Week one was a tough start to many rookie quarterback's careers, but that didn't hold true in week two. The rookies that struggled last week all put up impressive showings, and that wasn't just limited to quarterbacks.
Young offensive linemen shut down top pass rushers, and a second year defensive lineman is making his case as to why he's the best defensive player in the league. Who else stood out in week 2?
Rookie Quarterbacks have a Resurgent Week 2
The Browns’ Brandon Weeden had the worst looking week one start out of this year’s batch of rookie quarterbacks, but week two saw Weeden put up some impressive numbers against a pretty good Bengals defense. He bounced back from a dismal debut, throwing for 322 yards (a franchise record for a rookie) and two touchdowns. Most importantly, Weeden threw no interceptions and looked far more comfortable and in charge, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers.
A big key to Weeden’s success was the break out game Trent Richardson had. Following a poor week one outing where the Browns had no threat of a running attack, Richardson’s 145 yard and 2 TD offensive output meant the defense couldn’t just focus on stopping Weeden. It will likely be a rollercoaster throughout the season, but Cleveland should feel much better about their offense. Will it result in a week three win?
Andrew Luck came into the league with the biggest expectations of any rookie in a long time. Many fans acted as though anything less than a Pro Bowl berth in his rookie year would be a disappointment. He looked very much like a rookie in week one, but like Weeden, Luck bounced back in a big way in his second outing.
Luck put up solid stats against Minnesota, 224 yards and 2 touchdowns, good for a 107.5 quarterback rating. But his numbers alone aren’t what Colts fans should be exicited about. His game winning drive in the final minute of the game was the first by a rookie quarterback since Archie Manning. He showed veteran poise and presence, and even was able to get the Vikings to jump offsides during the drive.
Outside of Weeden, Ryan Tannehill had the bumpiest start to his career last week, but thanks to a strong rushing attack Tannehill looked like he could be the Dolphins’ future franchise quarterback. One of his biggest problems in week one was that Tannehill simply had no help around him on the offensive side of the ball. That changed against the Raiders. Reggie Bush had a great day, and wide receiver Brian Hartline provided the rookie with a reliable option to pass the ball to.
Going 18-30 isn’t a great day at the office for any quarterback, but Tannehill has able to stretch the field more than in week one and turned those 18 completions into 300 yards and two touchdowns. He showed much better pocket awareness and was only sacked once. After throwing three interceptions in week one, he didn’t turn the ball over at all in week two.
Russell Wilson didn’t put up remarkable numbers in his second start, but he did help lead the Seahawks to a surprisingly impressive win over the Cowboys. He only threw for 150 yards and a touchdown, but he did what he had to do to win. He completed 75% of his passes, averaged 10 yards per completion, and didn’t turn the ball over.
In a league where players like Cam Newton look like All Pros in their rookie seasons, it’s easy to discount a solid but non spectacular rookie performance like Wilson’s, but we shouldn’t. Regardless of the what sort of fantasy points Wilson did or didn’t score, he led his team to victory, and that’s all that matters.
Robert Griffin III had an out of this world performance in week one, but he looked a little more human in week two. He put up nearly three hundred yards of total offense, but for most of the second half he wasn’t able to lead the offense to a score and saw St. Louis comeback from an early deficit to win the game.
RGII obviously can’t be held responsible for Josh Morgan’s boneheaded play that ended up costing them the game, and overall it’s tough to find too much to criticize. He continutes to make big plays with his athleticism (he ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns), and led the Redskins to the verge of a game winning field goal before Morgan’s personal foul backed them out of range. He’s far and away been the best rookie quarterback through two weeks.
Recapping the Match-ups to Watch
Buffalo LT Cordy Glenn vs. Kansas City LB Tamba Hali
Cordy Glenn should have been overmatched when going up against Tamba Hali. Ryan Fitzpatrick should have expected to be on the run all day long with a rookie protecting his blindside. However, Glenn put up an outstanding showing against the pass rusher, and ended up winning the one on one battle.
Hali never recorded a sack or even a hit on Fitzpatrick, but Glenn didn’t only excel at pass blocking. CJ Spiller is getting a ton of credit for his start to the season, but it’s been Glenn that is often pulling and lead blocking for the speedster, and Glenn deserves a ton of credit there as well. It’s a shame that because of his position he won’t get the publicity he deserves, but Glenn is off to as good of a start as any rookie in the league.
Miami RB Reggie Bush vs. Oakland’s Front Seven
Through two quarters, this match up was pretty much a stale mate. In second half, Reggie Bush delivered a decisive knock-out blow. He scored a 23 yard touchdown, and then minutes later scored on a 65 yarder. Those two runs crushed whatever hopes the Raiders had of over taking the Dolphins, and there were some signs that Bush is more than just a change of pace back.
Miami gave Bush the ball at the end of the game to run out the clock, and he did quite a good job. It’s a role Bush hasn’t had before, but with Daniel Thomas off to a disappointing start to his career it’s apparent that Bush has an opportunity to become the Dolphins feature back for quite awhile to come. So far, Bush is on the right track.
Houston DE JJ Watt vs. Jacksonville RT Guy Whimper
When it was suggested by Wade Phillips that JJ Watt would eventually be a Hall of Fame player, many wrote of the statement as hyperbole. After two weeks of the season are now in the books, it’s not hyperbole to say that Watt is the best defensive player in the league right now.
Guy Whimper and the rest of the Jacksonville offense had no answer at all for Watt. Watt recorded two sacks, knocked down two passes, had two hurries and one additional hit on Gabbert. He finished off the Jaguars’ hopes of coming back with a fumble recovery on their final offensive play. He’s playing at a level that’s unmatched by any other defensive lineman right now, and that’s pretty scary since he’s only in his second year and still developing. Maybe he’s a potential Hall of Famer after all.
Related: 2012 NFL Scouting: Week Two Preview
Scouting Notes from Across the League
The Tennessee Titans have some major concerns at safety. After signing a contract extension in the offseason, Michael Griffin has started the season with two horrible tackling performances. Robert Johnson won the starting job alongside Griffin in training camp, and has been repeatedly burned in his first two starts. The Titans pass rush has improve, but if their secondary can’t hold up for even a few seconds it won’t matter.
Facing a defensive line that boasts Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch is no small task, but it wasn’t too much for San Francisco’s offensive line. While there were strong performances across the line, no one stood out to me more than Joe Staley. He’s off to a great start to the season, and if he keeps this play up he should be a Pro Bowl candidate by the end of the year.
There’s some good news and bad news for the Ravens’ defense. The good: Terrell Suggs' absence is being covered admirably by Pernell McPhee (three hurries against the Eagles). The bad: they’ve got some big questions in the secondary. Ed Reed is solid of course, but the Eagles picked on Cary Williams and James Ihedigbo all game long, and neither player was able to respond.
The Saints were expected to struggle on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s pretty much been the case thus far. Lost in those struggles, however, has been the strong play of defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Hicks isn’t getting many snaps yet, but he’s making an impact more often than not when he’s on the field.
When Cleveland lost cornerback Sheldon Brown last week, they turned to second year player Buster Skrine to fill in for him. Skrine played well in that game, but his first career start in week two was a tougher outing for him. He gave up eight catches for almost 100 yards on the day.
Stephon Gilmore, however, had much better day in his second week of NFL action. He didn’t allow Dwayne Bowe to get any catches against him, and by my count only gave up four receptions on the day.