Natalie Saar: Rookie Report Card

Weeks 1 and 2 are finished and one thing is clear: this truly is the “Year of the Quarterback.”  Expect to see continued big passing game out of the vast majority of teams (unless you’re the Colts, in which case, good luck).

When it comes to rookies, quarterbacks also hog the spotlight.  One game this weekend will be the rookie face-off of the year: the quickly promoted fair-haired Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville against the scapegoat-turned-golden-boy Cam Newton.  But the rookies being relied upon this season extend well beyond the men at the helm.  Let’s check in on this year’s crop of young’uns and separate the men from the boys with some early progress reports.

Cam Newton, Panthers QB

No one doubted that Newton would have a strong NFL presence, but very few predicted it would happen so quickly. He has thrown for 854 yards, second only to Tom Brady. Newton is big, strong and has proven that his talents translate well into the professional world. In week 2, Cam threw for even more yards than the first week, but was picked off multiple times. While it’s obvious the rookie has some learning to do, his arm will make him deadly once he perfects his game.

Grade: A

Randall Cobb, Packers KR/WR

The first game of the year let everyone know that Green Bay snagged a key player with its second round draft pick. He wasted no time in proving to everyone that he belongs in the NFL, and with the Super Bowl champions at that! His week two appearance was a bit lacking compared to his first, but still nothing to scoff at, for a rookie. He had two receptions for 25 yards.

Grade: B

Nick Fairley, Lions DT

The Detroit Lions are a team that nearly everyone is buying into this year, and Fairley is part of the reason. He was originally projected to be a first overall draft pick, but was disappointed when he wasn’t in the top ten picks; however, this is inconsequential. The defensive tackle will be playing with one of the most explosive young players in the league, Ndamukong Suh. Alongside this monster player, the Detroit Lions D looks extremely fearsome. Expect to see Fairley create some big plays this season, once he gets his foot healthy again.

Grade: B-

Julio Jones, Falcons WR

Jones was drafted by the Falcons, who many have picked to be a Super Bowl contender this year. Already a big part of their passing attack, Jones had five receptions for 71 yards, averaging 14.2 yards a carry. The important stat, however, is that three of these receptions got his team a first down. Week 2 brought him less receptions, but his average was slightly higher at 14.5 yards a reception. He’s their starting wide receiver, opposite Roddy White, so look for him to get the ball a lot in this passing offense.

Grade: B+

Mark Ingram, Saints RB

One of the most talked about rookies coming into this year, Ingram has lived up to the hype. Ingram had 13 carries in Week 1, over double what any other player on the Saints had. He rushed for only 40 yards, but the fact that Brees went to him more than the veterans shows the confidence the quarterback has in the young running back. Ingram was also responsible for four of the team’s first downs. In Week 2, Ingram steadily improved with 51 rushing yards. Watch for him to do a bit of receiving in addition to rushing as the year progresses.

Grade: A

Denarius Moore, Raiders WR

The rookie WR was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and has proven to be an asset amongst their injury-ridden offense. Moore got no love in Week 1, but Week 2 was a different story when he caught five receptions for 146 yards and a TD. While Moore played well, he made some rookie mistakes, like looking back before finishing running his route, which resulted in an overthrown pass, by only a foot. With time he’ll learn from his mistakes and possibly earn a starting spot this season, even when the starters (Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy) recover.

Grade: A

Patrick Peterson, Cardinals CB

He’s not remarkably tall, but can jump high and push you around. This means he can outrun and outjump the majority of wide receivers on the field, an essential quality to have in a corner.  He’s steadily improving from five tackles in Week 1 to eight in Week 2, five of which were solo tackles in each game.

Grade: A

Von Miller, Broncos LB

While Von Miller’s NFL debut was a bit lackluster, chock it up to learning a new defense. This Butkus Award winning linebacker is going to need to familiarize himself with Denver’s 4-3 lineup. Once that happens, look out NFL. He had five tackles in the game against Oakland, three of which were credited to him as solo tackles. In week two, he had three tackles, all three of which were solo and one sack. Not bad for a rookie 

Grade: A-


Dontay Moch, Bengals LB

The Bengals snagged this freakishly fast defensive end/linebacker during the third round of the draft. This team’s defense hasn’t been anything special for a few years, but the addition of Moch can help change that. He’s a second string strong side lineman, but in a week or two, he’ll have changed that around. Expect to see him do some impressive work on the pass-rush.

Grade: C+