Halfway home, the races for offensive and defensive rookie of the year appear to be sewn up. A more intriguing battle at this point: which underwhelming rookies are able to turn their seasons around and overcome adversity. Here are four NFL rookies who would be well served to deliver better results in the coming weeks after leaving fans wanting more in Week 8.
QB Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
What kind of year has it been so far for No. 2 selection Mitch Trubisky? Even when he throws touchdown passes, they’re called incomplete. Trubisky’s latest “gaffe” was a beautiful throw to tight end Zach Miller, who cleanly caught the ball in the end zone and promptly placed the football down because he darn near had his leg ripped off upon landing.
After review? The receiver did not complete the process of the catch through the ground, incomplete pass. Thankfully Miller is on the mend, but the Bears will miss his experience. Trubisky hasn’t had anyone to throw the ball to since taking over as the starter. This week was nothing new. Trubisky hasn’t had anyone capable of separating on the boundary, which has allowed teams to get in the face of receivers and bring extra heat on the rookie.
Trubisky is playing admirably, all things considered. He’s tough and continues to try to press the ball as chances allow. But he failed to eclipse 200 passing yards for the third straight game and was 14-32 passing in the Bears’ 20-12 loss to the Saints. Things will continue to get worse before they get better for the passing game in Chicago, it appears.
DE Taco Charlton, Dallas Cowboys
Good news, Cowboy fans! Taco Charlton logged a tackle for the second consecutive game! The bad news? That’s about it. Charlton’s tackle came late in the fourth quarter in another game where the rest of the Dallas pass rush had been able to feed off opposing quarterbacks. David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford teamed up to tally four sacks and now have a combined 19.5 sacks on the season.
Charlton? Five tackles in seven games with just a handful of pressures. What’s gone wrong? Charlton looks like he’s lacking a plan as a pass rusher. It was something that manifested at times in college, but Charlton never looked as handcuffed as a pass rusher and pressure player as he has this season.
Should Dallas fans worry? Maybe. Many wanted an immediate impact pass rusher, but Charlton has the tools to succeed. Heck, current team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence (10.5 sacks this season) logged a total of nine tackles in seven games as a rookie back in 2014 and took several years of fighting through injury and a drug suspension (four games in 2016) before evolving into the current headache he is for offenses.
Time will tell if Charlton ever puts it all together, but in the meantime we’re all anxiously waiting for him do so.
Head Coach Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
No longer having the time of his life, Vance Joseph makes the list for continuing to play Trevor Semian in spite of the quarterback’s inept play since the end of September. The Chiefs jumped out to an early double-digit lead in this game on Monday, but the Broncos buckled down and kept the game close going into halftime.
Semian, who threw two interceptions in the first half, continued to play and ultimately made of the of the ugliest throws you could possibly see for his third interception of the night.
Joseph has since made the call to switch to Brock Osweiler in the upcoming Week 9 contest. But the damage was done against the Chiefs, when Joseph could have potentially pulled the plug a half earlier. Semian’s line at the half? 5 of 14 passing for 56 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INT (worth a 8.9 passer rating).
With the deficit at “just” 14 points in a key divisional game, Joseph would have been well served making the swap.
RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey can’t find any running room in this offense. It shouldn’t be regarded as a fault of McCaffrey’s or an indictment of his ability to play at the NFL level. As a matter of fact, the Panthers’ entire offense managed a paltry 3.2 yards per carry in a 17-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But four carries for three yards? It’s certainly an ugly stat line, one nearly everyone wouldn’t have expected to see from McCaffrey as they studied him throughout the pre-draft process. McCaffrey did have five catches for 49 yards, leading the team in both categories in the win. But this isn’t who he was supposed to be.
His versatility (like the inept nature of the Panthers’ offense in general) enables McCaffrey to still make an impact on the weekly game plan, but seeing McCaffrey diminished to a glorified slot receiver has been disheartening.