Overlooked winners: Week 7

Every week, I try to find some unconventional “winners” who benefited — either directly or indirectly — from the events this past weekend. I’m listing my own, but please write in with yours as well. All season, you guys have mentioned some under-the-radar studs who helped bring attention to their nice weeks. Let’s all do the same again to help people get a better feel for the entire league.

Todd Wash, DC, Jacksonville

Week 7 winners
Under DC Todd Walsh, the Jacksonville D is among the league’s best.

When new/old Jags exec Tom Coughlin and company retained coach Doug Marrone and his staff (including unheralded defensive coordinator Todd Wash), I assumed that it was partly due to budgetary reasons. Coughlin could sit back and evaluate his roster for a year before making any permanent sweeping changes.

But right now, Todd Wash is starting to become NFL-nerd famous based on the amazing play of this defense. Okay, sure, it was the lifeless Indianapolis Colts, but a shutout is still a shutout. 10 sacks on the day (again!) is still 10 sacks. Some national writers mentioned Wash and NYJ OC John Morton as potential darkhorse head coaching candidates for next year; it may be a year early for them in that role, but they’re both establishing themselves as upper-level coordinators.

QB Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo

Similarly, it felt like the new management in Buffalo made sort of a non-decision decision with QB Tyrod Taylor. They didn’t boot him out — but they didn’t commit to him either. He’s in limbo, still trying to prove himself.

And while Tyrod Taylor’s performance in a win over Tampa Bay wasn’t especially noteworthy — 268 yards, 1 TD, 0 int — he’s continuing to grab hold of that job. He’s performing like a solid starter despite a fleet of “playmakers” like Deonte Thompson, Nick O’Leary, Logan Thomas, and some kid who stole Zay Jones‘ identity at the draft. More than anything, the Bills winning ways — up to 4-2 on the year — will make it hard to replace Taylor from a logistical perspective. They won’t be in a position to land a franchise QB in the draft right now, and betting on rookie Nathan Peterman as a better fit long term would be quite a projection and gamble to make.

DE Cameron Wake, Miami

Red-hot Josh McCown torched the Miami defense in the first half, jumping out to a healthy lead. And while Miami QB Matt Moore got some credit for the comeback, the defense deserves its due. DE Cameron Wake, in particular, helped turn the heat up and notched 2 sacks in the comeback win.

Those sacks give Wake 87.5 total for his career. That’s an amazing figure on its own, but all the more remarkable given that he had a late start to his NFL career. He only made the “League” after dominating in Canada; he got his first NFL action at age 27. Despite that, he’s only 12.5 sacks away from 100. Wake’s 35 now, but still seems to have enough gas in the tank to get there by sometime next season.

Vic Fangio, DC, Chicago

Another defensive coordinator? That’s right. In fact, I could have highlighted even more if we had room for Gus Bradley (LAC) and Kris Richard (SEA). But let’s focus on Vic Fangio, who continues to have his young Chicago defense on the upward trajectory. It’s not easy to win in the NFL when your QB completed 4/7 passes on the day, but the Bears did exactly that in an upset win over Cam Newton and Carolina.

Whenever I debate whether or not the Bears should fire John Fox, I always come back to the same concern: would that mean they’d lose Vic Fangio as well? That’s the type of domino that may be tough to live with, and by proxy may be helping Fox keep his job right now.

QB Blaine Gabbert, Arizona

Old Mister Johnson had troubles of his own

He had a yellow cat that wouldn’t leave its home;

He tried and he tried to give the cat away,

He gave it to a man goin’ far, far away.

But the cat came back the very next day,

The cat came back, we thought he was a goner

But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.

That’s the start of one of the creepier kids’ songs from my childhood, but also a good description of Blaine Gabbert’s career. You thought he was dead and buried, didn’t you? Well, my friends, just wait.

Going into the weekend, Gabbert had been buried as the # 3 QB in Arizona. But # 1 Carson Palmer suffered a broken arm, and # 2 Drew Stanton looked atrocious (5/14, 62 yards). Given all that, there’s a very serious chance that we could be looking at the return of Blaine Gabbert under center. With Palmer (and David Johnson) perhaps out for the season, Bruce Arians and company should be looking to the future, where Gabbert (still only 28) theoretically has more upside than Drew Stanton. The team may debate singing someone like Colin Kaepernick if they want to try and salvage their season, but I would still expect Gabbert to be the more likely option going forward.

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