Week 5 saw many late-round picks and even an undrafted rookie get an opportunity to play due to injuries or benchings. Many of them proved that it’s not necessarily where you were drafted, but how you play when you get the opportunity that really matters. Chris Tripodi breaks down what he saw from Week 5’s impact rookies.
Max Hall (QB-Ari)
Hall got his first career start against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints on Sunday and delivered a win that moved the Cardinals to 3-2. The win had a lot less to do with Hall than the Cardinals defense, which scored on a fumble return and a late interception return, but the rookie did manage the game efficiently.
Undrafted out of BYU, Hall replaced Derek Anderson in last week’s game and is 25-for-41 for 250 yards since taking over, including an interception on the first drive of Sunday’s game. Hall came close to running in his first career touchdown in the first half but was leveled inside the 5-yard-line, losing his helmet and the ball, which was scooped up by offensive lineman Lomas Brown for a fluke touchdown. After that fumble he protected the ball well, especially once Arizona took the lead.
Hall is a good decision-maker in the short passing game but lacks the arm strength to stretch the field. He fits well in the Cardinals’ new West Coast system now that Kurt Warner has retired, but may just be a stop-gap solution until strong-armed fifth-round pick John Skelton is ready to take over the starting job.
Skelton is extremely raw and may not be ready until late this season if not next season, so we may be seeing a lot more of Hall at quarterback in the coming weeks. Coming out of their bye in Week 7, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet should return to the lineup and give Hall weapons on the outside not named Larry Fitzgerald.
Andrew Quarless (TE-GB)
With injuries to top two tight ends Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee, the Packers will turn to Quarless as their starting tight end for the next few weeks. A fifth-round pick out of Penn State, Quarless is a good athlete who is solid in all aspects of the game yet not spectacular in any. He lacks the speed and ability to stretch the field or create mismatches like Finley, but should be a serviceable fill-in until Lee returns from a chest injury.
Aaron Rodgers looked for Quarless quite a bit in Sunday’s overtime loss to Washington, targeting him 6 times resulting in 4 catches for 51 yards. Rodgers should continue to look his way if he can play this week after suffering a concussion. Fourth-stringer Tom Crabtree will also be involved, but was only targeted twice and lacks the athletic ability of Quarless. Quarless can also hold his own as a blocker and his skill set should make him an effective second tight end down the line.
Brandon Graham (DE-Phi)
Graham, the Eagles’ first-round pick in April, beat out Juqua Parker in training camp to start at defensive end opposite Trent Cole. But after a first month that saw him struggle mightily against the run and register just 4 tackles and a sack, Graham was benched in favor of Parker for the Eagles’ Week 5 game against the 49ers.
Graham responded to the benching with his best game of the season with 2 tackles, both for losses, a sack and a forced fumble. He played on less than 40 percent of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps after being on the field for at least 60 percent of the team’s plays in each of the first four games. Graham has been dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered late in the Eagles’ Week 3 games against Jacksonville, which he says affected his play the following week against Washington.
With continued performances like last week’s Graham should be able to earn more playing time and get back on the field for at least half of the Eagles’ plays. His limited size (6-2, 268) and short arms hurt him in run support, one of the bigger knocks on him entering the draft, and until he can improve that area of his game he will likely only see the field in pass-rushing situations, where he can be very effective rushing off the edge.
Greg Hardy (DE-Car)
A highly-rated prospect two years ago, Hardy’s stock fell from that of a potential first-round pick after his sophomore season to a sixth-rounder in April’s draft. Hardy has seen action in pass-rush situations for the Panthers this season and recorded his first sack of the season this week against the Bears, adding 1.5 tackles for a loss.
After 64 tackles and 10 sacks as a sophomore, Hardy totaled just 34 tackles and 13.5 sacks in his final two seasons with the Rebels. His inconsistent play can be attributed to wrist and foot injuries as well as attitude issues. Hardy has never been mistaken for a hard worker, but his talent is unmistakable.
Hardy has the potential to be a game-changer at defensive end if he stays healthy and if he dedicates himself to the game, he could turn into one of the steals of the 2010 draft. As the Panthers fall farther out of contention after an 0-5 start, Hardy could see more snaps as Carolina looks to build for the future.
Patrick Robinson (CB-NO)
With Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter nursing a knee injury, the first-round pick out of Florida State saw significant action against the Redskins on Sunday and led the Saints with 8 tackles and a pass defensed. Robinson has the ability to be a starter for years to come in the league if he can eventually adjust to the mental aspect of the game.
Robinson was physical in both the running game and passing game on Sunday and that along with his size, speed and cover skills make him a high-upside prospect. However, he’s not an instinctive corner and tends to bite on receivers’ first moves, relying on his speed to catch up and make plays. That’s difficult to do in the NFL and Robinson showed some inconsistencies against Washington as a result.
Porter is scheduled to miss 3-4 weeks after getting his knee scoped and while Robinson probably won’t start over Randall Gay, he will see plenty of opportunities in nickel and dime packages. If he can improve on a week-to-week basis, he might work his way into a larger role once Porter returns.
Trevard Lindley (CB-Phi)
After being inactive in Week 3 and 4, Lindley was active for the Eagles against San Francisco with starter Asante Samuel unable to play due to a concussion. He started the game as the fourth corner but by game’s end he was playing in Philadelphia’s nickel package ahead of Dimitri Patterson.
Lindley put together a nice line for the game with 4 tackles, an interception and a pass defensed. Considered a big-time prospect after his first two seasons at Kentucky, Lindley was slowed by injuries in his final two seasons with the Wildcats, as a shoulder injury in the 2008 Liberty Bowl required off-season rehab and prevented Lindley from entering the draft when many scouts had him rated as a second-round pick.
Lindley missed four games his senior season with a high ankle sprain and his play continued to level off, bumping him out of the top 100 picks until the Eagles took him 105th overall. Lindley has good coverage skills but his game lacks quickness and burst, likely limiting him to nickel duty in the NFL. If he can get back to the level of play he enjoyed as a freshman and sophomore at UK, he could develop into a starter down the line.
Cody Grimm (S-TB)
At just 5-11, 210 pounds, Grimm was one of the NCAA’s smallest linebackers last season at Virginia Tech. He has made the transition to safety in the NFL and while he is still on the small side even for a safety, he has made a big impact for the Bucs in their past two games.
Grimm had 11 tackles against the Bengals on Sunday as Cedric Benson gashed Tampa’s run defense for 144 yards, leaving Grimm as the last line of defense more often than not. Grimm also returned an early interception 11 yards for a touchdown. One of the major questions surrounding Grimm’s NFL prospects were his lack of ball skills transitioning to the secondary, but he has done a nice job for the Bucs this season with 18 tackles in his past two games and a pass defensed this week.
Grimm is a hard-working, high-motor player who has always gotten the most out of his physical skills. If he can continue to work on his ball skills and footwork in the secondary he could be a viable NFL starter as a safety playing primarily in the box, as he has excellent awareness, aggression and tackling ability against the run.
Jordan Pugh (S-Car)
A sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M, Pugh started against the Bears in place of Sherrod Martin, who was out with a concussion. Pugh had 4 tackles, a pass defensed and one of Carolina’s four interceptions against Todd Collins, who was playing in place of the concussed Jay Cutler.
A corner in college, Pugh has been the Panthers’ backup free safety this season and saw limited time in the season’s first three games. He played well in Martin’s stead on Sunday against a journeyman quarterback, but with Carolina hitting their bye week Martin should be ready to return to action in Week 7, relegating Pugh back to a reserve role.