Rookie Meter: Tebow gets his chance

Posted Dec. 21, 2010 @ 4:42 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

2010 has been a season full of quarterback changes. Whether it was because of injury or a head coach's change of heart, quarterbacks from Brian St. Pierre to Todd Bouman have been given an opportunity to start an NFL game this season.

Week 15 added another rookie to the list of starting quarterbacks: Tim Tebow. Rams QB Sam Bradford has started all year long and is in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and John Skelton, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy and Tebow joined him in Week 15 as rookie signalcallers.

Joe Webb would have made it six, if it weren't for that Brett Favre guy.

Skelton and Clausen matched up in a battle for the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 between the Cardinals and Panthers. Clausen is supposed to be the Panthers' starter of the future, while Skelton got his second start following injuries to Derek Anderson and Max Hall. Clausen won the battle, completing 13-of-19 passes for 141 yards and a TD in the win, while Skelton was 17-of-33 for 196 yards with a pick.

McCoy returned to the Browns' starting role in Week 15 for the first time since Week 11 and will remain the starter for the last two games and likely for 2011 and beyond in Cleveland. He already beat the Saints and Patriots this season and has completed 65.8 percent of his passes. McCoy threw for 243 yards and a couple of scores in Sunday's loss, giving Browns fans plenty of hope for the future.

Then there's Tebow, the player with the league's highest-selling jersey. It didn't take long for the heralded college star to make the highlight reel, busting off a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He also threw a 33-yard TD pass to Brandon Lloyd but attempted only 16 passes on the day while rushing for 78 yards. Tebow will start in Week 16 and likely in Week 17, and we should get a better glimpse of the arm that so many scouts fear is not good enough for the NFL. At the very least, all those who bought his jersey can now wear it while he actually plays.

Aside from Bradford, none of the rookie QBs will make a run at the award, but for teams out of the playoff hunt, it will be nice for fans to spend the last few weeks watching their club's future at the most important position on the field.

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

Bradford has a much looser grip on the No. 1 spot than he has had since reaching the top of the Meter. He completed just 21-of-43 passes for 181 yards and two interceptions in the Rams' 27-13 loss to the Chiefs. He has now thrown five picks and zero TDs in the last three games. If Bradford can get the Rams to the playoffs and takes better care of the ball, he should win the award, but Mike Williams is on his heels.

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

After his least productive game of the season (one catch for 15 yards) in Week 14, Williams came up big, going 6-96-1 on 11 targets in the Bucs' loss to the Lions. He leads all rookies in receptions (58), yards (880) and touchdowns (eight). A solid finish and he'll be the first rookie receiver since Marques Colston in 2006 to have 1,000 receiving yards.

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

Suh had three tackles and two quarterback hits in the Lions' overtime win over the Bucs. He still holds the rookie lead in sacks with eight, but Carlos Dunlap's recent surge is giving him a run. Suh has 55 tackles this season, good for fourth on the team, which is pretty impressive for a defensive tackle.

4. Patriots CB Devin McCourty (1, 27)
Last week's ranking: 6

As much as Suh has essentially been named the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year, McCourty has been considered the consensus runner-up. After leaving the Week 14 game with a rib injury and being questionable for Sunday night's game against the Packers, McCourty started and recorded 10 tackles, included his first career sack. He added a pass defensed and another tackle for loss. McCourty has six interceptions and 15 passes defensed this season for the league's best team.

5. Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount (undrafted)
Last week's ranking: 5

His 15-110 day put Blount in the rookie lead for rushing yards with 777. He still leads rookies with an average of 70.6 yards a game and is tied with Javarris James with six rushing touchdowns. The bruising back had a 39-yard touchdown run in the win and will likely end the season as the league's top rookie back. Had he been a starter at the beginning of the season, he'd be challenging for the award.

6. Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Last week's ranking: 4

Berry had three tackles and a pass defensed in the Chiefs' win over the Rams. He has 76 tackles on the season along with three picks, two sacks and eight passes defensed. The Chiefs' secondary shut down Bradford, and Berry could be part of a rookie-laden team that wins the AFC West.

7. Browns SS T.J. Ward (2, 38)
Last week's ranking: 7

Ward racked up 10 tackles, including a tackle for loss, as well as a pass defensed, in the Browns' loss to the Bengals. Ward leads all rookies with 96 tackles on the season. He has eight passes defensed and four tackles for loss and, along with Joe Haden, is forming a pretty good secondary for the Browns' future.

8. Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (1, 15)
Last week's ranking: 10

Pierre-Paul continues to impress along one of the better D-lines in the league. The rookie had two tackles, one-half sack, two passes defensed and two quarterback hits in the Giants' loss to the Eagles.  He has 4½ sacks and six passes defensed on the season.

9. Browns CB Joe Haden (1, 7)
Last week's ranking: NR

It took a little while for Haden to get a starting spot, but he has shined in the spotlight. He had eight tackles in Sunday's loss to the Bengals, giving him 45 on the season. But it's his ball skills that make him one of the top rookie corners. Haden has five interceptions and 16 passes defensed this season.

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

Early on this season, Hernandez was Tom Brady's favorite target and looking to challenge to be the first tight end ever to win Rookie of the Year. But when the Patriots' offense began to focus more on Wes Welker and Deion Branch, Hernandez saw his role slip. But he has been solid of late and caught two TD passes on Sunday night. He is near the top of the rankings among rookie receivers with 45-563-6 on the year.

On the cusp (listed alphabetically)

Chiefs CB Javier Arenas (2, 50)
Lions RB Jahvid Best (2, 50)
Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap (2, 54)
Raiders WR Jacoby Ford (4, 108)
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (2, 42)
Raiders MLB Rolando McClain (1, 8)
Dolphins OLB Koa Misi (2, 40)
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Rams OLT Rodger Saffold (2, 33)
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)