Judging the NFL Rookies
by Trevor Whenham - 08/15/2006
The teams have played one game, the rookies have seen the field, so now it's time to do what sports fans do best - prematurely judge the players. The first preseason game, in the grand scheme of things, means almost nothing. Still, a player that gives an eye-popping performance in their first taste of top competition has to make their teams feel pretty good.
Most of the players were as invisible as you would expect them to be (we aren't going to be on your case yet, Mario Williams), but here's a look at a few of this year's new recruits who stood out in their first games. Obviously we won't spend much time dwelling on defense players or linemen, because they haven't had the time to develop the schemes which will really be the test of their true effectiveness.
Reggie Bush, Saints, RB, Round 1, USC - There has been so much Reggie hype that it will be almost impossible for him to live up to it. Unless he keeps pulling off plays like he did in his first game, that is. His 44 yard run showed us just how much better than anyone else alive he is at playing football. Crazy. He ended up with 59 yards on 6 carries, and added two receptions for 10 yards for good measure. Reggie Bush will be very, very good. You heard it here first.
Jay Cutler, Broncos, QB, Round 1, Vanderbilt - How come I never knew that Cutler was a 10 year veteran? The guy played in his first game like he had been there five hundred times before. 16-22 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He was poised, he was confident and he probably gave Jake Plummer a coronary. There will obviously be speed bumps along the way, but if this is a peek at what Cutler can do, then I hope he likes Hawaii in January, because he'll make making a trip or two there over the years.
Laurence Maroney, Pats, RB, Round 1, Minnesota - Maroney could give Corey Dillon a run for his money in New England. He only got nine touches, but he took full advantage of them. He scampered 66 yards, for an average of 7.3 yards per carry. The Pats need a good running game, and Maroney could be the second head on a pretty nasty monster that could give opposing defenses nightmares.
Santonio Holmes, Steelers, WR, Round 1, Ohio State - Holmes was the leading receiver for the Steelers with 4 catches and 32 yards. That doesn't mean much, though, because Ben Roethlisberger only played about three minutes in the game. Still, Holmes looked comfortable and not at all out of place.
Kellen Clemens, Jets, QB, Round 2, Oregon - Clemens hit what you would have to call a soft spot - he's a quarterback who was drafted on a team that really doesn't have a great quarterbacking situation. Chad Pennington has something to prove, and you don't really believe in Patrick Ramsey, do you? Clemens may not see a lot of playing time, especially early, but the Oregon product showed that he is not without skills. He went 10-14 for 92 yards in his debut, and looked solid if not flashy.
Greg Jennings, Packers, WR, Round 2, Western Michigan - Unless you are a much better man than me, you probably didn't catch a lot of Jennings' games at Western Michigan. His performance in his first game probably came as a bit of a surprise, then. Four catches, 68 yards, and a long play for 47 yards. That doesn't suck. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing Brett Favre was the happiest guy in Wisconsin after seeing Jennings strut his stuff. It's still going to be a really, really long year in Cheeseland, but at least Rod Gardner isn't the only option.
Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings, QB, Round 2, Alabama State - Brad Johnson will take almost every snap in Minnesota if he stays healthy, and Mike McMahon will likely be the second choice, but late second round pick Tarvaris Jackson served notice that he has a bit of talent. In his first try he passed for 60 yards and ran three times for 36 more in limited action. Not earth shattering, but a comforting showing for Brad Childress and the Vikings brass.
Quinton Porter, Texans, QB, Undrafted, Boston College - I'm a sucker for the underdog, and this undrafted Boston College QB is definitely an underdog. In a short appearance for the Texans, Porter completed all four passes he threw for 51 yards. How many passers can say that they have never had a pass hit the ground in the NFL? He'll have that to hang onto when he gets cut well before the season starts.
Philip Rivers, QB, Three years ago, NC State - Obviously, I know that Rivers isn't a rookie, but he has only thrown 22 passes in his career, so he might as well be. In his first time at the big kids table, Rivers looked like he definitely belongs. He went 15-21 for 169 yards and a touchdown in less than half a game. Drew who?