Posted on: December 9, 2010 5:42 pm
The 2010 NFL season has been a strong one overall for rookies. This isn't a surprise considering the amount of hype that the group enjoyed prior to the draft.
Two players who didn't gain a great deal of attention, however, were among the rookies who most stood out this past weekend.
Undrafted free agent Chris Ivory enjoyed another strong performance for the Saints, overtaking No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh to be recognized for the third time this year. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 34-30 win at Cincinnati. The highlight of Ivory's afternoon was a career-long 55 yard run in the second quarter that was the first touchdown scored by either team.
Other offensive players whose play stood out this week included Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, and fellow Buc LaGarrette Blount (running back).
While the Cowboys' Sean Lee , as a second round pick, certainly entered the league with a much higher profile than Ivory, the success of the Cowboys' flashy first rounder Dez Bryant and Lee's long recovery from a 2008 ACL surgery made him one of the "quieter" high profile selections in Dallas history. The former Penn State star has flashed during his rookie season but remains a backup behind veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James for the Cowboys.
Lee's play against the Colts spoke volumes, however. Lee victimized Peyton Manning for two of the All-Pro's four interceptions in this game, returning the first 31 yards to score his first NFL touchdown. Lee's second came in overtime, putting the Cowboys in position to kick the winning field goal. He also tied his previous career-high with five tackles on the day.
Among the other defenders whose play stood out this weekend was the Giants' pass rusher (and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week) Jason Pierre-Paul, Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap, New England inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and a trio of cornerbacks - Cleveland's Joe Haden, Kansas City's Javier Arenas, and the Patriots' Devin McCourty.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Bradie James, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Ivory, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Devin McCourty, Dez Bryant, Indianapolis Colts, Jason Pierre-Paul, Javier Arenas, Joe Haden, Keith Brooking, LaGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, Ndamukong Suh, New Orleans Saints, Penn State, Peyton Manning, Russell Okung, Sean Lee
Posted on: October 21, 2010 9:04 am
Considering that the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts are the reigning NFL and AFC champions, it might come as a surprise that they had enough holes for rookies to make big splashes already this season.
That said, anyone who watched their victories this past Sunday over the Tampa Bucs and Washington Redskins, respectively know the impacts that running back Chris Ivory and middle linebacker Pat Angerer had on their games.
As a way of keeping up with the collegiate prospects I scouted last year, I recognize an offensive and defensive NFL rookie of the week after each weekend's games. There was significant competition this week, but Ivory and Angerer's performances were just too productive to really look anywhere else.
Ivory, an undrafted free agent out of Tiffin University, exploded for 158 rushing yards against the Bucs. He did his damage on only 15 carries, meaning he averaged 10.5 yards per attempt. He was even more effective as a receiver, catching one pass for 17 yards. Ivory led all NFL running backs in rushing yardage in Week Six.
Angerer, a second round pick out of Iowa, continued the Colts' trend of drafting undersized, instinctive linebackers and simply plugging them in. Leading the Colts with 11 tackles against Washington, Angerer also posted a sack and broke up two passes.
Among the offensive rookies I also considered were Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy (who showed surprising poise in a loss to the Steelers), Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung (who limited Julius Peppers to only one tackle in the Seahawks' surprising win over the Bears) and a couple of wideouts -- St. Louis' Danario Alexander and Dallas' Dez Bryant -- who each caught their first NFL touchdowns this week.
On the defensive side of the ball, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a strong candidate, considering his three tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Giants. Suh leads all rookies in sacks with 4.5, as well as all interior defensive linemen in the NFL. The Patriots' Jermaine Cunningham was also a consideration, as his six tackles, one sack and one forced fumble helped the Patriots come back to beat the Ravens in one of the week's best games.
Posted on: August 30, 2010 11:25 am
We told you prior to the draft the 2010 crop of talent looked like one of the best in a long time . Once the underclassmen came on board, the class was being compared by some to the famous 1983 group that included Hall of Famers John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Mathews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Darrell Green.
Comparing this class to the 1983 crew is, of course, vastly premature.
At least throughout the weeks of preseason, however, the class looks every bit as good as advertised.
Most years, by this time, we've already identified a half dozen or so highly drafted rookies who are struggling to acclimate to the pros. Sure, Colt McCoy isn't setting the world on fire, but we should have known to expect that a bit considering that he slipped into the 3rd round. Most of the players drafted in the first round are already establishing themselves as either immediate starters or quality backups... exactly what first-round picks are supposed to do.
Think of the top ten this year. Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Eric Berry, Russell Okung, Joe Haden, Rolando McClain, C.J. Spiller and even surprise top ten choice Tyson Alualu have shown flashes of brilliance for their respective teams, already.
The first round picks that have struggled have mostly been due to injuries. Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, etc. have reportedly looked good when practicing, but various injuries have, thus far, slowed their advancement.
Exciting middle, late round and even undrafted free agents have emerged already .
But don't just take my word for it. Check out the stats.
Rookie Anthony Dixon, San Francisco's 6th round pick and the No. 173 player taken overall leads the NFL with 220 rushing yards.
Rookie Victor Cruz, an undrafted free agent for the Giants, leads the league with 251 receiving yards, as well as receiving touchdowns (4). The only player in the league with as many as three TDs? Another rookie. Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski, a second round pick taken No. 42 overall.
So, offensively the rookies are doing well. What about the defense, you ask?
Thanks for asking.
Rookie Pat Angerer, the Colts' second round pick and the No. 63 player taken overall leads the NFL with 24 tackles.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, a fourth round pick taken at No. 120, leads the league with 4.5 sacks.
I can hear the dispute already. Yeah, rookies see a lot of playing time, and therefore more opportunities to post numbers in the preseason.
True. But the facts remain the same.
This 2010 class of rookies has a chance to be special.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Anthony Dixon, C.J. Spiller, Cincinnati Bengals, Eric Berry, Geno Atkins, Gerald McCoy, Indianpolis Colts, Joe Haden, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFLDraftScout.com, Pat Angerer, Rob Gronkowski, Rolando McClain, Russell Okung, Sam Bradford, San Francisco 49ers, Trent Williams, Tyson Alualu, Victor Cruz
Posted on: August 22, 2010 5:31 am
Edited on: August 22, 2010 3:00 pm
By the end of the first drive of his second NFL game, Russell Okung -- the player Seattle drafted (and paid) to replace Hall of Famer Walter Jones -- suffered a "legitimate ankle sprain" which could keep him sidelined into the regular season.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said he wasn't sure if the sprain was of the "high ankle" variety, which often takes considerably longer than "low ankle" sprains to heal. High ankle sprains are known to sideline players for 4-6 weeks or more.
Seattle hosts NFC West division favorite San Francisco in three weeks to begin the regular season.
I attended this game and looked forward to comparing the play of Okung and Green Bay Packers' first round pick Bryan Bulaga (who was impressive ).
In watching Okung's three plays live, as well as watching and re-watching the recording of the game I took at home, I still am not sure how or even when, precisely, Okung was injured.
Neither were Carroll nor quarterback Matt Hasselbeck when interviewed following the game.
Okung started at left tackle and played each of the three offensive downs of Seattle's first drive. The rookie did not appear to be injured on either of the first two plays -- two runs by Justin Forsett.
Okung appeared to ease out of his stance cleanly into pass protection on third down. He was balanced and under control. The pocket began to break down and Hasselbeck made his throw -- which Deion Branch allowed to slip through his hands -- and the Seahawks were forced to punt. Though I focused on Okung throughout much of the play, I followed Hasselbeck's pass and didn't notice Okung being hurt.
Later, after it was announced that Okung had suffered an ankle injury and was "doubtful" to return, I asked some of the media and pro scouts around me if they had noticed Okung limp off the field or suffer the injury. None had.
In fact, the first notion most (all?) of us in the pressbox had that Okung was hurt was when former offensive guard Mansfield Wrotto took over as Seattle's left tackle on the next drive. Seattle Post Intelligencer's Greg Johns reports that Okung was "helped to the locker room early in the first quarter." Okung did not return to the field, nor was he made available to the media following the game.
Upon getting home this evening, I reviewed the film to see if there was a clearer view of the injury.
As I suspected, the television coverage focused on Hasselbeck's pass to Branch on third down. Okung appears to be comfortable in pass protection when the camera follows the ball.
Often, when offensive linemen receive ankle injuries while in pass protection, they are rolled up from behind. The pocket was shifting as the play ended and it is possible that this is precisely what occurred with Okung. The television coverage I have, however, does not show Okung being knocked down.
Regardless of how it happened, the injury to Okung could wreak havoc with the quiet optimism that had been brewing in Carroll's first training camp in Seattle.
The Seahawks struggled mightily with injuries along the offensive line last year; they started five different left tackles last season. Improved consistency and durability along the offensive line was considered as critical to the Seahawks improving from their 5-11 record last year as any other factor.
The usually energetic Carroll appeared somber in the post-game press conference, admitting that Okung's ankle sprain was "pretty significant."
He was short on specifics other than to say that Okung's x-rays were negative and that the No. 6 overall pick would undergo an MRI Sunday.
Carroll did, however, further acknowledge the severity of the situation.
"We obviously made it [left tackle] as big a priority as we could make it in getting him," Carroll said. "So, we'll have to see how it goes."
"That's a big loss if he can't come back. We put a lot of time and effort into getting this guy right and he's done everything we've asked of him. We'll just have to see how long it's going to take."
Mansfield Wrotto played the rest of the game at left tackle for the Seahawks.
Okung's injury is the second the team has faced in the past week along the offensive line. Ray Willis, who started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the club, was already out with plans to undergo knee surgery. His injury, like Okung's, is expected to keep Willis out until at least the start of the regular season -- and perhaps much longer.
Posted on: August 7, 2010 3:43 pm
With each of their first three picks of the 2010 draft -- OT Russell Okung, FS Earl Thomas and WR Golden Tate -- thought likely to win starting jobs for the Seattle Seahawks, their rookie class could be one of the more critical first-year groups in all of the NFL.
I've attended several OTA and training camp practices at the team's facility since the draft, including today's morning practice.
Considering that he was the last 2010 rookie to sign his contract and the gargantuan shoes he has to fill in taking over for Walter Jones, former No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung is certain to earn plenty of attention this season. So far, Okung has been characterized as "solid, but not spectacular" by those close to the team. He lined up with the second-team unit on Friday, his first practice since signing his deal, but had been moved up to the first-team today.
The more impressive players, thus far, have been Seattle's "other" first round pick, free safety Earl Thomas and second round pick, wide receiver/returner Golden Tate.
Thomas' instincts, quick feet and ball-skills have been on display. Though veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been able to take advantage of the rookie's aggression, at times, Thomas has more than held his own. An interception in the end-zone was one of the best plays I saw during the June OTAs and he's consistently been in good position to make plays in training camp, as well. Considering Seattle's questionable pass rush and the rookie target on his chest, Thomas could be challenged early and often. With Thomas' ball skills and solid play from cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, the 2010 No. 14 overall pick could enjoy a rookie campaign similar to the stunning breakout campaign that Jairus Byrd had last year with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions last season despite missing a couple games due to a groin injury.
Tate has been characterized to me by Seahawks' staff as having "made at least one big play each day" so far. His strong, compact frame and vision has already made him one to watch for the quick passes that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likes and he's shown a burst as a returner, as well.
The impressive leaping ability that characterized many of Tate's best plays for Notre Dame last year was evident this morning when he jumped high to snatch a deep pass downfield thrown by J.P. Losman. Trufant, however, was in perfect position to knock the ball out of Tate's hands as the two came down. Though the pass ultimately was incomplete, Tate's athleticism gives the Seahawks the big-play threat they've lacked since the days of Joey Galloway.
It is always tough to gauge how well rookies will be able to acclimate to the NFL based on their performances in training camp. Still, for a team desperate for an infusion of talent at so many positions, Seattle's "big three" rookies should be among those making an immediate impact in 2010.
Posted on: August 2, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2010 11:59 am
Despite lots of talk heading into the start of training camps about potential rookie holdouts, 29 of the league's 32 first round picks have signed contracts with their NFL teams in this, the first week of August.
The three remaining -- No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh, No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung and No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller -- were the three most celebrated senior players at their respective positions in all of college football last season. Obviously, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, respectively, want their first round picks in camp as soon as possible. Each are expected to be immediate impact starters for their clubs.
Suh and Spiller are the two more celebrated players and no doubt will generate more of the media attention. The Lions and Suh's agents -- Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker -- are thought to be relatively close to a deal which could put NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated 2010 prospect in Detroit by the end of the week.
Spiller, represented by agent Gary Wichard, however, could be in for a longer holdout. The reigning ACC Player of the Year seemed resigned to that possibility by indicating in a chat with fans at The Sporting News that he was going to "... let my agent handle all of that. We're not going to rush. We're going to make sure we cross our T's and dot our I's, however long the process takes. I just have to be patient. I can't get antsy about the situation. I've talked to a lot of veteran guys. My teammates aren't concerned about me holding out. They know that I want to be there, but at the end of the day it's a business. You have to do what's best for your family. It was good to get that support from veteran guys already — before negotiations have heated up."
It is Okung, however, whose holdout could prove to be the story.
Like Spiller, Okung's contract talks have appeared to hit a significant snag. ProFootballTalk.com reported yesterday that a deal between the Seahawks and Okung's agent Peter Schaeffer is "not even close." Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil noted that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll labeled his projected starting left tackle's absence as a "concern for him every day."
Suh and Spiller are readier to make an immediate impact. Suh is such a dominant player that I expect him to standout at defensive tackle as a rookie -- a truly rare feat. Spiller, due to his electricity and the relative "ease" of rookie running backs enjoying success in the NFL, projects as one of the league's surest highlight reel additions from the 2010 draft.
Okung, however, is being asked to play the position some believe is second only to quarterback in terms of difficulty adjusting from the NCAA to NFL. With the notable exceptions of Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long, few rookie left tackles have been able to come into the NFL and play well immediately.
I personally attended and scouted some of Okung's first practices as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during June OTAs. While Okung's length and strength were obvious, it was also clear that the former All-American still had a ways to go before understanding the intricacies of Alex Gibbs' vaunted zone-blocking scheme.
Okung is in charge of protecting the blindside of a soon-to-be 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's being asked to replace Walter Jones -- the best player in team history.
The Seahawks certainly won't admit it publicly, but they know they need to get Okung in the fold. With Okung out, the Seahawks have former fourth-round pick Ray Willis, a natural right tackle, starting on the left side. When Willis was given Monday's practice off to rest, veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto, another former fourth round pick, was given the nod. Neither Willis nor Wrotto have demonstrated to this point the ability to consistently hold a starting position in the league. Both, due to marginal agility, are potential liabilities in Gibbs' system -- at any position -- much less the critical left tackle spot.
In a new offense with new coaches, the Seahawks could struggle to protect Matt Hasselbeck even with Okung starting. They're in a potentially dire situation without him.
It doesn't get any simpler for the Seahawks than this -- the more games Matt Hasselbeck starts for the Seahawks this season, the greater chance Pete Carroll has of improving on Seattle's 5-11 record last year. Until Okung signs, however, neither Hasselbeck remaining healthy nor the Seahawks improving in the win column seems likely.
Posted on: April 22, 2010 8:31 pm
I watched the Seattle Seahawks' pre-draft mini-camp and was stunned to see veteran right tackle Ray Willis lining up as Seattle's first-team left tackle. Willis, whose specialty had always been as a drive blocker in the running game, was considered only an average pass blocker and certainly lacked the quick feet and balance to play on the left side.
As such, the Seattle war room likely erupted when the Kansas City Chiefs selected safety Eric Berry with the fifth overall selection, allowing the 47-game starter Russell Okung to slip into Seattle's lap at No. 6.
Okung is not an elite match for Alex Gibbs' scheme that Trent Williams might have been, but he was recognized as the Big 12's Offensive Lineman of the Year over Williams and is generally viewed as the safer pick.
As happy as the Seahawks' front office might have been with the selection, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck likely was even happier.
Posted on: April 21, 2010 9:06 am
Edited on: April 21, 2010 9:07 am
As I mentioned in my last blog posting, St. Louis' trading of veteran defensive tackle Adam Carriker to the Washington Redskins opens the door for the Rams to take either of the top-rated defensive tackles, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, over quarterback Sam Bradford with the top pick.
Though I still believe the most likely scenario has St. Louis taking Bradford, here is what could happen if the Rams did so. For the sake of argument, I'm focusing on Suh, because, quite frankly, based on conversations I've had with members of the Rams organization and others throughout the league, I believe him to the higher rated player on their board. I will say this on Gerald McCoy's behalf, however. Suh is not the consensus choice as the top DT in their organization.
Assuming that the Rams took Suh, however, the Detroit Lions would then be in terrific position. While they would have lost out on NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1 rated player, they still would have the option of another penetrating defensive tackle in McCoy, taking an offensive tackle in Russell Okung or Trent Williams to protect their investment in Matt Stafford or looking to trade out to a team wanting Bradford.
In this scenario, I believe the team might switch things up and go with Okung, based on conversations I've had with league sources.
Tampa has similar needs at DT, OT and could also trade the pick. McCoy is such a perfect fit for their defense, however, that I still see them as taking him... if they stayed at 3.
The Bucs would almost surely get some interesting trade proposals, however, as most believe the Washington Redskins, despite the addition of Donovan McNabb, would surely take the suddenly slipping Bradford with the fourth overall pick.
Kansas City's need along the offensive line and Scott Pioli's focus on "safe" players likely would result in his still taking a tackle. Trent Wiliams, though not quite the established pass blocker that Russell Okung is, would make sense, though Iowa's Bryan Bulaga would remain a possibility.
While the players drafted in the top five might remain the same regardless of who the Rams took at No. 1, the order in which they came off the board would change dramatically.
As a recap, here is how things could go if the Rams took Suh first:
St. Louis -- Ndamukong Suh
Detroit -- Russell Okung
Tampa Bay -- Gerald McCoy
Washington -- Sam Bradford
Kansas City -- Trent Williams
And as I see it most likely happening tomorrow night:
St. Louis -- Sam Bradford
Detroit -- Ndamukong Suh
Tampa Bay -- Gerald McCoy
Washington -- Trent Williams
Kansas City -- Russell Okung
And that, my friends, is why predicting the topsy-turvy first round is such a inexact science -- even the top five.