The NFL is a week-to-week roller coaster ride where new-found hidden gems continuously rise to the forefront.
This past weekend’s diamonds in the rough shined bright, with enough bling to make fans nationwide take notice of their spectacular individual performances.
Wideout Julio Jones was perhaps the primary focus of Dallas’ defensive strategy, but running back Devonta Freeman left AT&T Stadium making the Cowboys’ coaching staff wish they would’ve included him in their plans.
The second-year back out of Florida State ran circles around Dallas in his first start as a pro, tallying 193 yards of total offense with three rushing touchdowns, helping Atlanta improve to 3-0 following a 39-28 come-from-behind win over the host Cowboys.
Freeman ran for 141 yards on 30 carries and caught five passes for an additional 52 yards.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Tyrod Taylor was best known for his glory days at Virginia Tech from 2008-10 where he threw 44 career touchdowns. His 24 scoring strikes during his senior season set the school’s all-time mark for touchdowns.
He was then drafted by Baltimore and sat as a reserve behind franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.
In upstate western New York, however, he has transitioned from being a career backup to a local celebrity. Taylor was razor sharp this weekend, completing 21 of 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 95.3 in leading the visiting Buffalo Bills to a 41-14 rout over the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo now sits at 2-1 and is tied for second place in the AFC East.
While Taylor’s play isn’t a surprise to him, it has certainly caught the league and Bills fans off guard. All throughout the offseason and training camp, the focus in Buffalo was on the hire of Rex Ryan as head coach and the acquisition of running back LeSean McCoy. Nevertheless, Taylor has stepped up tremendously on the young season, supplanting former starter EJ Manuel and fulfilling Buffalo’s need for consistent play at the quarterback position.
Perhaps the biggest individual shocker of the weekend was the coming-out party of Seattle running back Thomas Rawls.
The undrafted rookie from Central Michigan stepped in admirably for an injured Marshawn Lynch, who was sidelined during the game with an ailing hamstring. Rawls rumbled for 104 yards on 16 carries as the Seahawks blanked the Bears, 26-0.
According to team reports, Lynch is scheduled to have an MRI this week and it’s still unclear if he’ll start versus Detroit on Monday night.
The Oakland Raiders have a rich history of superstar wide receivers. Although it’s far too early to throw his name in the ring with the likes of Fred Biletnikoff, Tim Brown or Jerry Rice, Amari Cooper looks to have a very promising future.
The rookie from Alabama snatched eight passes for 134 yards in the Raiders’ 27-20 win against Cleveland. Cooper’s stats have improved with each game, grabbing five, seven and eight receptions respectively. His play has helped the Raiders get off to a 2-1 start and he is slowly becoming the center of attention of opposing defensive coordinators.
Sweet as Honey
Collectively, the Arizona Cardinals have a ferocious defense which thrives on creating havoc on every snap. The Cardinals play so well as a group, each week, there’s a different stud rising above the fray as the marquee showman. This week’s headliner is defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu had two interceptions for 50 yards including a 33-yard return for a score in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49’ers. The Honey Badger also proved he wasn’t afraid to mix it up as he recorded five tackles and two pass deflections.