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Rookie Standouts From the First Week of Preseason: Part 1

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The first opportunity that the rookies have to shine is during the preseason. The preseason isn’t a time to worry about team success, but instead it’s time to work about individual performances. This is the first opportunity for the rookies to see game action in the NFL, which usually leads to a lot of them struggling.

Therefore, the rookies who play well initially set themselves up great to have immediate success in the NFL. Of course, there is reason to be skeptical of some of the success since it likely came against some players who won’t be in the NFL come September, but it’s still encouraging to see them step up and play well in their opportunities.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the rookie standouts in Week 1 of the preseason.

Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings

In the inaugural preseason game, it was hard to not notice the second-round pick out of UCLA. In college, Kendricks was always around the ball, which allowed him to rack up some absurd statistics. He didn’t put up absurd numbers against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Kendricks showed a lot of the traits that you need to be a good linebacker in the NFL.

Kendricks read his keys and diagnosed the Steelers’ plays extremely well. This allowed him to flow to the ball quickly and get in position to make a play. Furthermore, Kendricks also did a good job of taking on blocks and disengaging at the point of attack, which was one of his weaknesses in college. In coverage, Kendricks was fluid in his drops and he showed good spatial awareness when receivers ran into his zone.

Overall, Kendricks flashed the talent that made some believe that he is a first-round talent, which should make the Vikings fans, coaching staff and front office extremely happy.

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

Ameer Abdullah’s performance in the first preseason game can be described as lightning in a bottle. He finished with seven carries for 67 yards and showed the quickness and elusiveness that made him one of the top running backs in the 2015 NFL draft.

Abdullah showed the ability to contort his running angle a full speed and hit the hole extremely quickly, which allowed him to explode into the second level of the defense in a flash. Moreover, Abdullah showed his ability to layer multiple moves together to avoid defenders in the hole and out in space. This is one of the reasons why Abdullah can be a big-play threat right away for the Lions.

Furthermore, Abdullah showed the intelligence to press the hole and manipulate defenders at the second level of the defense. This allows him to maximize each run and get the most out of the blocks from the offensive line and tight ends. Above all else, this is the best indicator as to why Abdullah will be successful in the NFL.

All in all, Abdullah showed that he might be the best healthy rookie running back in the league right now. His ability to impact the game with his physical and intellectual abilities makes him a potentially special player in the NFL.

La’el Collins, Dallas Cowboys

La’el Collins may be the highest regarded undrafted free agent in the history of the NFL. He showed why he would have been a first-round pick against the San Diego Chargers. The Cowboys’ coaching staff was smart as they played to Collins’ strengths early on as they put him in a position to play downhill and dominate his opponent at the point of attack.

This allowed Collins to get into a groove, which led him to make some fantastic blocks in space and at the second level. Collins did a great job of creating movement off the line of scrimmage with his combination of power and superior angles. Not only was he great in the run game, but Collins was able to be proficient in pass protection as well. He did a great job of reading stunts and he was patient with his footwork and technique.

Going into the first preseason game, Collins was believed to be behind Ronald Leary on the depth chart at left guard; however, that may change if Collins can put together a couple more performances like this in the preseason.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com