Rookie Recap: AFC East

Steve Palazzolo reviews the impact of the 2012 rookies in the AFC East.

| 4 years ago

Rookie Recap: AFC East

With the PFF Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team in the books, it’s time to take a look at the rest of the first-year players around the league. First up is the AFC East where the rich got richer as the New England Patriots saw three rookies make the All-Rookie team. The Buffalo Bills got mixed, yet promising, results from their top selections while the Miami Dolphins found their quarterback of the future, but possibly little else. In New York, the Jets needed a near-perfect draft to make up for a lack of depth on the roster and general manager Mike Tannenbaum’s offseason departure tells the whole story, though they may have found a worthwhile pass rusher.

Let’s take a look at all of the rookies to saw action this season in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Stephon Gilmore, CB
Draft: First round, 10th overall
Snaps/Usage: Started all 16 games playing 1,081 snaps, 668 at RCB

Notes: It was a modest rookie season for Gilmore who was plagued by penalty issues — his 13 flags led all cornerbacks. He graded at -4.6 for the season though there were some positives as his +3.7 coverage grade placed him in the top half of the league. He proved to be an efficient tackler missing only one in every 17.3 attempts, good for ninth at the position. If he can learn to keep his hands to himself in coverage, the Bills will be pleased with their first rounder moving forward.

Cordy Glenn, LT
Draft: Second round, 41st overall
Snaps/Usage: Started 13 games at left tackle playing 826 total snaps.

Notes: Though many expected Glenn to play right tackle or even guard in the NFL, he had a great start at left tackle before cooling off toward the end of the season, finishing with a +6.6 grade. He was near the top of our Pass Blocking Efficiency rankings early in the year before settling near the middle of the pack at 30th out of 52 qualifiers with a 94.4 PBE score. Despite the second half swoon, Glenn showed enough that he is likely the left tackle of the foreseeable future in Buffalo.

T.J. Graham, WR
Draft: Third round, 69th overall
Snaps/Usage: 716 total snaps, 615 at outside wide receiver.

Notes: Graham was used best in the short passing game as 13 of his 31 receptions came on screens and he only caught two of the 14 deep passes thrown his way. He had trouble catching the ball in general; he dropped seven passes and his Drop Rate of 18.4% was the second worst of all wide receivers with at least 50 targets.

Nigel Braham, OLB
Draft: Fourth round, 105th overall
Snaps/Usage: 402 total snaps playing primarily at strongside linebacker in Buffalo’s base 4-3 set.

Notes: Nothing stood out in Bradham’s game that saw him grade at -0.2 on the season, though he did tie for 14th among 4-3 outside linebackers with a Run Stop Percentage of 8.3. He also tied for the team lead with nine special teams tackles.

Other Bills rookies: Fourth-round cornerback Ron Brooks played 162 snaps, 71 of them in a Week 13 start against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He graded at -4.3 on the season with four missed tackles on only 15 attempts. Kicker John Potter was drafted in the seventh round and he took over kickoff duties where he graded at +8.9, good for 28th in the league in our kickoff grades. The only undrafted rookie to see the field was center David Snow who started two games and surrendered only one pressure in 89 attempts on his way to a +1.9 overall grade.


Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill, QB
Draft: First round, 8th overall
Snaps/Usage: Started all 16 games at quarterback

Notes: Tannehill showed flashes at times this season, though he was certainly overshadowed by top performances from the other rookie quarterbacks around the league. Among his positives, he showed well under pressure as his 72.9 percent Accuracy Percentage ranked second in the league and he threw an accurate deep ball ranking seventh in the league at 43.1 percent. He graded at +11.5 on the year, good for 13th among all quarterbacks.

Jonathan Martin, OT
Draft: Second round, 42nd overall
Snaps/Usage: Started all 16 games, 11 at right tackle and five at left tackle

Notes: It was a tough season for Martin regardless of which side he lined up. His -22.0 grade placed him 76th out of the top 80 tackles and his 92.0 PBE ranked 50th out of 52. His five starts at left tackle came after starter Jake Long went down to injury and with Long’s pending free agent status, Martin may stay there long term. No matter which side he plays, Martin must show improvement after a difficult rookie campaign.

Olivier Vernon
Draft: Third round, 72nd overall
Snaps/Usage: 445 total snaps, 374 in Miami’s nickel package.

Notes: Vernon was used primarily as a nickel pass rusher though he finished the season with an underwhelming pass rush grade of -6.1 and only 21 pressures on his 289 rushes. He made some plays against the run, however, and graded at +2.8 in that area

Other Dolphins rookies:

Third-round tight end Michael Egnew was expected to become an immediate receiving option at the position, but he only played 25 snaps, all of which came in the last two weeks of the season and he was not targeted once. Running back Lamar Miller played 145 snaps and logged 51 carries and six receptions; he averaged 4.9 yards/carry while forcing six missed tackles. Linebacker Josh Kaddu was drafted in the fifth round and spent all 11 of his snaps at defensive end. He missed the only tackle he attempted as Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker broke out of a potential sack. Seventh-round wide receiver Rishard Matthews didn’t see the field until Week 11, but finished the season with 236 snaps, 200 of which came as the left outside wide receiver. He caught 11 of the 18 balls thrown his way for 151 yards (13.7 yards/reception). The Dolphins had three undrafted rookies play this season led by DE Derrick Shelby. He played 221 snaps as part of the defensive line rotation and picked up 11 pressures on his 109 pass rushes. Center Josh Samuda logged 10 uneventful snaps on the interior of the offensive line. Finally, fullback Jorvorskie Lane was an unexpected addition to the team as he made his NFL debut this year after finishing up at Texas A&M in 2008. He played 306 snaps and his +0.8 blocking grade ranked 17th among fullbacks.


New England Patriots

Chandler Jones, DE
Draft: First round, 21st overall
Snaps/Usage: Started all 14 games in which he played, totaling 752 snaps

Notes: Jones was entrenched as a starter from the first day of training camp and he came out on a tear once the season began. He graded at +13.4 over his first six games, but a slight regression, paired with multiple ankle injuries, slowed him in the second half as he finished at +10.3 for the year. His Pass Rush Productivity (PRP) of 8.0 ranked 25th among 4-3 defensive ends and despite the slow finish, he was still named to our 2012 All-Rookie Team.

Dont’a Hightower
Draft: First round, 25th overall
Snaps/Usage: Started all 14 games in which he played, totaling 579 snaps

Notes: The second of the Patriots’ first round picks, Hightower had a good showing in all aspects of the game, picking up one of the spots on our All-Rookie Team. He graded positively in run defense, pass rushing, and coverage, but he was particularly effective when used to get after the passer as he notched four sacks, five QB hits, and six hurries on his 76 rushes.

Tavon Wilson
Draft: Second round, 48th overall
Snaps/Usage: Notes: Four starts at safety, though he was generally used to cover tight ends in the Patriots’ dime package.

Notes: Perhaps the most surprising pick of the entire draft, Wilson showed well in his limited role this season. While he did get sucked in on play action on a couple of deep balls in the games he started, Wilson did a nice job when asked to play man coverage on tight ends. He finished with positive grades in both run defense (+2.8) and pass coverage (+1.0).

Alfonzo Dennard
Draft: Seventh round, 224th overall
Snaps/Usage: 600 total snaps, 301 at RCB and 225 at LCB

Notes: Dennard was thought to be at least a second-round talent before the draft, but a pre-draft arrest saw him fall to the seventh. He didn’t see the field until Week 5 and became a full-time starter in Week 7 before joining Jones and Hightower on the All-Rookie Team. He finished with a +5.0 coverage grade and he allowed only 78 yards after the catch (on 31 receptions), the lowest total out of the top 77 qualifying cornerbacks.

Other Patriots rookies:

Third round DE Jake Bequette played only 28 snaps and was unable to notch any pressures on his 17 pass rushes. Right behind Wilson as one of the draft surprises, sixth-rounder Nate Ebner was used almost exclusively on special teams at Ohio State and he played the same role in his rookie season as he logged only 35 snaps. His 14 special teams tackles ranked seventh in the NFL. Three undrafted free agents saw time for the Patriots: RB Brandon Bolden was a significant part of the running back rotation before a midseason four-game suspension slowed his progress. 75 of his 99 snaps took place in the first six games and he averaged 4.9 yards on his 56 carries. DE Justin Francis played 194 snaps in the Patriots’ defensive line rotation and despite a three-sack game in Week 17 against Miami, he only notched 13 pressures on his 131 pass rush attempts, good for a -4.1 pass rush grade. Finally, DT Marcus Forston played eight snaps, all in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens.


New York Jets

Quinton Coples, DE
Draft: First round, 16th overall
Snaps/Usage: 516 total snaps, 312 of which were spent rushing the passer primarily in New York’s sub packages

Notes: Given his pass rushing role, it was a successful rookie season for Coples who graded at +4.9 as a pass rusher and ranked third among 3-4 defensive ends with a PRP of 8.0. His six sacks led the team and if he can show improvement against the run (-1.5), he should be in line for more snaps in 2013.

Stephen Hill, WR
Draft: Second round, 43rd overall
Snaps/Usage: 421 snaps, 379 at outside receiver

Notes: Hill’s best game was in Week 1 when he picked up five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs. It was all downhill after that as he dropped 22 percent of catchable passes, worst in the league among wide receivers with at least 40 targets. He batted injuries throughout the season and finished with 21 receptions for 256 yards and three touchdowns.

Demario Davis, ILB
Draft: Third round, 77th overall
Snaps/Usage: 315 snaps, 174 of which came in Jets’ nickel packages

Notes: Davis played 133 of his 315 snaps in Weeks 7 and 8 and he flashed some potential with eight stops over the two games. Other than that, it was an uneventful rookie campaign though he did lead the Jets with 10 special teams tackles.

Other Jets rookies:

Sixth-round safety Josh Bush saw the field for only 17 plays, though he tied for third on the team with eight special teams tackles. Fellow safety Antonio Allen was drafted a round later and played 72 snaps in a reserve role. He struggled in coverage allowing all five passes his way to be completed for 84 for yards and a -2.4 coverage grade. 27 of seventh-round WR Jordan White’s 31 snaps came in Week 17 where he picked up one catch for 13 yards on his three targets. The Jets had a number of undrafted free agents see the field in 2012, though out of DT Damon Harrison, TE Hayden Smith, RB Jonathan Grimes, CB Donnie Fletcher, and LB Marcus Dowtin, not one of them logged more than 22 snaps.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • SayItLikeYouMeanIt

    Season 2 will be the difference maker for most of these guys . They either progress , or get waived the next year

  • LinkMaster111

    I was pretty happy with the Patriots draft. Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower, and Alfonzo Dennard could all play significant roles this year. 

  • Marcus Hopson

    oops i farted :L(—-8/