Rams rookies have shown flashes of brilliance in the first two games of the regular season.
The St. Louis Rams got more than just their first win of the 2012 season on Sunday. The rookies on the team performed extremely well. In fact, the first two games have been a big indication that Jeff Fisher knows how to draft rookies who can have an impact right away. Guys like Janoris Jenkins and Daryl Richardson have blossomed early and certainly will play a role in the immediate future of the team.
There are other guys who have stepped up as well. In order of where they were drafted, let's grade the Rams 2012 rookie class through the first two weeks of the 2012 season.
Brockers will be out at least a month with a high ankle sprain.
Michael Brockers hasn't seen any action in his rookie year, as of now. After suffering an ankle injury in the preseason finale against Baltimore, the standout from LSU is out for at least one month.
It's certainly an injury the Rams couldn't predict, and it's one that hinders the ability of the defensive line. The D-Line was a unit fans had very high hopes for coming into the season, and the addition of Brockers through the draft did nothing to lower expectations.
Third-year backup Jermelle Cudjo has filled in for Brockers in the first two weeks.
Jenkins has shown brilliance in the secondary in his first two games as a pro.
Janoris Jenkins has proved that he is as advertised. The second-round pick out of North Alabama is going to be a stud cornerback in this league because of his ability to get to the ball and make plays.
In Week 1 against Detroit, he had a key interception at the goal line after the Lions offense was able to drive down the field and nearly scored. Jenkins locked down on Lions tight end Tony Scheffler, clearing a path to the ball.
His first career interception came in the first game his career, an unsurprising occurrence to the Rams' coaching staff. Jenkins also had one pass deflection in the game.
This past Sunday against Washington, Jenkins showed some of his youth. In the second quarter, with the Rams trailing 14-6, Jenkins was matched up on the far sideline against wideout Leonard Hankerson.
Robert Griffin III faked an end-around handoff to one of his other receivers. Jenkins must have bit on that fake because Hankerson ran a simple seam route straight up the middle of the field and had separation all the way. By the time Griffin let go of the ball, Hankerson was about 10 yards in front of Jenkins en route to an easy score.
There is no doubt that Jenkins is one of the speediest rookies in the NFL. Had he realized Griffin was going deep and not handing it off, my feeling is Jenkins would have been there to cover Hankerson.
In the fourth quarter, with St. Louis now leading 31-28, the Skins had the ball with a chance tie or win the game. They had the ball at their own 21-yard line, and Griffin was back to throw.
He looked toward the near sideline and threw the ball to his tight end, Fred Davis, who appeared to have had the ball in his hands. Jenkins was right there to lay a menacing hit on the veteran, and the ball came loose. Officials immediately ruled the play an incomplete pass.
The broadcasters of the game on Fox were Chris Myers and Tim Ryan who also called the Rams-Lions game in week 1. Both seemed to be in agreement that Jenkins' hit on Davis was uncalled for because it was an intense blow to a defenseless receiver.
If one looks at the replay, it is clear that Davis is defenseless. However, Jenkins came up and used his arms, shoulders and chest to hit him. He did not use his helmet, which certainly would have been a personal foul on Jenkins.
Simply put, that's the right way to tackle a receiver when he is defenseless. It may have been a hard hit, but there was no use of the helmet or head in making the tackle.
It's unfortunate that Quick has seen virtually no time in the first two weeks.
Over the summer, Brian Quick had the Rams community buzzing with enthusiasm.
However, Quick never saw the field in Week 1. He did see the field against Washington, though. In the second quarter, with the Rams driving inside the Redskins' 20-yard-line, Bradford looked for Quick on a short throw to the near sideline. The pass was incomplete, but Quick's day on the field was complete.
Since Quick did see the field in Week 2, I assume he's learned the playbook. Now, he just needs to get more time on the field. With the way Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson have played in the first two games of the year, it may be a little while until Quick emerges as a focal part of the St. Louis offense.
Pead has played a small role in the special teams in the first two weeks of the season.
After two games, there are zero touches on offense for the Cincinnati product who was one of three players the Rams drafted in the second round.
He did get some time in the return game, taking back two kicks for a combined 37 yards in the first two weeks. With the emergence of Daryl Richardson on Sunday, Pead doesn't figure to be in the St. Louis backfield any time soon. Still, he can show the team what he has in the return game, if nowhere else.
Givens has shown range on deep balls.
At least there's more to say about Givens than his fellow wide receiver Brian Quick. Givens played a handful of snaps in the first two games and was targeted three times. Two of those targets were on deep throws from Sam Bradford.
In Week 1, Bradford was able to arc the ball down the near sideline, so Givens could get a good read on it. It was his deepest throw of the game, although it was slightly underthrown.
On Sunday against Washington, Bradford went back to Givens on two deep go-routes to no avail.
Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wants to see the Rams utilize the rookie speed and size that they have in Givens and Quick. Both have 40-yard dash times of under 4.6 seconds.
Johnson had a stellar preseason but has been limited, so far, in the regular season.
Fans remember Trumaine Johnson because of what he didn't do: show up on time for the first day of training camp. Johnson overslept after a long flight and ended up being late to his first practice as a pro.
Johnson saw time in the first two games of the season but hasn't done much. The Rams have a pretty deep secondary with plenty of talent. Johnson figures to be a role player at some point this season and is currently second behind Cortland Finnegan at left cornerback. He can probably be used anywhere in the secondary.
Watkins missed Week 2 with an ankle injury.
Watkins didn't play against Washington due to an ankle injury, but he did see time against Detroit when Rodger Saffold went down with a neck issue. The reason I give him the low grade is because of how flawed the Rams rushing attack was against Detroit.
Steven Jackson ran the ball 21 times, a number he reached few times during his prime. He averaged fewer than four yards per carry. Granted, the Lions' defensive line is youthful mix of talent and toughness. It certainly doesn't sound like it would be much of a match for an ambiguous Rams' offensive line.
Now that Saffold will be out for at least the next four weeks, according to The Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated), the rookies on this offensive line will have to perform.
Zuerlein has given St. Louis special teams security.
Young GZ (that name will stick until he misses a field goal) has been beyond impressive as the first St. Louis Rams rookie starting kicker.
Going 6-of-6 on field goals with a long of 48 yards certainly sounds impressive, but it takes watching this guy to truly appreciate his game. His body language on the field mirrors a young Jeff Wilkins because his attitude. He is here to do his job and to execute at it.
His kickoff duty has been even more impressive than his field-goal work. How about 13 kickoffs, seven touchbacks and an average of 12 yards per return? Credit the Rams special teamers and credit Zuerlein for knowing his role.
Zuerlein had been drilling kicks into the back of the end zone against Washington but decided on one of them to kick it shorter in order to give his special teams a chance to stop the Skins deep in their own territory.
In fact, the kick landed well short of the end zone. I don't know if he was asked to do that or if he decided on his own, but it was a brilliant kick, and it showed that Zuerlein isn't just someone who's going to explode on every kick. He can be finesse if asked to.
Richardson gave fans explosiveness against the Redskins.
Daryl Richardson showed some signs of being a viable backup in camp. For some players, the light doesn't turn on until the season starts. This was absolutely the case with Mr. Irrelevant on the Rams' draft board.
Richardson had two carries against Detroit for 21 yards. Simply put, he looks explosive. The Rams need a young gun in the backfield because Steven Jackson is at an age where, if he spikes a ball in the end zone, he could get hurt.
Do you see what I did there? Anyway, Richardson showed in Week 2 that he is clearly the first option if Jackson were to miss an extended period.
He had 15 carries for 83 yards which included a 53-yard run late in the third quarter. Besides S-Jax's long TD run against the Eagles in Week 1 last year, when was the last time fans have seen him break a big one?
Richardson also reeled in two balls for 19 yards. The Rams should seriously think about inserting Richardson as the permanent third-down running back in short-yardage situations. He has a young pair of legs that can break to the outside if the inside seam collapses on 3rd-and-short.
He did have the fumble late in the game Sunday that gave Washington the opportunity to get in field-goal range. He's only a rookie, so I'm sure fans were wondering when he was going to make a mistake. With more in-game reps as the backup, he should be able to work out the kinks and become a more polished runner.
Most of Richardson's success came on Sunday as soon as he touched the football. He's the kind of runner who will break right away, so it's easy to tell whether or not the play will be a 10-yard gain or a one-yard loss.
The future looks bright for this young back out of Abilene Christian.
Hekker, a no-name out of college, should get more recognition.
Hekker, along with Zuerlein, has been proving that trying to find a talented special teams kicker in the draft is like going all-in at a poker table. If it works out, it can be a huge bonus for the team. If not, games can be lost because of kickers and punters.
Hekker was an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State. In two games with St. Louis this season, he has eight punts for a total of 404 yards and an average return rate of just over 50 yards per punt. For a punter to cover half the field on any punt is a huge accomplishment because it means bailing out the offense if they stall a drive at, say, the the 25-yard line.
I'm excited to see both Hekker and Zuerlein compete throughout the season.