Blog Entry

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:27 am
J. Harbaugh has been the best new face in the league this year (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every year, NFL teams make terrible calls. They draft the wrong player, they make ridiculous free agent signings, they let somebody quite valuable go to another team, they make their fan base collectively scratch their head.

Ah, but occasionally, these squads get it right. They draft the right guy, they sign the free agent that’s on the cusp of blowing up, they take somebody valuable from another team, they give their fan base a reason to smile and cheer.

Last year, I recounted the Top Ten new faces, and among the group were Terrell Owens, a combination of Thomas Jones/Ryan Torain/Peyton Hills, and LaDainian Tomlinson. All those guys played well last year, but it just goes to show that this list has less than a one-year expiration.

That said, here are the best pickups thus far in 2011. As I wrote last year, "All of the following have impacted their new teams in many ways and all have made the front offices who signed them seem clairvoyant in the process (though, in the case of a couple players, the decision to add them wasn’t exactly brain surgery). So, here’s to those who have found a new lease on life (or a new burgeoning career) with their new team."

10. Paul Posluszny: Though we could argue about whether the fact the Jaguars stole Posluszny away from the Bills by signing him to a six-year, $42 million contract ($15 million guaranteed) will help the team during the long haul -- Jacksonville, after all, is 1-5 and most likely will lose its head coach sooner rather than later -- but Posluszny has been a tackling machine. As the middle linebacker, he helped hold the Steelers to 55 yards of offense and no points in the second half of Pittsburgh’s 17-13 escape last Sunday while piling up a game-high 16 tackles. The Jaguars have a myriad of problems, but acquiring Posluszny, whatever the cost, was still a solid move.

9. Carson Palmer: OK, he’s been a member of the Oakland organization for less than 48 hours. He’s practiced exactly one time. It’s still unclear whether he’ll start this week (though I imagine he will), and I think there’s a better he doesn’t play well than him actually playing well. But the fact is: the Raiders are making solid moves, and they’re doing all they can to win today. Sure, giving up two first-round draft picks will hurt, but you have to admire the attitude that says, “Screw it, we’re going for it all this year.” And if Palmer plays well and leads Oakland to the postseason, the Raiders will have completely flipped the script.

8. Daniel Thomas: When the Dolphins failed to re-sign Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, that put the onus on the second-round pick to step into a featured back role and immediately contribute. With Reggie Bush around to take some of his load, Thomas has done that, ranking 10th in the league with 249 yards despite a hamstring problem, and he’s averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry. He hasn’t scored a touchdown yet, but then again, the Dolphins might be the worst team in the league, so not many touchdowns have been scored by that squad. That doesn't take away from the strides Thomas has made early in his career.

7. Victor Cruz: Technically, he’s not a newcomer, since he made the Giants squad as an undrafted free agent in 2010, but considering he was placed on IR early in the season before he had accumulated any stats, I’ll forgive myself. Cruz has become a player who makes outstanding, circus-type catches and then makes silly mistakes. But he’s also caught 21 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns, and behind Hakeem Nicks, Cruz has developed into a solid No. 2 receiver for a team that still should contend for an NFC East crown.

6. Johnathan Joseph: He was considered the poor man’s Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason, signing with the Texans for the reasonable cost of $48.75 million over five years. But he’s been better than Asomugha this year, collecting three interceptions and nine passes defended for an improved Houston defense that ranks 10th in the league. Joseph, though he’s flirted with injuries early on, was the right call for Houston.

Babin5. Ryan Kerrigan/Aldon Smith: These two rookie linebackers are some of the most exciting new players in the league. For the Redskins and 49ers, respectively, the two have combined for 33 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, six passes defended, one interception and three forced fumbles. Forget about Von Miller and Nick Fairley as the two most important defensive rookies emerging from last year’s draft. Kerrigan and Smith, so far, are the two best defensive freshmen in the league.

4. Jason Babin: I had Babin at No. 10 on this list last year, and with the Titans in 2010 -- in his only year with the Titans, it turns out -- he accumulated 12.5 sacks and 58 tackles. This year, he’s been even better, and he’s the new guy who’s done the most damage with the Eagles defense. He ranks tied for third in the league with seven sacks, and though the rest of Philadelphia’s squad has been disappointing, Babin has been a monster. With some scary tattoos.
3. Andy Dalton/A.J. Green: So much of the time, Bengals owner Mike Brown comes off as clueless (or maybe he’s just ingenious). Like the time he said, “I don’t apologize for our scouting. It’s an easy target. But if you look at the real facts, you’ll see it different” when it’s clearly evident that many of Cincinnati’s drafts have absolutely stunk. But Brown, also the general manager, hit a home run with Green in the first round of the 2011 draft and Dalton in the second. Green has made some incredible catches, and Dalton has played better than expected. Cincinnati is 4-2, and Green and Dalton deserve some of the credit. As does Brown.

2. Cam Newton: Unfortunately for Newton and the Panthers, we’ve begun to see him play a little more like a rookie recently (he hasn’t even broken the 300-yard mark in the past two weeks!), but there’s no denying that Newton is a special talent. No matter the amount of negativity and doubt Newton received before he took his first snap, he threw for 420-plus yards in his first two outings and then for 374 yards in Week 4. The Panthers aren’t winning, but at least they’re relevant these days. And exciting.

1. Jim Harbaugh: Forgive the guy for showing his belly, jumping up and down like he had just won tickets to see Justin Bieber, and giving Jim Schwartz a hearty handshake and a friendly tap on the back last week. He should be excited. The 49ers, through six games, are running away with the division, and the former Stanford coach in his first season in the NFL has been a huge reason why. Is Harbaugh the sole reason Alex Smith has played well or that the defense is ranked second in the NFL in points allowed? No, but is Harbaugh getting his team to play like Mike Singletary only could have dreamed about? Yes.

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Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:32 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Palmer without Hasselbeck is a joke, Matt has been playing lights out and I would be willing to bet the Titans dont draft Locker had they known and possibly addressed more pressing areas on the team. Judging Palmer before he even takes a snap is a stretch for a guy thats been off this long in a new system and some questionable aches.. Darren Sproles should be on this list to for sure he ia lightning rod in a Saints uniform.

Since: Jul 27, 2010
Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:29 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

I'd put Dalton above Newton given the wins and diminishing play of Newton after the first three weeks. He's still done amazingly and greatly impressed me, but wins are what counts for everyone else in every other conversation so I think Dalton should get a bump for that.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:25 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Where is Curtis Painter? hahaha jk but he has played better than I expected even though my Colts are still afetr our 1st win

Since: May 11, 2008
Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:36 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

You forgot to mention a #1 round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional #2 round draft pick in 2013 for the CIncinnati Bengals. Say what you want about the Bengals scouting. In my opinion Marvin Lewis coaching the Senior Bowl twice in the last three years has helped him evaluate the talent coming out of college which lead to the better than average drafts they have had. With the potential of having four #1 draft picks in two years could solidify this team for years to come! 

Since: Feb 19, 2009
Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:23 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

How about Darren Sproles on the New Orleans Saints?  This guy has been awesome!

Since: Feb 28, 2009
Posted on: October 21, 2011 6:38 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Well, i don't want to say that and Aldon Smith aren't special players or even impact player, Smith surely is, by the way he played the last two weeks for exemple. He looks like the real deal and an early favorite for the DPOY award. Then again, by saying we can "forget" about Von Miller, is a bit too much to say. All the guy is doing right now is averaging a sack/game without any kind of help on the other side, Dumervil is still a long shot from being at 100% again. So yes, Smith wasn't view has a safe pick such as Miller, but still was a top 10 pick, playing in one of the best defense in the NFL right now.

Time will tell who is going to be the best player at the end of the year, but at the LB position, I really don't think you can "forget" about one guy.

Since: Feb 19, 2008
Posted on: October 21, 2011 4:05 am

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

To the commentors below me(read: Titans fans) and even more so @TenaciousTitans: "I believe Peyton Manning and his season ending neck injury might have a little(said sarcastically) more to do with the Titans' success this year than anything else. Hasselbeck has been impressively good this year for you guys, but to say he's the biggest part of it is totally overlooking what a poor division the Titans play in without Manning. The Jags are terrible, the Texans haven't won hardly any big games that really, really matter, and the Colts without Manning might just be worse than the Jags. The fact that your team is winning the AFC South isn't necessarily a pat on the back as much as an indictment on the quality of the divison. My Dolphins are the worst team in the NFL right now, so I'm definitely not knocking your wins(the Titans beat a really good team in the Ravens, but on the flip side(which, yes, negates it completely) got smoked by the same team the Ravens beat down in week 1 in the Steelers), but the Titans' success is more predicated on quality of competition than actual accomplishment. I'm guessing that's why Hasselbeck didn't get a mention in the article. I might be wrong though, who knows.

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:51 pm

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Yeah, what's up with no Matt Hasselbeck on this list? He's the best QB and biggest difference maker the Titans have had in almost a decade. No one expected this team to be in first place in the division at this point and he's a big reason why, since teams have been hell-bent on stopping CJ.

Since: Nov 10, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2011 7:05 pm

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

Ummm... you mention Carson Palmer, but no Matt Hasslebeck?  That seems dumb...

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