NFL Rookie Report: Week 2 Grades for Every Team's Rookie Class
Evaluating the progress of a team's rookie class is a fluid process. Young and inexperienced players often see fluctuation in their performance, and therefore it's important to focus on the little things. This includes areas such as technique, mental makeup and the correction of mistakes.
In order to give a proper evaluation, I utilized the NFL's Game Rewind feature to review each team's performance.
Dallas Cowboys: B-
Picks: Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson, Danny Coale, James Hanna and Caleb McSurdy
Each week, the Dallas Cowboys' cornerback tandem of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr improves. Claiborne has already established himself as one of the better cover men in the league. He does a great job of playing several different types of coverage schemes, including man-to-man and zone.
The Seattle Seahawks were able to pick up yardage through the air this past weekend. However, most of the completions were to the tight ends and in the middle of the field. The wide receivers combined to tally seven receptions for only 79 yards.
Dallas is also working Tyrone Crawford in along the defensive line. He is still a bit raw, but the more playing time he receives the more he'll improve.
New York Giants: D+
Picks: David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants and Markus Kuhn
The once-rising stock of David Wilson has taken a major hit after his fumble in the first game of the season. That fumble contributed to the New York Giants' opening day loss to the Dallas Cowboys and appears to have put Wilson in the doghouse.
When Ahmad Bradshaw went out with an injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York turned to Andre Brown to carry the load. Brown had a total of 13 carries, while Wilson only had three. Things could change, but at this point it looks like Wilson will need to rebuild the good will he earned in the preseason.
New York's other top pick, Rueben Randle, was also a no-show this weekend versus Tampa Bay. Eli Manning threw for over 500 yards, and Randle didn't have a single pass thrown in his direction.
The one rookie who did get some playing time is cornerback Jayron Hosley. However, his time on the field figures to diminish as the health of the Giants secondary improves.
I expect both Randle and Wilson to get more opportunities as the season progresses. However, most expected these two to make an impact early in their career.
Philadelphia Eagles: A+
Picks: Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Dennis Kelly, Marvin McNutt, Brandon Washington and Bryce Brown
The Philadelphia Eagles got significant contributions from three of its rookies. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin all helped Philadelphia pull off the win against the Baltimore Ravens.
The biggest surprise of that group has to be Boykin, who turned heads during the preseason, but against the Ravens he showed that he's ready to contribute during the regular season. Baltimore tried testing him on several occasions, but the rookie held his ground and made some nice plays on the football. His emergence gives the Eagles three solid cornerbacks on the roster.
Kendricks is quickly becoming one of the better young linebackers in the league. His explosiveness allows him to make plays all over the field, and he handles himself in coverage. The combination of Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans finally gives the Eagles some real talent at the linebacker position.
Cox continues to develop and show flashes. He's a pressure player who excels at working his way into the backfield.
Washington Redskins: A
Picks: Robert Griffin III, Josh LeRibeus, Kirk Cousins, Keenan Robinson, Adam Gettis, Alfred Morris, Tom Compton, Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine
The Washington Redskins aren't getting widespread production from their rookie class, but Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris are more than carrying this group. Griffin looks like a real star, and Morris is a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking system.
Washington took a risk when they made the aggressive move to land Griffin. However, we are seeing just how much a promising quarterback can change the vibe of a franchise. There's a ton of optimism in Washington, and that's because of Griffin III.
Shanahan's unpredictable relationship with the running back position means we don't have a good idea of Morris' future. However, he is receiving an overwhelming majority of the carries. He has run the ball 44 times, while the next closest is Evan Royster with a total of three carries.
Buffalo Bills: A-
Picks: Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper and John Potter
The Buffalo Bills have added some nice talent through the draft in the past few seasons. Stephon Gilmore has as much upside as anyone. This is a player that will quickly develop into into a lock-down cornerback. I love his level of physicality, as he isn't afraid to support the run and does a good job in bump-and-run coverage.
Playing in a division with Tom Brady means that the Bills must have talent and depth in the secondary. Gilmore gives the Bills someone that can match up against any team's top wide receiver.
I'll argue that the addition of Cordy Glenn is just as significant as bringing in Gilmore. Buffalo's left tackle spot has been an issue since they traded away Jason Peters. However, Glenn has stepped in and solidified the position.
Because of his size, many overlooked the fact that Glenn has really quick feet. This isn't a guy that's just a power blocker; he also does a great job protecting the edge. It won't be long before his name is mentioned as a Pro Bowl selection.
Buffalo needs wide receiver T.J. Graham to pick up his play. The injury to David Nelson weakened an already-thin wide receiver corps.
Don't overlook the impact players like Nigel Bradham have on the game. He's seeing most of his time on special teams, but that is an important part of finding success.
Miami Dolphins: B+
Picks: Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin, Olivier Vernon, Michael Egnew, Lamar Miller, Josh Kaddu, B.J. Cunningham, Kheeston Randall and Rishard Matthews
Getting a win is a positive thing for the Miami Dolphins, but more important is the improvement by Ryan Tannehill. Miami isn't ready to compete for a playoff spot this season, making the young QB's every step forward significant. Tannehill will have his share of bumps in the road, but he is showing signs of improvement.
Jonathan Martin is also dealing with some ups and downs. The biggest area he needs to improve is his strength and velcro ability. Too often, Martin struggles to engage the defender and drive him off the ball. However, he is doing a good job in pass protection. Martin has plenty of upside and will only get stronger as the season progresses.
The Dolphins appear to have found a way to utilize the explosive Lamar Miller. They gave him 10 carries this past weekend, and he produced 65 rushing yards and a touchdown. The rookie runner has great breakaway speed and is someone the defense must keep an eye on.
Olivier Vernon and Kheeston Randall are getting some time as part of the defensive line rotation. Neither is playing at a high level, but don't underestimate the importance of depth on the defensive line.
New England Patriots: A-
Picks: Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard and Jeremy Ebert
After two weeks, it appears that the New England Patriots defense is a more effective group than last season. The addition of rookies Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Tavon Wilson are already paying off. Wilson has to be the most surprising of the group, as many felt New England overdrafted him when it selected him in the second round.
Nobody is surprised to see both Jones and Hightower excel. These two were highly touted prospects who looked ready to contribute immediately.
Jones' ability to generate pressure on the quarterback is very important to the defense's production. So far, he has been able to create a consistent pass rush. New England needs him to continue to perform at this level.
New York Jets: C+
Picks: Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Demario Davis, Josh Bush, Terrance Ganaway, Robert T. Griffin, Antonio Allen and Jordan White
After a breakout game in Week 1, Stephen Hill failed to record a catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The entire New York Jets offense struggled to move the football, but I still question New York's game plan, as Hill was only targeted twice in this game. It doesn't make sense to only target your most explosive player twice.
There also needs to be some questions surrounding the Jets' use of Quinton Coples. He's playing at a high level, constantly working his way into backfield. However, New York isn't using him on a consistent basis. At some point, the Jets have to increase his playing time.
Arizona Cardinals: C-
Picks: Michael Floyd, Jamell Fleming, Bobby Massie, Senio Kelemete, Justin Bethel, Ryan Lindley and Nate Potter
The Arizona Cardinals must have mixed feelings about its draft class. On one hand, it has Bobby Massie playing very well at right tackle. Then, it has Michael Floyd failing to make an impact. The biggest issue here is the fact that Floyd hasn't been able to work himself into the game plan.
Floyd possesses a ton of natural talent, but it appears that he isn't willing to put in the work needed to improve. It's not like Arizona has a ton of elite talent at the wide receiver position, so Floyd should have no problem beating out the likes of Andre Roberts and Early Doucet.
Arizona has also been able to get a contribution from cornerback Jamell Fleming. He's seeing time in dime situations and on special teams. A team can never have enough capable defensive backs.
San Francisco 49ers: F
Picks: A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Joe Looney, Darius Fleming, Trent Robinson, Jason Slowey and Cam Johnson
Trent Robinson was the only rookie active for the San Francisco 49ers game against the Detroit Lions. The fact that both A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James were inactive is a major disappointment. It appears likely that neither will have an impact this season.
I have concerns surrounding James' ability to carve out a major role with this team. San Francisco has two very talented running backs in Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. It doesn't really need anyone else to come in and contribute at that position.
In fact, Hunter's skill set is similar to that of James. Jim Harbaugh and company will eventually work James into the gameplay, but it's tough to imagine it being a significant role.
Jenkins is a completely different story, as he needs time to develop and mature. He has talent but must become a better route runner and pro. His struggles during the preseason have been well documented, so he has to show Harbaugh that he's committed to improving before he even sniffs game time.
Seattle Seahawks: A+
Picks: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Jaye Howard, Korey Toomer, Jeremy Lane, Winston Guy, J.R. Sweezy and Greg Scruggs
The Seattle Seahawks are getting a ton of production from their first four draft picks, with Russell Wilson's play at quarterback being the most important. It appears that each week he is improving, while learning from his previous mistakes. The Dallas Cowboys have a very talented defense, and the fact that Wilson played at a high level is very encouraging.
Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin are becoming forces on the defensive side of the ball. Seattle is slowly working Irvin into the rotation, but his ability to get after the quarterback is a very valuable asset. The Seahawks will continue to increase his playing time as the season progresses.
I love how Seattle is working Robert Turbin into the offense. There's no doubt that Marshawn Lynch is the top running back, but Turbin offers a nice change of pace. His quickness and ability to contribute in the passing game gives Seattle something Lynch doesn't.
St. Louis Rams: B-
Picks: Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Trumaine Johnson, Chris Givens, Rokevious Watkins, Greg Zuerlein, Aaron Brown and Daryl Richardson
The St. Louis Rams' draft class has been full of surprises. Those surprises mainly focus on how the running back rotation has panned out. Daryl Richardson has outperformed Isaiah Pead and was the one to replace Steven Jackson when he went out with an injury.
Richardson made the most of his opportunity, rushing for 83 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. This doesn't mean Pead won't have a future with the team, but as long as Richardson produces he'll continue to get touches.
It's surprising how much talent Janoris Jenkins possesses. Jenkins is showing everyone why he was considered a first-round prospect prior to the rise of his character red flags.
Michael Brockers is still dealing with an ankle issue, but he'll be active and in the lineup once he's fully healthy.
St. Louis has to be a little disappointed by the lack of production from wide receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Heading into training camp, many felt that the Rams were counting on Quick to make a major impact as a rookie.
Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein was 3-for-3, including a 43-yard field goal. St. Louis also got a good performance from rookie punter Johnny Hekker. He averaged over 50 yards per punt, including a 66-yarder.
Denver Broncos: C
Picks: Derek Wolfe, Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman, Omar Bolden, Philip Blake, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan
As part of the starting defensive line, Derek Wolfe is the only rookie really getting significant playing time for the Denver Broncos. In the first game of the season, he did a good job working his way into the backfield and disrupting the offense.
However, he wasn't able to generate nearly as much pressure against the Atlanta Falcons. To his credit, it takes time for a player to develop the ability to play at a consistent level.
Denver is using Omar Bolden as its primary kick returner. He did a solid job, averaging over 23 yards a return, including one for 30 yards.
It's disappointing that Ronnie Hillman wasn't even active for Monday night's game. He's a player with a lot of upside, but he has struggled to impress the coaches. As it stands, he's No. 4 on the depth chart behind Willis McGahee, Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
Picks: Dontari Poe, Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson, Devon Wylie, DeQuan Menzie, Cyrus Gray, Jerome Long and Junior Hemingway
The start of the season has been a complete disaster for the Kansas City Chiefs. They've been blown out in their first two games and just aren't playing good football. However, first-round pick Dontari Poe is showing signs of improvement.
Because the Buffalo Bills run a spread attack, Poe was rotated out of the game a lot. However, when he was on the field he played well. The biggest improvement came in his commitment to keep his pad level low, which him hold at the point of attack and maintain leverage.
Kansas City needs Poe to be a space eater and run stuffer. This requires him to absorb double-teams and occupy blockers. Poe can only accomplish this if he keeps his pad level low.
At this point, the other members of this draft class are depth players. Someone like Jeff Allen could get a look at guard in the near future.
Oakland Raiders: C
Picks: Tony Bergstrom, Miles Burris, Jack Crawford, Juron Criner, Christo Bilukidi and Nathan Stupar, Rod Streater
Miles Burris is an active and aggressive linebacker who is emerging as one of the Oakland Raiders' most promising defenders. He does a great job using his quickness to attack the line of scrimmage and pursue the football. Burris also isn't afraid to fill the hole and take on the blocker.
Against the Miami Dolphins, he made several rookie mistakes where he misread his keys and took some false steps. However, this is a player with a ton of upside.
The only other rookie active for the Raiders' game against the Dolphins was Rod Streater. After an impressive preseason, Streater's play is starting to drop off. It seems opposing defenses are starting to figure him out.
In this game, he only had two catches for 19 yards. His limited playing time also has to do with the fact that Denarius Moore returned from injury.
San Diego Chargers: B
Picks: Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, Brandon Taylor, Ladarius Green, Johnnie Troutman, David Molk and Edwin Baker
As a unit, the San Diego Chargers defense is playing at a very high level. This group is flying to the football, creating turnovers and generating pressure on the quarterback. Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes are making major contributions to that group as rookies.
Both players are currently in a backup role but are a heavy part of the rotation. Ingram is being asked to play multiple roles, including rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. His time on the field and production will continue to increase as the season progresses.
The same can be said for Reyes, as he's responsible for getting a push on the pocket and stuffing the run. He has well getting that push, as several times he drove an offensive lineman into the pocket.
Antonio Gates' injury opened the door for Ladarius Green to get some playing time. Green possesses nice size and good quickness, and though he only had one target, he turned that into a 31-yard reception.
Chicago Bears: C
Picks: Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy
The good news: Shea McClellin was able to register 1.5 sacks. He showed excellent quickness off the edge and a high motor. McClellin also did a better job holding at the point of attack against the run.
This is important because Chicago is counting on McClellin to help increase the pass rush.
The bad news: Alshon Jeffery—and the entire passing game—wasn't able to make any impact plays. Jeffery was limited to just one catch, seven yards and only two targets. There's a lot of reasons why the Bears offense struggled against the Green Bay Packers.
Jeffery still has a bright future, but a key for him will be to find consistency.
Detroit Lions: C-
Picks: Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Dwight Bentley, Ronnell Lewis, Tahir Whitehead, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green and Travis Lewis
The Detroit Lions have only really gotten special teams contributions from their rookie class. Dwight Bentley's injury has limited his ability to get on the field and make an impact at cornerback. However, he should get significant playing time once he's 100 percent healthy.
Detroit's other top pick, Riley Reiff, is relegated to a backup offensive line role. Eventually, Reiff will get a chance to start, because Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman are not elite offensive linemen, and they have significantly less upside than Reiff.
Ronnell Lewis and Tahir Whitehead are the two players seeing a lot of time on special teams. Both are athletic enough to make an impact in this phase of the game.
Ryan Broyles was active this past weekend but still doesn't seem ready to make a contribution.
Green Bay Packers: C+
Picks: Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning, Andrew Datko and B.J. Coleman
The top two Green Bay Packer rookies, Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy, kind of switched roles this week against the Chicago Bears. Worthy was elevated to the starting lineup and saw a significant amount of playing time. Perry remained a starter but wasn't on the field all that often.
Green Bay got some good production from Worthy, who contributed a sack and two tackles for loss. However, he is the type of player that will be invisible for a while and then flash with an explosive play. Aside from three or four good plays, the Bears handled the rookie and kept him in check.
Perry has been a bit of a disappointment. Green Bay brought him in to help generate pressure on the quarterback. However, he's really struggled against the quicker and stronger NFL offensive linemen.
Casey Hayward and Mike Daniels both saw increased playing time this week. Hayward is a solid cover man with good ball skills, and he appears to be taking over the nickle job from Jarrett Bush.
Daniels gives Green Bay another defensive lineman who can play in the backfield. This guy has some good upside.
Minnesota Vikings: B
Picks: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Greg Childs, Robert Blanton, Blair Walsh, Audie Cole and Trevor Guyton
The Minnesota Vikings are getting exactly what they expected out of top-pick Matt Kalil. He's doing a solid job in pass protection and opening nice running lanes. His ability to deliver a good initial jolt and generate a push off the line has really helped the rushing attack.
In the game against the Indianapolis Colts, Kalil struggled a little bit with the speed rush of Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes. But again, it takes time for rookies to adjust to the speed of the game. There aren't many pass-rushers in the NFL with the quickness and speed of Mathis, so Kalil's struggles are understandable.
Minnesota is using Harrison Smith, mostly in deep coverage. Against the Colts, he was the deep safety typically lined up on Reggie Wayne's side of the ball. Smith showed good instincts and a quick burst when breaking on the route. Despite being in deep coverage, he was able to come up and support the run. Smith is also a major contributor on special teams.
Kicker Blair Walsh continues to shine, as he was a perfect 2-for-2 with another field goal over 50 yards.
Baltimore Ravens: B-
Picks: Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, Asa Jackson, Tommy Streeter and DeAngelo Tyson
Courtney Upshaw didn't have the best preseason for the Baltimore Ravens. However, his play has improved during the regular season, and he saw increased snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles because of the injury to Paul Kruger.
In that game, he held strong against the run and provided a bit of a pass rush. Upshaw might not be the most explosive player on the field, but he makes up for it with his strength and football IQ.
Kelechi Osemele continues to start at right tackle and play solid football. He's someone that will get better as the year progresses. Osemele needs to improve his feel for the offense and technique, but those will come with experience.
The Ravens appear committed to moving forward with Bernard Pierce as their backup running back. However, that has only resulted in seven carries. Baltimore doesn't take Ray Rice off the field often, so Pierce will continue to get minimal work.
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker was 3-for-3, including another from beyond 50 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals: C-
Picks: Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson, Orson Charles, Shaun Prater, Marvin Jones, George Iloka and Dan Herron
The Cincinnati Bengals collected a lot of talent through the 2012 draft. However, only Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still and Vontaze Burfict are getting consistent snaps. Zeitler is making the most impact, as he's the starter at right guard.
Cincinnati's running attack is performing well in part because of the addition of Zeitler. He uses his strength, leverage and inside hands to help open running lanes. His physical style of play is something that's necessary to succeed in the AFC North.
The Bengals' top pick, Dre Kirkpatrick, is still recovering from a leg injury he suffered in training camp. Due to the veteran depth on the roster, it might be a while before he's able to make an impact.
Burfict signed as an undrafted rookie, but he played well enough in the preseason to earn a roster spot. At this point, he's getting a lot of snaps on special teams.
The Bengals are using Still as part of the defensive line rotation. This past weekend against the Cleveland Browns, he made a good push up field and got a hit on quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Cleveland Browns: A+
Picks: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, Josh Gordon, John Hughes, Travis Benjamin, James-Michael Johnson, Ryan Miller, Emmanuel Acho, Billy Winn, Tevin Wade and Brad Smelley, L.J. Fort
Week 1 was a complete disaster for the Cleveland Browns' rookie class, but Week 2 was much better. The most significant improvement was made by Brandon Weeden, who was effective and able to avoid turnovers and throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
The biggest thing to take from Weeden's performance is the fact that he corrected the mistakes he made in Week 1.
Trent Richardson also had a bounce-back game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He ran the ball with quickness and power. Don't overlook the impact Weeden's play had on Richardson, and vice versa.
Cleveland is getting very solid play from defensive tackle John Hughes. At one point, there was a lot of talk stating that the Browns reached when they selected Hughes in the third round. However, he is showing everyone that he belongs on the field.
Josh Gordon continues to be a work in progress, but he has shown flashes in the first two games.
Mitchell Schwartz is holding down the right tackle job. He's not a very exciting or dominant player, but he is someone that will be a solid starter.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D+
Picks: David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta'amu, Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson, Terrence Frederick and Kelvin Beachum
The only rookie on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster getting consistent playing time is Chris Rainey. He's getting time as a punt and kick returner and in several offensive sets. Pittsburgh loves his quickness and ability to create in space.
Of course, the fact that Rainey is the only major contributor has a lot to do with the injuries suffered by David DeCastro and Sean Spence. Both players are expected to miss the entire season, with an outside shot DeCastro returns late in the season.
Mike Adams' struggles at left tackle during the preseason have been a major disappointment. Those struggles continued when he was asked to fill in during the Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos. Adams possesses all the physical attributes needed to play the position, but his inconsistency and bouts of unfocused play are keeping him out of the lineup.
I kind of overlooked punter Drew Butler. He has done a good job this season, averaging over 40 yards per punt with a long of 52 yards.
Atlanta Falcons: F
Picks: Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Bradie Ewing, Jonathan Massaquoi, Charles Mitchell and Travian Robertson
Peter Konz and Travian Robertson were the only two rookies active for the Atlanta Falcons' game against the Denver Broncos. However, neither of them were able to make an impact on the game. Both players are depth guys along the offensive and defensive line.
Konz is the one with the most upside out of this group. During training camp, he was battling Garrett Reynolds for the right to open the season as the starting right guard. Reynolds won the competition, but that doesn't mean Konz can't claim the job later in the season.
Carolina Panthers: B
Picks: Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu, Frank Alexander, Joe Adams, Josh Norman, Brad Nortman and D.J. Campbell
The Carolina Panthers got a real steal in fifth-round pick Josh Norman. In the game against the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers asked Norman to handle a range of targets from Marques Colston to Jimmy Graham. Norman more than held his own. I particularly loved the way he broke on the ball when it was thrown towards the sideline.
Luke Kuechly continues to improve with each game. The biggest area of improvement has been his ability to come up and hold at the point of attack. He's doing a better job attacking the line and using his hands to anchor. Kuechly will be one of the leaders of this defense for years to come.
Amini Silatolu is starting to come into his own. He looked really explosive and powerful in the running game and excelled at getting to the second level and making the block on the linebacker. His heavy hands helped him velcro to defenders—making it tough to disengage.
The one area Silatolu needs to continue to improve is his pad level. At times, he got too high which impacted his anchor in pass protection.
Joe Adams and Brad Nortman are making solid contributions on special teams. Nortman is averaging over 40 yards per punt, while also landing four punts inside the 20-yard line. His ability to help win the field-position game is very important.
New Orleans Saints: D-
Picks: Akiem Hicks, Nick Toon, Corey White, Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones
Akiem Hicks might be an extremely raw rookie, but the New Orleans Saints gave him a chance this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. On one play, he flashed his potential by getting a hit on quarterback Cam Newton.
The Saints realize that Hicks needs time to develop before he can make a consistent impact. However, it's wise to work him into the defensive line rotation. Hicks won't be able to improve if he doesn't get a chance to see the field.
Defensive back Corey White was also able to earn some playing time. White made the most of this opportunity, as he was able to record four solo tackles.
New Orleans won't get much more production out of this rookie class.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+
Picks: Mark Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Najee Goode, Keith Tandy, Michael Smith and Drake Dunsmore
Doug Martin isn't exactly living up to all the hype surrounding him when the season started. He's getting plenty of carries, but is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry. That number isn't going to cut it for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that wants to feature a strong ground attack.
Martin has the talent to raise his yard-per-carry average, but the Buccaneers offensive line needs to open better holes, and the passing game needs to find consistency. Until defenses really fear Josh Freeman, Martin can expect to deal with eight men in the box.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense allowed Eli Manning to throw for over 500 yards this past weekend. Mark Barron made one of the mistakes that helped Manning reach that total, but despite that, Barron played well. He had the first 10-tackle game of his career and showed his range in coverage.
Lavonte David is doing exactly what I expected him to do—make tackles. More specifically, make tackles sideline to sideline and behind the line of scrimmage. David's explosiveness and speed means that he can't ever be ruled out to make play on the ball.
Houston Texans: D
Picks: Whitney Mercilus, DeVier Posey, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones, Keshawn Martin, Jared Crick, Randy Bullock and Nick Mondek
The Houston Texans have such widespread talent on its roster that its rookies are having a tough time seeing the field. Top pick Whitney Mercilus is stuck behind Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin, both of whom are playing at a high level. Mercilus is still a part of the rotation, but he has yet to really make an impact.
Keshawn Martin and Jared Crick are the only other rookies to see the field. Martin was expected to have a role in the offense, but he has been in the doghouse after a few drops in the first week. It will take time for him to regain the trust of Matt Schaub and the offensive coaching staff.
Indianapolis Colts: A-
Picks: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Josh Chapman, Vick Ballard, LaVon Brazill, Justin Anderson, Tim Fugger and Chandler Harnish
Andrew Luck rebounded nicely after a rough debut for the Indianapolis Colts. The Week 2 game featured Luck protecting the ball, locating open targets and leading his team to a victory against the Minnesota Vikings. This was what the Colts hope will be the first of many wins in Luck's career.
It was nice to see T.Y. Hilton active for this game. The Colts appear to have inserted him as the kick and punt returner, replacing LaVon Brazill, who had a fumble against the Chicago Bears. Hilton was also able to get into the mix on offense, as he pulled down one reception for 15 yards.
Luck continued to utilize the tight end positions in this game. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were able to catch a pass. Allen hauled in the first touchdown of his career in the first quarter. These two will be a heavy part of the offense all season.
The Colts appear committed to moving forward with Vick Ballard as its No. 2 running back. With Donald Brown only averaging 3.7 yards per carry, don't be surprised if Ballard gets more carries as the season progresses.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C
Picks: Justin Blackmon, Andre Branch, Bryan Anger, Brandon Marshall, Mike Harris and Jeris Pendleton
Justin Blackmon has really struggled to get going so far this season. On the season, he only has three catches for 38 yards. The thing that is more concerning is the fact he has only been targeted 10 times. The Jacksonville Jaguars need to do a better job of getting Blackmon involved.
Andre Branch continues to build off of a strong preseason. He's playing a balanced game, as he is doing a good job against the run and pass. It's tough to judge his performance against the Houston Texans. The fact that the defense was on the field for 83 snaps means Branch was likely fatigued.
Jacksonville has to feel good about how well Bryan Anger is performing. He again averaged over 50 yards per punt and pinned one ball inside the 20. With the way the Jaguars offense is struggling, Anger will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his leg strength.
Tennessee Titans: B-
Picks: Kendall Wright, Zach Brown, Mike Martin, Coty Sensabaugh, Taylor Thompson, Markelle Martin and Scott Solomon
The play of Zach Brown and Mike Martin might've been the only bright spots for the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. Both players were consistently around the football, and Brown finished the game with 10 total tackles.
With Colin McCarthy out with an injury, Tennessee needed Brown to come in and have an impact. He used his speed and tenacity to flow to the football. The Titans can now go forward feeling comfortable that Brown can give them a solid contribution.
Kendall Wright made an impact by catching the first first touchdown pass of his career. However, I'm a little concerned that he was only able to catch two passes despite being targeted eight times. This had a lot to do with the inaccuracy of Jake Locker.
However, Locker is an inaccurate quarterback, so Wright must find a way to haul in those passes.
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