Every Tuesday, Bucky Brooks will bring a scout's perspective to some of the hot topics around the league.
Is Ben Tate about to Wally Pipp Arian Foster? It is hard to believe a player one season removed from winning the rushing title could have a difficult time getting his job back after an injury, but that's what Foster is facing if Tate's sensational play continues. Tate has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games and is flashing some of the skills that convinced the Texans to nab him with the 58th overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Tate, who is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, is a downhill runner with exceptional balance, body control and quickness. He attacks the line of scrimmage with an initial burst, but is a patient runner with a knack for finding seams against overaggressive defenses. He has a terrific feel for anticipating the flow of defenders and going after the open creases on the backside. Tate's no-nonsense style results in few negative runs, which keeps the offense on schedule and ahead of the chains.
Although Tate lacks the big-play ability (zero runs of 20-plus yards) of his counterpart, he has certainly played well enough to deserve a significant role in a back-by-committee situation.
Matthew Stafford is doing it again. You know the story by now: Stafford has shown instances of becoming a great quarterback during the past two seasons, but injuries have slowed him down. His remarkable start has once again illustrated his promise as one of the young stars at the position.
Stafford has connected on 65.3 percent of his passes for 599 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions while compiling a 112.0 passer rating. His arm strength, accuracy and ball placement have all been superb, and complemented by his anticipation and awareness.
In studying the tape against the Kansas City Chiefs, Stafford repeatedly led his receivers into open areas and his ability to fit the ball into tight areas resulted in big plays. His 36-yard touchdown pass to Tony Scheffler was a prime example of Stafford threading the ball between multiple defenders.
Stafford also displayed excellent placement, anticipation and awareness on his 29-yard pass to Nate Burleson in the second quarter. He delivered an accurate strike on a deep seam-route between a pair of defenders and in front of a closing safety.
Kenny Britt is on the verge of becoming elite. He has been sensational during the first two weeks and looks like league's next big-time receiver.
Britt, who has 14 receptions for 271 yards with three touchdowns, has been unstoppable. He has recorded five receptions of 20-plus yards while routinely blowing past defenders on deep balls. That kind of production is not surprising considering Britt had nine receptions of 40-plus yards in his first two seasons while acting as the Titans' deep threat.
This season, however, Britt has expanded his game by showing more versatility. He is not only running vertical routes on the outside from his customary split end position, but he also has been utilized in the slot in some multiple receiver sets. This enables him to work the middle of the field on an assortment of seam-routes and deep crossers to take advantage of his superior size.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Britt towers over most defensive backs and provides Matt Hasselbeck with a huge target. This is especially critical on third down when opponents often use their diminutive sub-corners to cover slot receivers. Against the Ravens, Britt caught four passes on third down despite consistently facing some form of double coverage.
Chan Gailey has Ryan Fitzpatrick ballin'. Gailey has installed a spread scheme ideally suited for his quarterback's skills and the results have been spectacular.
Fitzpatrick has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 472 yards with seven scores and one interception. His 109.6 passer rating ranks sixth in the league and he has only been sacked once in 72 attempts.
Part of Fitzpatrick's efficiency should be directly attributed to Gailey's quick-rhythm approach that utilizes short and intermediate routes from open formations. The combination of quick throws and short routes allows Fitzpatrick to get the ball out of his hands before the pocket collapses under the duress of four-, five- and six-man pressures. With the spread and empty formations forcing the defense to declare their blitz intentions prior to the snap, defensive coordinators have found it difficult to get Fitzpatrick out of his rhythm and the Bills' offense has rolled as a result.
The Bills lead the league in scoring offense (38.5), rank second in first downs and are seventh in total yards. While that kind of production conjures up images of balls flying downfield, Fitzpatrick has only two 20-plus yard completions and is thriving thanks to a methodical approach. The Bills' small-ball attack is making them relevant again in the AFC East.