Maurkice Pouncey—C—Pittsburgh Steelers
I’ve probably been remiss in not mentioning Pouncey before Week 9, but it’s often hard to quantify how good an offensive lineman if performing without being able to watch him every single game. And this is more about the body of work than how Pouncey performed this past week versus Cincinnati, although Pittsburgh had over 100 yards rushing and allowed only 1 sack. One of the storylines that came out of this past week’s game was the fact that the offensive players on the Steelers claim that if they had a re-vote for team captains, Pouncey would for sure get the nod. That’s an incredible compliment for the rookie 1st round pick from Florida. Add that to the fact that Rashard Mendenhall is having his breakout year with over 700 yards rushing already and Pittsburgh has had to deal with 3 different starting quarterbacks, yet they still have the best record in the league, and it becomes clear the impact that Pouncey is having on that team. Pouncey is a future all-pro in the making.
Dez Bryant—WR—Dallas Cowboys
From my vantage point, on the couch at home, when it looked like every other Cowboy had quit versus Green Bay, I was truly impressed with Bryant’s fight and tenacity. He looked like the only player on Dallas that cared. The 1st round pick from Oklahoma State caught 9 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, bringing his year-to-date totals to 38-435-4. And that after a really slow start. It looks like Kitna is comfortable with Bryant, much more so than with Miles Austin, so I think we’ll see more games like this in the future. When he’s playing, Bryant looks like the most physically gifted player on the field.
Seyi Ajirotutu—WR—San Diego Chargers
Most people outside of San Diego probably couldn’t even pronounce Ajirotutu’s name before this past game against Houston. I think everyone is paying attention now. The undrafted free agent from Fresno State caught 4 passes for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns versus the Texans. Amazing for a guy that didn’t even play until a few weeks ago. I’m beginning to think that you could stick Charles Rogers or Koren Robinson in San Diego and they would have huge games too. It’s amazing how productive San Diego’s passing game has been with all the injuries, but guys like Ajirotutu keep stepping up, and it doesn’t hurt to have Phillip Rivers throwing the ball. I fear Ajirotutu will get lost in the mix upon Vincent Jackson’s return, but he’ll remember this day for quite some time.
Jacoby Ford—WR—Oakland Raiders
The speedster Ford finally had his breakout game, and at a very opportune time this past week in a critical division match versus Kansas City. Ford, a 4th round pick from Clemson who had the fastest 40 time at the combine, caught 6 passes for 148 yards (a 24.7 yards per catch average), and also had a 94 yard kickoff return for touchdown. Oakland has been a surprise this year, and one of the main reasons is that they finally drafted a solid, balanced class of rookies that are producing right away. We’ve killed Oakland for all the bad draft picks, so give credit where credit is due.
Colt McCoy—QB—Cleveland Browns
Am I the only person that is shocked at McCoy’s performances so far? Probably not, but I just felt that he looked completely lost in the pre-season and would never, and should never, get into a game this year. By circumstance he has had to play, and I’m not sure he’s going to give the job back to either Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace. This is the second time he has stood up well against a great opponent, this time beating the New England Patriots, and beating them badly. McCoy’s numbers aren’t stunning, but the efficiency is impressive. The 3rd round pick from Texas completed 14 of 19 passes (73.7%) for 174 yards, and also had 3 carries for 20 yards and a rushing touchdown. His final quarterback rating for the game was 101.6. Play like that, and garner a few more wins, and Eric Mangini might save his job after all. Then again…
Aaron Hernandez—TE—New England Patriots
I have been continually impressed with Hernandez from day one. Another nice game this past week versus Cleveland had Hernandez catching 5 passes for 48 yards and also 2 touchdowns (the first 2 of his career). With Moss out of the picture, New England will look to Hernandez, a 4th round pick from Florida, more and more as he looks like their most dynamic weapon on offense at this point.
Shout-Outs To: EJ Wilson, DE, Seattle Seahawks (1st career tackle), Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals (1st career receiving touchdown), O’Brien Schofield, LB, Arizona Cardinals (1st career forced fumble), Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1st career receiving touchdown), Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (1st career receiving touchdown), Tony Pike, QB, Carolina Panthers (1st 12 career pass attempts, 1st 6 career completions), Michael Palmer, TE, Atlanta Falcons (1st career receiving touchdown), Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers (1st career interception), CJ Wilson, DE, Green Bay Packers (1st career sack), Keenan Clayton, LB, Philadelphia Eagles (1st career tackle), Phillip Dillard, LB, New York Giants (1st career tackle), Barry Church, S, Dallas Cowboys (1st career forced fumble), Jeremy Ware, CB, Oakland Raiders (1st career interception), Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs (1st 2 career sacks), Verran Tucker, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (1st career reception and 1st career receiving touchdown), Javarris James, RB, Indianapolis Colts (1st 2 career rushing touchdowns), Jonathon Amaya, FS, Miami Dolphins (1st career tackle), Donald Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills (1st career catch)