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Rookie Meter: Blount hurdles into contention

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Nov. 02, 2010 @ 5:04 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Quick, what's the first image in your mind when you hear the name "LeGarrette Blount"?

Probably the infamous punch that Blount threw at a Boise State player in the season opener of his senior season at Oregon. He was suspended indefinitely before eventually being reinstated. Blount drew a huge character red flag when it came time for the draft and was not selected.

The Titans signed Blount as a free agent but released him before their season opener, and the Bucs snatched him up. He was the Titans' second-leading rusher in the preseason with 118 yards.

On Sunday, Blount gave football fans a different image to remember. Holding on to a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter and deep in Tampa territory, Blount took a handoff and hurdled a Cardinals defender in a highlight-reel move during a 48-yard run to help seal the Bucs' fifth victory.

Blount had shown some flashes in Week Seven with 72 yards on 11 rushes. It appeared he would replace veteran Cadillac Williams as the team's primary back, and he did so in a big way against the Cardinals, rushing for 120 yards on 22 carries with two TDs. He leads rookies who have 12 or more carries with an average of 5.2 yards per carry.

The Bucs are 5-2 and in first place in the AFC South, thanks in part to Blount and fellow rookie WR Mike Williams. Said the 247-pound Blount about his big play, "He went low on me, and my first instinct was to jump over him, because me being 250 pounds, I can't juke anybody."

Assuming Blount continues as the team's featured back, with a shortage of rookie backs who are performing at a high level, he could make the Rookie Meter. For now, he is on the cusp.

1. Rams QB Sam Bradford (first round, first overall)
Last week's ranking: 1

For the second consecutive week, Bradford did not throw a pick, but this time he was even more accurate in the Rams' 20-10 victory over the Panthers. Bradford completed 25-of-32 passes (78.1 percent) and tossed two TD passes. He has now gone 96 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception. The Rams are 4-4, and Bradford gets a bye before facing the 49ers.

2. Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 3

Williams had another big day in the Bucs' high-scoring win over the Cardinals. The rookie out of Syracuse had four catches for 105 yards and a 47-yard TD reception. Williams now leads all rookies with 470 receiving yards, widening the gap between himself and TE Aaron Hernandez. His four receiving TDs are also tops among rookies. As QB Josh Freeman's favorite target, Williams continues to win battles downfield and has been a huge surprise this season.

3. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 4

You can probably go ahead and give Suh his Defensive Rookie of the Year award already. He has been dominant from the DT position, recording two more sacks among his five tackles in Sunday's win over the Redskins. The No. 2 overall pick made the highlight reel with his fumble return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the Lions victory. The rookie did some taunting on the way in but is so strong he didn't lose the ball or go to the ground. He leads all rookies with 6½ sacks, the most in the NFL for a defensive tackle.

4. Lions RB Jahvid Best (1, 30)
Last week's ranking: 2

Best, who has battled a toe injury, probably isn't at 100 percent yet, even after the Lions' bye week. He still had a productive day in their win over the Redskins with 48 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards on 17 total touches. The rookie has not found paydirt, though, since Week Two after scoring twice in each of the team's first two games. With Matthew Stafford back, Best should continue to see his numbers go up the rest of the way

5. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: 6

After hauling in two TD catches from Jon Kitna in Week Seven, Bryant had seven catches for 84 yards in the Cowboys' loss to the Jaguars in Week Eight. He has 11 catches in the last two games after making just 10 receptions over the previous four games. Kitna seems to have chemistry with the electric rookie, and Bryant has the potential for Mike Williams-type numbers the way he has been targeted lately.

6. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Last week's ranking: 5

Hernandez had his quietest game all season with just two catches for 33 yards, although both catches were big in the Pats' 28-18 win over the Vikings. The Vikes seemed to find a way to keep Hernandez from finding open space, something the versatile player has done such a good job of this season. He is still second among rookies with 388 receiving yards but has zero touchdowns on the season.

7. Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)
Last week's ranking: 7

Thomas had five tackles in the Seahawks' thrashing at the hands of the Raiders. It was certainly not the Seahawks' finest hour, Thomas included. He still leads all rookies with four interceptions this season, and the ball hawk will have more opportunities to make big plays this season.

8. Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Last week's ranking: NR

Berry picked off a pass for the second consecutive game, and this one was gift-wrapped for him but came at a critical moment. With the Bills driving to kick a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick let a throw get away from him, and Berry was the recipient. The rookie out of Tennessee recorded 10 tackles in the Chiefs' win and has 41 on the season.

9. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki (3, 93)
Last week's ranking: 9

Moeaki had been deferring targets and receptions to WR Dwayne Bowe lately but had a solid outing in the Chiefs' win over the Bills. He had three catches for 45 yards on four targets, but most notably Moeaki had two crucial receptions on the drive leading to the Chiefs' game-winning field goal in overtime. Moeaki also gets credit as a blocker for a Chiefs rushing attack that totaled 274 yards.

10. Eagles FS Nate Allen (2, 37)
Last week's ranking: 8

Allen and the Eagles had a bye on Sunday. He will return to action and face the Colts' passing offense, a challenge for September's Defensive Rookie of the Month. Allen has three interceptions this season with six passes defensed and 31 tackles, including a sack. Head coach Andy Reid demoted CB Ellis Hobbs this week after Kenny Britt's big day in Week Seven. Britt also victimized Allen.

On the cusp (listed alphabetically)

Jaguars DT Tyson Alualu (1, 10)
Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount (undrafted)
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (1, 12)
Raiders MLB Rolando McClain (1, 8)
Chiefs RB-WR Dexter McCluster (1, 36)
Patriots CB Devin McCourty (1, 27)
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Bengals WR Jordan Shipley (3, 84)
Browns FS T.J. Ward (2, 38)
Cardinals LB Daryl Washington (2, 47)

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