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Week 14 and 15: Rookie Standouts

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Is it just me, or is the season getting better every week? This week had it all: high-stakes drama, questionable refereeing, the biggest comeback win in NFL history, and possibly the most mind-blowing finish to a game this season. Since I missed last week’s entry, here are three rookies that stood out in weeks 14 and 15.

Week 14 

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Brock Purdy, Quarterback – San Francisco 49ers

Purdy looked confident in the pocket as he finished 16 of 21 for 185 yards and two touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 134.0, all of this while starting opposite the greatest of all time.

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Travon Walker, Edge – Jacksonville Jaguars

The number one pick in the draft finally regained that swagger as he ended his five-week sack drought with a dominant performance. Finishing with two hurries, one sack, and one fumble, he recorded a 91.6 PFF pass rush rating.

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Isiah Pacheco, Running Back – Kansas City Chiefs

After delivering solid rushing performances this season, Pacheco has started to become a threat in the passing game. Finishing the game with 93 all-purpose yards, he also forced five missed tackles with his aggressive running style.

Week 15 

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Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge – New York Giants

Thibodeaux bet the house on himself this week with a bold statement in the lead up to the Giants’ 20-12 win over the Washington Commanders. When asked if he liked prime time, the rookie responded with bravado and swagger: “Prime time like me.”

He backed up that quote straight away by stuffing two runs on the Commanders first possession before getting another on their second. Despite being shown on the sidelines getting oxygen, nothing was slowing him down. However, at the start of the 2nd quarter, he charged past Washington lineman Charles Leno Jr. to bat the ball out of Taylor Heinicke’s hands, pick up the fumble, and rumble in for his first career touchdown. Kayvon finished the day with 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown, and 12 tackles (9 solo).

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Tyler Allgeier, Running Back – Atlanta Falcons

This is probably an overdue appearance for the Falcons’ rookie running back. He’s quietly flown under the radar due to his split load with Cordale Patterson, but has made the most of his opportunities, picking up tough yards and first downs.

Despite a slow start this week, where he only had one carry in the first quarter, he quickly found his rhythm, and despite finishing on the losing side in the game against the New Orleans Saints, he managed to have a career day. Finishing with 139 yards from 17 carries, Allgeier tore up the Saints defence at a rate of 8.2 yards per carry, converting eight first downs and forcing six missed tackles, leading to 100 of his 139 yards coming after contact. He also converted a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Allgeier now sits at 743 yards, only 280 yards behind the Falcons rookie rushing record set by William Andrews in 1979. 

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Jahan Dotson, Wide Receiver – Washington Commanders

In the last three weeks, Dotson has played the Giants twice either side of a well-deserved bye week, and on both occasions, the continued evolution of the chemistry between him and Taylor Heinicke has been in full flow, and as such, Dotson has been able to showcase his ability to make highlight reel catches.

The rookie out of Penn State eclipsed 100 yards for the first time in his career, with the majority of them coming after a 61-yard catch that almost sparked a late-game tying drive. With the Commanders backed up at their own 9-yard line, Heinicke uncorked a deep shot that Dotson managed to haul in despite impressive coverage by the Giants’ Jason Pinnock. Finishing the game with four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown, Dotson took his touchdown total to six for the season, only two behind the Commanders rookie franchise record held by Charlie Brown.

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Five Things: Week 13 – Washington Commanders at New York Giants

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In a game that offered little in terms of playoff clarity for both teams, the New York Giants and Washington Commanders played out a drab 20-20 tie. I suppose a silver lining is that I can continue my “good, bad, and ugly” theme from last week. Here are five things that stood out:

The Good

In a game that is likely to be remembered for all the bad, there were still a few positives to take away for the Giants.

Isaiah Hodgins played in his fourth game since joining the team from the Buffalo Bills practice squad, ending the game with five receptions of six targets for 44 yards and a touchdown, his first in the NFL. Not only has Hodgins shown safe hands since joining (13 receptions of 14 targets), but as he showed on a third-and-10 catch in the first half, he’s got the determination to fight for the dirty yards.

We also finally had the emergence of a pass rush, as for the first time this season we were able to see Azeez Ojulari, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams all on the same field together. Although Williams had to leave the game in the second half with a neck injury, the Giants recorded five sacks in the game with Thibodeaux, Lawrence, and Ojulari, who also recorded a fumble and recovery, each grabbing one along with fellow linemen Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis.

The Bad

After a 10-day break following the Cowboys’ second-half thrashing, you’d think the Giants would be raring to go, but it was a lethargic start on both sides of the ball. Daniel Jones scrambled and then fumbled the ball on only the fourth play of the game; the defence then decided that missed tackles were the order of play (a total of eight on the day according to PFF), leading to the Commanders scoring 10 points in the first quarter.

The Giants did manage to clean up their play for the 2nd quarter and the start of the third scoring 20 unanswered points but after that, the offence descended back into their sluggish play and looked devoid of inspiration. With the game score at 13-20 in favour of the Giants with just over three minutes of the third quarter gone, the Giants had plenty of time to find anything that would have likely sealed the win, but their next eight drives (overtime included) went punt, punt, punt, punt, kneel, punt, punt, and finally, the missed field goal to end overtime.

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The Ugly

Other than the result, there were plenty of moments in the game that left many a Giant fan dumbfounded.

We’ll start with Jon Feliciano’s decision to run from his position on the field to the sideline to flex. Now admittedly, Feliciano has since said he was flexing in the direction of Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton, who had just converted a first down, but the wily veteran should know better than to test this season’s referees, who spotted the myriad of Washington players around him and put two and two together. The ensuing flag negated the yards gained, and instead of being able to capitalise on the momentum to increase their lead, the Giants ended up punting the ball away just four plays later.

Overtime itself was another story with a couple of facepalm moments, but none more than when the Giants lined up for a third-and-three just inside Washington’s half and, as the ball was snapped, Saquon Barkley and Richie James ran into each other, leaving Jones to give up a sack. The decision to get cute with the play calling ultimately ruined what was a promising drive that could have ended the game.

Worst Coached Game of the Year?

It’s safe to say that if you isolated the first half of the season, you could argue that the coaching staff would all be deserving of nominations for honors, but in the last few weeks, mistakes, poor clock management, cautious play calling, and not resolving the season’s Achilles heel of slow starts have brought Giants head coach Brian Daboll back down to earth.

The slow start is not something new, but for some reason, we’ve been unable to ascertain what the root cause is. Earlier in the season, it wasn’t too much of an issue due to our second-half comebacks, but with the Giants’ offence now wildly inconsistent, we need to play from the first play to the last.

Mike Kafka’s play-calling hasn’t been awful, but it also hasn’t set the world alight either, and there were multiple missteps this week. There was the decision to not take a shot into the endzone late in regulation on third and one and to call a run, either of which shows a distinct lack of trust in either Daniel Jones or the wide receivers, plus the aforementioned overtime play and punt, which gave most of us the impression that the staff were happy to not lose rather than win.

A Tie, Really?!

The scoreboard may read tie game, but in the hearts of the fans and the players, this was just as deflating as a loss. Coach Daboll may have downplayed it by saying, “It’s better than a loss; not as good as a win,” but in the grand scheme of things, this one had to sting, especially since it was against a divisional rival.

The strange thing is that due to the scheduling this season, the Commanders will now take their late bye week while the Giants will need to be vastly improved as they take on another divisional rival, the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles before we do it all again against the Commanders, this time at FedExField in a game that has now been flexed into the Sunday Night Football spot.

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Week 12: Rookie Standouts

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Thanksgiving week always brings us a feast of games, and this year was no different, with three exciting contests on Turkey Day itself. The weekend didn’t disappoint either, with multiple shock results and a couple of overtimes sprinkled in for good measure. Here are three rookies that stood out among the pack:

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Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver – New York Jets

What a difference a week makes. After being frustrated by last week’s abysmal quarterback performance from Zach Wilson, there was a new man under centre this week, and Mike White was able to turn things around thanks in part to his main target, Garrett Wilson.

Wilson continued his stellar year by catching five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown, a 51-yard catch and run, was somewhat fortuitous as the Bears’ Eddie Jackson, who was covering Wilson, suffered a foot injury on the play, which put him on the ground; however, it was still an outstanding midair catch, and as they say, they all count. Wilson’s second score wrestled the lead back from the Bears just before halftime, and the Jets took care of the rest, shutting the Bears out in the second half.

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Brian Robinson, Running Back – Washington Commanders

Another week and another stellar performance from the Washington running back, who, along with Taylor Heinicke, has been a major part of the Commanders’ recent resurgence, and both players’ fortunes could be a major factor in a late playoff push for yet another NFC East team.

Robinson finished the day with 105 yards on 18 carries, including a long of 21 yards. He also had two catches on three targets for 20 yards and a touchdown. In the last three games, all wins for the Commanders Robinson has now recorded 248 rushing yards on 59 carries at an average of 4.2 yards per carry. With two upcoming games against the Giants, who allow the second-most yards per carry, Robinson will be confident in his ability to maintain his ground dominance.

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Trent McDuffie, Cornerback – Kansas City Chiefs

It’s safe to say that it’s been a fractured season for first-rounder Trent McDuffie. Following a hamstring injury in Week 1, the cornerback was placed on injured reserve before being activated at the start of November. Though it is highly unlikely that McDuffie will get close to a defensive rookie of the year nomination, it could very well be a case of what might have been.

Since his return, McDuffie has stayed mostly under the radar while playing some of the best football of any of the rookie cornerbacks. This past week, he only allowed two catches for 13 yards on six targets and had a pass breakup. In his four games since his return from injury, he’s been targeted 19 times and only allowed 10 receptions.

Honourable Mentions

Kayvon Thibodeaux (New York Giants), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jake Ferguson (Dallas Cowboys), Malcolm Rodriguez (Detroit Lions), Skyy Moore (Kansas City Chiefs)