For the next 17 weeks of NFL regular season action, I will be previewing both an offensive and defensive rookie who will play a prominent role in his teams weekly match-up. In week 3, we highlighted New York Giants rookie right tackle Justin Pugh and Pittsburgh Steelers rush linebacker Jarvis Jones. Unfortunately for Pugh, he struggled mightily against a talented Carolina Panthers front 4 and was a key contributor of the epic beat down the Giants offense received at the hands of Carolina’s defense. Jarvis Jones fared better than Pugh, but was not able to make enough impact plays to slow down Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears offense.
Mike Glennon – Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at an early season cross roads, and after an 0-3 start head coach Greg Schiano has decided to bench 5th year starting quarterback Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. After selecting the North Carolina State signal caller with the 73rd pick in the draft, the writing was on the wall for the incumbent Freeman to shape up or ship out. Freeman did not respond well, he played miserably in fact. A completion percentage of 45.7%, a paltry 571 yards, along with a negative touchdown to interception ratio each played a key part in the Buccaneers losing streak and made the decision for Schiano to move to Glennon an easy one. As a statuesque 6’7 pocket passer, Glennon offers less mobility than Freeman with similar arm talent, but the Bucs are hoping that Glennon will give the offense a shot in the arm and get things moving in the right direction. The good news for Glennon is that the Buccaneers will welcome the 1-2 Arizona Cardinals on sunday, whose already struggling pass rush has been weakened considerably with season ending injuries to outside linebackers Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander, and Alex Okafor. The Cardinals front 7 is led by standout defensive lineman Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and linebacker Karlos Dansby but will be without the talents of suspended inside linebacker Daryl Washington for one more week. Running back Doug Martin will be the main focus of the Cardinals defense, which should open the door for Glennon to take advantage of the Cardinals secondary which offers little resistance outside of superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson and rookie standout Tyrann Mathieu. Peterson is a good bet to limit the effectiveness of top wideout Vincent Jackson, so look for Glennon to target #2 receiver Mike Williams early and often on Sunday. Williams will be lined up against a combination of Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason at cornerback and should get the better end of that match-up all afternoon. If Glennon can get things going in the passing game, and in turn open up more running room for Doug Martin, the Buccaneers should be able to earn their first victory of the 2013 season and more importantly, begin to turn their season around.
Barkevious Mingo – Outside Linebacker, Cleveland Browns
Lost in the celebration after a game winning Brian Hoyer to Jordan Cameron touchdown pass was the loss of outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard to a knee injury. Sheard has been enjoying a fantastic first season as an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense, and will likely be sidelined for at least a few weeks after getting his knee rolled up after recovering an Adrian Peterson fumble. Taking over for Sheard will be rookie Barkevious Mingo, the explosive 6th overall pick out of Louisiana State who will be making his first NFL start Sunday against the 2-1 Cincinnati Bengals. After missing the first week of the season due to a bruised lung suffered in the 2nd week of the pre-season, Mingo has been very effective in a limited role and has registered a sack in each of his first two NFL games. If the Browns hope to contain Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and the explosive Bengals offense, they are going to need a strong day from their vastly improved front 7 and emerging pass rush. Mingo will line up as the weakside outside linebacker and spend the majority of his Sunday facing off against former LSU alumnus, left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth has a serious size advantage over Mingo, weighing in at nearly 100 pounds heavier than the Browns edge rusher. The Bengals will no doubt target Mingo in the running game and force him to stack and shed, something he has yet to prove capable of doing. Where Mingo can make his mark and really impact the game will be in passing situations, which is when Mingo is at his most dangerous. A lighting quick first step with an array of moves has proven troublesome for opposing tackles, while also creating opportunities for his teammates. The Browns rookie has played a key role in the defense averaging 4 sacks per game and with the Bengals left tackle still nursing a knee injury, Mingo should have plenty of opportunities to build on this momentum on Sunday. An explosive aerial attack like Cincinnati’s can be slowed with consistent pressure on Andy Dalton, and the Browns are going to need a big day from Mingo if they plan on pulling off the upset.