A quick look at five unheralded performers

During the course of my film work each week for “Playbook,” many unheralded players jump off the film with their performances. Here’s a look at five players who might not get mentioned often but are on my radar right now:

  • Vince Wilfork: He is the senior citizen of a defense that has amazingly been rebuilt on the fly with six first-year starters. Now in his seventh season, Wilfork is the Patriots’ most experienced defender and their anchor. He’s playing both defensive end and nose tackle and is an every down player, which is rare for his size. He can get to the quarterback and knows how to collapse the pocket. Wilfork has great lateral movement, gets to the football and has amazing endurance.
  • Hakeem Nicks: He’s not breaking out, he has broken out as a No. 1 receiver. Every route Nicks runs is full-speed, his hands are strong and his mechanics are flawless. He goes out and earns every catch for the Giants, and is dangerous after the ball is in his hands.
  • Trent Cole: He’s relentless and his motor is amazing. Cole never takes a play off for the Eagles and is as effective against the run as he is as a pass rusher from his defensive end position.
  • Josh Sitton: The starting right guard of the Packers has emerged as their best offensive lineman. He’s a good one-on-one player and is also a good team blocker when the assignments require. Sitton is also both savvy and strong. He’s also helping rookie Bryan Baluga break in at right tackle. Sitton is “next.”
  • Charles Tillman: The Bears have a winning record for one reason, and one reason only: The defense creates turnovers and has forced a league-high 19 fumbles (recovering eight). No one in the league right now is better at stripping the ball than Tillman. He’s a great tackler, a good hitter and a solid coverage man while playing in a very difficult scheme where he’s often left on an island in one-on-one coverage.

— Brian Baldinger

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