Posted on Leave a comment

Week 16: Rookie Standouts

Embed from Getty Images

With the usual Christmas slate running over the weekend, there was plenty of action on the table this week. With plenty of gifts being exchanged (Broncos, we’re looking at you), let’s look at the rookie standouts this week:

Embed from Getty Images

Brock Purdy, Quarterback – San Francisco 49ers

Is it time to take Brock Purdy seriously as the 49ers start their march towards the playoffs? Purdy now has three starts under his belt and looks more like a starting quarterback in this league than some of his peers.

In Sunday’s game, Purdy posted career highs across the board, finishing with 234 yards passing on 22 attempts, averaging 10.6 yards per attempt. While he did throw an interception, he also threw for two touchdowns. Amazingly, the 49ers have scored 2.52 points per offensive drive with Purdy under centre, which ranks fourth in the NFL, and if you were to take away the kneel-downs, it would move to 2.76, which is good enough to be the best in the league. If he continues these stellar performances, then the 49ers are going to find themselves with a real quarterback headache next season, only a year after the last one.

Embed from Getty Images

Kenneth Walker III, Running Back – Seattle Seahawks

Despite the Seahawks falling to a disappointing 24-10 defeat against the Chiefs, they can once again look to their rookie running back Kenneth Walker III as a bright spot for the future, even if they do end up missing out on the playoffs.

This past week was Walker’s third game this season where he has rushed over 100 yards, with him finishing this week with 26 carries for 107 yards at a rate of 4.1 yards per carry. The elusive Walker also forced five missed tackles, and he was able to move the chains six times. He’s now sitting at 803 yards for the season, and if he produces similar performances for the last two games, he could join Seahawks Ring of Honor member Curt Warner as the only backs in franchise history to break 1000 yards rushing as a rookie.

Embed from Getty Images

Cobie Durant, Cornerback – Los Angeles Rams

It’s been a stop-start season for Cobie Durant, who shone during his debut in Week 2, but after finally getting some defensive game time in the last few weeks, it seems he’s gained the trust of the Rams coaching staff, and it’s starting to pay off for the rookie.

It was easily the young defensive back’s best game of his short career, as he finished with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown to seal the 51-14 blowout of the Denver Broncos. Both of his interceptions showcased his athleticism and instincts, with the first one being a highlight reel catch as he was able to extend, tip the ball to himself, and secure the catch as he hit the turf. The question that now arises is why the Rams did not give him an opportunity sooner.

Honourable Mentions

Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers), George Pickens (Pittsburgh Steelers), Rachaad White (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Isiah Pacheco (Kansas City Chiefs), Tyler Smith (Dallas Cowboys), and Brian Asamoah (Minnesota Vikings)

Posted on Leave a comment

Five Things: Week 8 – New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks

Embed from Getty Images

With the Giants falling to an uninspiring 27-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they can still go into their bye week holding their heads up high thanks to their surprising 6-2 record. Let’s look at five things that stood out:

Mistakes Punished

When you are part of a team that has won five of its six wins this year by less than a score, you need to make sure that the fundamentals are sound, and the mistakes are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, that was not the case on Sunday, and ultimately, it cost the Giants the game.

Though there were mistakes that led to penalties, coverage issues, and protection, the one that basically ended things for the Giants was a second fumble off a punt by Richie James. After catching the punt on the 21-yard line, James decided to return it up the field. He collided with a crowd, but instead of securing the ball with both hands, he cupped it with one and the ball broke loose again. The already leading Seahawks took the gift and bought their offence back out on the 32-yard line. Two plays later, Kenneth Walker III took advantage of some lackluster defending to walk in for the game’s last score.

Up and Down Adoree

If Adoree Jackson had come out of the game at the end of the third quarter, you probably could have said he was the best Giant out there today. Carrying on his pro bowl caliber start to the season, he had a couple of pass breakups and single-handedly helped the Giants get their first points on the board after he caused a Tyler Lockett fumble, which he recovered at the two-yard line. Unfortunately, what followed in the fourth quarter was not the high standards that Jackson holds himself to.

For starters, he was completely outrun on a 33-yard pass from ex-Giant Geno Smith that Lockett was unable to secure for what would have been a walk-in touchdown. The Giants survived, and Seattle settled for a field goal. Lockett, however, made sure he had his revenge on the next Seattle drive. He hit him with a double move and breezed into the endzone, but this time he secured the ball for the go-ahead touchdown.

Embed from Getty Images

Return to the Field

If there was one heart-warming moment from Sunday’s game, it was the return of Giants offensive lineman Nick Gates. Early in the 2021 season against Washington Gates suffered such a horrific leg break that NFL refused to show any replays of it. What followed was a grueling 410 days in which Gates would go through seven total surgeries due to complications and would even be told that he could end up facing amputation. Once he was passed that even his gritty determined attitude shone through as he vowed to return to the field this season and he stuck to his promise.

Though Gates only suited up for five snaps across the total sixty-five taken by the offense you could see that the former captains’ hunger had not wavered in the slightest. Due to the length of time, he has been out, there was bound to be some “field rust” so the Giants were clever using his only as a jumbo tight end to assist with blocking.  He did make one key block however in the touchdown run by Saquon Barkley and despite ending up on his back celebrated by kicking and punching the air like an excited turtle. Redemption achieved.

Gano and Gillan

With the special teams unit having a nightmare with the two fumbles as well as poor coverage on both kick and punt returns (when it was returned), the offence not really clicking in the ground or air game and the defence struggling with the Seahawks wide receivers despite being able to sack Smith three times, you would be hard pressed to find any players that shone, but there were and it’s likely to be the two players you want to see the least.

Graham Gano continued to be pretty much automatic with his field goal attempts as he made both his attempts, one from 31 yards and the other from 45 yards. Gano this season has made 17 of his 19 attempts and is a perfect 4 for 4 kicking from over 50 yards.

His kicking buddy Jamie Gillan had what was probably his best punting game this season as he punted for an average of 53.7 yards on six punts, including downing two inside the 20 and one 69-yard boomer that was almost downed at the one.

The Tomonator

With the injuries piling up for the Giants, the rookie class from this year has been thrust into the limelight, and luckily for the Giants, most of them have been able to make plays when called upon. Although there were slow days for Wan’Dale Robinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, there were two such rookies that had stellar days.

Fifth rounder Micah McFadden had slowly seen his snap count decrease over the last three weeks to the point where he had made none in the last two, but he had a breakout game here, recording his first career sack along with four tackles (one for a loss). However, there was one rookie that stood above all the others.

Tomon Fox, the Georgia native who went undrafted as a free agent, was tied for the team lead on tackles with eight and had to two tackles for a loss despite only playing 27 of the 64 snaps the defense faced. It’s extremely likely that if he continues to play this way, his role will increase dramatically.