NFL

Rookie Stars of Second Week of the Preseason

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The rookies are facing a steep learning curve as they adapt their skill set to the NFL. They have a tall hill to climb and the preseason is their first opportunity to gain some momentum and confidence heading into the time where the games actually count.

Adapting to the speed, power and technical savvy of the NFL veterans can be a daunting task, but some rookies have shown that their particular set of skills and intelligence has allowed them to make an immediate impact between the white lines on game days. The games don’t matter yet, but these players made the most of their opportunities this week.

Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys

Randy Gregory was billed as a top-10 talent heading into the draft, but various character red flags led to him falling all the way to the second round and into the Dallas Cowboys’ lap. Since he has arrived in Dallas, Gregory has showed why he was such a highly heralded talent coming out of Nebraska.

He has shown heavy hands, a plethora of pass-rush moves and the athleticism that makes him a threat to get around the edge on every snap. Against the San Francisco 49ers, Gregory showed all those traits as he gave Pro-Bowl tackle Joe Staley all he could handle. On one snap, Gregory beat Staley with a beautiful stutter step rush on his way to a sack.

Gregory’s performance caught the eye of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was impressed with Gregory’s ability to rush the passer. “I felt him out there,” Marinelli said. “Until you watch the tape and stuff [you don’t know for sure], I felt his presence. I thought he had some good rushes out there and physical in the run game. I like him a lot.”

Marinelli is not a person to just dole out compliments to players who are undeserving so you know Gregory made a significant impact.

Terrence Magee, Baltimore Ravens

Terrence Magee wasn’t a highly-touted player coming into the NFL, which was emphasized when he went undrafted in the NFL draft; however, he showed why that may have been a mistake with his exploits against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Magee had 11 carries for 67 yards and forced three missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus, during his extended playing time last week. Magee showcased good vision and a gritty running style that could help him make the Ravens squad this year. It wasn’t looking good for Magee to make the team, but an injury to Lorenzo Taliaferro and Magee’s performance has significantly increased his chance to making the final roster.

Even if he doesn’t end up with the Ravens, Magee showed a great skill set that may make him a target for other teams on the waiver wire. Magee brings a toughness and an ability to gain the dirty yards that coaches fall in love. Magee isn’t going to hit the home run, but he can get a lot of singles and doubles.

Ladarius Gunter, Green Bay Packers

Ladarius Gunter faced an uphill climb to make the Green Bay Packers squad this season. The Packers drafted Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, while Gunter was just an undrafted free agent. Nevertheless, if you look at just what they’ve done in the preseason, Gunter has outplayed Rollins and Randall.

Against the Steelers, Gunter was targeted four times and only allowed one completion for six yards. On top of that he recorded three pass breakups, per PFF, on his way to a phenomenal performance in just his second taste of game action in the NFL.

Gunter has utilized his great size to disrupt wide receivers in their routes and battle them at the catch point. He put up poor times at the NFL combine and at his pro day, but he has shown that he plays much faster and quicker than what was recorded on a stop watch. At this point, there is no way that Gunter doesn’t make the Packers final roster as there is a good case that Gunter has been the best cornerback in the NFL this preseason, which isn’t as great as it sounds, but still impressive.


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