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NFL ROOKIES Progress Report – Week 15

NFL Rookies

Plowing along toward the end of the regular season, with more and more NFL Rookies getting a look-see of real action, and others blooming into full-time starters and perhaps cementing their roles as full-time players for the future.

NFL ROOKIES Progress Report – Week 15

Cincinnati Bengals 

MYLES MURPHY     #99      DE        6’5/270     Clemson       Round 1, Pick 28     PP# 17

Murphy has played a backup role since the 2023 season started. And that certainly makes sense given the quality starting tandem of HENDRICKSON/HUBBARD and their relative good health in current NFL season play. But his snap counts have increased as the season has progressed, and that makes sense given that it seems doubtful that the team will be able to keep both HENDRICKSON and Hubbard beyond this season for Cap reasons. So the Bengals may need Murphy to start in 2024 which is likely their long-term goal. 

Against the Vikings, MURPHY played on 27 snaps, which was 40% of the total defensive plays. He recorded 4 tackles, 2 of them solo, and including 1 Sack. He also recorded 1 QBH. The long lean Murphy reminds me a bit of Bradley Chubb/Dolphins. In the Bengals scheme, he plays hand-down in a traditional 4-3 DE spot primarily. His long arms and quickness have shown well this year. Look for him to start next season opposite either Hubbard or Hendrickson. 

Las Vegas Raiders

AIDAN O’DONNELL      #4      QB      6’3/210     Purdue     Round 4, Pick 135     PP# 200

O’Donnell showed enough in Training Camp to make the 53-man roster. And once JIMMY GAROPPOLO hit his annual injury wall, it was AIDAN who got the call to start and secured the role as his. He may never be a Franchise QB due to limited athleticism and arm strength, but at the very least he should make a solid back-up in the NFL. He learned well under QB Guru JEFF BROHM at Purdue. And he has helped lead the Raiders to a 3-3 record in the second half of the season. His arm is average and his athleticism is below average. But his FBI is above that of most Rookie QBs. 

In the rout of the Chargers, 63-21, O’Donnell went 20/34- 59%- 246 yards- 4 TD- 0 INT. It’s not quite the NFL minimum benchmark of 60%+  accuracy, but then again the lack of an Interception bolsters that number. O’Donnell is smart enough to throw it away to live another down. He’s turned in a solid performance in most games.

TRE TUCKER     #11     WR      5’9/185       Cincinnati        Round 3, Pick 100    PP# 187

I was a bit surprised that TUCKER went in the Top 100 draftees last Spring, but I truly felt he could make a good WR 3/4 in a pro-receiver room. He saw little playing time and even fewer targets during the Jimmy G. starting tenure, as Jimmy preferred to work with Mr. Adams whenever possible. But Tucker’s quickness showed out well against the Chargers. He was targeted 4 times and had 3 catches for 59 yards. That’s just under 20 yards per catch. He also scored on 2 of those 3 catches. There has been wide speculation that he may be replacing Hunter Renfrow as the Raiders slot receiver going forward. 

Philadelphia Eagles

KELEE RINGO     #22    CB      6’2/207      Georgia        Round 4, Pick 105     PP# 36

Most football fans are well aware of the mother lode of athletic talent that KIRBY SMART has been able to bring to his football program at Georgia. RINGO is an elite athlete, with uncommon size for the CB position. His ability to play CB at the pro level was a big question mark going into the 2023 NFL Draft. Accordingly, many felt he’d have to move to a safety slot as a pro and that knocked him into the top of Round 4, instead of Day Two of the Draft.

As we reach the home stretch of the NFL season starting CB SLAY is recovering from surgery and Ringo has been awarded the starting job. He has decent coverage skills but also serves effectively in early down play where his tackling ability and size are featured. The Seattle game marked his first start in Slay’s absence. He acquitted himself well with 3 tackles, all solo, and 1 pass-defensed. Ringo is raw but has solid potential. He participated in 32 snaps or 52% of the total defensive snaps.

ELI RICKS      #39       CB      6’2/188      Alabama           CFA        PP# 268

And then we have the compliment to Ringo in undrafted ELI RICKS, who finished his college career with 2 seasons at Alabama. He’s been working all season in sub-package sets on passing downs for the Eagles. He’s a long, smooth strider who also blankets receivers with very long arms. He has seen more playing time overall than Ringo this season. RICKS had 2 Tackles, one solo, and played 29 snaps, 48% of their D total.

Some of the vets in the CB room are getting rather long in the tooth, and it has been mentioned more than occasionally this season that the Eagles’ secondary lacks the speed and quickness to be elite in the NFL. I would look for RINGO, RICKS, SYDNEY BROWN, Blankenship, and BYARD to be the primary defenders in that secondary next season. BROWN is also a Rookie this season and has played solidly. 

Pittsburgh Steelers        

BRODERICK JONES      #77      OT        6’5/311     Georgia      Round 1, Pick 14     PP# 7

The Steelers, per usual for HC Mike Tomlin with Rookies, brought JONES along slowly through Training Camp and September. But before October was over JONES was seeing increasing amounts of playing time. These days he is firmly entrenched as the team’s starting RT. He is still far from perfect, but he improves weekly and looks like “the guy” going forward as the starting RT. His length and strength are unchallenged, and his footwork is solid.

His biggest issue, as it usually is for newcomers to the NFL, is keeping up with the elite Edge Rushers whose combination of speed, bend, and upper body strength are generally above what you see in college games. However, Jones is gaining ground on them and improving steadily.  In the disappointing loss last week to the COLTS, Jones was on the field for 58 snaps, which was 100% of the plays for the Steelers Offense.  

Seattle Seahawks  

ANTH0NY BRADFORD       #75      OG     6’4/330    LSU      Round 4, Pick 108     PP# 141

The big-bodied bully from the SEC has cemented his role at RG for the Seahawks. He has surely outperformed my projection for his Rookie season. Bradford is fairly agile for his size, especially when playing inside. Because of mostly pro-style offensive play down in the Bayou, he came to the NFL with the diversified blocking skills for a team whose Head Coach (Pete Carroll) prefers to use the running game as his primary weapon.

Bradford excels as a run blocker, but he also holds up well in pass pro in the middle of the field. In their big Win over the Eagles last Monday Night BRADFORD played 61 snaps, which represented 100% of his team’s offensive snaps.

I will be looking for some emerging Rookies to pop up over the coming 3 weeks, as we wrap up the 2023 NFL regular season. I hope to catch a few more in action during this week’s holiday games. 

Cheers

Pigskin Paul

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