Andrew Luck and Doug Martin did not simply win the week among rookies; they had the best games period out of any NFL player in Week Nine.
Luck broke Cam Newton’s record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie in an exceptional effort against a good Dolphins defense. Indy is now a surprising 5-3, and Luck has returned to the top spot in the meter.
Martin became the first player in NFL history to have touchdown runs of at least 45, 65 and 70 yards in one game, finishing with 251 yards and four scores. Since a Week Five bye, Martin is averaging 184.8 yards of offense per game.
Luck and Martin are representative of a rookie class, especially on offense, that is showing no growing pains in its first year in the NFL. Last year’s first-year players had to put up with a lockout, so we can cut them some slack, but it’s no contest between the two when focusing at quarterback and running back.
At the midway point of the season, all five rookie quarterbacks have impressed. Luck and Robert Griffin III are meeting lofty expectations, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill are exceeding theirs and Brandon Weeden has had his moments. Cam Newton set the bar high last year, but Luck is well on-pace to break his single-season rookie passing record. And as PFW publisher Hub Arkush wrote this week, Newton and the second-year QBs have struggled while the rookies are shining.
The disparity is much bigger at running back, where Martin and Alfred Morris are each on-pace for more than 1,400 yards rushing, and Trent Richardson should hit the 1,000-yard plateau, as well. DeMarco Murray led last year’s rookies with 897 rushing yards, and no other running back had more than 640, a mark Morris and Martin have already eclipsed.
These rookies do have the advantage compared to 2011’s class since they had a full offseason, but we can’t write off how well some of them are performing early in their NFL careers.
Before moving to the Rookie Meter, let’s give credit to Buccaneers SS Mark Barron and Vikings PK Blair Walsh, the two rookies who made PFW’s 2012 Midseason All-Pro team.
1. Colts QB Andrew Luck (first round, first overall)
Last week’s ranking: 3
Luck threw for a rookie record 433 yards in the Colts’ win over the Dolphins. He completed 30-of-48 passes and threw two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 105.6. He leads all rookies by a wide margin, averaging 300.5 passing yards a game.
2. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (1, 2)
Last week’s ranking: 1
In Washington’s loss to Carolina, RG3 completed 23-of-39 passes for 215 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He had 11 carries for 53 yards. After accounting for 13 touchdowns in his first seven games, Griffin has only one in his last two. He still leads the rookie QBs with a 93.9 passer rating.
3. Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (1, 31)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Martin rewrote the Buccaneers’ record book, rushing for 251 yards on 25 carries for four touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. He also had four catches for 21 yards. Martin took a one-yard lead over Alfred Morris for the rookie rushing lead, and he is the leader with seven rushing touchdowns.
4. Redskins RB Alfred Morris (6, 173)
Last week’s ranking: 2
Morris rushed 13 times for 76 yards (5.8-yard average) and no touchdowns in the Redskins’ loss to the Panthers.
5. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (3, 75)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Wilson completed 16-of-24 passes for 173 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Seattle’s win over the Vikings. He leads all rookie signalcallers with 13 touchdown passes.
6. Browns RB Trent Richardson (1, 3)
Last week’s ranking: 6
Overshadowed by Martin, Richardson had a strong game on the ground, rushing for 105 yards on 25 carries against the Ravens.
7. Patriots DE Chandler Jones (1, 21)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Jones and the Patriots were on bye. They face the Bills in Week 10.
8. Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner (2, 47)
Last week’s ranking: 8
Wagner recorded 10 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit in Seattle’s win over Minnesota. He is second among rookies in tackles and tied for second in tackles for loss.
9. Packers CB Casey Hayward (2, 62)
Last week’s ranking: 10
Hayward notched seven tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in the Packers’ win over the Cardinals.
10. Buccaneers SS Mark Barron (1, 7)
Last week’s ranking: NR
Barron had four tackles in the Buccaneers’ win over the Raiders and was named one of the safeties on PFW’s Midseason All-Pro team. He has 48 tackles (three for loss), seven passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble this season.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically)
Titans LB Zach Brown (2, 52)
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (undrafted)
Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne (1, 6)
Buccaneers LB Lavonte David (2, 58)
Browns WR Josh Gordon (2, supplemental)
Vikings S Harrison Smith (1, 29)
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (1, 8)
Browns QB Brandon Weeden (1, 22)
Broncos DE Derek Wolfe (2, 36)
Titans WR Kendall Wright (1, 20)
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