NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Rookies Who Have Made Names for Themselves

Clay DefayetteCorrespondent IIIJanuary 18, 2012

NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Rookies Who Have Made Names for Themselves

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    The NFL playoffs is a time for the stars to shine even brighter on a bigger stage, but don't overlook the role players.

    It's extremely noteworthy when rookies step up to help their respective teams, and in two playoff rounds, a few have accomplished just that.

    Expect less from the youth movement in the conference championship games, but let's take a look at those who've impressed even if they've been beaten.

5. Strong Safety Chris Harris, Denver Broncos

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    Not to be confused with Detroit's veteran safety of the same name, Denver's Chris Harris had 72 tackles in his rookie campaign. In two playoff games, the safety racked up 13 combined total tackles.

    Tom Brady picks apart nearly all defenses and it doesn't help when the pass rush isn't present. Strong safeties shouldn't bear the burden of coverage lapses, although Harris should've played better against New England's tight ends.

    Then again, how many safeties or even corners have slowed down Rob Gronkowski and/or Aaron Hernandez? Harris should have a decent future in Denver.

4. Wide Receiver A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Sure, A.J. Green's name was already well-known coming into the playoffs but he didn't disappoint unlike another rookie teammate.

    Andy Dalton tossed three to the Texans during the Wild Card Round so the rookie quarterback's performance hindered the rookie wide receiver's chance of having a phenomenal game.

    With that said, Green still snagged five balls for 47 yards, including one catch going for 21. This was done against a Houston defense that ranked third against the pass in 2011.

3. Middle Linebacker Jacquian Williams, New York Giants

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    Jacquian Williams only had four tackles against the Packers, but it was two more than other middle linebacker Chase Blackburn—and Williams was better in coverage.

    Jermichael Finley's four catches for 37 yards was in large part to Green Bay's mishaps but the coverage in the middle of the field for New York deserves some credit.

    The South Florida linebacker had four tackles against the Falcons with a pass defensed. Not bad at all for a rookie, even though the Giants will still need more linebackers.

2. Free Safety Quinton Carter, Denver Broncos

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    Tom Brady's interception may have been thrown directly to Quinton Carter but the rookie free safety still caught it, even though Mr. Brady had a flawless game outside of that.

    Carter has picked off Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in consecutive weeks in the playoffs after not having a single interception in the entire 2011 season.  

    John Elway picked up his future safeties in the 2011 NFL Draft. All Denver needs now is younger cornerbacks and a more reliable quarterback. 

1. Defensive Lineman J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

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    J.J. Watt had one hell of a play, picking off fellow rookie Andy Dalton on a heads-up play and returning it for a touchdown. 

    He took his game to another level against the Ravens, racking up 2.5 sacks with 12 combined tackles. That last number shouldn't be that high for a 3-4 lineman.

    Wade Phillips has himself a stud to work with if his health issues subside, thus allowing him to stick around for 2012.