BY MICHAEL AUGUSTINE ON OCTOBER 9, 2013
Five weeks are in the books so lets revisit the KIAF rookie watch to see which players are making their first half case for NFL Offensive/Defensive Rookie of the Year.
-The New York Jets might have the best defensive line in football right now thanks in part to rookie Sheldon Richardson. He’s been an absolute beast against the run–his 15 stops are second to J.J. Watt (23) when comparing 3-4 ends. Richardson has ten total pressures (two sacks) and one batted pass. He also has 20 total tackles with just one miss. Snap for snap, no rookie defender has been as effective as Richardson through the first five weeks.
-Another AFC East defender stands out, this time up in Buffalo. The Bills have a stud on the inside with Kiko Alonso, who has 31 total tackles with 17 stops. Where Alonso makes his impact the greatest is in coverage. He’s faced 11 pass attempts and has allowed only 6 receptions while picking off four of those attempts–QB’s have a rating of 53.8 when he’s in coverage. Alonso will need to get better against the run if he wants to catch up to Richardson.
-Not to be outdone is another defensive lineman down in the NFC South–Carolina Panthers’ defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Another big-time run-stopper, Lotulelei has nine total tackles, four pressures (one sack), and six stops in 150 snaps. Lotulelei isn’t flashy but he does his job well and should ‘star’ for years to come as an interior lineman.
-Heading up a class of underperforming secondary rookies, Desmond Trufant has held his own alongside of Asante Samuel in coverage for the Atlanta Falcons. Considering the Falcons have almost no sort of pass-rush, the corners have done as best they can. That said, QBs are attacking Trufant with decent success–he’s is allowing a 65.4% completion rate. However, he’s allowed just one touchdown with five passes defended in 26 pass attempts. It’s going to be a rough year for Trufant, but he’s showing that he can roll with the punches thus far.
-Cincinnati Bengals’ Giovani Bernard has emerged as one of the league’s best running backs. Bernard has averaged 4.8 yards per carry, with 100 of his 214 rush yards coming after contact, as well as crossing the goal line twice. Currently, Bernard is 22nd in the league in rush yards with 45 carries. He’s also proving his worth as a pass-blocker, allowing just one hurry in 24 blocking downs.
-Another rookie back is emerging along with Bernard–Arizona Cardinals’ Andre Ellington. Though he’s only carried the ball 14 times, he’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has caused six missed tackles. It shouldn’t be too long before Ellington takes the majority of the carries away from Rashard Mendenhall.
-Houston Texans’ wideout DeAndre Hopkins has had a couple of rough outings recently but is still in the mix for ROY consideration. He holds a respectable 13.3 yards per catch and has one touchdown, but his play will have to pick back up to get more regular looks. However, the struggles of QB Matt Schaub hasn’t been helping his case lately.
–Tyler Eifert brings up the rear of our 2013 offensive rookies. That by no means should be an indictment of his early season achievements, as the first year tight end has been vital to the Bengals’ offense. Eifert has 17 catches for 212 receiving yards, 121 coming after the catch. Eifert is a fine receiving threat, but his strength lies in his blocking abilities. Eifert has been present in 111 passing downs and has yet to allow any sort of pressure on QB Andy Dalton.
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