Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Week 8 Rookie Report: Rookie WRs dominate the Week 8 headlines

What a showing for rookie wide receivers in Week 8. While Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin have dominated the headlines for first-year pass catchers, and rightfully so, they aren’t the only notable receivers to make a big impact for their teams this season. They’ve been the most consistent, but have also been given the biggest opportunity as No. 1 targets on their respective teams. Chris Tripodi breaks down what he saw from four other rookie wideouts who enjoyed their best performances of the season in Week 8.

Brandin Cooks (WR-NO)

After a big Week 1 that saw Cooks burst onto the scene in Atlanta with seven receptions for 77 yards and his first career touchdown, many expected him to continue that success through the first half of the season. Like the Saints, however, the speedy Cooks struggled away from the Superdome turf and caught just 10 passes for 71 yards in his next three road games. The first-round rookie did put up 17 receptions for 130 yards in two home games before Sunday, but even those performance were underwhelming in terms of a lack of big plays. That certainly wasn’t the case Sunday against the Packers, as Cooks caught six balls for a career-high 94 yards and a touchdown, while adding a rushing score as well.

On the Saints’ first possession, Drew Brees drove the team inside the Packers’ five-yard line to set up Cooks’ first touchdown, a jet sweep to the left where the rookie scored untouched. Cooks motioned from the right slot and the Green Bay defense didn’t keep outside contain on the quick snap and handoff, giving Cooks an easy lane to quickly speed through. Two possessions later, Cooks got a step deep on a post route against Davon House and Brees hit him perfectly in stride for what would’ve been a 45-yard catch. Unfortunately, Cooks couldn’t hang onto the pass as he fell to the turf.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Friday, October 24, 2014

Timing of Kerley's Extension Curious for New York Jets

Four days after trading a conditional sixth-round draft pick -- a pick that becomes a fourth-rounder if Harvin is on their roster next season -- to the Seattle Seahawks for slot weapon Percy Harvin, the New York Jets extended the contract of current slot receiver Jeremy Kerley for four years and $16 million, with $5.4 million of that guaranteed. While the trade for Harvin seemed to signal the potential end of Kerley in New York, it instead was simply a precursor towards Kerley's return through 2018, which had been in the works for "a little while," according to the receiver.

While Kerley has endured his share of struggles this season, particularly when asked to be the team's No. 1 receiver when Eric Decker was sidelined due to injury, he has been an extremely dependable player for the Jets since being drafted in the fifth round in 2011. With the lack of dependable receivers the team has had during that time span, it's understandable the Jets would want to keep Kerley around and build continuity in the passing game to aid the development of second-year quarterback Geno Smith.

What is more difficult to understand is trading for an explosive slot receiver who has elite speed and ability after the catch, then re-signing a possession-focused slot man who acts as more of a chain mover. Every offense needs reliable receivers that can convert third downs and keep drives alive, but where will Kerley get his work if Harvin takes over the slot?

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Week 7 Rookie Report: Two Rams lead the way after Sunday's upset of Seattle

The Rams upset the Seahawks on Sunday, thanks to trick plays on special teams and the emergence of two rookies, one on each side of the ball. Running back Tre Mason and defensive tackle Aaron Donald have seen their playing time increase over the past two weeks, and both are taking advantage of their newfound opportunities in the starting lineup. Two first-year linebackers also caught Chris Tripodi’s eye this week, one taken fifth overall and another in the fifth round.

Tre Mason (RB-StL)

A third-round pick out of Auburn, Mason was active for the first time this season in Week 6 against the 49ers, playing the first nine snaps of his career and turning five carries into 40 yards. After passing the eye test as easily the Rams’ most explosive running back, Mason looked to have earned more playing time heading into Week 7 against the Seahawks. While the former SEC star played just over half of St. Louis’ offensive snaps (27 of 51), he led the Rams with 18 carries, which he turned into 85 yards and a touchdown. Former starter and second-year runner Zac Stacy played just one snap and fellow sophomore Benny Cunningham rotating in on passing downs, leaving feature-back duties to the rookie.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Week 8 ACC Scouting Notes: Louisville’s Devante Parker Shows No Rust in Return

A broken bone in his left foot cost Louisville star wide receiver DeVante Parker almost two months of action, including seven games of his senior season. Parker proved his health is no longer an issue Saturday and made up for lost time, taking a quick slant on the second play from scrimmage for 37 yards to make his presence felt. A potential first-round prospect in the 2015 class, Parker tied his career-high with nine receptions, totaling 132 yards in his 2014 debut.

Parker’s strong hands and impressive catch radius were on display early and often against N.C. State, as the receiver hung onto the ball through contact on a third-and-four slant route and snatched a few high passes from quarterback Will Gardner out of the air. Parker also showed off his playmaking ability after the catch, breaking tackles on multiple short routes to create extra yardage.

Read the rest at Optimum Scouting

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Week 6 Rookie Report: Jets' Amaro breaks out, while Jags' Johnson disappoints

Week 6 saw some impressive performances from rookies around the NFL, with Jets tight end Jace Amaro becoming the fifth tight end this season to pull down 10 receptions in a game and Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett intercepting his first career pass and setting a new career-high in tackles. Chris Tripodi returns again to break down what he saw from Amaro, Verrett and a couple of other rookies who had opportunities to impress this weekend.

Storm Johnson (RB-Jax)

A seventh-round pick out of Central Florida, Johnson got the start for the Jaguars in Week 6 thanks to Toby Gerhart’s foot injury and general ineffectiveness. The question for Johnson was whether he could overcome Jacksonville’s poor run blocking up front when Gerhart couldn’t, considering many (myself included) believe Johnson is the most talented runner in the Jaguars’ backfield, despite his low draft status. With college teammates Blake Bortles under center as well, Johnson had the advantage of being comfortable with his quarterback in his first start. Coach Gus Bradley said after the game that the goal was to give Johnson 10 carries, and he ended up with exactly 10 carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. While Johnson started and received the bulk of Jacksonville’s carries, he played just 19 snaps in total.

The rookie’s first carry of the game went for just one yard, but could’ve hit for a few more if Johnson had been more patient. Instead of waiting an extra split-second behind his fullback and seeing a small hole develop on the backside, Johnson charged forward into multiple Titans defenders. Johnson corrected this issue later in the first half on his longest run of the game, a six-yard carry from a single back formation. Without a fullback block to read in the backfield, Johnson recognized penetration on the right side of the line, cut quickly to the back side and showed nice burst through the crease before falling forward for extra yardage on first contact.

Read the rest at Draft Insider

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Eric Decker Effect

For all the hoopla surrounding the Jets' quarterback situation, and whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick should be under center, many fans and pundits are overlooking the key piece to the puzzle. While most are willing to lament the team's general lack of offensive weaponry, few specifically mention the positive effect free-agent acquisition Eric Decker has had on New York' offense.

When the Jets signed Decker to a five-year, $36.25 million contract, most said the money was right. I would agree, especially considering what the division-rival Dolphins are (over)paying their starting receivers - Mike Wallace makes $60 million over five years, while Brian Hartline makes $30.77 million over the same length.

Somehow, Decker makes only slightly more than Hartline despite being a far better receiver. And while you can argue that Wallace is a better player this season, he was terrible last year and makes almost twice as much money. Decker wins the battle of value, and it's not really close.

The only potential knock on the Decker deal was that it wasn't enough for the Jets, which isn't a knock on Decker at all. General manager John Idzik didn't address the wide receiver position until the fourth round of this year's draft, and Shaq Evans is on injured reserve while Jalen Saunders was recently cut. Second-round tight end Jace Amaro has been predictably slow to develop like most rookie tight ends, especially ones that excelled in a spread offense in college.

To say that New York lacks weapons behind Decker is to state the obvious, as starting slot receiver Jeremy Kerley on the outside and bottom-of-the-roster players like David Nelson and Greg Salas behind him is just unacceptable.

Read the rest at Pro Football Spot

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week 5 Rookie Report: Giants set to rely on rookies offensively

Week 5 of the NFL season brought us the same thing we see almost every week: Injuries to multiple running backs, and late-round picks and undrafted free agents unknown to the common fan making a name for themselves. Only one player drafted in the first 100 picks made the list this week, and Chris Tripodi returns to tell you who it was and break down what he saw from a few players taken outside the first three rounds that are making an impact for their teams.

Branden Oliver (RB-SD)

With the San Diego backfield beset by injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead and ineffectiveness from free-agent acquisition Donald Brown, Oliver provided Chargers fans with glimpses of another diminutive back that used to wear #43 in powder-and-blue, Darren Sproles. Standing at just 5-8, the undrafted Oliver took over after Brown suffered a first-half concussion against the Jets. After rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and adding 68 yards and another score on four receptions, Oliver is likely to take over as San Diego’s lead back until Mathews returns to the field, regardless of Brown’s status.

Read the rest at Draft Insider