Two runners that were previously underrated headline the rookie report as Week 8 gets underway. [Note: the ranking from my final 2018 Big Board is listed in parenthesis]
Josh Allen, Bills QB (2)
Last week (@ IND)
DNP – elbow
54.0%, 832 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT // 35 carries, 155 yards, 3 TD
Buffalo’s franchise quarterback was out for Week 7 and isn’t going to play in Week 8 either, which is unfortunate because we would have had our first and only chance to see him in primetime this year. Almost no one besides Darren Woodson, Rex Ryan, Phil Simms, and White Wolf Sports believes Josh Allen is going to be a star, but just look at the splits for the Bills when he does/doesn’t play; in five starts, Allen went 2-3 with a combined point differential of -18, and in the two games Allen didn’t start, Buffalo is 0-2 with combined point differential of -76.
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB (8)
Last week (BYE)
19 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defended, 0.5 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss
It sounds like the bye week should get Jaire Alexander on the field for the first time in October, and Green Bay will probably need him against Sean McVay’s unstoppable offense this weekend. The rookie should mostly match up with Robert Woods in the slot.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals WR (11)
Last week (v DEN)
3 receptions, 57 yards // 2 punt returns, 17 yards
28 receptions, 368 yards, 1 TD // 2 carries, 12 yards // 10 punt returns, 78 yards
One of the lone bright spots for the Cardinals in last Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Broncos was Christian Kirk making some chunk plays, as he showed he can run deep, complex routes to create separation, which was a strength coming out of Texas A&M. We’ll see what kind of impact a change in offensive coordinator will have on the rookie, but I would think getting David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald more involved will open things up for him down the field. This week, Kirk will look to get behind the San Francisco defense again after catching a 75-yard touchdown against them in Week 5.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins TE (13)
Last week (v DET)
3 receptions, 44 yards
12 receptions, 132 yards
Coming off his most productive game of the season, Mike Gesicki had three receptions in Miami’s loss to the Lions, including his first play of 20+ yards, which set the team up in the red zone. The rookie has no fear going over the middle as a receiver, and injuries to Kenny Stills (groin) and Albert Wilson (hip) should make him more involved as the season progresses. Also, if the Dolphins end up keeping DeVante Parker ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, they would have a couple big-time touchdown threats in scoring territory.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions RB (14)
Last week (@ MIA)
19 carries, 158 yards // 2 receptions, 21 yards
69 carries, 444 yards, 1 TD // 15 receptions, 89 yards
As hoped, Detroit featured Kerryon Johnson out of the bye, and he set a new high in touches (21) and yards (179) as the Lions improved to 3-3. The highlight was a 71-yard run to change field position, and the former Auburn star showed he’s a natural glider in the open field as he nearly outran Miami defenders for six. Johnson, who now paces the first-year backs with 74 rushing yards per game, could garner some serious Rookie of the Year consideration if he continues to handle 18+ weekly touches to help Detroit compete for a playoff spot. Kerryon will look to stay hot against an underrated Seattle defense this week.
Josh Jackson, Packers CB (18)
Last week (BYE)
19 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 tackle for loss, 1 TD
It will be interesting to see how the Packers play everyone this week against Los Angeles if Jaire Alexander and Bashaud Breeland are both healthy, as they might need all five of their starting-caliber cornerbacks to match up with Jared Goff’s weapons. As for Josh Jackson, I think we might see him on tight end Gerald Everett if McVay uses him in the slot with Cooper Kupp (knee) inactive. Last year’s NCAA leader in interceptions is still looking for his first takeaway at the next level.
Nick Chubb, Browns RB (19)
Last week (@ TB)
18 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD
34 carries, 253 yards, 3 TD
I said in last week’s rookie report that “I’ll believe it when I see it” in regards to Nick Chubb getting more work, but later in the day, Carlos Hyde was traded, setting the Georgia product up as Cleveland’s new featured back. Now, Chubb is suddenly turning into a full-fledged star just as I was looking ahead to 2019, and he should be a focal point for the next several years as a throwback runner that has the acceleration and speed in the open field to be a game-breaker against NFL defenders. And not only does Chubb have an old-school game, but he also has an old-school demeanor where he simply handles his business and doesn’t need to let people know about it. I think we need more of that in sports.
Lorenzo Carter, Giants OLB (21)
Last week (@ ATL)
1 tackle, 1.0 sack
16 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 deflection
The Giants have the third fewest sacks in the league, but they flashed a bit in Atlanta with three sacks of Matt Ryan, and both games with multiple takedowns for New York this season have come when Lorenzo Carter gets to the quarterback. On Monday night, he was able to collapse the pocket with a power move to get the defense off the field on third down, and it must have felt good to record a sack in front of his hometown fans in Georgia. We should see plenty more snaps for Carter down the stretch as the Giants give extended playing time to the younger guys.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR (28)
Last week (v NE)
2 receptions, 35 yards
11 receptions, 124 yards, 2 TD
New England did a great job containing Chicago’s top wideouts last week, as Allen Robinson (1/4), Taylor Gabriel (3/26), and Anthony Miller (2/35) all failed to get going on a day where Mitchell Trubisky passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Miller was at least able to make grabs of 21 yards and 14 yards, but he simply isn’t getting many looks right now with Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen taking a lot of targets over the middle and underneath. Perhaps the rookie will breakout against a banged-up Jets secondary on Sunday.