NFL Week 12 Breakout Player: Jeremy Chinn
The NFL season is in the home stretch, and now more than ever are games starting to matter. In what was possibly one of the strangest weeks of football in recent years there were a variety of unique and interesting storylines that have developed from this weekend, which will go a long way to shaping the playoff race as a whole.
By James Pike.
Thanksgiving gave fans a feast on Thursday night, as the Houston Texans continued to build momentum with a big road win over the hapless Detroit Lions. Despite a 2-7 start to the season, Deshaun Watson’s mesmerising play has seen Houston win back to back games, and they are back in the playoff hunt as unlikely as that may have seemed two weeks ago.
Our second tilt on Thanksgiving saw Washington briefly take over top spot in the NFL East with another big road win over the Dallas Cowboys. Antonio Gibson exploded for 115 rushing yards and three touchdowns in what could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the Cowboys season.
Things then started getting crazy. The Ravens and Steelers: slated to be the main course of the Thanksgiving triple header was moved to Sunday. Then Monday. Then Tuesday…. Now the game has tentatively been scheduled for Wednesday night due to the Ravens COVID outbreak. This has quite frankly been an absolute disaster, which is potentially putting the entire season in jeopardy. Nevertheless, the NFL are doing everything they possibly can to make sure that the game happens this week, and that the contingency plan doesn’t have to come into effect.
It wasn’t just off the field where things started going a bit nutty this week, as the Sunday slate of games continued to throw up curveballs left and right. The Atlanta Falcons continued their mini resurgence under Raheem Morris as they decimated an Las Vegas Raiders side who looked lost at sea throughout the contest. Derek Carr (unfortunately my fantasy quarterback this week. Boo, hiss!) who has been exceptional at limiting turnovers this season gave the ball away four times (three fumbles, one interception) which cost Las Vegas any hope of victory on the road. The Falcons continue to improve and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Tennessee Titans re-established dominance of the AFC South with an emphatic 45-26 win. Derrick Henry continued his MVP calibre season with a hat-trick of touchdowns and 185 total yards from scrimmage.
The late window of games saw truly one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Early on Saturday it was reported that the Denver Broncos would be forced to play Sunday’s game against the high flying New Orleans Saints without a quarterback, as they were all a COVID close contact to projected starter Jeff Driskel. Kendal Hinton; a practice squad wide receiver stepping in as the sacrificial lamb to the Saints elite defence. Predictably the Saints put the Broncos to the sword in a one-sided affair.
Our last strange phenomenon from week 12 was the otherworldly performance from Tyreek Hill. Clearly upset he was only ranked 8th in our consensus wide receiver rankings, the Kansas City Chiefs speedster took out his frustrations on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defence to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Mahomes and the Chiefs continue to prove that although they aren’t undefeated, they are still the team to beat in the NFL.
So where did our breakout performance come from this week you might ask? Surely Gibson’s monster performance at Jerry World against Dallas has to be up there with the best showings of the week? It definitely was, and up until Sunday I had all but pencilled Gibson in as this week’s breakout star. However, a player who has been exceptional all season long managed to put an exclamation point on his Defensive Rookie of the Year season, and further established himself as a perennial Pro Bowler for years to come.
Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Jeremy Chinn has been noticeable in his absence from this series this year, and although many Carolina Panthers fans have probably questioned why I haven’t spotlighted the former Southern Cal star. The reason for that is simple. He has been great since the very first snap of the year. How can a player breakout if they have been exceptional throughout the entirety of their debut season? Well Chinn managed to find a way this past week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite Carolina eventually losing this game and essentially ending their remaining playoff hopes for the season, the Panthers can be happy with what they have seen this season from this rebuilding squad. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheet, but his steady and consistent play has helped the Panthers stay competitive in most games so far this year.
Robby Anderson has helped to bolster a receiving corps which already had plenty of talent with the likes of DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. Mike Davis has proven to be a reliable understudy to All-World running back Christian McCaffrey who has been out for the majority of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, 1st round pick Derrick Brown is starting to find his feet in the NFL, as the nose tackle has flashed his considerable potential on numerous occasions in 2020. Brian Burns continues to establish himself as one of the best young pass rushers in the league, and Tre Boston is also having himself a nice season in the Carolina secondary.
The Panthers can be summed up this year as being solid if not spectacular. Jeremy Chinn's play, however, has been nothing but spectacular. He has already amassed 87 total tackles on the year, together with one interception, one tackle for loss, five pass deflections and is a consistent presence in both the running and passing game. He makes an impact on almost every snap, with his unique abilities as a hybrid safety/linebacker. His ability to impact the game was on full display in this tough contest between inter conference rivals on Sunday.
A true difference maker on the defensive side of the ball
In the 3rd quarter of an already hotly contested game in Minneapolis, Kirk Cousins dropped back to pass on a 3rd and eight from deep inside his own territory. The Panthers pass rush is able to get to Cousins, and the ball spills loose and straight into the grateful arms of Chinn, who expertly anticipates where the ball is headed and scoops it up for the easy score, handing the lead back to Carolina.
Then on the very next offensive snap the Vikings attempt a run to the right with superstar running back Dalvin Cook. The Panthers stuff the run, and are able to force the ball loose in a gang tackle, and who else, but Jeremy Chinn is there to strip the ball into his hands and walk into the endzone for a second time. Becoming the first defensive player in NFL history to do so on back to back plays.
Adding two touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball would be more than enough to be considered for inclusion on this list, however Chinn’s overall impact on the game goes much deeper than just his two splash plays on the day.
He also forced a fumble, and was able to add 13 total tackles (seven solo and six assisted) to his impressive season numbers. His outstanding play in 2020 so far has been one of the main reasons why the Carolina Panthers have been able to hang tough in games against any team, any given Sunday. They pushed the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs all the way in week 9, and handed a loss to the highly touted Arizona Cardinals early in the season. There hasn’t been a game in which this team hasn't been at least competitive this year.
The emergence of Chinn couldn’t have come at a better time for the Panthers organisation as a whole. This past offseason; Carolina lost All-Pro Luke Kuechly when he announced his shock retirement at just 28 years of age. This was a bitter blow to the team as since the day he walked onto a football field, Kuechly was one of the best linebackers in the game, and a player who is almost irreplaceable in terms of the impact he has on his team.
With the addition of Chinn in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Panthers looked to have replaced one defensive stud with another. Luke now finds himself in a role as a scout for the Panthers, but I’m pretty sure that he is passing on his knowledge and experience to the young players coming through with the organisation. Jeremy Chinn is obviously reaping the rewards of having a Hall of Fame level talent still within the organisation.
This season was always going to be one of transition for the Carolina Panthers. After taking over from NFL legend Ron Rivera; Matt Rhule has already made some positive moves in the right direction. Adding talented players on both sides of the ball has helped, and if they can continue to improve during the 2021 offseason then this team could find themselves right back in the mix for the NFC South title next year.
Getting a healthy CMC back next year will go a long way to improving this team’s chances, furthermore if they can add players in the draft with even half the talent that Jeremy Chinn provides this organisation, then this team could be one we are talking about for years to come.