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Rookies of the Week – Week 1

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The return of the NFL season really had everything. Shock results, devastating injuries, struggling superstars, and outstanding rookies.

Let’s look at my standout seven from Week 1.

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Will Anderson Jr, Edge – Houston Texans

Emotions may have gotten the better of Anderson pre-game, but he was zoned in as soon as he stepped on the field to start his NFL career. The versatile rusher, who lined up predominantly on the left side, recorded four tackles, three hurries, two quarterback hits, and a sack against the normally elusive Lamar Jackson.

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Jalen Carter, Defensive Line – Philadelphia Eagles

Now that’s why he was touted as potentially going first overall! A 92.1 overall PFF grade puts Carter as the 2nd overall defensive tackle, and it’s not hard to see why. In a monstrous performance, Carter had eight pressures, one sack, and one assisted tackle. It’s no wonder that Mac Jones will be seeing him in his nightmares.

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Zay Flowers, Wide Receiver – Baltimore Ravens

Does Lamar Jackson have a new favourite weapon? Flowers continued his strong preseason with an outstanding showing against the Texans, and much like the later mentioned Bijan Robinson, he was making defenders miss all over the place. Nine catches on ten targets for 78 yards led the Ravens, while he also had two rushes for nine yards.

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Xavier Gipson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of! No one saw the Jets game winner being an undrafted rookie free agent, but here we are. He forced his way into contention due to his electric preseason on special teams, which caught the eye of head coach Robert Salah. Now, thanks to his 65-yard walk-off punt return touchdown, he can now say he is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

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Puka Nacua, Wide Receiver – Los Angeles Rams

If you were asked to predict the only rookie receiver to go over 100 yards this weekend, I can guarantee no one would have mentioned Puka Nacua. With Cooper Kupp now on IR, the Rams needed someone to step up, and their fifth-rounder did just that. 14 targets, 10 receptions, and 119 yards. Job done.

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Anthony Richardson, Quarterback – Indianapolis Colts

Richardson wasn’t perfect by any means, as he played conservatively and had an ugly interception, but he is now the proud owner of two NFL records. Against the Jaguars, Richardson not only became the youngest player ever with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game, but he also became the first rookie in history to have at least 200 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, a passing touchdown, and a rushing touchdown.

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Bijan Robinson, Running Back – Atlanta Falcons

A shared snap count with Allgeier didn’t count against Bijan on Sunday, as he finished with 10 rushes for 56 yards while adding six receptions on six targets for 27 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. Add in five forced missed tackles, including that disgraceful stop-start on an attempted tackle from Frankie Luvu, and you’ve got yourself a debut.

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Week 13: Rookie Standouts

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Games going down to the wire, overtime ties, and the return of a controversial quarterback ensured that Week 13 had its surprises, but most games went the way of the betting favourites. Here are the rookies that stood out this week:

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Daron Bland, Cornerback – Dallas Cowboys

Despite the overwhelming 54-19 score line, the Colts had kept the game within a score against the Cowboys, but when Dallas scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 28-19, the Colts imploded in dramatic fashion. Indianapolis turned the ball over four times in the space of 13 minutes, and rookie Daron Bland had a hand (literally) in two of them.

Bland, who has filled in for injured corner Anthony Brown, has been steadily improving in recent weeks, with the exception of a poor performance against the Packers in Week 10, but his performance against Indianapolis was by far his best. After spending the majority of the game in tight coverage, Bland showed almost telepathic knowledge of where the ball was going on both interceptions, finishing with two interceptions and one pass break-up while allowing only two catches for nine yards on seven targets.

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Jalen Pitre, Safety – Houston Texans

A few weeks ago, the Texans made the decision to move Pitre to free safety, and they seem to be reaping the rewards as the rookie out of Baylor looks much more comfortable. During the game against the Cleveland Browns, he not only had one of his best games against the Browns but also broke a Houston Texans defensive record.

Pitre recorded a season-high 16 tackles against the Browns, breaking ex-Texan linebacker DeMeco Ryans record from 16 years ago of 15 tackles. Interestingly, in that game against the Raiders on the 3rd of December 2006, Ryans also had an interception, something Pitre also matched, as he picked off a pass intended for Amari Cooper by the returning Deshaun Watson, who incidentally was playing in his first game in 700 days due to injury and suspension.

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Christian Watson, Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers

Christian Watson received his first nomination in my condensed Week 10 rankings after an impressive four receptions for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Chicago Bears, Watson was able to continue this recent success as he showcased his ability as both a receiver and a rusher, scoring a pair of touchdowns.

His first, a 14-yard pass from Aaron Rogers on fourth down with only 17 seconds left in the first half, was likely the catalyst the Packers needed to mount their comeback, and his second was a simple jet sweep that completely fooled the defence, allowing him to turn on the afterburners for a 41-yard rush. Watson now has 8 touchdowns in the last four games, giving him the distinction of sharing the record for most touchdowns scored over a four-game span with Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Honourable Mentions

Reed Blankenship (Philadelphia Eagles), Greg Dulcich (Denver Broncos), Garrett Wilson (New York Jets), Jack Sanborn (Chicago Bears), Brian Robinson Jr (Washington Commanders),

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Week 5: Rookie Standouts

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As we now move into the second quarter of the season, we’re starting to see some rookies start to cement their place in the standings for Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year. In week 5, these were the rookies that stood out.

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Dameon Pierce, Running Back – Houston Texans

My first returning player to these rankings, and he’s done it back to back! After last week’s amazing effort against the Los Angeles Chargers, Pierce took a deserved spot on this list despite being on the losing side. This time, however, he drove the Texans to their first win of the season after a low-scoring close affair against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Not only did Pierce punch in the go-ahead touchdown that gave the Texans their first win of the season, but he also had 3 receptions for 16 yards and 26 carries for 99 yards. These are not amazing numbers if you just look at the basic stats, but when you take into account that 97 of those yards were after contact, it’s just ridiculous. In fact, just watch this angry run below.

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Sauce Gardner, Cornerback – New York Jets

Sauce has been unlucky to not appear in these rankings yet, but there was no way I could ignore him as he helped the Jets defence dominate the Miami Dolphins from their very first play from scrimmage.

Teddy Bridgewater, who was playing in the place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa, lined up to take his first snap of the game and an unblocked Sauce unloaded on him, driving him to the dirt and forcing an intentional grounding penalty and subsequent safety as Bridgewater threw the ball in the endzone.

Sauce finished the game with 5 tackles, 1 pass defended, and his first career interception. He also finished with an allowed passer rating of 34.2, which is worse than if the Dolphins QB had just spiked it every play.

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Breece Hall, Running Back – New York Jets

So not only do I have my first returning player, but I also have two players from the same team for the first time this year. If Sauce helped the Jets dominate the Dolphins defensively, then Hall was the standout on offence as he displayed why he could be the next dual-threat running back weapon.

In what can be considered his breakout game, Hall had a monstrous day, picking up an incredible 100 yards on a measly 2 receptions, as well as having 18 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, his first in the NFL. The twenty-one-year-old Hall, who was drafted in the second round by the Jets, is now leading all rookies in scrimmage yards and is on the verge of breaking into the top ten among all NFL players.

Honorable Mentions

For the first time this season, I wanted to give a couple of honorable mentions to a trio of cornerbacks who just missed out on a spot. Those are Tariq Woolen (Seattle Seahawks), Jack Jones (New England Patriots), and Derek Stingley (Houston Texans).