The highlighted rookies had some really good moments on Sunday as our weekly check-in continues. [Note: the ranking from my final 2018 Big Board is listed in parenthesis]
Josh Allen, Bills QB (2)
Last week (v TEN)
10/19 (52.6%), 82 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT // 4 carries, 19 yards, 1 TD
53.3%, 748 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT // 31 carries, 135 yards, 3 TD
Despite the worst supporting cast in the league, Josh Allen has gone 2-2 as a starter with wins against a couple playoff teams from a season ago that are hoping to make the postseason again in 2018. The numbers haven’t been great, but Buffalo’s franchise quarterback said after the Week 5 victory when asked about throwing the ball downfield less than he might like, “I care about W’s. I don’t care how ugly the stats look.” The numbers aren’t even that bad, either, as for a guy that was labeled inaccurate based solely on completion percentage in college, Allen is completing passes at a higher rate than Josh Rosen (49.2%) on the year, and Sam Darnold (55.7%) and Baker Mayfield (58.9%) are both under 60% with much better players around them. Leading the first game-winning drive of his career on his first opportunity should be a boost for Allen heading into a winnable matchup against the Texans, and those who refuse to see the promise in the rookie signal-caller are fooling themselves (just yesterday, I saw someone say the Bills are in play for a Day 1 quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft).
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB (8)
Last week (@ DET)
DNP – groin
19 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, 0.5 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss
Green Bay’s first-round pick had to sit out their 31-23 loss to the Lions with a groin injury, but hopefully he can get healthy for a Monday Night Football matchup against the 49ers this week.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals WR (11)
Last week (@ SF)
3 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD // 1 carry, 5 yards // 1 punt return, 0 yards
19 receptions, 234 yards, 1 TD// 2 carries, 12 yards // 5 punt returns, 44 yards
A 75-yard touchdown reception by Christian Kirk on Arizona’s first drive last week was basically their only offense of the game, but the defense held up to give Steve Wilks his first win as a head coach. On the score, Kirk gave a slight move to the outside before turning back to the deep post, and the safety completely blew the coverage by roaming, which allowed the rookie to easily catch the downfield pass from Josh Rosen and stroll in for six. Many evaluators thought Kirk was limited to the slot in the NFL after playing there at Texas A&M, but two of my listed strengths for him were “can put a double move on a defender to get deep” and “a threat to score from anywhere on the field.” There should have been no concerns about the 21-year-old playing outside at the next level, and he’s proving that so far with two games of 85+ yards on one of the league’s worst passing attacks.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins TE (13)
Last week (@ CIN)
3 receptions, 26 yards
8 receptions, 77 yards
The lack of touchdowns and overall production as a receiver has been a slight disappointment, but I have no doubt that Mike Gesicki will eventually be an impact pass-catcher. He dropped back down to 47% of the snaps played in Week 5 because Miami was nursing a lead and used blocking tight end Nick O’Leary, but it should be stated that head coach Adam Gase said this week that Gesicki has made strides as a blocker—which was his biggest flaw coming out of Penn State. On Sunday, he will face a Chicago defense that has allowed tight ends to find the end zone in each of the past three games, so perhaps the second-round pick will hit pay dirt for the first time in his career.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions RB (14)
Last week (v GB)
12 carries, 70 yards // 2 receptions, 15 yards
50 carries, 286 yards, 1 TD // 13 receptions, 68 yards
Saquon Barkley is getting all the recognition (and deservedly so) as a game-breaking rookie runner, but Kerryon Johnson—who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry—has been as effective as anyone this season. The former SEC star has rushed for at least 5.4 yards per carry in each of the past four games, and it’s no coincidence that both of Detroit’s wins have come when he’s received double-digit attempts. As I said last week, Kerryon should be featured, so we’ll see if that’s the case when the Lions come out of their Week 6 bye.
Josh Jackson, Packers CB (18)
Last week (@ DET)
2 tackles, 1 pass defended
17 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 TD
Josh Jackson operated as Green Bay’s clear No. 3 cornerback with Jaire Alexander inactive in Week 5, and he did a nice job containing Detroit’s dangerous trio of wide receivers, especially considering Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay had a ton of success in two 2017 matchups. The rookie gave up a big play to Golladay on a slot fade, but it looked like Jackson wanted a flag for a subtle push off at the catch point, and he quickly got up to hustle downfield and bring down the big-bodied wideout before he could score. It will be fun to see Jackson take on his former college quarterback C.J. Beathard on Monday night, and we’ll see if he can get his hands on a pass after leading the country in interceptions (eight) last season at Iowa.
Nick Chubb, Browns RB (19)
Last week (v BAL)
3 carries, 2 yards
13 carries, 148 yards, 2 TD
Just as I unfortunately expected, going for 105 yards and two touchdowns on just three attempts in Week 4 didn’t lead to increased playing time for Nick Chubb against the Ravens, as he has yet to crack three touches in a game despite rushing for 11.4 yards per carry, while starter Carlos Hyde is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry on 100 attempts through five weeks. The Browns have won a couple games now, but I still don’t have confidence in a coaching staff that’s allowing a star-in-the-making to be out-carried 100 to 13; I think feeding Chubb could be the key to actually living up to their playoff aspirations, and beating the Chargers at home would be huge for the Browns this weekend.
Lorenzo Carter, Giants OLB (21)
Last week (@ CAR)
14 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 deflection
Through five games, Lorenzo Carter’s snap percentage (38% > 40% > 31% > 53% > 45%) hasn’t exactly been steady, but the main takeaway is that he remains a part-time player to start his career, even with Olivier Vernon not making his debut until this week. Carter probably needs to develop more of a pass-rushing arsenal to unlock his potential and provide New York with a necessary difference-maker at outside linebacker, but he can also set the edge in the running game and drop back in coverage when needed.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR (28)
Last week (BYE)
8 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD // 1 kick return, 14 yards
Anthony Miller missed Week 4 with a dislocated shoulder, but it looks like he is on track to return against the Dolphins after healing up over the bye. We might get some battles between he and fellow rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick, as Miami’s starting slot corner Bobby McCain is expected to sit again with a knee injury.