Which rookie caught national attention for a standout performance in Week 8? [Note: the ranking from my final 2018 Big Board is listed in parenthesis]
Josh Allen, Bills QB (2)
Last week (v NE)
DNP – elbow
54.0%, 832 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT // 35 carries, 155 yards, 3 TD
It would have been fun to see Josh Allen get a chance to make some plays against New England on Monday Night Football with Sean McDermott’s defense keeping them in the game at home, but the rookie remains week-to-week with an elbow injury. I think we might not see him until after the Week 11 bye, which would set up a meeting with trash-talker Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars.
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB (8)
Last week (@ LAR)
7 tackles, 5 passes defended
26 tackles, 1 interception, 6 passes defended, 0.5 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss
Most football fans should have known who he was as a first-round pick in April’s draft, but Jaire Alexander earned league-wide recognition for his play in Sunday’s 29-27 loss to the Rams. The rookie, who had been out since the final week of September, returned to shadow Brandin Cooks, and he gave the versatile speedster fits all afternoon with an unreal five passes defended. Even on the plays that Cooks was able to make, Alexander stayed right on his hip, proving to be a sticky man-to-man corner that can single-handedly transform a defense. He should either match up with Julian Edelman or Josh Gordon this week on Sunday Night Football, and don’t be surprised if the Louisville product makes some clutch plays with the lights on; in college, Alexander forced three turnovers in one game against Deshaun Watson.
Christian Kirk, Cardinals WR (11)
Last week (v SF)
3 receptions, 42 yards, 1 TD
31 receptions, 410 yards, 2 TD // 2 carries, 12 yards // 10 punt returns, 78 yards
A clutch nine-yard touchdown catch by Christian Kirk with 34 seconds left to play gave Arizona their second win of the season (both against the 49ers), and the rookie wideout continues to play great for a 2-6 squad. Kirk is on pace for a 62/820/4 line at the season’s midway point, and a 1,000 yards shouldn’t be out of reach considering the slow start. He might not get the respect he deserves tucked away in Arizona, but Kirk should have plenty of opportunities to shine down the stretch in potential shootouts against the Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Falcons, and Rams.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins TE (13)
Last week (@ HOU)
4 receptions, 14 yards
16 receptions, 146 yards
Mike Gesicki took a couple huge hits last Thursday night in Houston with Brock Osweiler throwing him into traffic on underneath routes, but it showed the rookie’s toughness and fearlessness as a receiver by not flinching despite being flipped on his head at one point. Gesicki is still seeking his first career touchdown, but I think his future remains extremely bright as a potential force in the red zone.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions RB (14)
Last week (v SEA)
8 carries, 22 yards // 6 receptions, 69 yards
77 carries, 466 yards, 1 TD // 21 receptions, 158 yards
The Lions were dominated at home against Seattle, but it was good to see Kerryon Johnson at least be involved as a receiver with a career-high six receptions and 69 yards. Detroit would probably do well to commit to the running game, but it will be easier said than done over the next couple weeks against the Vikings and Bears (both on the road). Also, the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia could possibly have something to do with the team’s confidence in Johnson as a weapon out of the backfield, as I saw David Johnson/Le’Veon Bell potential for him as a pass-catcher out of Auburn.
Josh Jackson, Packers CB (18)
Last week (@ LAR)
No statistics recorded
19 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 tackle for loss, 1 TD
The return of Jaire Alexander pushed fellow rookie Josh Jackson almost all the way out of the rotation in the secondary, as he saw just two defensive snaps due to Green Bay almost exclusively going with three safeties instead of four cornerbacks against Sean McVay’s spread attack. Perhaps the trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will open up snaps for Jackson, and I think he might even be tasked with defending Rob Gronkowski at times on Sunday night (remember, we saw the former Iowa star contain Trey Burton in the season opener).
Nick Chubb, Browns RB (19)
Last week (@ PIT)
18 carries, 65 yards // 2 receptions, 10 yards
52 carries, 318 yards, 3 TD // 2 receptions, 10 yards
Pittsburgh has played stout run defense this season, but Nick Chubb looked like he was going to have a huge day last week as he ripped off some nice runs early on. However, the Steelers improved as the game went on, and Chubb was contained in the second half. He’s still averaging 19 touches since Carlos Hyde was traded, though, and the second-round pick will have an opportunity to carry the Browns to a shocking victory against the poor-tackling Chiefs this weekend. Plus, with Gregg Williams in charge as interim head coach, it’s probably safe to say he wants to ram the ball down people’s throats by featuring Chubb, who John Dorsey would undoubtedly like to see succeed.
Lorenzo Carter, Giants OLB (21)
Last week (v WAS)
19 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 deflection
After recording a sack against the Falcons, Lorenzo Carter was rewarded with more playing time (57% snaps in Week 9), but he couldn’t get to Alex Smith as the veteran quickly got the ball out and relied on Adrian Peterson to takeover the game. Carter will come out of the bye to face a strong string of right tackles—Mike McGlinchey (SF), Demar Dotson (TB), and maybe Lane Johnson (PHI) if he’s healthy—but the rookie should only see his role increase down the stretch for the one-win Giants.
Anthony Miller, Bears WR (28)
Last week (v NYJ)
3 receptions, 37 yards, 1 TD // 1 carry, 7 yards
14 receptions, 161 yards, 3 TD // 1 carry, 7 yards
In the write up for my 2018 NFL Draft Big Board, I said Anthony Miller “is an excellent ball-tracker, can make last-second body adjustments, and knows how to work the boundary,” and all three traits were displayed on a simple four-yard touchdown catch against the Jets. As stated last week, Chicago’s second-round pick isn’t getting many looks with Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen also taking targets over the middle, but Miller has the talent to make plays every week, and he needs to be a key player for a potential playoff run.