NFL Preseason Games: Most Encouraging Rookies Through 2 Weeks of Action

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 17:   Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins drops back to pass against the Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The NFL preseason is only halfway over, but some first-year players are giving all the right impressions with their new squads.

Before you say anything, I know, it's preseason. Judging players, or teams, on an exhibition basis is a dangerous game, but you can still tell if a rookie has the "chops" in his first handful of NFL snaps.

Let's take a look at a few rookies who are showing that they were the right choice for their franchise last April.


Matt Kalil

Kalil is going to have more eyes on him than anyone else on the Vikings' roster, but he's handled it so far. As Minnesota's future (and current) left tackle, he's going to face a plethora of elite pass-rushers.

So far he's been thrown right into the fire. He matched up with San Francisco's Aldon Smith in Week 1. That's a tall order, even for a rookie with his potential. Against Buffalo in Week 2, Phil Loadholt had the privilege of matching up with Mario Williams, and Kalil had to face Mark Anderson.

Kalil whiffed once on Smith in Week 1, and he struggled to settle in against Anderson in Week 2, but he's looked excellent overall. It's obvious that he's seen the likes of Jared Allen throughout Minnesota's training camp, and he appears ready to go.

Adjusting to the size and speed of NFL ends is always tough for offensive lineman, but Kalil has passed every test thus far.


Ryan Tannehill

Maybe it's my stunted expectations of Tannehill. I thought he was overrated coming out of Texas A&M, and I thought the Dolphins reached when they took him at No. 8 in the NFL draft.

So far he's changed my mind, and I actually think he should be Miami's starter from Week 1.

Miami is 0-2, but Tannehill has thrown for 267 yards in two games. He's only thrown one touchdown, but more importantly, he hasn't thrown an interception.

Against Tampa Bay in Week 1, Tannehill completed 14-of-21 passes. He only completed 11-of-23 in Week 2 against Carolina, but that doesn't take away from his excellent play so far.

Tannehill's progress is much further along than expected at this point. He isn't going to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs this year, but he's earned the right to play as a rookie through two preseason games.


Quinton Coples

Coples' stock entering the NFL was all over the place. He's obviously a physical specimen, but he never performed up to expectations as a North Carolina Tar Heel. 

As a New York Jets player, he's done nothing but impress so far.

So far, he has seven unassisted tackles, two sacks, a pass deflection and a forced fumble in two games. His Week 1 performance against Cincinnati was a major portion of that.

Coples looks the part. He's 6'6'' and every bit of 250 pounds. Ideally he's a dominant two-way force from his end position. The Jets desperately need a pass-rushing presence to help their dynamic secondary, and he could be that guy.

All early indications point to Coples playing better than expected as a rookie this season. He's had an active motor, and he seems to want it more than he ever did at the college level.

These three players aren't the only three rookies who have stood out so far, but their performances are huge to their team's success this season. Keep an eye on them, and others, as the final two weeks of preseason play out.