2013 NFL Rookie Watch: Keenan Allen improving by the week

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Philip Rivers is enjoying the presence of his newest receiver.

New York Jets general manager John Idzik looked like a smart man while the Jets and Falcons played on Monday Night Football.

His first draft pick, cornerback Dee Milliner, was out with an injury. But his second and third picks were two of the biggest reasons the Jets were able to upset the Atlanta Falcons and push them to 1-4.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and quarterback Geno Smith played like veterans and didn't look overwhelmed on the big stage. Smith threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions while Richardson was getting consistent penetration en route to his third sack of the season.

If the two keep playing the way they have through the first five weeks of the season, the Jets have a realistic chance at the postseason and both players could have a chance at rookie of the year honors.

Here are a few others rookies rising and falling this week.


Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Carolina Panthers

Star Lotulelei isn't the only rookie defensive tackle making an impact in Carolina. Short, his team's second-round pic, has been disruptive in limited action this season. He sacked Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in Week 5 and hit him two other times, too. Short didn't end his Purdue career on a high note, but remains a player with tremendous upside. He and Lotulelei could form a dynamic tandem for years to come.

Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers

It's still a mystery how Keenan Allen fell to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. His production was limited by terrible quarterback play at California, but he always had the athleticism, body control and physicality to be a top flight receiver. Philip Rivers continues to trust him more and more and a real breakout could be coming soon.

Tyrann Mathieu, Safety, Arizona Cardinals

Mathieu has made it into this piece before, but it's worth mentioning him again. The off-field issues were prevalent for Mathieu heading into the draft, but many also questioned the impact he would make on the field. With the amount of three- and four-wide sets teams are using in the NFL, a player with Mathieu's versatility is a weapon on defense. The Cardinals have lined him up as a nickel cornerback and as a safety and he has been effective in both spots.


DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans

The schedule hasn't been friendly to DeAndre Hopkins, but the Texans' rookie has struggled in recent weeks. His hot start seems like a distant memory. There are plenty of factors working against him, including the play of quarterback Matt Schaub. But the schedule gets softer in the weeks ahead so there's plenty of time for him to turn it around.

Jon Cyprien, Safety, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars safety has flashed his athleticism and potential in his first year, but consistency continues to be an issue. Blown coverages have been too frequent: against the Rams, they were an issue again. Regardless, he's getting a ton of experience in a young secondary that will only continue to grow.

Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles

Of the three offensive tackles taken in the top five of the 2013 NFL Draft, Lane Johnson was the biggest project. Few linemen are as athletic as Johnson, but he's been overpowered quite a bit in the early going. The top tackles have all taken some time to get their footing in the NFL so Johnson's struggles aren't a huge concern.

Rookie of the Year


Geno Smith, Quarterback, New York Jets

If Smith continues to lead the Jets to wins while putting up the numbers he has been, it's going to be tough for anyone to unseat him as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Consistency has been a huge issue for Smith so far, though, so he's no lock to hold onto this spot.


Kiko Alonso, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills

While Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei have arguably had bigger impacts on their respective teams, Kiko Alonso has the benefit of numbers on his side. He's intercepted four passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He's far from a lock, but he's been impressive this season.

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