjoyed his best outing of the year last week against Cleveland, when he hauled in three catches for 14 yards and his first career touchdown reception (from the slot) on an impressive 8-yard connection with Ryan Tannehill on fourth-and-5. Batson has reliable hands and good quickness, but not top speed. He's raw in his route running and instincts, but shows the ability to separate. At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, he is a small target who lacks strength, which limits him as a returner and runner.
Look for the Titans to use Batson in shotgun formation as a runner and on sweeps from the flanker position. When watching the tape, I see him as an underneath receiver with the potential to gain some YAC, but he's still somewhat limited by his size and strength.