Daryl Washington—ILB—Arizona Cardinals
At least the Cardinals hit on one of their 7 draft picks. With 1st round pick Dan Williams having an especially disappointing season, 2nd round pick Daryl Washington from TCU has stepped up and is quietly putting together a solid rookie campaign with 42 total tackles thus far. This past weekend against Seattle, Washington tallied 11 tackles and his first career sack. He was all over the field, especially against the run, and looked like he will be around for a very long time.
LeGarrette Blount—RB—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s pretty easy to dislike LeGarrette Blount, but it’s not easy to deny that he looks like he might stick around in the NFL for a long time. With a pretty unique frame for a running back at 6’0” and 247 lbs. Blount’s bruising style and hard running are making a name for himself in Tampa Bay. Versus St. Louis, the undrafted free agent from Oregon carried 11 times for 72 yards, and an extremely respectable 6.5 yards per carry average. Moreover, his running style and pass blocking seem to set a tone for Tampa, so look for Blount to slowly receive more of the workload in that backfield.
David Gettis—WR—Carolina Panthers and Brandon LaFell—WR—Carolina Panthers
What a day for this rookie wide receiver duo for the Carolina Panthers versus San Francisco. Gettis, a 6th round pick from Baylor, led the way for Carolina with 8 catches for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns. While Brandon LaFell, a 3rd round pick from LSU, tallied 6 catches for 91 yards. This is somewhat of a surprise considering neither had done much to this point, as is common for rookie wide receivers, but perhaps with Matt Moore back in the starting line-up as opposed to Jimmy Clausen, these guys might start to produce a little more consistently. Carolina is desperate to find someone who can take some heat off the aging Steve Smith, so keep your eyes open on these two.
Dez Bryant—WR—Dallas Cowboys
Ahhh, so this is what everyone who saw Dez Bryant practice during training camp was raving about. While Bryant has had a couple of decent games, everyone was waiting for the breakout game, and it happened Monday versus the New York Giants. Bryant caught 4 passes for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also ran back a punt 93 yards for a touchdown. A truly electric display of speed, hands, elusiveness and power for Bryant. It’s hard to know what to make of Bryant moving forward, considering the injury to Tony Romo, but keep in mind that his touchdowns did come with Jon Kitna at quarterback. And either way, Bryant may be on his way to replacing Devin Hester as the most feared punt returner in the league.
Eric Berry—DB—Kansas City Chiefs
Like Dez Bryant above, I think many people have been quietly waiting for Eric Berry to have his breakout game as well. With so many rookie safeties making impacts (Nate Allen, T.J. Ward, Earl Thomas, Cody Grimm, etc.), it was Berry’s turn not to be outdone. This past week versus Jacksonville, Berry finally had the game we’ve been waiting for. With 4 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 interception (which included a 35 yard return), and 1 forced fumble, the 1st round pick from Tennessee’s impact was unquestionable. Once again, this is proving to be the best rookie class of safeties in a very long time, and Berry should end up being amongst the best of that group.
Jordan Shipley—WR—Cincinnati Bengals
I thought that Jordan Shipley required that Colt McCoy be his quarterback to have big games like this. Apparently Carson Palmer will do him just fine. On Sunday versus Atlanta, Shipley had his best game of the season catching 6 passes for 131 yards, including a 64 yard catch-and-run touchdown. Part of his big game was due to the fact that the Bengals fell behind and were passing a lot, but Shipley, a 3rd round pick from Texas, has been pretty solid all season, with 21 receptions for 321 yards so far in just 5 games played. I doubt there are enough balls to go around in Cincinnati for Shipley to have more big games like this, but I think he has proven that he belongs in the NFL and should be a productive player for a long time.
Shout-Outs To: Jermelle Cudjo, DT, St. Louis Rams (1st career .5 sack), Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, St. Louis Rams (1st career receiving touchdown), Erik Lorig, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1st career tackle), Ted Larsen, C, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1st career start), Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota Vikings (1st career tackle), Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay Packers (1st career receiving touchdown), Barry Turner, DE, Chicago Bears (1st career tackle), Riley Cooper, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (1st career receiving touchdown), Richard Goodman, WR, San Diego Chargers (1st career catch), Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders (1st 2 career catches), Rolando McClain, LB, Oakland Raiders (1st career .5 sack), Javier Arenas, DB, Kansas City Chiefs (1st career forced fumble), Kevin Alexander, LB, Denver Broncos (1st 2 career tackles), Larry Hart, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (1st career tackle), Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals (1st career tackle), Terrence Cody, DT, Baltimore Ravens (1st career tackle), Dane Fletcher, LB, New England Patriots (1st career forced fumble), Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots (1st career interception), Austin Spitler, LB, Miami Dolphins (1st career tackle), Cord Howard, T, Buffalo Bills (1st career start)