Over the past few days, I've played catch-up, watching as much preseason tape as possible to get a feel how the rookies played in their first NFL games.
There were some impressive performances from rookies across the league. The Rams may have a young star at tight end in Lance Kendricks. The Seahawks' young right side of the offensive line (RT James Carpenter, RG John Mofffitt) effectively cleared holes against the Chargers. Wideout Dwayne Harris, one of my favorite "steals of the draft," certainly looked the part against Denver in his preseason opener, catching five passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite Tom Brady not taking a snap, there were plenty of highlights for the Patriots in a dominating 47-12 victory over the Jaguars. Among them was the play of the team's two third round picks -- former LSU running back Stevan Ridley and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.
The Patriots leaned heavily on Ridley, giving the rookie 16 rushing attempts (for 64 yards, two touchdowns) and also completing seven passes to the 5-11, 225 pounder for another 47 yards. Ridley showed enough burst laterally to escape defenders and showed off the leg drive to get the tough yards.
Mallett's stat line is impressive (12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions), but even moreso was Mallett's poise. The rookie played the entire second half and led the Patriots to touchdowns on each of his first four drives. Of course, the tall quarterback proved that the strong and accurate right arm he had shown while at Arkansas (and previously at Michigan) was very much still there. Mallett took the vast majority of his snaps out of the shotgun, but also showed some mobility in escaping the pocket, even scrambling when the pocket broke down around him. Most impressive, of course, was his velocity. Mallett recognized holes in the defense and zipped passes through narrow gaps. Fans often equate arm strength with the deep ball. Mallett certainly has that skill, as well, but was most impressive about his ability to drive the football was on slants and crossing routes -- critical routes in the Patriots' offense.