Rookie Meter: Zuerlein's leg demands respect

Kevin Fishbain
Pro Football Weekly
Rookie Meter: Zuerlein's leg demands respect

In only the rarest of occasions with once-in-a-lifetime players do we see a rookie perform better than every player at his respective position. That’s why the rookies have their own award — no one expects a rookie to make a run at MVP honors.

Arguments could have been made for Von Miller and Aldon Smith when discussing Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and DT Ndamukong Suh was certainly among the league’s best interior linemen during his rookie campaign in 2010. C Maurkice Pouncey was a Pro Bowler as a rookie and may have been considered one of the top centers. Still, though, there’s usually a veteran standing in the way.

Through four games this season, though, Rams PK Greg Zuerlein is not only the best rookie kicker, he might be the best kicker. Period.

Zuerlein had a record performance on Sunday, becoming the first kicker ever to boot field goals from 50-plus and 60-plus yards. He is a perfect 12-for-12 this season on field goals and 11 of his 21 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks, putting him in the middle of the league in that category. In addition to Zuerlein, only Connor Barth, fellow rookie Blair Walsh and Phil Dawson have at least three made field goals from 50 yards and beyond this season.

It’s only been four weeks, but Zuerlein, coming off an exceptional Week Four, would get my vote for Pro Bowl kicker.

Other notable rookie performances from Week Four that didn’t make the Rookie Meter: Patriots RB Brandon Bolden had 137 rushing yards on 16 carries (8.6-yard average) and a touchdown against the Bills and Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict had eight tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

Now, onto the Week Four Rookie Meter.

1. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (first round, second overall)
Last week’s ranking: 1

RG3 completed 26-of-35 passes for 323 yards and had seven carries for 43 yards and a rushing touchdown. His passer rating was 102.4 and he helped put the Redskins in position for the game-winning field goal with a last-minute drive. He is second among all rookies with 252 rushing yards.

2. Colts QB Andrew Luck (1, 1)
Last week’s ranking: 2

Luck’s Colts had a bye this week. He faces the Packers in Week Five.

3. Redskins RB Alfred Morris (6, 173)
Last week’s ranking: 3

Morris rushed 21 times for 113 yards (5.4-yard average) and a touchdown. He leads all rookies in rushing yards and is fifth in the league with his 376 yards.

4. Patriots DE Chandler Jones (1, 21)
Last week’s ranking: 6

Jones had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and two QB hits in the Patriots’ win over the Bills. He leads all rookies with three sacks.

5. Browns RB Trent Richardson (1, 3)
Last week’s ranking: 5

Richardson rushed 14 times for 47 yards and one touchdown in the Browns’ loss to Baltimore. He also had four catches for 57 yards on six targets. He is second among all rookies with 15 catches.

6. Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (1, 31)
Last week’s ranking: 4

In Sunday’s loss to Washington, Martin had 33 yards rushing on eight carries and two catches for nine yards on five targets. Martin’s rushing numbers have decreased in each of his four games.

7. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (1, 8)
Last week’s ranking: NR

Tannehill exploded for 431 passing yards in Miami’s loss to the Cardinals. He completed 26-of-41 passes for a touchdown and two picks, good for a passer rating of 86.5.

8. Rams PK Greg Zuerlein (6, 171)
Last week’s ranking: NR

Zuerlein, PFW’s Special-Teams Player of the Week, converted all four of his field goals in St. Louis’ win over Seattle, including kicks from 58 and 60 yards.

9.  Buccaneers SS Mark Barron (1, 7)
Last week’s ranking: 7

Barron had eight tackles and a forced fumble in Tampa’s loss to the Redskins. He is third among rookies in tackles and third in passes defensed.

10. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly (1, 9)
Last week’s ranking: 8

Kuechly notched five tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed in Carolina’s loss to the Falcons. He is fourth among rookies in tackles and second in tackles for loss with five.

On the cusp (in alphabetical order):

Buccaneers LB Lavonte David (2, 58)
Bills CB Stephon Gilmore (1, 10)
Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower (1, 25)
Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (2, 45)
Vikings OLT Matt Kalil (1, 4)
Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks (2, 46)
Rams CB Janoris Jenkins (2, 39)
Vikings S Harrison Smith (1, 29)
Browns QB Brandon Weeden (1, 22)
Titans WR Kendall Wright (1, 20)