The consensus around the NFL was that the 2014 draft was one of the best in recent memory, but in reality its been a struggle at times for members of this year’s rookie class, few of whom have had really notable seasons to date. That trend may have started to turn around this past weekend, though, as first-year players were front and center in a number of games including more than one rookie who contributed the game clinching play. In no particular order, the highlights for this year‘s rookie class this past weekend included:

  • Minnesota OLB Antony Barr, the 9th player taken this past May, for example, had 8 tackles including a sack in the Vikings’ dramatic overtime win in Tampa Bay. However, Barr saved his best for last as he stripped the ball from Bucs’ rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the first play of the extra period, then scooped it up and raced into the end zone for the game-winning score. Ironically, Seferian-Jenkins, a second round pick this past spring, had hauled in a TD reception of his own with just over 2 minutes to play that gave the Buccaneers a 13-10 lead that they just couldn‘t quite hold. In fact, the Vikings-Buccaneers tilt was something of a rookie fest as Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota‘s first year QB got the ‘W‘ after he completed24 of 42 pass attempts for 214 yards and a TD, while RB Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings‘ 3rd rounder this year, pounded out 83 yards on just 16 carries. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans had 4 catches for 74 yards in the losing cause.
  • Washington CB Bashaud Breeland, a 4th round pick who is playing only because incumbent starter DeAngelo Hall is injured, found himself matched up pretty much all night long against Dallas’ Pro Bowl WR Dez Bryant and held up very well as he broke up two end-zone passes intended for Bryant late in the third quarter and then in OT Breeland knocked down Tony Romo’s last desperation pass attempt to seal the Unmentionables improbable 20-17 win over the division leading Cowboys. 
  • NFC leading Arizona got a huge 24-20 win over Philadelphia on Sunday thanks in large part to a highlight reel 75-yard TD reception by rookie WR John Brown with just 1:21 to play in the 4th quarter. On the day, Brown, , an unheralded 3rd rounder from unheralded Pittsburg State, had 5 catches for 119 yards and the score.
  • Buffalo got a second straight 100-plus yard receiving game from WR Sammy Watkins as the 4th player chosen at the 2014 with a pick the Bills acquired in a trade up deal with Cleveland, had 157 yards on just three receptions in the team’s 43-23 rout of the Jets in New York. Watkins also had a TD on a 61-yard reception and should have had a second on an even more spectacular 89-yard play, but was dragged down at the 5-yard line while showboating. Meanwhile, Bills’ rookie LB Preston Brown had 9 tackles and an interception to pace the defense.
  • New Orleans’ WR Brandin Cooks did score twice in the Saints’ big win over Green Bay as he caught 6 passes for 94 yards, including a 50-yard TD reception, while he also ran 4 yards for a second.  Needless to say the Saints were expecting that kind of production from Cooks, their opening round pick at the 2014 draft. On the other hand, the Saints likely weren’t expecting much at all from OLB Kasim Edebali, an undrafted free agent from Germany via Boston College, who chipped in a couple of sacks to help New Orleans’ cause against the Packers.
In the end it was a very tight vote for Rookie of the Week with Arizona's John Brown edging out Minnesota's Anthony Barr for this week's award.

This and that … Not for the first time this year, Baltimore LB C.J. Mosley, the 17th player selected this year, led all rookie tacklers this past week with 13 in the team’s tough loss to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, St. Louis DB Lamarcus Joyner and Tennessee LB Avery Williamson also got into double-digit tackle numbers as both posted 10 in their team‘s respective losses For good measure, Williamson also had a sack, as did Carolina DE Kon Ealy and Miami DE Terrence Fede, while Kansas City OLB Dee Ford, along with DT Dominique Easley and Zach Moore of New England were credited with half sacks. At the same time, Houston OLB Jadeveon Clowney, the first player selected this past May, made his pro debut in the Texans’ 30-16 win over Tennessee after sitting out with a foot injury since training camp. For the record, Clowney had a tackle, but at least he played!

Previous Weekly Winners:

Week I:   Denver CB Bradley Roby
Week II: Chicago CB Kyle Fuller
Week III: Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin
Week IV: Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater
Week V: San Diego RB Branden Oliver
Week VI: Dallas OG Zach Martin
Week VII: Buffalo WR Sammy Watkins

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