15 Impact NFL Rookies
The start of the regular season is just six days away, so it’s time to start looking forward and focusing on which new players are going to make a difference for their respective teams. Let’s take Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson out of the equation, because those are too easy. Same for Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne. These 15 players, ranging from first to seventh round picks, will be who I will immediately watch to see if they’ll make their teams more competitive this coming season.
Luke Kuechley, ILB, Carolina- Last Sunday night on national TV, Kuechley was a tackling, play-making machine. Expect him to be a huge part of the Panthers defense this season and beyond.
Chandler Jones, DE, New England- He’s already known as an athletic specimen and the Pats want Jones to go after the quarterback and create some big plays. Meet Bill Belichick’s new toy.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Houston- The Texans did fine without Mario Williams last year, but Mercilus was brought in to create further disruptions for opposing offenses. Wade Phillips’ attacking 3-4 defense is perfect for Mercilus.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay- This may be too easy as well, but Martin has already leapfrogged LeGarrette Blount as the Bucs’ starting RB and new head coach Greg Schiano loves him.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants- New York loves to rotate running backs and the bruising Wilson will try to replace Brandon Jacobs as Ahmad Bradshaw’s partner in crime.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis- He was Luck’s favorite target in college and has quickly picked up the offense. Expect a major contribution this year.
Courtney Upshaw, LB, Baltimore- With Terrell Suggs out at least the first weeks of the season on the PUP list, Upshaw will immediately be inserted into the starting lineup to help replace a legend.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, St. Louis- Head coach Jeff Fisher really likes this guy and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make an impact, swinging either way, opposite Cortland Finnegan.
Mike Adams, T, Pittsburgh- He may not be ready for major playing time but the Steelers may not have a choice. After David DeCastro’s injury. Mike Tomlin’s offensive line depth is thin and Adams could play a major role before the season is out.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver- Coaches love this San Diego State speedster already has an admirer in his Hall Of Fame QB and could be a breakout star if his hamstring remains healthy.
Pat Angerer, P, Jacksonville- A punter? Yeah, that’s right. Without Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jags are going to need to dominate field position and Angerer has to prove why the team drafted him in the third round.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia- Michael Vick is going to get injured and miss time this season, no matter what some flak jacket CEO said. Foles will start at least a game or two and has to command the team with the Eagles expected to return to the playoffs.
Jayron Hosley, CB, New York Giants- He returned a Mark Sanchez interception for a TD a couple of weeks back and has the potential to be a playmaker in New York’s back four.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami- The former Hurricane will have an opportunity to get a decent amount of carries in a run heavy attack (the team has a rookie QB and no good receivers) which will need all hands on deck with Miller, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.
Audie Cole, LB, Minnesota- The 7th round pick returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game and it’ll be interesting to see if he can make a difference in the regular season.