Our weekly look at the 2017 NFL rookie class continues, examining which rookie performers left their respective fans wanting more. For some, it was a lack of playing time. For others, it’s how they played in key situations. Disappointment is an open concept, but each of these five came up short in Week 5.
Running Back Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Will the real Tarik Cohen please stand up? Cohen’s usage by the Bears slid again this week (his last three weeks were 16, 10 and 7 touches) in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
It wasn’t the limited touches that were frustrating, it was seeing Cohen try to press for yardage and create big plays that agitated Bear fans. For all of his electric plays and short-area quickness, Cohen danced in place against the Vikings, allowing a fast defense to close quickly and bottle him in. Even in the return game, Cohen left yards on the field trying to make the big play.
It’s going to be an up-and-down growing process for the rookie back; this week will be a valuable learning lesson.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, Dallas Cowboys
The Michigan product has struggled to get onto the field for the Cowboys in the early portions of his rookie season. That is not meant to assert that Charlton won’t be a good football player; he was inside my top 40 players for the 2017 NFL Draft. However, his progression is steeper than I, for one, had anticipated. Some of his more vocal critics may not be surprised by this lag in playing time, but that’s still not why this week was a disappointing one for Charlton.
The Cowboys needed him this week. Dallas had the Packers pinned late, entering the fourth quarter yielding just 15 points. Aaron Rodgers got 20 in the final period, including a clutch game-winning drive with 11 seconds left. Having a prominent rusher to rotate between Lawrence and Irving could have kept the entire pass-rush unit fresh later in the game.
Instead, Charlton managed just eight snaps.
Center Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
This is about the assignment for Elflein as much as anything else. Drawing Akiem Hicks in the middle is a difficult task for any center in the league, let alone a rookie starting his fifth career game. Elflein was game for portions of the contest, holding his own in stretches, but there were a number of splash plays in the middle that Hicks blew up by walking the Ohio State product backward into the play. Strength has never been a primary piece of Elflein’s game, but to see him offer such little resistance once engaged should serve as a reminder that the NFL game is on a whole different level.
Wide Receiver Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Corey Davis didn’t dress this weekend, continuing to suffer from a lingering hamstring injury which has dogged him since the summer. Week 5 was tabbed as a potential target date for Davis to return, although it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, Davis sat for the third straight week, joining starting QB Marcus Mariota on the bench to see a punchless Titan offense muster 10 points in a 16-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Davis’s entire rookie season needs to get back into the swing of things soon; otherwise he’ll fall off the pace from physical and mental standpoints. Hamstrings are difficult for skill players to work through, given the explosiveness needed to run routes at full speed and drive out of breaks. While another week of not dressing isn’t necessarily a kiss of death on Davis’s rookie year, it was disheartening to see him not dress — he’s another week closer to the point of no return.
Quarterback Deshone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
Kizer, just four weeks after being named the starter for the Browns, was benched in a loss to the New York Jets. Kizer completed 47 percent of his passes for 87 yards and an interception, one week after completing 47 percent for 118 yards and an interception against the Bengals.
It’s time to call a spade a spade: Although Kizer has the best physical gifts in the QB room in Cleveland, he’s simply not ready to play. That point was further illustrated after the game, when Kizer was asked what happened on a fumble inside the red zone, a play where Kizer’s pitch to running back Isaiah Crowell was off the mark.
“I pitched the ball to him, and he did not catch the ball.”
Kizer then attempted to take responsibility for the fumble, stating “obviously it wasn’t an adequate pitch for a catch.”
Such a remark, even in the heat of the moment after a tough loss and being pulled from the game, isn’t a great look.