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Week 10 and 11: Rookie Standouts

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It’s been two weeks since one of my rookie roundups, thanks to a lovely bout of flu and sinusitis, and a lot has changed in that time. Firstly, I’m going to give a brief rundown of who would have made my week 10 rookies, and then let’s focus on week 11’s before our lineup of Thanksgiving football feasts later on.

Week 10 Standout Rookies 

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Christian Watson, Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers 

8 targets, 4 receptions, 107 yards, 3 touchdowns. Nuff said 

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Myjai Sanders, Edge – Arizona Cardinals 

A breakout game against the leagues worst OL. Two pressures including a sack-fumble and three run stops. 

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Charles Cross, Tackle – Seattle Seahawks 

0 pressures from 42 pass blocking snaps makes this his best performance of the season. 

Right, let’s move on to the rookies that stood out in week 11. 

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Tyler Linderbaum, Center – Baltimore Ravens 

It’s very difficult sometimes to fully appreciate how important it is to have a solid, reliable center. They don’t play a flashy position, and they rarely show up on the stat sheets despite having to both initiate each play and manipulate the defensive front depending on the play call. Despite this, I thought it was about time we spoke about the standout centre from this year’s rookie class, Tyler Linderbaum.

Linderbaum, despite experiencing some early teething problems, has improved week after week to quickly become a dominant force for the Ravens, especially on rushing plays. Baltimore averages 162.8 rushing yards per game, and Linderbaum has an impressive 77.6 PFF rating in run blocking, including a 74.1 rating this past week against the Carolina Panthers.

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Chris Olave, Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints 

On draft night, the Saints knew they needed a wide receiver, and Olave was clearly their guy as they traded up five spots to select the Ohio State alumni, giving up their own 16th pick as well as picks 98 and 120. I think it’s fair to now say that they have been able to ratify their decision as Olave continues to be a standout player on their offense. 

After finishing week 11 with five receptions for 102 yards (an average of 20.4 yards per reception) and a touchdown, the Saints rookie is now ranked in the top 15 in most of the major receiving statistics. He’s tied for 15th in receptions with 51, tied for 12th in first down conversions with 34, and is 10th in receiving yards with 760. A lot of his extra targets can likely be attributed to the injuries suffered by Thomas and Landry, but at least the Saints know they have a more than competent number one going forward.

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Aidan Hutchinson, Edge – Detroit Lions 

The Lions completely dominated the Giants this past week (much to the annoyance of this writer), but credit where credit is due, it was fully deserved. Defensively, the Lions stifled everything that the Giants had to offer outside of a few chunk plays that came after the Lions were already almost out of reach, and one huge contributor to that was Aidan Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson, who has since been crowned NFC defensive player of the week, has already made this rookie standout list before and week by week is proving his credentials in the race for defensive rookie of the season. Against the Giants, he finished the game with a pass defense, three tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception. The interception was his second of the season, making him the second player in NFL history with two interceptions and five or more sacks in his first 10 career games 

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5 Takeaways From The Coffin Nailing Saints Loss

The New Orleans Saints are 2-5 after losing 42-34 to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night football.  Their hopes of making the playoffs are slim to none right now, so what is there to takeaway from last night’s monstrosity?

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Cesar Ruiz Is Much Improved

Let’s start with some good, the tales of Cesar Ruiz’s improvement are not just hopeful tales of the odd play here and there that show signs of improvement. Ruiz is playing excellently and looks like a player not only worth a first-round pick but, a player worth building around.

Ruiz was opening holes consistently last night in the running game and was an anchor in pass protection, this is something that has been evident all season, last night was a stiff test for him though with J.J Watt and Zach Allen (two very good interior rushers) across from him, a test previously we would have seen Ruiz fail, he passed with flying colours. 

If you are still sceptical given Ruiz’s first two seasons I could see why, well Ruiz even featured this week in Baldy’s breakdown see here-  Brian Baldinger on Twitter: “.@saints @_OverCees has to be one of the most i@proved players at any position in the NFL. From never playing OG, to becoming a force up front to rebuilding and reshaping his body….and it shows. This league will always be about player development #BaldysBreakdowns” / Twitter 

If Ramczyk’s knee doesn’t derail the rest of his career the Saints have a potential elite right side of the offensive line to build around (including center Erik McCoy in this as well).

Add to Trevor Penning, if he comes back from his toe injury and continues to improve at the rate, he was prior to the injury then the Saints have excellent building pieces across the whole line.

Alontae Taylor Needs to Start Going Forward  

Second-round rookie Alontae Taylor saw his first prolonged game snaps last night and looked like the best player in the secondary, he provided sticky coverage and according to the Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football only gave up one catch on four/five targets.

The secondary outside of Marshon Lattimore has been a huge disappointment this season, leaving the door wide open for Taylor to win a starting job, he did more than enough last night to warrant more starting snaps going forward.

Once one of the youngest teams in the league, suddenly New Orleans is the second oldest in the league. So, hitting on the limited draft picks they have is even more essential. If Taylor continues to show what he did last night, then he will certainly be added to the hit column at a position that is vital in today’s NFL.

The Defense’s Tackling Is Still A Problem 

It’s got to the point where seeing a player get tackled straight away, without gaining extra yards is far more exciting than it should be.

PFF charted the Saints with 12 missed tackles yesterday, honestly, it felt even worse than that. Cardinal players seemed to be slipping past the first Saints tacklers constantly.

On one play that could have been stopped for a short gain, Cardinals’ sixth-round rookie Keontay Ingram forced 4/5 missed tackles and rumbled for 24 yards. It should have been third and medium around the Cardinals 30, instead, it was first and ten at the Cardinals 49.

This is a basic expectation of a defensive player, I fully appreciated it could tackle on high school football player let alone an NFL one, but this shouldn’t be this yard.

Of course, offensive players make incredible plays from time to time where they make the whole world miss, but these plays aren’t that they are normal plays that every other defense is making against the Saints offense and the fact this is still a problem seven weeks in is hugely worrying and simply put, is losing the Saints games.

Andy Dalton May Have Gifted The Starting Spot Back To Jameis

I really believe Dalton had a clear runway to win the Saints starting QB job, at the very least he had a chance to keep Jameis Winston off the field for longer.

I think that ended last night, at least for now.

Dalton could easily be 4-0 as the Saints starter if a few things broke the team’s way. The biggest reason being if the defense would have played anywhere near the expectations we all had for them. The offense has looked its best this season with Dalton under center. He’s managed to get Alvin Kamara fully involved, he’s been better at identifying and combating the blitz and he’s definitely had the offense in a better rhythm. 

Alas, Dalton now sits at 1-3 and was a massive contributing factor for the Saints losing last night. Dalton threw two awful interceptions one in the RedZone after the Saints had driven 65 yards in 15 plays, the Saints were up 7-3 at this stage. 

His second interception I wouldn’t put on him, he threw a perfectly fine and easy pass to Marquez Callaway, that the receiver bobbled allowing the trailing CB to intercept the pass and return it to the house. 

What was inexcusable was four plays later Dalton threw another pick-6 this time on a pass that was his fault, I could see what he was trying to do he was trying to fit the ball behind the LB to Chris Olave who had broken open behind him. But Dalton couldn’t execute it. 

These interceptions reasonably meant a 17-point swing in the Cardinal’s favour. Three of the board from the Redzone interception, and 14 from the pick-6s.

Instead of going into the half level or possibly up three or seven the Saints went into the half down 14. A gap that was too large to overcome in the second half.

Yes, Winston might not be better in fact, he could be worse. But at this stage you have to see what Winston is, if Dalton is going to turn the ball over, which is Winston’s biggest drawback, without Winston’s arm talent for upside, you might as well play Winston and see if that boom or bust potential can steal you some game down the stretch.

This Team Is So Frustrating 

 Last takeaway and this is more of a personal point, holy Sh*t this time is frustrating.

They have all the talent needed to be a contender in the NFC, probably not a Superbowl team but at the very least a competitive playoff team. 

This team has been completely incapable of playing complimentary football. Taking out the crazy win in week one.

The Saints offense failed them in weeks one and two, had they had merely a bang average offense they win both of those games. 

Then weeks four- seven if the defense played how did in weeks two and three they are 4-0 in that stretch as well.  There’s a perfectly plausible situation where you could argue this team could be 7-0, 5-2 worst 3-4. Instead, they sit 2-5, finding new ways to lose every week, struggling to execute basic fundamentals.

The worst part? normally In a bad season you can look ahead and say well at least we should get a high-end talent in the draft and try to rebuild from that, in this year’s draft possibly a new franchise QB to give the future some hope.

Instead, we have to hear about how great the Eagles front office is for pulling off one of the best draft-related trades in recent memory and what player they will be able to add to an already excellent team.

Is the door completely closed on the Saints turning this around? no, they have the talent and the leadership in the locker room to right the ship, but the task ahead is mammoth and will take a near-perfect run.

Rant over, 11 days now without Saints football I would normally hate it, but frankly, right now an 11-day Saints football detox Is what I need and probably the players do too.

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