Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
He’s back...and the pun is intended.
It really wasn’t that long ago that New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson owned the top spot here. In our weekly rankings, he was first on the list a little over a month ago for back-to-back weeks (10 and 11).
Now we’ve elevated him back up to No. 1, for now, as the front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
But there’s a catch. Or should we say a run.
In Sunday’s 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Richardson was his usual productive self in totaling four tackles. But the first-round pick also got a chance to play some offense and actually scored the team’s first touchdown of the afternoon on his second carry of the day.
“At the beginning of the season, I told coach I wanted to do anything to help this team win, and I did that…,” said Richardson to Charles Chandler of The Newark Star-Ledger. “It was a touchdown, man. It didn’t mean nothing. We lost.”
However, let’s not forget his main purpose with the Jets. Richardson ranks fourth on the club with 70 stops, including a team-high 12 tackles for loss, and has 3.5 sacks. He’s one reason Rex Ryan’s team has ranked near the top of the NFL in rushing defense all season.
And now he’s getting a chance to run instead of merely stopping the run.
Speaking of some excellent rookie stoppers...
2. OLB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams
St. Louis’ talented defense did a number on the New Orleans Saints last Sunday in a 27-16 win. Ogletree totaled seven tackles and knocked down a pass and is now tied for the team lead with 101 tackles. The rangy defender ranks third on the club with nine passes defensed and second on the team with four forced fumbles.
3. MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills
Buffalo’s second of two second-round picks in April continues to lead his team with an impressive 137 tackles this season, including six in Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. But there’s been a lack of impact plays as of late, as one of his two sacks and all four of his interceptions came in the team’s first four games.
4. FS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers
The ball hawk totaled three tackles, knocked down a pass and picked off fellow rookie Mike Glennon in Sunday’s 33-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the season, the first-round selection is tied for third on the Niners with 64 tackles and has totaled six takeaways, including four interceptions. And Reid has also knocked down 10 passes.
5. DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers
It’s been a little unusual watching the Panthers defense give up touchdowns the last two weeks. After limiting teams to 12 end-zone visits in their first dozen outings, Ron Rivera’s team has actually given up six touchdowns in its last two games. But Lotulelei remains a force on arguably the league’s top front four these days.
In The Discussion
6. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints
7. LB Paul Worrilow, Atlanta Falcons
8. DE Ziggy Ansah, Detroit Lions
9. SS Johnathan Cyprien, Jacksonville Jaguars
10. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals