Rookie Review: Week 8

By: Shasky Clarke

Star

Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei, Carolina

The box score only read three tackles for Lotulelei. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Lotulelei has been a terrific force in run defense, anchoring the Panthers defensive line with a very effective blend of power and quicks. Currently, Lotulelei is right there in the mix with the leading candidates for defensive rookie of the year honors, along with Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Unheralded

Right Tackle LaAdrian Waddle, Detroit:

Lost in the hoopla of the prolific days of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson was the success of the Lions running game. The 6’6” 330 pound undrafted rookie right tackle was a strong asset as a run blocker. He also did an admirable job keeping Dallas end George Selvie quiet in pass protection.

Running Backs Andre Ellington, Arizona, and Zac Stacy, St. Louis

The year of the rookie running back continues. Ellington continues to show why he ought to be the focal point of the Arizona running game. Against Atlanta, he carried it 15 times for 154 yards, showcasing his excellent speed and explosiveness on an 80 yard touchdown run.

Since Stacy begun to start for the Rams, he has picked up what has been an anemic running game the past couple years. After his impressive 26 carry performance for 134 yards, Stacy is averaging 4.6 yards per rush on the season. At 5’8” 225 pounds, the strong fifth round pick out of Vanderbilt is surprisingly super quick in and out of cuts with great vision and burst through holes.

CB Nickell Robey, Buffalo

Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso isn’t the only impressive rookie on Buffalo’s defense. Robey has displayed consistently tight coverage in the slot as the Bills nickel cornerback. At only 5’7” 165 pounds, his upside is limited. But he is fast, fluid and a playmaker in coverage and can carve out a long term role as a third cornerback.

Play of the Week

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings:

Patterson made waves as a big play receiver at the University of Tennessee last year. But his open field running ability at his size (6’2” 220) was probably his most impressive trait. Now, after a record-breaking 109 yard kickoff return touchdown on Sunday night, Patterson has scored two return touchdowns in seven games as a pro. The challenge is for the Vikings offense to get the ball in his hands a lot more.

The Bad

RTs Eric Fisher (Kansas City) and Lane Johnson (Philadelphia):

The performance of the offensive tackles chosen in the top five of the 2013 draft, Fisher in particular, has been nothing short of disappointing. While they should be good in the long term, thus far they have been liabilities to their offenses. This week, Johnson had a tough time containing the Giants’ Justin Tuck, who notched two sacks and had a number of hurries.

New York Jets’ LG Brian Winters and CB Dee Milliner:

The Jets are starting a couple rookies on both sides of the ball. This week, Brian Winters, a former left tackle from Kent State, gave up a couple sacks and hasn’t been very effective in pass protection. Winters, though, has a high ceiling going forward as an athletic, scrappy guard.

Milliner has struggled all year limiting separation in man coverage. Rex Ryan has historically left his rookie cornerbacks on an island, leading to early issues in coverage. This week, Milliner, a top ten pick, gave up four catches on five targets for over 100 yards against the talented Cincinnati receivers.