5 Up-And-Coming NFL Players Who Could Break Out in Week 11
Take These Chains From Me!
Every week, the NFL has a habit of offering up something out of the ordinary. Perhaps it’s a single player, a specific play or an entire team that achieves something none of us saw coming.
Week 10 took us for a trip into the twilight zone as both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their first wins of the season, leaving the Detroit Lions’ unwanted record from 2008 intact. The Bucs had a breakout star-in-the-making on their hands in running back Mike James; the running back was on course for a huge game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 after totaling 41 rushing yards on just five carries, though, his evening and season were cruelly cut short by injury.
In recent weeks, we have seen selections from the 2013 rookie class make the leap from budding potential to breakout performer: Zac Stacy, Keenan Allen and Aaron Dobson have each had significant outings that defy their tender years, and solidify their standing among the big boys for the NFL.
Speaking of up-and-coming stars, St Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin got his breakout performance last week in another unforeseen circumstance. Just days before the Rams traveled to Indianapolis for a no-hope contest against the Colts, the only thing the rookie wideout had been receiving was widespread criticism for his near-anonymity thus far in 2013. Something tells us the rookie, who went eighth overall in this year’s NFL Draft, was listening; he torched the Rams with 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns, whilst showcasing his lightning quickness by returning a punt 98 yards for another score. How do you like him now?
Week 11 brings fresh optimism for those up-and-comers who have been bubbling just below the surface. There a number of generous matchups on offer for our future stars; here are the five you should be looking out for as the week unfolds.
Chris Machin is a New York Giants correspondent at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter, add him to your circles on Google or as a friend on Facebook
Barkevious Mingo (OLB) - Cleveland Browns
The lively rookie linebacker has already shown traits to suggest the Cleveland Browns may have a star in the making on their hands.
Week 11 sees the Browns hosting their neighboring Cincinnati Bengals as the state of Ohio gets prepared to buckle-up. The Bengals have allowed their quarterback Andy Dalton to be sacked a concerning 10 times in the last two games as their offensive line begins to look increasingly susceptible.
The Bengals 26 sacks allowed is the joint-sixth highest in the NFL through 10 weeks so far. The sixth-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft is second among all rookies with 4.0 sacks whilst he also leads his team with this same statistic.
Having only officially started three games this season, what better platform for Mingo to build on his early promise and break out in this most heated of divisional and state rivalries.
Case Keenum (QB) - Houston Texans
It was, perhaps, the most ideal of situations that a first-year quarterback can find himself in.
Case Keenum has been bedded in to a Houston Texans team that had already lost four games before his arrival under center. The fact that Keenum was taking over from a faltering quarterback in Matt Schaub for whom the general consensus was "he can't do any worse," has also aided his transition into professional football.
Though Keenum's first three games as a starting pro have all resulted in losses, each defeat has come by just a three-point margin in which he did his utmost to keep his side in with a shout. Keenum has also been without the might of Arian Foster for all-but-one-quarter of his game time; a talent on which the Texans and Matt Schaub have leaned on so heavily in recent years.
Keenum has been tidy, assured and coped admirably in his three games thus far. He has been the leading quarterback in terms of passing yardage in two of the three outings, out passing Andrew Luck in Week 9, which is no mean feat. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the inexperienced trigger man has yet to throw an interception, a trait which was all-too-apparent in his predecessor's game.
Having thrown six touchdown passes in his last two games, Keenum meets the Oakland Raiders this week who infamously made Nick Foles look like Dan Marino a few games back, as Foles torched them for 400 yards and seven touchdown passes. With Foster shifted to injured reserve, the likelihood is that Keenum will seek solace in his passing game and continue to the budding rapport he is building with Andre Johnson, as the Texans look to expose the Raiders 22nd ranked pass-defense.
Andre Ellington (RB) - Arizona Cardinals
Andre Ellington carried the ball 11 times as opposed to Rashard Mendenhall's 13 against the Houston Texans defense that ranks first overall, though, he did average an extra 1.8 yards-per-carry which could make all the difference in a single game.
The Cardinals face the Jacksonville Jaguars’ dead-last ranked rush-defense this week with Ellington raring to take the reins as Mendenhall pays the price for his third fumble of the season in Week 10.
The rookie has already shown glimpses of his all-purpose ability, recording up to five receptions per game in his maiden season and there’s never a bigger opportunity to boost your numbers than against the generous Jags defense.
Rashad Jennings (RB) - Oakland Raiders
After spending three seasons as the understudy to Maurice Jones-Drew with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rashad Jennings went coastal in the offseason swapping east for west and landing with the Oakland Raiders.
With Darren McFadden established as the lead back for the silver and black, and given Marcel Reece's impressive performances as deputy in 2012, Jennings chances of action seemed slim-to-none. When called upon to replace McFadden in Week 9 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Jennings was determined to make the most of his rare opportunity; he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown at a lofty average of 6.8 yards per carry. Jennings also added 74 receiving yards, showcasing his versatility on offense as he began to adhere himself to the Raider Nation.
His impressive stand-in showing was enough to earn the starting role last week and he coped admirably with a 107 all-purpose-yard outing. His 88 yards rushing on 15 carries was more than Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy had achieved in the two previous weeks against the much-improved Giants' run defense.
The Raiders face the Houston Texans in Week 11 with the onus very much on running the ball. The Texans are the No. 1 team in the league in defending the pass, yet they are a middle-of-the-road 16th against he run. No guesses where the Raiders are most likely to succeed this week; expect a heavy dose of the ground game via Terrelle Pryor and Jennings.
Jordan Reed (TE) - Washington Redskins
Although he began the year below both Logan Paulsen and Fred Davis on the Redskins' depth chart, Jordan Reed has been elevated to a much loftier status through 10 weeks of his rookie season.
The impressive youngster had the second-highest receptions and is joint-first with three receiving touchdowns, as his understanding with mercurial QB Robert Griffin III continues to flourish.
The argument will be that Reed has already "broken out" given his 134 receiving-yard and one touchdown outing against the Chicago Bears; though, there may just be an even more lucrative opportunity on the horizon.
The Redskins go to Philadelphia this Sunday and although the Eagles are riding a two-game winning streak, they are hapless on home turf. The Eagles are 0-4 at Lincoln Financial Field this season as part of a 10-game losing streak that stretches way back into last season.
In addition, the Eagles have the second-most generous pass defense this season, giving up over 300 yards per game through the air, a statistic which should delight Griffin and his reliable tight end.