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Rookies Impressing in the NFL Preseason: NFC Edition

The draft is over; it’s time for the rookies to show their worth.

With the second week of the NFL Preseason completed, some rookies have certainly made their presence known on their respective teams.

Today, we’ll analyze a rookie on every NFC team who is impressing thus far.

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker

The next versatile Deone Bucannon-like defender in Arizona?

Taken in the second round of this year’s draft out of Washington, safety Budda Baker has impressed in the first two preseason games, as well as the Hall of Fame game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Against the Cowboys, Baker racked up 2 tackles and 4 assisted tackles. In Week 1 of the preseason against the Raiders, he collected 5 tackles.

Look for Budda Baker to become a key contributor to this defense. His positional versatility will enable him to learn from the definition of a hybrid in Deone Bucannon, who also happens to play on his team.

Atlanta Falcons

Duke Riley

Could Duke Riley have a Deion Jones type rookie season?

Taken in the third round out of LSU, linebacker Duke Riley has been a consistent playmaker for the Super Bowl silver medalists.

Against Miami, Riley had 1 tackle and 3 assisted tackles. In his second game against the Steelers, he collected 2 tackles and 2 assisted tackles.

The Falcons may have made it to the Super Bowl, but this defense has lots of room to improve, especially at the linebacking corps. Look to see Riley become a key contributor in the middle of this defense alongside Deion Jones.

Linebacker Duke Riley at practice.

Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey

The human Swiss army knife is showing his worth in the preseason.

Taken with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft out of Stanford, running back Christian McCaffrey has put his versatility on display.

The son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey has been praised by both his ability to run and receive the ball. Against the Texans, McCaffrey rushed for 33 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. Against the Titans, McCaffrey again rushed for 33 yards and rushed for 11 yards per carry, as well as 2 receptions and 39 receiving yards.

McCaffrey could become the pioneer of being the dual-threat running back that will give defensive coordinators a headache. It’s only Week 2 of the preseason, but McCaffrey is showing that he is truly a special player.

Chicago Bears

Mitchell Trubisky

Things are getting interesting in the Windy City.

Taken with the second overall pick in this year’s draft out of North Carolina, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was a shocking pick at the time, since the Bears had just signed QB Mike Glennon, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Against the Broncos, Trubisky went 18/25 for 166 yards and 1 touchdown. Against the Cardinals, he went 6/8 for 60 yards and 1 touchdown. Not bad, rook.

At first, people didn’t understand the Bears drafting Trubisky. However, since Glennon’s deal is structured to be essentially a one year deal. Trubisky has played lights-out in the preseason thus far, so don’t be surprised if Trubisky starts sometime this season.

Dallas Cowboys

Cooper Rush

Who doesn’t love a good backup QB?

Going undrafted this year out of Central Michigan, quarterback Cooper Rush brings an interesting dimension at the QB position.

To clear things up–no, he won’t beat Dak Prescott on the depth chart.

But that doesn’t mean Rush isn’t an asset to this football team. Who knows if Prescott gets injured? What if he has a sophomore slump? These pressing questions make a solid backup quarterback a great asset.

Against the Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game, Rush went 9/18 for 87 yards. In the Week 1 preseason game against the Rams, he went 9/11 and racking up 104 yards and 1 touchdown. His most impressive game came against the Colts went he went 8/9 for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Cooper Rush has impressed the most out of the three quarterbacks behind Prescott, which are Rush, Kellen Moore and Luke McCown. I think the football world has seen what they’ve needed to see from Moore and McCown and have been unimpressed. The Cowboys should give Rush a chance to be the number two quarterback behind Dak Prescott and who knows; maybe Cooper Rush will be the next Dak Prescott?

 

Quarterback Cooper Rush throwing a pass in the Cowboys' 13-10 loss to the Rams.

Detroit Lions

Kenny Golladay

Could this be the next red zone target for Matthew Stafford?

Taken in the third round of this year’s draft out of Northern Illinois, wide receiver Kenny Golladay has made a bigger impact than expected.

Golladay’s large frame of 6’4″ and 213 lbs. gives himself an advantage against defenders. His 4.50 40 yard dash time isn’t blistering, but keeping into account his large frame, his speed is impressive.

Against the Colts, Golladay had a huge game. He had 3 receptions for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against the Jets, he had 1 reception for 6 yards in limited duty.

Golladay rounds out this underrated wide receiving corps, with fellow receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones making quarterback Matthew Stafford’s job a whole lot easier.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay celebrates after a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

Green Bay Packers

DeAngelo Yancey

Yet another target for Aaron Rodgers.

Taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft out of Purdue, wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey has shown his playmaking ability in limited duty.

Against the Eagles, which is the only game he’s played in, he had 3 receptions for 67 yards. Yancey had an impressive 46 yard reception, too.

There’s lots of talent ahead of Yancey on the wide receiving depth chart, but when it comes to having multiple receiving threats–the more the merrier. Look for Yancey to be a solid number four or five target this season.

Wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey attempts to stiff arm Eagles' cornerback Mitchell White in the Packers' 24-9 win.

Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp

Jared Goff is going to like this kid.

Taken in the third round of this year’s draft out of Eastern Washington, wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been playing exceptional in his first two games.

Against the Cowboys, Kupp racked up 2 receptions for 35 receptions. Kupp played lights out against the Raiders, as he had 6 receptions for 70 yards and 1 touchdown.

Quarterback Jared Goff had a disappointing rookie season, but the pieces they added around him will give him a chance to succeed, and Cooper Kupp will be a big part of Goff’s second year ascension.

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp dives for extra yards in the Rams' 24-21 win against the Raiders.

Minnesota Vikings

Ifeadi Odenigbo

Seventh round sleeper alert?

Taken in the seventh round of this year’s draft out of Northwestern, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo has quietly been productive thus far in the preseason.

Against the Bills, Odenigbo had 1 tackle and 1 assisted tackle. Odenigbo made his name known in the second preseason game agaisnst the Seahawks, where he recorded 4 tackles, 2 assisted tackles and 1 sack.

If Odenigbo continues to be productive, he’ll be a nice compliment to the already impressive duo in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.

Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo lining up in Vikings practice.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara

The Saints are deep at running back, to say the least.

Taken in the third round of this year’s draft out of Tennesse, running back Alvin Kamara has shined behind running backs, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram.

Against the Browns, Kamara had 4 rushes for 35 yards, totaling 8.8 yards per carry. In his second game against the Chargers, Kamara went off. He had 5 rushes for 61 yards, averaging 12.2 yards per carry.

With Peterson aging and Ingram just about out of his prime, Kamara could be the future at running back for the Saints. If he continues to play at this level, look for Kamara to become the featured receiving back in this offense lead by Drew Brees.

Running back Alvin Kamara runs through the Chargers' defense in the Saints' 13-7 win.

New York Giants

Chad Wheeler

Offensive linemen are people, too.

Going undrafted this year out of USC, offensive tackle Chad Wheeler is turning heads in the preseason.

Head Coach Ben McAdoo had this to say about Wheeler: “I see a young, talented player. He’s a physical player, but he’s a young player that can bend well. He is working on the fundamental part of the game. Seems to get football.”

2015 first round pick Ereck Flowers has struggled immensely, and Wheeler has shown his athletic ability early on.

It’s surprising that Wheeler went undrafted, but he’s shown he probably should have been. His off-field issues are likely the reason why, but being the starting tackle for four years shows his consistency and his talent.

Offensive tackle Chad Wheeler blocks defenders in Giants practice.

Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett

Things are looking good in the City of Brotherly Love.

Taken with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft out of Tennessee, defensive end Derek Barnett has lived up to his first round caliber thus far.

Against Green Bay, Barnett racked up 2 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. Against the Bills, he recorded 2 tackles and 1 sack.

Barnett broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, and his 3 sacks in the preseason thus far show his potential.

Defensive end Derek Barnett rushes through Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson in the Eagles' 20-16 victory.

San Francisco 49ers

C.J. Beathard

Is C.J. Beathard the dark horse candidate to win the starting QB job?

Taken in the third round of this year’s draft out of Iowa, quarterback C.J. Beathard has been playing stout thus far.

Against the Chiefs, Beathard went 7/11 for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against the Broncos, he went 7/12 110 yards and 1 touchdown.

Since he’s a rookie, he’ll have his rookie mistakes, but his ceiling is much higher than current 49er quarterbacks in Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. Their veteran leadership would give him the chance to learn as Barkley and Hoyer have established careers. Watch for Beathard to have a Dak Prescott-like season.

Seattle Seahawks 

Tedric Thompson

The Legion of Boom is growing.

Taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft out of Colorado, safety Tedric Thompson is showing his potential.

Against the Chargers, Thompson only had 1 tackle, but his game against the Vikings showed his talent. He had 3 tackles, 4 assisted tackles, and 1 interception.

Thompson will be a solid backup for star safeties Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor. With Thomas’ injury history, we could see Thompson become a prominent member of the LOB.

Safety Tedric Thompson celebrating with fellow safety Earl Thomas in the Seahawks' 20-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kendell Beckwith

The Hard Knocks team is getting even better.

Taken in the third round of this year’s draft out of LSU, linebacker Kendell Beckwith is already competing for a starting role.

Against the Bengals, Beckwith compiled 3 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, and 1 sack. Against the Jaguars, he had 2 tackles and 2 assisted tackles.

Beckwith’s consistency will match well with his former LSU teammate Kwon Alexander. Their chemistry will make this above average defense reach new heights.

Linebacker Kendell Beckwith in Buccaneers' practice.

Washington Redskins

Josh Harvey-Clemons

The Redskins may have gotten themselves a tackling machine out of this project linebacker.

Taken in the seventh round out of this year’s draft out of Louisville, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons is making plays sideline to sideline.

Against the Ravens, Harvey-Clemons collected 6 tackles. Against the Packers, he had 2 tackles and 1 assisted tackles. These numbers are impressive considering how limited his snaps were.

This linebacking corps is criminally average, so Harvey-Clemons has a chance to become a starter soon in this unit with production continuing to improve.

Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons at Washington Redskins practice.

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