The halfway point has now been reached, and some of the stragglers are starting to slide away from playoff contention as the field becomes clearer. Here are three rookies that stood out this week.
Kerby Joseph, Safety – Detroit Lions
In the first three weeks of the season, Joseph didn’t even get a snap on the Lions defense, and it’s likely that he’d still be playing a limited role if not for the Achilles injury sustained by Tracy Walker. In the five weeks since he was thrust into the lineup, Joseph has had his fair share of teething issues but has slowly improved. However, no one could have foreseen what happened this week.
In the Lions’ improbable 15-9 win over the freefalling Green Bay Packers, not only did Joseph finish with 10 tackles and 3 pass breakups (including a key one on 3rd down), but he also picked off reigning MVP Aaron Rogers twice. This outstanding showing won him a well-deserved NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Dameon Pierce, Running Back – Houston Texans
In a season that seems lost already, it’s difficult to find any kind of plus for the Texans as they rack up loss after loss. Luckily, their rookie class of Jaylen Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr., and Dameon Pierce have shown that not only are the Texans drafting well, they are getting impact players.
With the Texans’ two main wide receivers, Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, ruled out, Pierce almost single-handedly kept the Texans competitive in their game against the Eagles, as he finished the game with a career-high 139 yards on 27 carries. Incredibly, his 139 yards were only 17 yards shy of the franchise record of 156 yards set by Steve Slaton in 2008 and Alfred Blue in 2014.
Cade Otton, Tight End – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Rob Gronkowski retiring and O.J. Howard leaving in free agency, drafting a tight end became a necessity for the Bucs, and at the start of the fourth round, they picked up the former Huskie, Otton. This season was supposed to be a learning experience, but Brate’s injury struggles forced the Bucs to use him sooner.
Luckily, what the Bucs have found is a more than ready replacement who is now starting to flash in the passing game as well as being a more than able blocker who might keep Brate out of the team regardless of his status. As the Bucs were staring at another loss, Brady hit Otton on the first pass of their final drive for a 28-yard gain before hitting him again for his first career touchdown, sealing the game for the Bucs with 9 seconds remaining.
Sauce Gardner (New York Jets), Kenneth Walker III (Seattle Seahawks), Tyler Allgeier (Atlanta Falcons), Ikem Ekwonu (Carolina Panthers), Kader Kohou (Miami Dolphins)