Rookie Recap: NFC East
There may not have been a division more heavily influenced by the rookie class than the NFC East. The Washington Redskins became an immediate contender on the strength of two Rookie of the Year candidates, while the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants were denied a playoff berth after an underwhelming performance from their first-year players. The Philadelphia Eagles had a disappointing season, but their rookie class may have the brightest future after a number of players saw significant playing time. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys featured only three rookies that saw more than 100 snaps on the season.
Let’s take a look at the NFC East’s rookie class.
Notes: The Cowboys made an aggressive move from the middle of the first round to grab Claiborne at sixth overall with hopes that he would develop into the shutdown cornerback they’ve lacked in recent years. It was a mixed bag for Claiborne as he generally showed well in coverage, but his eight penalties ranked seventh among cornerbacks (including five in one game in Week 10) and he had issues in run support, particularly toward the end of the year. His 1.21 Yards/Cover Snap ranked 36th out of the top 77 at the position.
Tyrone Crawford, DE
Draft: Third round, 81st overall
Snaps/Usage: 303 snaps, 173 at RE
Notes: Crawford was a regular in Dallas’ defensive line rotation for all 16 games. He rushed the passer on 163 of his 303 snaps with eight total pressures to show for it, good for a Pass Rush Productivity of 3.9. Crawford’s Run Stop Percentage of 9.0 tied for eighth among the top 3-4 defensive ends.
Other Cowboys rookies:
Fourth-round linebacker Kyle Wilber managed a -2.0 coverage grade on just 16 total snaps on the season. Athletic sixth-round tight end James Hanna was sprinkled into the lineup for 109 snaps that saw him targeted 11 times. He came away with eight catches for 72 yards, 52 of which came after the catch (6.5 YAC/reception). Undrafted free agent running back Lance Dunbar saw the field for 91 plays that included 21 carries for 75 yards (3.6 Yds/Carry). He forced five missed tackles on those 21 attempts. Fellow undrafted free agent Ben Bass played 26 snaps on the defensive line, all of which came in Weeks 11 and 12. He graded at -1.5 in his limited time.
New York Giants
Notes: Wilson burst out of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse in Week 14 with a 13-carry, 100-yard performance against the New Orleans Saints. He started to regain the coaching staff’s trust down the stretch after an opening night fumble made him an afterthought for much of the season. Wilson finished the season with 358 yards on 71 carries (5.0 Yards/Carry) and an Elusive Rating of 39.0. He also returned 57 kicks at 26.9 Yards/Return including a touchdown.
Rueben Randle, WR
Draft: Second round, 63rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 250 snaps, 236 at outside wide receiver
Notes: Randle made the most of his limited opportunities, as he averaged 15.7 yards on his 19 receptions, including three touchdowns. Furthermore, 21 of his 32 targets came beyond 10 yards as the Giants looked his way for big play opportunities and he came through with four catches of at least 30 yards. Randle also showed good hands, as he dropped only one of the 20 catchable balls thrown his way.
Jayron Hosley, CB
Draft: Third round, 94th overall
Snaps/Usage: 465 snaps, 253 in the slot
Notes: Hosley struggled to a -12.1 overall grade and spent the majority of his snaps as the Giants’ slot cornerback. His 1.52 Yards/Cover Snap in the slot ranked 33rd out of the Top 40 qualifiers, while his 139.0 QB Rating surrendered from the slot ranked last in the league. Hosley also missed seven of his 35 tackle attempts.
Other Giants rookies:
Fourth-round tight end Adrien Robinson didn’t run a pass route on his three snaps. Seventh-round defensive tackle Markus Kuhn played 173 snaps as part of the defensive line rotation. He was pushed around in the running game to the tune of a -5.4 grade. After a good career at Florida, and some off-the-field issues, safety Will Hill made his NFL debut this season playing 218 snaps, 106 of which came covering the slot. He graded at +3.0 overall including +2.2 against the run.
Continue for the Eagles and Redskins…
Notes: Though he wasn’t listed as the starter until Week 8, Cox was a key part of the defensive line rotation all season and he played 52% of the team’s snaps during his 15 games on the field. He showed a good all-around game as he picked up 24 pressures on his 282 rushes, good for a PRP of 6.7 that ranked 13th out of the Top 68 defensive tackles. Cox’s Run Stop Percentage of 7.6 ranked 20th out of 82 qualifiers, and he even showed enough awareness to peel off his pass rush in order to make plays in the passing game at times. When you add it all up, Cox finished with a +7.3 overall grade that ranked 18th among defensive tackles.
Mychal Kendricks, OLB
Draft: Second round, 46th overall
Snaps/Usage: 15 games as starting outside linebacker for 955 total snaps
Notes: After storming out of the gates with four positive grades to start his career, Kendricks had a disastrous Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers that featured six missed tackles and sent him into an eight-game midseason slump. He finished the season with 14 missed tackles, or one every 7.1 attempts, placing him 22nd out of 26 4-3 outside linebackers in Tackling Efficiency. In addition to the tackling woes, Kendricks was unable to make a major impact against the run, as his -7.2 grade attests, and his six penalties were third-most at the position. While the Eagles trusted him as a three-down linebacker, Kendricks has some work to do in order to get back to the promising form he showed at the beginning of the season.
Draft: Third round, 88th overall
Snaps/Usage: Starting quarterback for six games
Notes: Foles took over for injured starter Michael Vick in Week 10 and started the next six games before missing the season’s final contest due to injury. He looked like a rookie for the most part, with the exception of a great game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14. Among the positives was his ability to complete passes under pressure, as his 64.7% Accuracy Percentage ranked 11th among the Top 38 qualifying quarterbacks. He can use some work on the deep ball, as his Accuracy Percentage on such throws was just 35.7%, good for 24th out of the Top 33 at the position.
Brandon Boykin, CB
Draft: Fourth round, 123rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 526 snaps, 480 in the slot
Notes: Boykin stepped right into the slot cornerback role for the Eagles and showed well in his first season grading at +1.5 overall. He allowed only 18 receptions on 220 coverage snaps in the slot (12.2 Cover Snaps/Rec), a mark that ranked fifth among slot cornerbacks. If there is an issue, it’s when opponents have the ball, as he allowed 122 yards after the catch (6.8 YAC/reception) and was unable to notch any stops on his 133 snaps against the run.
Dennis Kelly, OT
Draft: Fifth round, 153rd overall
Snaps/Usage: Three starts at right guard and seven starts at right tackle
Notes: Kelly saw his first extended action in Week 8 and finished the season with 10 straight starts between right guard and right tackle. Neither position was kind as he struggled to a -17.9 overall grade. As a pass blocker, he graded at -12.0 and surrendered 40 pressures on his 465 pass block attempts. It wasn’t much better in the running game, as he graded at -7.6.
Other Eagles rookies:
Second-round defensive end Vinny Curry didn’t see the field until Week 12 and finished the season with 89 snaps. He picked up six stops and notched three pressures on his 33 pass rush attempts. Sixth-round wide receiver Marvin McNutt didn’t catch either of the two balls thrown his way. He played only 14 snaps on the year. Running back Bryce Brown was drafted as a seventh-round flier and had mixed results in his first season. He combined for 347 rushing yards over a two-game stretch late in the year, but his four fumbles and multiple missed handoffs overshadowed an otherwise strong rookie campaign. Undrafted wide receiver Damaris Johnson caught 19 passes for 256 yards (13.5 yards/reception) while adding an 11.2 yards/return on punts. The other undrafted free agent to see the field on offense was TE Emil Igwenagu, who spent 25 of his 36 snaps as a blocker and finished at -1.9 in his limited time.
Notes: Not much more can be said for our Rookie of the Year Runner-Up after Griffin put together a tremendous season that saw him grade as our No. 9 quarterback, at +30.6. He ranked second in Accuracy Percentage at 79.6%, fifth in deep ball Accuracy Percentage at 50% and he was one of the most efficient passers while working off play action with 11.8 yards/attempt. The Redskins did a fantastic job of using his running ability by showing a variety of looks on offense, including a healthy dose of zone read that allowed Griffin to rush for 815 yards on 120 carries (6.8 yards/carry).
Kirk Cousins, QB
Draft: Fourth round, 102nd overall
Snaps/Usage: 98 snaps, including one start at quarterback
Notes: The Cousins selection came with plenty of scrutiny on draft day, and while I still have my doubts about taking a second quarterback with such a limited allotment of picks over the next few years, the move proved valuable as Cousins was already needed to fill in for Griffin on multiple occasions. He led Washington to victory in a relief effort in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens and came back with a strong effort against the Cleveland Browns in his only start the following week. Cousins finished the season at +5.2 overall with an Accuracy Percentage of 76.1.
Alfred Morris, RB
Draft: Sixth round, 173rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 752 snaps as feature running back
Notes: Morris is the latest late-round running back to have success under Head Coach Mike Shanahan, as he finished the season with 1,613 yards on 335 carries. He certainly benefited from the added running threat provided by Griffin, but he did plenty of the work on his own as he finished fifth in the league with an Elusive Rating of 51.0. Morris beat out Doug Martin for the top spot at running back on our All-Rookie Team.
Other Redskins rookies:
Third-round guard Josh LeRibeus played only 22 snaps during the regular season, grading at -0.1 overall. Fourth-round linebacker Keenan Robinson picked up three stops on his 69 snaps. Seventh-round cornerback Richard Crawford graded at a rather average -0.2 overall on his 201 plays, but he missed six of his 23 tackle attempts.
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