Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Rookies of the 2012 NFL Postseason

Brian Wright@@BrianWright86Correspondent IIJanuary 19, 2012

Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Rookies of the 2012 NFL Postseason

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    The postseason stage is a time for experience to prevail. Performances by Tom Brady and Eli Manning have made sure that adage has held true.

    But the playoffs have also been a time for the youngsters to mature and make a name for themselves. More specifically, rookies are capping off their initial professional season with solid efforts that could carry over in the future.

    Here are the 10 best first-year players over the course of this postseason.

10. Titus Young

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    Just as Young is still a newcomer to the NFL, the current crop of Detroit Lions got to find out what the playoffs are like.

    The franchise's first postseason appearance since 1999 ended abruptly in the Superdome at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.

    It started out positively thanks mainly to Young. The former Boise State star had two catches for 26 yards as well as one rush for eight yards on Detroit's opening drive. That march led to a field goal.

    Young finished with four receptions for 33 yards.

9. Cameron Jordan

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    The 22-year-old's playoff debut didn't have much production, as the Saints defensive end registered just one tackle in the victory over Detroit.

    Against San Francisco, Jordan provided six solo tackles.

    He and the rest of the New Orleans defense wasn't able to limit Alex Smith and the victorious 49ers.

8. Jacquian Williams

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    Williams is the first on the this list that can actually improve on his playoff stats in the near future thanks to the New York Giants participating in the NFC championship game this Sunday. 

    In the two victories, the backup linebacker recorded four and five tackles, respectively. All of them were of the solo variety.

    The first-year player out of South Florida can make amends for his zero tackle outing against the Niners in San Francisco earlier this season.

7. Martez Wilson

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    Like his teammate Cameron Jordan, Wilson's season came to a premature end with the Saints' heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.

    In that contest, Wilson notched three tackles (two solo), 1.5 sacks of Alex Smith, as well as a forced fumble.

    That would prove to be his only production of the playoffs. No. 95 was held without a mark on the stat line in the Wild Card meeting with the Detroit Lions.

6. Von Miller

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    When all the awards are handed out, it may very well be Von Miller who takes the Defense Rookie of the Year honor.

    However, he would not get top billing in terms of the playoffs.

    Miller, the No. 2 overall pick out of Texas A&M, was no slouch during the regular season. He finished 2011 with 11.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

    Against the Steelers, Miller posted another sack (no surprise) and put up three tackles.

    However, he was all but absent in the showdown in Foxborough. Possibly due to a hand injury, the linebacker didn't register a sack or a tackle.

    The only noise he made was in instigating a late-game brawl.

5. A.J. Green

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    The rookie connection of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green became one of the driving forces in the Bengals' road to an unexpected trip to the playoffs.

    With five catches and 47 yards in Cincinnati's Wild Card loss to Houston on Jan. 7, Green was his team's leading receiver. It also was the most receptions posted by the young wideout in three contests.

    Unfortunately for he and the Bengals, the postseason output didn't match his 70.5 yard per game average that he established throughout the course of his first pro season.

4. Quinton Carter

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    The Oklahoma product bested his star teammate with a pair of interceptions during his two postseason games.

    Pick No. 1 came off the arm of Ben Roethlisberger in Denver's Wild Card upset over Pittsburgh.

    The second occurred when Tom Brady threw a deep ball in the direction of prized tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady's first quarter toss was off-line and landed right into the hands of Carter, who returned it to the New England 24-yard line and set up the Broncos' only touchdown on the evening.

    In addition, Carter had 10 tackles (five solo).

3. T.J. Yates

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    The fifth-round pick out of North Carolina was placed in the most uncompromising of positions when he was asked to quarterback the title-contending Houston Texans after starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Lineart went down with injuries.

    Yates performed adequately at first, winning three in a row. The last of that trio clinched Houston's first division title.

    He then managed the game enough to help the Texans prevail over the Bengals in the opening round.

    Yates' rookie status became noticeable when he faced the Baltimore Ravens defense, throwing three interceptions in a 20-13 loss.

    Nevertheless, Yates should be given his share of praise for holding the Texans together through their string of physical ailments.

2. Brooks Reed

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    The Houston Texans had the top rated defense in the NFL thanks to the addition of coordinator Wade Phillips, the play of experienced veterans and the early growth of youngsters.

    Reed falls into the last category with his six sacks and 45 tackles. The 6'3'', 260-pound rookie linebacker from Arizona made the most out of his time on the big stage with 3.5 more QB takedowns and a forced fumble.

1. J.J. Watt

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    The Texans are blessed with a pair of potential young stars on the defensive line.

    But of the two, Watt has more talent and has had a better postseason.

    Houston's No. 10 overall pick out of the University of Wisconsin augmented his 56-tackle and 5.5-sack regular season with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his two playoff games.

    Against Cincinnati in the Wild Card Round at Reliant Stadium, Watt made a spectacular defensive play when he snatched an Andy Dalton pass with one hand and took the interception back 29 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

    The score gave Texans a 17-10 lead and proved to be the turning point in their first ever postseason victory.