Trailing by seven in the second quarter, Rams QB Sam Bradford faced a 3rd-and-22. Redskins rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan got past not one, but two Rams receivers who tried to block him, in his pursuit of last year's Rookie of the Year. Then, Kerrigan did what he became so accustomed to in college — he forced a fumble.
Kerrigan's strip-sack of Bradford gave him 2½ sacks on the season, trailing only Broncos OLB Von Miller for the rookie lead, and it was Kerrigan's second forced fumble.
At Purdue, Kerrigan forced 14 fumbles, tying the all-time FBS record. Before the draft, Kerrigan did a Q&A with PFW and talked about his skill in stripping ballcarriers.
"Transfer of training — we practiced that every day. When you get to the quarterback or ballcarrier, it's not only 'make the tackle' but to try and force the fumble and get the ball back for our offense," he said.
There were concerns about how Kerrigan would transition to standing up as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL after playing 4-3 defensive end in college, but the first-round pick is proving that he has no problem with the new position. Playing opposite Brian Orakpo, Kerrigan has been successful making plays — he had a pick-six in the season opener — and has been a key part of the Redskins' fifth-ranked defense this season.
1. Broncos OLB Von Miller (first round, second overall)
Last week's ranking: 1
Miller doesn't seem to care about Cam Newton's continued success, as he has done nothing to relinquish the No. 1 spot on the meter. He had two sacks among his four tackles in Sunday's loss to the Packers and added another QB hit. Miller leads all rookies with four sacks this season.
2. Panthers QB Cam Newton (1, 1)
Last week's ranking: 2
Newton had another huge day throwing the football against the Bears, completing 27-of-46 passes for 374 yards with a touchdown and an interception — but that interception was returned for a score. Newton added two rushing touchdowns and has helped WR Steve Smith return to top form. More on Newton's performance in Eric Edholm's "Shorts and Shells."
3. Falcons WR Julio Jones (1, 6)
Last week's ranking: 3
Think the Falcons want to get Jones involved in the offense? He had 17 targets on Sunday. Seventeen. That's six more than Roddy White. Jones caught 11 of those passes for 127 yards in the win over Seattle. No other NFL receiver got more than 14 targets in Sunday's games. Jones still hasn't found the endzone, but he leads rookies with 342 receiving yards.
4. Bengals WR A.J. Green (1, 4)
Last week's ranking: 4
Green made the most of his four catches in the Bengals' comeback win over the Bills, totaling 118 receiving yards with a long of 58. Green continues to be a favorite target for fellow rookie Andy Dalton, as he was targeted 10 times on the day. That's no 17 targets, though.
5. Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan (1, 16)
Last week's ranking: 6
Kerrigan is not just attacking quarterbacks and forcing fumbles, he also is getting his hands up in the passing lanes with three passes defensed. He had six tackles in Washington's win over the Rams.
6. Texans DE J.J. Watt (1, 11)
Last week's ranking: 5
Watt had only one tackle in the Texans' win over the Steelers in a big weekend for the former Badger, as Wisconsin had rolled past Nebraska on Saturday night. Watt's name will be discussed all week in connection with the Pittsburgh game, as he was the one who rolled onto Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's foot, injuring him.
7. Bills DE Marcell Dareus (1, 3)
Last week's ranking: 8
Dareus notched his first career sack in the Bills' loss to the Bengals. He powered his way into the backfield before bringing down Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton. Dareus finished the game with four tackles. The Bengals did rush for 171 yards, but they ran away from Dareus on Brian Leonard's big run that set up Cincinnati's game-winning field goal.
8. Buccaneers MLB Mason Foster (3, 84)
Last week's ranking: 10
Foster's four tackles in the Monday-night win over the Colts allowed him to maintain the rookie lead in tackles. His responsibilities are quickly growing, as this was his second week in a row wearing the radio helmet. He is making the calls for the defense and is now staying on the field in the nickel after originally playing in the base defense the first couple of games.
9. Raiders WR Denarius Moore (5, 148)
Last week's ranking: 9
It was a quiet game for Moore, who was held in check by the Patriots. He did haul in a touchdown in garbage time and finished with three catches for 19 yards on five targets. Moore also had an 18-yard punt return.
10. Saints RB Mark Ingram (1, 28)
Last week's ranking: NR
This may be Ingram's final week on the meter, and it's not because he isn't getting the opportunities. He had 17 carries on Sunday for only 55 yards (3.2-yard average) and two catches for three yards. On the season, Ingram is rushing at 3.5 yards a pop. If they saw more touches, Daniel Thomas, Roy Helu, Stevan Ridley and Kendall Hunter could all challenge Ingram to be the rookie back on this meter.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically):
Titans LB Akeem Ayers (2, 39)
Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn (1, 20)
Packers WR-KR Randall Cobb (2, 64)
Bengals QB Andy Dalton (2, 35)
Titans DT Karl Klug (5, 142)
Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson (1, 5)
Browns DT Phil Taylor (1, 21)
Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas (2, 62)
Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson (1, 30)
Lions WR Titus Young (2, 44)
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