Blog Entry

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

Posted on: September 21, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 8:34 pm
Green Bay LB C. Matthews already has six sacks through two games this year (AP).
Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In my experiences, it’s never too early to hype somebody, no matter how early it is in the season or in a career. Sure, you run the risk of overhype, but then again, who cares? That’s partially what makes following and covering NFL football so much fun. Let the compliments and hyperbole fly and see where everything falls (either in the sky with the stars or on the floor with the garbage).

This week, we’re examining the second-year players who have impressed us the most this season. Some were not stars last season, but in their second years have shown they are, in fact, pretty good – if not great – players. Some were Pro Bowlers last year who have continued their strong play. Some have finally emerged this year. And some who were really special last year but have done next to nothing this season weren’t included.

This is the list in which we celebrate those who haven’t fallen into the so-called sophomore slump. Of course, it’s only two games into the season. Still plenty of time for those compliments to fall from the heavens and thud to the turf.

Sanchez 10. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: Listen, I know he’s not the greatest QB out there. He’s got a career 54.7 completion percentage, and he’s got 15 career TDs against 20 INTs. But I saw him in last year’s playoffs manage his team to the AFC championship game as a rookie, and he has the backing of New York’s management. He’s not going to be the next Peyton Manning, but he’s showing improvement. And Sanchez (21 of 30 for 220 yards and three TDs) outplayed Tom Brady last Sunday to beat the Patriots. Maybe an AFC East title isn’t out of the question.

9. Johnny Knox, WR, Bears:
Knox is a member of the powerful triumvirate of players from Abilene Christian who are making an impact in the NFL today (Bengals RB Bernard Scott and Bears S Danieal Manning are the others). He had a solid rookie season on offense, but he really shined on special teams, making the Pro Bowl as a KO returner. He’s made seven catches this year so far, and you saw his ability on the 59-yard pass from Jay Cutler last week when Knox used his pure speed to burn Dallas CB Mike Jenkins and make the catch.

8. Pat McAfee/Kevin Huber, P, Colts/Bengals:
Finally, some love for the punters (though we don’t give enough love to give these two an entry of their own). These two were the best punters in the Big East in their final collegiate seasons – McAfee at West Virginia and Huber at Cincinnati – and they’ve translated those skills into the NFL. McAfee averaged 44.3 yards last year, and though his yards per punt numbers have fallen a bit, he’s dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line. Huber, meanwhile, has upped his average yardage to 44.7.

McCoy 7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles:
Last season, McCoy scored four rushing touchdowns and he caught 40 passes. Already this season, he’s scored four rushing touchdowns and caught nine passes. Plus, he’s averaging a ridiculous 6.7 yards per rush. He scored three touchdowns in the Eagles win against the Lions on Sunday, and it was the first time a Philadelphia RB has accomplished that since 1995.

6. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos:
Remember how big a loss it could have been when Moreno went down with an injury in the preseason – we asked if Correll Buckhalter or (yikes) LenDale White could take over those No. 1 reps – but since he’s returned, Moreno has reminded Broncos fans why they were so worried about his injury prognosis in the first place. After all, he leads the team with 182 total yards of offense.

5. Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers: Behind Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson last year, Freeman didn’t get any playing time until midway through the season, where he took over the starting role. He kept his starting position throughout the offseason, but he promptly fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason and missed some time. But since he’s returned, he’s been quite good, and Tampa Bay surprisingly is 2-0. This, even though Freeman is just 22 years old.

4. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants:
With a solid rookie season, Nicks was a guy who could be expected to make contributions behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Don’t think anybody expected this. Of Nicks’ six catches on the year, four of them have gone for touchdowns. After catching three of them in Week 1, he rolled his ankle and was questionable for last Sunday. But he returned for the Colts game and secured another one late in that contest. He’s becoming a dangerous receiving threat.

3. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins:
After Washington drafted him with the No. 13 pick overall in the 2009 Draft, Orakpo had a huge rookie season, recording 11 sacks and earning a Pro Bowl berth. Orakpo’s stats aren’t quite as big so far this year, but he’s still causing plenty of fear among opposing offensive lineman. He’s blitzing more often than last year, and against Dallas in Week 1, he forced Alex Barron into three holding penalties, including the game-winner.

Foster 2. Arian Foster, RB, Texans:
Did anybody see this coming? Especially after last season when he was just a practice squad player in Houston? Well, who would have thought Foster had the 33-carry, 231-yard, three-touchdown career day he had in Week 1 vs. the Colts? Yeah, he came down to earth a little bit Sunday (19 carries for 69 yards and three catches for 69 yards), but still, is there a more exciting RB in the game right now?

1. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers:
He’s been the most dominant defensive player in the NFL this year. He’s got six sacks already this season, and already, there’s talk about him breaking the sack record (um, chances are, this won’t happen). But considering he had 10 sacks last year and is already more than halfway to matching that mark, that’s an awfully impressive figure. And he’s got an impressive head of blonde hair.

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
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Since: Sep 27, 2010
Posted on: September 27, 2010 9:25 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

I got a little perturbed until I realized this doesn't count week 3 games. Can't for the life of me see how Austin Collie - who leads the nfl in receptions, yards, and TDs - wouldn't be included in the top 10 2nd-yr players...

Since: Mar 9, 2009
Posted on: September 23, 2010 9:41 am

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

How is there absolutely no mention of Vontae Davis?

Either the author is dumb or he has an anti-Dolphin bias.

Since: Jul 8, 2007
Posted on: September 23, 2010 9:08 am

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

I've got a problem with Foster at #2. Not that he isn't good, but running backs are so interchangeable. He's doing what Steve Slaton did a couple years ago, before the fumblitis hit him hard. One huge game does not make Foster a superstar.

Capable back + decent line + explosive passing game = big numbers

That's why there are so many backs by committee and 3rd stringers ending up starting when the top guy goes down, and undrafted guys playing everywhere.

Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: September 22, 2010 10:22 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

For some reason, no Dolphins are making any kind of list or even being mentioned on the major networks or media.  Makes you kind of wonder if it is almost planned.  Vonte should be on that list without a doubt.

Since: Jan 29, 2007
Posted on: September 22, 2010 2:04 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

How in the world can you have Mark Sanchez and two punters on this list and Vonte Davis is not mentioned? Sanchez had a QB rating  worse than J. Russell last year and threw for only 74 yards in week one. And I mean no disrespect to the punters, but they are punters. Vonte Davis started 9 games as a rookie and this year has made life hell for Trent Edwards and Brett Favre. Old man Farve even said Davis should be on the AFC Pro Bowl team after he thew three picks to a Dolphin D anchored by Davis.

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: September 22, 2010 1:34 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

When I saw that he listed 2 punters, I thought for sure Thomas Morestead of the Saints would be on here (he deserves to be there more than Sanchez at least).  He has a booming leg, also does kick offs, and lest we forget he did the infamous onside kick during the SuperBowl.

Since: Apr 24, 2007
Posted on: September 22, 2010 1:33 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

Have to be a little bit skeptical of McCoy and Foster.  The Lions defense is always horrible in general, and that was most of McCoy's success so far.  The Colts have a long history of terrible run defense, certainly not every game, but it flares up now and again.  I need a few more weeks of Foster playing well to prove he's legit.  And NO, Foster is NOT the most exciting RB in the game right now.

Since: Sep 4, 2009
Posted on: September 21, 2010 7:19 pm

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

No Vontae Davis=list fail.

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