Under the Radar NFL Players of the Month: September

Under the Radar NFL Players of the Month: September

by October 1, 2021 0 comments

The calendar has turned to October and we have three full weeks of football in the books. Realistically, the football season is so quick that many players go under the radar and don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, which players deserve more credit and acknowledgment? Let’s take a look at five under-the-radar players from last month, but first, three players to keep an eye on moving forward.

Three Players to Keep an Eye on:

Five Under the Radar Players for September

1) Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders

These under-the-radar players are intended to be players that most people have not heard about, however, Carr is playing some of the best football of his career. Fans are seeing unreal numbers where the play calling and weapons are clicking. The biggest difference between this year and the last few years is the deep shots. Carr has always been an effective deep thrower but lacked the weapons to make these throws and capitalize on the opportunities. These deep shots are threatening to the defenses and remind them that Carr has the accuracy and arm talent to hit every blade of grass on the field.

In addition to the more active mobility and breaking pockets, Carr’s depth of target has finally increased. So yes, while the deep shorts are preventing defenses from coming up, he’s been effectively hitting the intermediate throws and making the right reads. Overall, the fact that Carr isn’t among the leaders of MVP candidates is shocking and shows how underrated he is.

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2) Jordan Mailata, LT, Philadelphia Eagles

Mailata had zero sacks through two weeks and is on the cusp of going from underrated player to consistent top offensive linemen in the NFL. It’s chilling, considering all general manager Howie Roseman did was take a simple gamble on the upside of Mailata. Considering the size at 6’8” and 365 lbs to go along with the movement skills of a rugby player. The video below shows Mailata scoring a ‘Rugby Try’, but watch the body control and quickness he moves with. These traits are still evident when he’s burying edge rushers in the run. As well, let us praise Mailata’s ability to learn, as pass sets, which are difficult to master, have smoothed out and become more consistent.

The violent hands, quickness with size, and power are Mailata’s dominant traits. These traits are becoming more prevalent as he refines his technique, pass sets, and hand placement. He is still showing signs of growth during the beginning of the season, and considering he only started playing football in 2018, the best is yet to come.

3) Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys

Diggs has played extremely well in a zone-heavy Dan Quinn scheme. With a bevy of defenders missing due to injury, Diggs has stepped up and provided this team stability. His potential is somewhat difficult to project, as he’s still getting better in man coverage but has the tools to be elite in zone coverage. His ability to use contact at the line and throughout the route is still becoming more effective. As well, his reading of the play and diagnosing of routes, passing concepts, and offensive plays has improved dramatically since last year.

The game, in his second year, is starting to slow down which is allowing him to make plays. Diggs has always been a ballhawk, and we were reminded of this with his three interceptions this year (one in each game), however, these skills will continue to improve and be on display as he gets more comfortable in Quinn’s scheme. If Diggs maintains his level of play, there should be confidence from fans that he can be the team’s best and most reliable corner.

4) B.J. Hill, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive tackles hardly get any love, largely due to optics of stats and not impacting the box score. Rather an effective way of finding if a defensive tackle is doing their job is to see the opportunities of the players around them, such as linebackers and other linemen. This is the reason why Logan Wilson isn’t on this list, Hill is allowing him and others the opportunity to wrap up plays. While Wilson has been good through three games, Hill has been the more effective player. Hill is preventing offensive lines from getting to the second level while taking on double teams. Then he is also using his hand usage, power, and leverage to blow up plays.

Moreover, when analyzing his pass-rushing ability, it shows up game after game. While three sacks don’t seem impressive, he drives interior pressure and has forced quarterbacks to bail pockets early. This impressive three-game run will be difficult to sustain, but if he can consistently go up against top talent and make plays, Hill should be a benefactor of a new contract.

5) A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Buffalo Bills

Epenesa was always an interesting projection to the NFL, as many people questioned if he could play outside as a 4-3 or an interior 3-4 pass-rusher. However, what was evident on film from Iowa, was Epenesa’s quickness and burst off the line, which made him versatile. His rookie year was full of those ups and downs of adjusting to the NFL, where there were flashes where his play made an impact. Enter year two, where Epenesa has transcended from a flashy player to a consistent table-crashing defensive lineman.

He still maintains the quickness, while bolstering improved hand usage, specifically the power and placement in his hands allows him options of collapsing the pocket with inside moves or using leverage to move outside and crash into the quarterback. Statistically, NFL notes Epenesa has zero sacks, however, pass-rushing grades from PFF are more detailed and show that pass-rushing pressure is more than sacks. Epenesa has six hurries (where the quarterback has to get rid of the ball faster than they want/anticipate), and three quarterback hits, both of which have lasting effects on the quarterback. To leave a high impression on you, in 2020 Epenesa had 291 snaps with only seven pressures. Compared to 2021, where Epenesa has 53 snaps and 15 pressures.


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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

Contributor for Prime Time Sports Talk for the NFL. Covering the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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