Amaro_proWeek 6 saw some impressive performances from rookies around the NFL, with Jets tight end Jace Amaro becoming the fifth tight end this season to pull down 10 receptions in a game and Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett intercepting his first career pass and setting a new career-high in tackles. Chris Tripodi returns again to break down what he saw from Amaro, Verrett and a couple of other rookies who had opportunities to impress this weekend.

Storm Johnson (RB-Jax)

A seventh-round pick out of Central Florida, Johnson got the start for the Jaguars in Week 6 thanks to Toby Gerhart’s foot injury and general ineffectiveness. The question for Johnson was whether he could overcome Jacksonville’s poor run blocking up front when Gerhart couldn’t, considering many (myself included) believe Johnson is the most talented runner in the Jaguars’ backfield, despite his low draft status. With college teammates Blake Bortles under center as well, Johnson had the advantage of being comfortable with his quarterback in his first start. Coach Gus Bradley said after the game that the goal was to give Johnson 10 carries, and he ended up with exactly 10 carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. While Johnson started and received the bulk of Jacksonville’s carries, he played just 19 snaps in total.

The rookie’s first carry of the game went for just one yard, but could’ve hit for a few more if Johnson had been more patient. Instead of waiting an extra split-second behind his fullback and seeing a small hole develop on the backside, Johnson charged forward into multiple Titans defenders. Johnson corrected this issue later in the first half on his longest run of the game, a six-yard carry from a single back formation. Without a fullback block to read in the backfield, Johnson recognized penetration on the right side of the line, cut quickly to the back side and showed nice burst through the crease before falling forward for extra yardage on first contact.

Johnson’s burst and ability to push forward on contact were two of his better attributes coming out of Central Florida, and he gained a few extra yards on his 10 carries by pushing through multiple defenders at first contact. In fact, he gained 15 yards of his 21 yards after contact (per Pro Football Focus), a testament to how poor the blocking was in front of him. Johnson’s touchdown on the Jaguars’ first drive was all effort on his part, as he did well to power through defenders at the line to push the pile backwards and reach the end zone from a yard out with no discernable openings to hit. Besides the power, the former UCF star showed an ability to quickly cut behind the line of scrimmage, using jump cuts and quick feet to avoid penetrating defenders. Johnson also made a nice leaping grab on a screen pass thrown over his head and broke a tackle in the backfield, but was still stopped for a four-yard loss on the play.

Unfortunately for Johnson, Jacksonville called a pass on 57 of its 78 offensive plays Sunday, putting the game in the hands of Blake Bortles instead of hoping their offensive line could open up running lanes. Gerhart’s Week 7 status is unknown and could result in another start for Johnson against a Browns defense that is one of just three in the NFL to allow at least five yards per carry. With the Jaguars’ struggles up front, running room could still be hard to come by, but Johnson will need to put together a better performance in his second career start if he hopes to seize the job. He showed some positive traits but also left a few yards on the field, and taking advantage of every opportunity for extra yardage behind a porous offensive line will go a long way towards giving him the upper hand in Jacksonville.

Jace Amaro (TE-NYJ)

After catching just three passes for 13 yards in the first two games of the season, Amaro has made at least three receptions in his last four games and has reeled in 21 of the 24 passes thrown his way, for 199 yards. His breakout performance in Week 6 resulted in career highs in both receptions (10) and receiving yards (68) as well as his first career touchdown. Amaro proved to be an effective safety valve for struggling quarterback Geno Smith and while rookie tight ends tend to struggle with consistency, Amaro looks to be the offense’s second option behind Eric Decker moving forward.

Amaro made three catches for 30 yards on the Jets’ second drive of the game that gave them a 7-3 lead, culminating in a two-yard touchdown catch for the rookie. The former Texas Tech standout showed off the natural hands that allowed him to catch 106 passes last season, consistently extending away from his body for the ball. Amaro’s first catch came by jumping to use his 6-5, 265-pound frame to box out a defender when the ball was late, showing off strong hands to not only make the catch through contact, but confidently get moving downfield for extra yardage. Later on the drive, Amaro got the Jets close to the goal line on a 13-yard slant route. Just like he did so often with the Red Raiders, Amaro used his hands to get free of Brandon Marshall and into his route, making a nice reaching grab above his head before being dragged down.

The rookie’s touchdown to end the drive came on a fade route, and Amaro was late to get his hands up in good position after battling with safety T.J. Ward for position. Despite being late to react, the ball settled right into Amaro’s soft hands in the corner of the end zone and the rookie gave himself plenty of room to get his feet down for the score. After his touchdown catch, Amaro was used mainly on screens and crossing routes for the rest of the game. The screen plays looked unnatural, as Amaro is too big to accelerate quickly after making a catch behind the line of scrimmage, but the Jets should continue to utilize him on crossing patterns. While he gained just 17 yards on four of those plays, Amaro shows the strength and hand use to get himself free at the line of scrimmage and the speed to separate from corners and safeties once he gets moving dragging across the field.

The rookie did make a first-year mistake, however, gaining just four yards on a third-and-five cross that he ran just two yards beyond the line of scrimmage. As long as he works on understanding down and distance, that should be correctable moving forward. Amaro had two other plays worth noting, one being an impressive one-handed catch on ball thrown well behind him. Breaking wide open on a drag over the middle, Amaro had to reach back with his right hand to corral a poorly thrown pass from Smith. Not only did Amaro use his right hand to knock the ball back towards him to secure the catch, he didn’t break stride and was able to gain 12 yards and a first down despite not being led. Earlier in that drive, however, the rookie had an awful drop after breaking wide open across the middle. The ball hit him right in the hands, but Amaro just dropped it. That drop can likely be chalked up to a focus issue on that particular play, but it’s something Amaro will need to eliminate from his game considering the already inefficient Jets’ passing game. His hands are too good to let balls get away from him.

With a short week to prepare for New England on Thursday, the Jets will need Amaro to step up against the Patriots and have another big game for them to stand a chance at beating Tom Brady in Foxboro. Some of the rookie’s efficiency can be chalked up to being peppered with passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but New York needs plays like that to keep the ball moving downfield without a player who can stretch the field and gain yardage in big chunks. Expect Amaro to continue to be a big part of the Jets’ gameplan going forward, along with a healthy Decker.

Jason Verrett (CB-SD)

Despite standing just 5-9, 189 pounds, Verrett was still drafted in the top 25 despite the NFL’s obsession with size. If Verrett was just two inches taller, he likely would have been a surefire top-10 pick; he’s that talented. The rookie cornerback out of TCU has yet to turn in a poor performance through six career games and as alluded to earlier, came up with his first career interception in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. Verrett also set a new career-high with six solo tackles and two pass deflections, and his excellent all-around skill set has helped key the Chargers’ impressive defense in 2014.

Against Oakland, Verrett allowed just two receptions on seven passes thrown his way, which is the same amount of plays he disrupted. One catch was a short six-yard slant route where Brice Butler used a pick to get a sliver of separation on Verrett, who still almost got into position to make a play on the ball but was just a split-second late. The rookie did get beat down the sideline by Andre Holmes for 30 yards, but had the receiver in tight coverage before getting beat by a great throw from David Carr that allowed the 6-4 Holmes to make a leaping, back-shoulder grab and gave Verrett no chance to make a play on the ball.

Verrett got payback on a deep route by Butler with just over a minute left in the game, however, showing impressive ball skills and even tighter coverage to seal a 31-28 win for the Chargers. Playing off coverage, Verrett didn’t bite on a shoulder fake from Carr and stayed with Butler step-for-step down the field. Rather than throwing a back-shoulder jump ball, Carr tried to lead Butler and hit him in stride downfield. Verrett kept the receiver in front of him and played the ball like he was on offense, out-leaping the 6-3 Butler at the catch point for one of the best defensive plays of the season so far, considering the game situation and the fact that he was giving up six inches to the receiver. If Verrett mistimed the play even a little bit or blew the coverage, Butler would’ve had a touchdown and San Diego would’ve been faced with a late deficit to come back from. Instead, Verrett ended the game and made Carr pay for challenging him down the field.

The former All-American at TCU was also solid in run support, coming up hard from the secondary to ride Darren McFadden out of bounds on multiple occasions. Verrett also made a nice play on a screen to Holmes, using his quickness to elude an offensive lineman in space and bring Holmes down for an eight-yard gain. He also knocked a ball away from Holmes with a jarring hit late in the second quarter that helped force a longer field-goal attempt, one that Sebastian Janikowski missed just before the half and proved to be the difference in the game. Verrett found himself in better position on a deep pass to Holmes in the third quarter, just like he did against Butler on his interception, but the ball was too far overthrown for Verrett to make a play.

Through six career games in San Diego, Verrett has played like not just one of the best cornerbacks in the 2014 draft class, but one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The Chargers have to be ecstatic with what they’ve gotten from Verrett as a late-first round pick, as he’s proven to be just as complete of a player as scouts expected coming out of TCU. He’s also stayed disciplined in coverage and avoided biting on fakes from quarterbacks and receivers, two of his weaknesses in college, while showing an ability to gain position on taller receivers and out-jump them for the ball with his 39-inch vertical leap. If Verrett continues to show those skills, there may be multiple Pro Bowls in his future. Most corners struggle transitioning to the NFL, particularly shorter ones, but Verrett has made an immediate impact for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

HaHa Clinton-Dix (S-GB)

The 21st overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Clinton-Dix is still technically behind Micah Hyde on the Packers’ depth chart at free safety despite playing more snaps than Hyde so far this season. The former Alabama star led Green Bay with seven solo tackles in a Week 6 win over the Dolphins despite playing just 37 snaps, and has steadily improved as a run defender over the last three weeks after struggling in that department early in the season. Clinton-Dix has been solid in coverage all season and if he continues to improve against the run, his playing time should keep increasing as well.

Early in the game, Clinton-Dix was gifted with a big tackle for loss when Dolphins running back Lamar Miller broke a tackle that sent him backwards. The rookie quickly recognized that the play wasn’t over and closed into the backfield to take Miller down for a nine-yard loss. Clinton-Dix again showed his quick closing ability on a short curl by Charles Clay over the middle, breaking from his single-high perch to wrap Clay up before he could gain yards after the catch. The former Crimson Tide star showed impeccable timing on the first drive of the following drive, spotting Mike Wallace crossing over the middle, closing quickly from behind and timing his hit perfectly to make sure Wallace had no chance of securing the short catch.

Clinton-Dix’s range to the sideline was also evident Sunday, as was his sure tackling ability. After Miller broke a tackle on a second-half screen pass, Clinton-Dix got to the sideline in time to force Miller out of bounds after a long play to prevent a bigger play, or even a touchdown. There were a few other plays where Clinton-Dix was forced to clean up after his teammates’ missed tackles, and he showed that he can bring ballcarriers down in different ways. Clinton-Dix showed the strength to wrestle down receivers after tackling high, the ability to drop his shoulder to stop their momentum before grabbing their legs to secure the tackle and the aggression to drive his shoulder into their thighs to flip them at the point of contact.

While Clinton-Dix didn’t have any big splash plays in this game, he played his role as single-high centerfielder to perfection and limited mistakes as Green Bay’s last line of defense. Calvin Pryor was the flashy pick at safety in this year’s draft and went three spots higher than Clinton-Dix, but the Packers had to be happy to add a solid player who gives them a nice complement to strong safety Morgan Burnett, who can now play more in the box knowing Clinton-Dix has his back.

Chris Tripodi has been writing for Draft Insider since 2009, contributing Rookie Reports and Draft Reviews along with interviewing NFL prospects. He has worked as a regional scout for Optimum Scouting since 2013, writes Jets-related content for Pro Football Spot and previously worked on a college football project at ESPN. Follow him on Twitter at @christripodi to talk football and the NFL Draft, and check out his blog at http://christripodisports.blogspot.com.

FloydAnother Saturday results in a shake-up at the top of the college football rankings and even more pride in the Magnolia State. It was also a very good week for next level prospects found in the defensive front seven.

 

 

 

 

There was a breathe of relief after Arizona receiver Austin Hill turned in a seven reception, 70 yard performance against USC on Saturday but truth be told there’s a bit of concern about his play. Hill was stamped as a second/third rounder entering the season but most scouts now feel he presently grades as a mid-to late rounder. Six games into the year Hill sits with 25 catches for 345-yards. There’s a feeling in the scouting community that Hill may not be fully healthy from the knee injury which kept him on the sidelines in 2013.

Two weeks ago when, I joined my friend Fran Duffy for his Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast, we briefly spoke about South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge. Since then league insiders have told me Bridge is building a real buzz inside war rooms. One league source compared his physical skills to Colin Kaepernick’s as Bridge has the arm strength to make all the throws as well as the leg speed to make big plays running the ball. When questioned about his rather ordinary completion percentage of 55% this season I was told there have been 40 recorded drops of catchable passes by South Alabama targets this season. As mentioned during the podcast, the talk is Bridge will likely receive a Senior Bowl invite, though for disclosure purposes none of this is coming from Senior Bowl staff. If he does turn up in uniform next January in Mobile it will be a huge opportunity for Bridge.

Risers

Rashad Greene/WR/Florida State: Things have not come all that easy for the Seminoles this season yet a real buzz is building around receiver Rashad Greene in scouting circles. The senior is on pace for a career season, accumulating 44 receptions, 683 yards (15.1 yard average) and 3 scores midway through the campaign. His quickness, ability to get open and playing smarts have been impressive as has Greene’s dependability. He’s not going to put up eye popping numbers at the combine yet many scouts feel Greene is a legitimate top 65 selection.

Leonard Floyd/DE-OLB/Georgia: Floyd was someone I spoke of in glowing terms prior to the season and he’s met expectations placed on him. During the Bulldogs blowout victory over Missouri this weekend Floyd was a disruptive force posting 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and was credited with 4 quarterback hurries. The sophomore is a tremendous pass rusher with the athleticism and mobility to bend off the edge then alter his angle to chase down quarterbacks or ball handlers. While I plan to get into more detail on underclassmen later this week, the word from Athens is Floyd, a true sophomore who spent a year in prep school, is likely to enter the draft.

Grady Jarrett/DL/Clemson: Jarrett has quietly been rising up draft boards and scouts are positive about his next level ability. The senior leads all Clemson defensive linemen in tackles this season, most recently posting 5 tackles with 1 for loss and a fumble recovery during the victory over Louisville. Slightly undersized at 6-feet/.5-inches and 280-pounds, his athleticism and movement skills have scouts believing Jarrett will be the perfect three-technique tackle on Sunday’s.

Henry Anderson/DT/Stanford: More and more the name of Henry Anderson continues to pop up in conversations with scouts when speaking of prospects on the rise. Entering the season with late round grades, Anderson has rebounded well from an injury plagued 2013 campaign, playing smart, tough football this season. Scouts feel, and justifiably so, Anderson will be a solid middle round pick who’ll go onto to have a long career in the NFL as either a two-gap end or defensive tackle.

Mark Nzeocha/OLB/Wyoming: Originally stamped as a last round pick by scouts, Nzeocha is making a move up draft boards with terrific play this season. The athletic linebacker leads Wyoming in tackles, sacks and pass break-ups during the first half of the campaign. In the teams loss to Hawaii this weekend Nzeocha posted 13 tackles besides forcing a fumble and recovering one. The senior is a three down defender who comes with weak side linebacker measurables (6-feet, 3-inches, 235lbs and 4.5s/forty).

Dak Prescott/QB/Mississippi State:
In the day and age of read option quarterbacks, Prescott is drawing a lot of attention. He’s a physically gifted prospect that’s displayed consistent progress as a quarterback and improved his passing skills. Prescott has delivered better accuracy this season while reducing the number of misreads and poor passes thrown. He’s also developed into a field general and has scouts buzzing.

Dan Vitale/FB/Northwestern: The junior fullback has stood out in a variety of areas this season. He’s a terrific lead blocker for Northwestern’s diverse running game and is the team’s leading receiver. Vitale has been a consistent short and intermediate range target in the passing game from the start of the season and his skill set makes him a perfect west coast fullback.

Sleeper of the Week: Bobby Richardson/DL/Indiana: Its tough to call Richardson a sleeper, especially after the IU defense gave up 45-points this weekend. But watch the tape and you’ll see Richardson constantly making plays behind the line of scrimmage. On Saturday he blew past Hawkeyes left tackle Brandon Scherff, a unanimous top 15 pick next April, for a sack early in the game which brought his total to four this season. Richardson has the size and skill set to get consideration as a two-gap end or three technique tackle at the next level.

Small School Prospect: Zack Hodges/DE-OLB/Harvard: Teams love players that can rush the passer and Hodges has made a living doing as much in the Ivy league. Though a bit inconsistent this season Hodges has totaled 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in four games. He’s athletic, quick and easily moves about the field, rushing the passer or pursuing the action. Hodges, graded as a potential late round pick entering the season, comes with an upside but a quirky personality that may not sit well with some. Don’t be surprised if he plays in the Shrine Game then receives an invitation to the combine.

Sliders

Cody Fajardo/QB/Nevada: Scouts were high on Nevada’s dual threat quarterback entering the season. And while the senior displays a good deal of athleticism in his game he also shows a large degree of inaccuracy in his throwing. Except for one outstanding performance against Arizona, Fajardo has completed under 60% against every other IA opponent this season. On film he makes receivers work too hard as they are continually slowing in routes, reaching backwards or getting vertical to make the grab.

Christion Jones/WR-KR/Alabama: Stamped as a last round pick, Jones was graded as much for his return skills as his receiving ability. The former has not worked out well and fumbles forced Jones to the bench on punt returns last weekend. Jones has caught just 11 passes this season and is averaging 4.6-yards on 8 punt returns.

Oliver_proWeek 5 of the NFL season brought us the same thing we see almost every week: Injuries to multiple running backs, and late-round picks and undrafted free agents unknown to the common fan making a name for themselves. Only one player drafted in the first 100 picks made the list this week, and Chris Tripodi returns to tell you who it was and break down what he saw from a few players taken outside the first three rounds that are making an impact for their teams.

 

Branden Oliver (RB-SD)

With the San Diego backfield beset by injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead and ineffectiveness from free-agent acquisition Donald Brown, Oliver provided Chargers fans with glimpses of another diminutive back that used to wear #43 in powder-and-blue, Darren Sproles. Standing at just 5-8, the undrafted Oliver took over after Brown suffered a first-half concussion against the Jets. After rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and adding 68 yards and another score on four receptions, Oliver is likely to take over as San Diego’s lead back until Mathews returns to the field, regardless of Brown’s status.

The former University of Buffalo star may look similar to Sproles, but there are two big differences in their skill sets. Oliver is a far sturdier runner on the inside, playing bigger than his height with a 208-pound frame and showing the tendency to fall forward and finish runs. Sproles, on the other hand, is purely a space back with the top-end speed to take plays to the house, while Oliver ran just a 4.56 at his pro day and doesn’t have that extra gear. Both of these differences were easy to spot on Oliver’s 52-yard run in the third quarter.

A patient runner who sets up his blocks before ducking behind his lineman to make himself difficult to locate, Oliver started the play running outside to the left of the formation. Oliver quickly changed direction to cut inside his blocks and showed nice burst to head up the seam, but was met by David Harris in the hole. Unfortunately for Harris, Oliver stiff-armed the lunging linebacker to the ground and burst into the secondary. While Sproles may have been stuffed for a short gain or taken this play to the house if he was able to break free, Oliver was eventually caught just outside New York’s 20-yard-line.

Oliver’s other long play came on a 50-yard reception where he had tons of space to work with in front of him. Oliver did use his quickness and shifty feet in the open field to make two Jets defenders miss before being dragged down from behind. It’s rare to see such a small back pushing the pile and carrying tacklers for extra yardage, but that’s exactly what Oliver has the ability to do. He uses his low leverage to his advantage and stayed lower than Jets safety Calvin Pryor on his second touchdown of the game, a nine-yard reception where Pryor met Oliver at the goal line and went for the big hit out of desperation. Oliver stayed lower than Pryor and bounced right off the tackle, showing incredible balance and core strength as well as top-notch technique for a small back.

The rookie from Buffalo displayed that balance earlier in the game as well after going to the air to make a catch, barely landing before being hit. It looked like he was about to go down, but Oliver used his left hand to keep himself up to gain a few extra yards on the play. Oliver runs like he’s burrowing through a hole in the ground, always keeping his legs moving and making sure he’s the low man upon contact. Mathews is due back soon and Oliver should inherit Woodhead’s old passing-down role when Mathews returns, but the injury-prone starter may not last the rest of the season even when he does return. Fortunately for San Diego, this undrafted gem shows enough skills running inside that he won’t be overmatched getting 15-20 carries per game if the team needs him in that role. With Philip Rivers already playing at an MVP level, Oliver should be continue to make an impact regardless of his role in the offense.

Andre Williams (RB-NYG)

After sporadic usage through the season’s first three games, Williams saw an increased role in Week 4, as the Giants played the Redskins just four days after giving starter Rashad Jennings over 30 carries. The fourth-round pick from Boston College ran for 66 yards and a touchdown, serving as a precursor to his Week 5 performance. Jennings suffered a sprained MCL in Sunday’s win over the Falcons, giving Williams an opportunity to take over as the team’s bellcow. Williams responded with another 65 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and should start the team’s next two games before New York heads into their Week 8 bye.

The first thing that’s evident when watching Williams is the power and violence he runs with. Williams is a smooth runner at 5-11, 230 pounds and shows surprising 4.5 speed as well, which he uses in conjunction with his size to punish defenders. The 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist is devastating at the second level, lowering his shoulder into defensive backs and running them over with ease to create extra yards. Williams even punishes defenders his own size as well, as he ran right through Falcons inside linebacker Paul Worrilow on his three-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Not only is Williams a powerful runner who always falls forward, he also has quick feet in the backfield that he uses to change direction and slightly alter his path of attack. The former Boston College standout shows good patience on inside and outside running plays and obviously trusts his ability as a runner. Williams consistently breaks through first contact at the line of scrimmage, shows the speed to turn the corner and get into the secondary and loses very little momentum in and out of cuts.

The main knock on Williams coming out of college was his lack of pass-catching ability and while he caught two passes for 18 yards against Atlanta, he’s still a work in progress as a receiver. His first reception went for 14 yards, but Williams trapped the ball against his body before breaking first contact and running for the first down. His second catch went for just four yards in the right flat, but he extended to make a catch with just his hands, a promising look for a player most thought would never have an impact as a receiver. Williams has been better as a pass protector than as a receiver, but lacks experience as a blocker and needs to work on his skills in that area as well to keep Eli Manning upright and stay out of head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse.

Coughlin is usually tough on rookies, but said he is very confident giving Williams the ball. The rookie was on the field for 31 out of 37 snaps once Jennings was injured, proving that he has the trust of Coughlin and the coaching staff. Williams is a better pure runner than his fourth-round draft status would suggest and if he can continue to impress with patience, power and speed, he has a chance to play himself into 8-10 carries per game even when Jennings returns, likely after New York’s bye. Williams is the type of runner that can wear a defense down as the game goes on, and should prove to be extremely effective in the fourth quarter.

Odell Beckham Jr. (WR-NYG)

With new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo installing a West Coast offense heavily predicated on three-receiver sets, it was disappointing to see Beckham struggle with injuries during training camp and the preseason. Finally healthy after missing New York’s first four games of the season, the team’s first-round pick (12th overall) made an instant impact despite playing just over half of the Giants’ snaps in Week 5. The team originally planned on the rookie playing 20-30 snaps but his explosive ability was immediately evident, leading to Beckham seeing the field more than twice as much as fill-in third receiver Preston Parker.

Beckham was quiet in the first half, catching his only target for seven yards and a first down on a curl route. Beckham slipped coming out of his break, but was able to keep his feet and make the catch for a first down. With the Giants down 20-10 more than midway through the third quarter, though, the rookie burned Falcons cornerback Robert Alford down the left sideline, showing off his 4.4 speed in the process. An accurate throw from Eli Manning would have resulted in an 81-yard touchdown, but the throw landed out of bounds instead.

Manning and the Giants started to recognize the need to get Beckham more involved in the second half and continued to feed him the ball. The former LSU star stands just 5-11, 198 pounds, but understands how to avoid contact, uses his hands well at the line to keep defenders off his body and shows the awareness to cut crossing routes sharply to avoid contact over the middle. After eluding defenders in coverage, Beckham has the speed and acceleration to quickly create separation, which helped him draw a pass interference penalty in the second half and get to the sideline on a crossing route against a linebacker.

Beckham’s biggest impact came on the first drive of the fourth quarter, as he did a great job selling a deep route before gathering himself at the stem of a curl route to create separation, make an easy catch and gain a few yards after the play to get the Giants into Falcons territory. Six plays later, Beckham made his biggest play of the game to put New York ahead. Fighting through contact at the line and throughout the route, the rookie was able to stay on his feet while Manning lofted a jump ball to him in the end zone. Despite standing less than 6-0, Beckham showed off his ability to attack the ball in the air, letting the corner’s momentum take him beyond the catch point and high pointing a catch for the go-ahead touchdown. This clutch play allowed New York to decline the defensive holding penalty against Robert Alford, who was covering Beckham.

Every skill Beckham offers was on display against the Falcons, from his top-end speed, quickness and burst to his body control and ability to box defenders out with his frame in the air. He extended away from his body on multiple catches to show off his strong hands, and Giants fans are loving the upside Beckham showed in Week 5. The rookie is set for more snaps going forward and as long as he stays focused on the field in practice and on game days, Beckham has a bright future ahead of him and will be an asset to the New York offense.

Prince Shembo (LB-Atl)

An outside linebacker at Notre Dame, the Falcons drafted Shembo in the fourth round and shifted him to the inside of their 3-4 defense thanks to a lack of depth at the position. A prospect with off-the-field questions stemming from a 2010 sexual assault, Shembo’s stock was in limbo leading up to the draft before Atlanta grabbed him 139th overall. After seeing time off the bench in the first three weeks of the season, Shembo has started the past two games and filled up the box score against the Vikings and Giants. A week after he made eight tackles (four solo), Shembo upped the ante with 14 takedowns, including seven solo stops, against New York in Week 5.

While Shembo was very involved against the run, the Giants also ran over 70 offensive plays, which helped him pad his stats. Just three of his tackles came on plays that gained less than three yards, and only one of those was a solo stop. This is a classic case of film telling a different story than the box score, as even Shembo’s late solo tackle that stopped a play for one yard was him guiding Andre Williams out of bounds after a teammate slowed him up. While many of the rookie’s tackles were ineffective, he did show some skills that could help him make more of an impact for the rest of the season.

At 6-0, 253 pounds, Shembo has the size to play inside and take on blocks, which he did well against the Giants. He used his hands well to keep blockers off his body and was only taken out of plays when he was caught standing straight up. Shembo showed good discipline in sticking with his assignments, keeping gap integrity and following his keys. On one play in the second half, Giants right guard John Jerry pulled to the left looking for a kickout block to spring Andre Williams off tackle. Shembo attacked Jerry’s pull on Jerry’s outside shoulder, setting the edge and forcing Williams to stay inside. Multiple Falcons swarmed to the ball and stopped Williams for two yards, while Shembo only picked up an assist coming back into the play late. This was one of his best plays of the game from a team defense perspective, yet one barely reflected on the stat sheet.

The former Notre Dame star was also effective reading and reacting to plays, but lacks special speed or athleticism to make big plays in the backfield from an inside alignment. He showed reliable tackling ability by not missing a tackle during the game, filled holes and gaps nicely and used his strength and toughness to fight through blockers to get involved in the action. Shembo lacks great potential but has the skill set to be an effective “thumper” in the 3-4, taking on blocks to free up teammates to make plays while showing an ability to make plays on his own as well. While his play on the field didn’t quite match the box score against the Giants, Shembo has played well overall this season and should continue to see the bulk of the snaps next to Paul Worrilow on the inside.

Chris Tripodi has been writing for Draft Insider since 2009, contributing Rookie Reports and Draft Reviews along with interviewing NFL prospects. He has worked as a regional scout for Optimum Scouting since 2013, writes Jets-related content for Pro Football Spot and previously worked on a college football project at ESPN. Follow him on Twitter at @christripodi to talk football and the NFL Draft, and check out his blog at http://christripodisports.blogspot.com.

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