Two potential NLF defensive rookie of the year candidates square off

By Ryan Terrana
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams squared off you got to see two of the NFL‘s brightest rookies on opposite defenses. Two second rounders’ from the 2012 draft in Lavonte David and Janoris Jenkins from the Buccaneers and Rams respectfully continued their stellar play on the year.

While the Buccaneers pass defense has been a joke for most of the year, their run defense hasn’t and there may not be a more important piece to that puzzle than David. He is the team leader in tackles with 135 and more specifically 107 solo. The most impressive thing that he’s done is make nineteen of those stops behind the line of scrimmage.

He was considered a first round in talent but many people thought he lacked size to shed blocks and take on runner’s one on one. He has shown elite skills as a rookie calling the team’s plays and the speed at which he plays the game. It’s not great to throw around comparisons of legends like Derrick Brooks, but the way he plays reminds me to a T of how Brooks patrolled the field from sideline to sideline.

On the opposite side you are seeing another classic case of a Jeff Fisher gamble paying off. Everyone knew that Jenkins was super talented coming into the draft. He locked down the likes of Julio Jones and A.J. Green while at the University of Florida and showed off his play making skills then. What we didn’t know is if he could keep out of trouble long enough to let those talents show on a professional level.

The Rams worked a bunch of stipulations into his contract to keep him in check and it’s already paying off. Combined with free agent signing and another former trouble maker in Courtland Finnegan the Rams went from having two of the worst corner backs last year, to one of the best tandems this year.

With four interceptions, three returned for touchdowns and another fumble returned for a touchdown, Jenkins is putting himself on the map as a defensive play maker. It’s rare for a corner back to have the type of ball skills that he possess, but it’s something that Jenkins has had a knack for dating back to high school.

Not only are these two players connected from the 2012 draft, but they were born and played high school less than one-hundred miles away from each other. It just goes to show you how much talent comes from the state of Florida.

It’s impressive seeing both players already playing at an exceptional level so early in their careers. If they can keep up their performance and steadily improve they are two names you are going to see a lot of going to Hawaii for multiple Pro Bowls.


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