Rookie Reviews: Looking Back at Week 3

By: Shasky Clarke

E.J. Manuel, Buffalo: 19/42 243 yards, 1 TD, 8 sacks.

Manuel had his roughest day against one of the premier defenses in the league. He showed a lack of comfort reading defenses quickly and going through progressions. When he got the ball out quickly, it wasn’t necessarily to the right guy. When he rushed the action, his poor footwork hurt his accuracy. He completed less than 50% of his passes.

His decision-making could be a long term issue. But going forward, Manuel should continue to show his arm strength and accurate passing ability.

Geno Smith, New York Jets: 16/29 331 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, no sacks, one rush touchdown.

Smith was impressive and surprised many with his ability to competently stretch the field with the weapons he has at his disposal. Utilizing receivers Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes, Smith completed several downfield passes.

Even at 6’2”, Smith showed the poise and confidence to stand in the pocket against a talented Bills defensive line. Though he looks on track to be the future at the position for the Jets, his overall pocket mechanics and reading of defenses remains inconsistent and will need to improve.

Backs

A number of rookie running backs had very productive days, showcasing their explosiveness and pass catching ability.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati: 10 carries, 50 yards, 1 touchdown, four receptions, 49 receiving yards

Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay: 13 carries, 103 yards, 1 touchdown, three receptions

Andre Ellington, Arizona: Six touches, 55 yards, more than six yards per carry.

Montee Ball, Denver: 11 carries, 61 yards, 5.5 yards per carry.

What’s Going On Tavon?

Wide Receiver Tavon Austin, St. Louis. The top ten pick had another high volume day with six receptions for 30 yards. Austin is catching a lot of balls but only averaging 6.6 yards per catch. He has elite speed and athleticism. But Austin does not appear to be much of a big play pass catcher. He would be best used more out of the backfield and as a ball carrier.

Defensive Playmakers

Defensive tackles Kawann Short (Carolina), Star Lotulelei (Carolina), Akeem Spence (Tampa Bay) and Sheldon Richardson (New York Jets) all sacked passers. Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso (Buffalo) made another eight stops and grabbed his second interception against the Jets. Lotulelei and, in particular, Richardson and Alonso are having consistently excellent rookie seasons.

Safeties

Safety Matt Elam, Baltimore: Matt Elam has usurped Michael Huff as a starting safety in Baltimore and did a terrific job in one-on-one situations against Houston tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels was a go-to guy and his struggles to get separation hurt Houston’s ability to move the ball.

Similarly scrappy and all over the field, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and safety Kenny Vaccaro combined for 17 tackles and two interceptions in their game against each other.

Guys to Watch

Tight End Luke Willson, Seattle: 5 receptions, 76 yards. Willson is a very athletic and underrated 6’5” 250-pound fifth round pick out of Rice. He’s faster than Zach Miller and a more polished pass catcher than Kellen Davis and should be a real weapon in Seattle’s tight end-friendly passing game.

Wide Receiver Justin Hunter, Tennessee: One of the biggest steals of the draft, the 6’4” second rounder has the size, explosiveness and body control to regularly repeat what he did on his game-winning 34 yard touchdown catch against San Diego.

Failures in the Trenches

Outside Linebacker Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh: The highly touted collegiate edge rusher struggled to create any kind of pressure versus Chicago and hasn’t done much in the way of providing a rush in either of the past couple starts. Early on, Jones simply lacks the dynamic athleticism to translate his effort and skills into NFL production.

Right Tackle Eric Fisher, Kansas City: Fisher continued to struggle last Thursday night, showing himself to be an offensive weak link against the likes of Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox of the Eagles.

Right Tackle Lane Johnson, Philadelphia: Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston feasted on Johnson, notching three sacks.

Right Guard Tim Lelito, New Orleans: Lelito, an undrafted free agent filling in for Jahri Evans, was dominated by Pro Bowl defensive lineman Darnell Dockett.