Chandler Jones’ Show-Stopping Performance, and Other Pro Football Focus Observations From Week 1

Former NFL cornerback Domonique Foxworth decided it’s never too early to talk MVP, asking his Twitter followers on Sunday to name their front-runner after Week 1.

By the end of the year, the answer will certainly be a quarterback, but this early? A certain pass-rusher was a popular pick.

Chandler Jones put together an absolutely magnificent season debut for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, racking up five sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in the first three quarters of a 38-13 rout of the Titans.

Jones could have taken aim at the single-game record of seven sacks, set by Derrick Thomas in 1990, but the Cardinals were up by so much that he wasn’t needed in the fourth.

Jones finished the game with a Pro Football Focus grade of 93.8, which was the second-best mark in the NFL in Week 1, pending Monday night’s game between the Ravens and Raiders. He was given a 93.1 pass-rushing grade, a 76.2 tackling mark and a 70.6 grade against the run.

The only player who topped Jones, per PFF, was Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. Heyward earned a 95.3 overall grade, as he was credited with one sack, 11 hurries, two batted passes and a forced fumble in Pittsburgh’s upset of the Bills.

The three defensive players who rounded out the top-5 PFF grades: Eagles defensive lineman Javon Hargrave (92.9 grade), Cowboys edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence (91.4 grade) and Chargers safety Derwin James (90.0 grade).

On offense, the ageless Tom Brady’s dazzling Thursday Night Football performance was not surpassed by any quarterback on Sunday. Here were the top-5 quarterback grades, pending Lamar Jackson and Derek Carr’s results:

1. Tom Brady, 93.0

2. Jalen Hurts, 89.5

3. Justin Herbert, 84.7

4. Kyler Murray, 84.5

5. Patrick Mahomes, 81.0

Mahomes was impressive, per usual, and his two star pass-catchers stood out. Tyreek Hill led the NFL in receiving grade with a 90.5 mark, followed by teammate Travis Kelce with an 89.2 grade.

49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (86.7 grade), Cardinals wideout Christian Kirk (85.9) and Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski (85.0) rounded out the top-five.

The top running back grade in Week 1, pending MNF, belonged to the Bengals’ Joe Mixon. He earned an 80.6 overall grade in Cincinnati’s upset win over the Vikings. Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin was second with an 80.1 grade, followed by the Jaguars’ Carlos Hyde (75.8 grade), the Falcons’ Cordarrelle Patterson (74.8 grade) and the Browns’ Nick Chubb (74.7 grade).

The five best linemen in Week 1, per Pro Football Focus, were Browns guard Joel Bitonio (93.5 grade), 49ers tackle Trent Williams (92.2), Browns tackle Jack Conklin (87.2), Bucs guard Alex Cappa (87.1) and Lions center Frank Ragnow (83.7).

On the flip-side, plenty of players struggled in the opener. Even though the Steelers won, Ben Roethlisberger was given a grade of 38.0, which was worst among NFL quarterbacks. 

Titans tackle Taylor Lewan and his backup, Kendall Lamm, were both victimized by Jones. Lewan finished with a 24.5 pass-blocking grade, which was among the worst in the league. Lamm had a pass-block grade of 27.9.

The Cardinals had the highest team grade at 82.7 overall. Jones, Kirk and Murray led the way, but there were a lot of effective pieces across the board. The Cardinals caught the eye of former Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who singled them out as the best team of Week 1 on Football Night in America on NBC.

“I’m on the Arizona train right now,” Brees said.

Tackle D.J. Humphries earned a top-10 grade among offensive linemen. Star wideout DeAndre Hopkins (81.8 overall grade) and rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore (80.9 grade) also shined. Moore averaged 16.0 yards-after-catch per reception in Week 1, best in the NFL. The Cardinals lacked that type of playmaker a season ago.

On defense, All-Pro safety Budda Baker had his usual stellar showing with a grade of 85.4. Cornerback Byron Murphy was often covering A.J. Brown or Julio Jones and did a fantastic job, finishing with an overall grade of 76.3 and a team-best 78.5 in coverage.

It was an impressive showing, especially considering Arizona was a three-point underdog against the Titans. The Cardinals are four-point home favorites on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

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