Under ordinary circumstances week 1 for rookies would have a little less mystery surrounding them. We would have 4 preseason games and plenty of time to see what the pro freshman look like in their new team’s uniforms. These times are anything but ordinary. With no preseason games and training camp having restrictions because of the pandemic last weeks slate of games was the first live action the 2020 draft crop would see.
This week gave us some great performances and some growing pains as these players navigate through life as a pro. Every week this season I will give you the Top 5 performances by rookies and a sleeper 6 performance by a late round pick.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
- RB – CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE – LSU – 5’7” 207 – 1st ROUND (32ND OVERALL) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS
Game Stats: 25 carries / 138 yards / 1 touchdown
Player’s dream of being the first pick in the draft however, being the last pick in the first round has its benefits. Edwards-Helaire couldn’t have found a better team in the Kansas City Chiefs. Clyde glided through the Texans defense with great patience and vision. Edwards-Helaire showed balance and the ability to make the first defender miss. His lone touchdown run was highlighted by a sharp cut that left a defender in his wake. He did some of the little things that veteran running backs still struggle with like sealing the edge in pass protection on Mahomes rollouts. For a rookie to receive 25 touches on opening night for the defending champions is an impressive feat and a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
Position Rating: 4.00 (Rating is out of 5 based on 7 Categories: vision, elusiveness, pass protecting, pass receiving, speed, toughness, intangibles)
Next Game: Sunday 4:25 pm at LA Chargers
2. CB – CJ HENDERSON – FLORIDA – 6’1” 204 – 1ST ROUND PICK (9TH OVERALL) vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Game Stats: 5 Solo tackles / 1 interception / 3 pass break ups
Everybody assumes Jacksonville is mailing it in so they can “Tank of Trevor” Lawrence. Nobody told Jacksonville’s players that was the plan. The Jags have a lot of young players that are getting significant playing time. CJ Henderson, the nucleaus of the Jags rebuild, made an immediate impact at corner. Henderson was targeted 11 times, only 5 were completed, and gave up 0 yards after those catches. He battled with TY Hilton most of the afternoon and was very effective in press coverage. To seal the victory for the Jaguars Henderson made a great break on the ball and dislodged it from Hilton’s hands on 4th down. Jags win and a good debut for their franchise corner.
Performance Rating: 3.71 (Tackling, man cover skills, zone cover skills, ball skills, speed, toughness, intangibles)
Next Game: Sunday 1:00 pm at Tennessee Titans
3. DE – CHASE YOUNG – OHIO STATE – 6’5” 264 – 1ST ROUND (2nd OVERALL) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Game Stats: 4 total tackles (2 solo / 2 assists) / 1.5 Sacks / 1 Forced fumble
Young played 53 snaps Sunday on defense in tough match up against Jason Peters of the Eagles. He flashed the skills that made him the #2 pick in the draft. He showed his speed with his spin move to the inside, showed his power with the bull rush, and his hand strength shedding blockers. At times the young defensive end can be too much in pass rush mode, get to far up field, and over run the play. Washington’s pass rush was already solid and with the addition of Young and his upward progression may be scary as the season goes on.
Performance Rating: 3.64 (Start speed, hand strength, pass rush, block destruction, speed, toughness, intangibles)
Next Game: Sunday 4:05 pm at Arizona Cardinals
4. QB – JOE BURROW – LSU – 6’3” 221 – 1ST ROUND (1ST OVERALL) – vs. LA CHARGERS
Game Stats: Passing: 23-36-193 yards – 0 TD – 1 INT / Rushing: 8 carries – 46 yards – 1 TD
The Joe Burrow era began on Sunday vs. the Chargers. The Ohio native showed some flashes of what he can be at this level. His touchdown run was on a designed draw. He beautifully set up his blocks and accelerated down field to the end zone. The game plan was kept simple in his first NFL game. Coach Zac Taylor ran a lot of screens, hitches, outs, and slants to keep his young Qb in rhythm. In the 3rd quarter he missed a deep ball that was a sure touchdown. Burrow showed his youth trying to force throws that weren’t open, especially on a 4th quarter interception he tried to shovel the ball to his receiver while off balance and under duress. Undeterred, Burrow on the next drive led Cincinnati on a 14 play (9-11 completions) march down the field to put his team in a position to win. The field goal was ugly to say the least and Burrow was hard on himself after the game giving his performance a D grade. The battle of Ohio next week in prime time should showcase more of Burrow’s Game.
Performance Rating: 3.57 (accuracy, arm strength, speed, mobility, toughness, intangibles).
Next Game: Thursday Night at Cleveland Browns
5. C-LLOYD CUSHENBERRY II – LSU – 6’3” 312 – 3rd ROUND (83RD OVERALL) vs. TENNESSEE TITANS
Game Stats: Started and played every snap at center. He had Perfect snaps, 0 penalties, and 0 sacks given up.
I have to give some love to the offensive line. 2020 draft was all about the offensive tackles but it was a center who stood out on Monday Night Football. The LSU product did an excellent job at center against an strong defense. His pass protection was the most impressive part of his game. Cushenberry moved his feet well and handled the big boys up front for the Titans. Run blocking will an area Cushenberry has to improve on. He missed a block on the goal line that cost them a score. The more chemistry he builds with the offense the more effective the run game.
Performance Rating: 3.57 (run blocking, pass blocking, footwork, agility, start speed, toughness, intangibles)
Next Game: Sunday 1:00 pm at Pittsburg Steelers
SLEEPER 6 PERFORMER
JAMES ROBINSON – ILLINOIS STATE – 5’10” 220 – UNDRAFTED – vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Game Stats: rushing: 16 carries / 62 yards / receiving: 1 catch / 28 yards
With the departure of Leonard Fournette the Jaguars had limited options at running back. Enter rookie free agent James Robinson. Robinson is a throwback power runner who was the main ball carrier for Jacksonville in their victory Sunday. His runs were nothing fancy but he hit the whole hard and got the tough yards. In his lone reception he turned a swing pass into a spectacular 28 yard gain. Robinson leaped over a defender and stay on his feet showing some awesome athleticism. His performance should warrant more touches next week.
Performance Rating: 3.50 (vision, elusiveness, pass protecting, pass receiving, speed, toughness, intangibles)
Next Game: Sunday 1:00 pm at Tennessee Titans