You know what I hate? Coaches who play veterans or don’t play rookies simply because that’s the way things have always been done. Veterans deserve the time to prove they can retain their jobs, even if a rookie clearly offers more promise from the outset of camp. Rookies have to earn their stripes and have all aspects of their position down pat before being inserted into the lineup.
I hate it. Thankfully it happens less often than it used to, but it’s still too prevalent across the league. Here are five rookies that need to see a bump in playing time over the second half of the 2018 NFL season.
1. D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
I may be preaching to the choir on this one, because I think the Panthers have already woken up to the fact that Moore needs more playing time. The rookie receiver has been excellent this season in a limited role, but Carolina simply wasn’t getting him on the field enough to make a consistent impact.
But on Sunday Moore saw a huge bump in playing time, getting on the field for 46 of the team’s 65 offensive snaps, just two less than Devin Funchess. Moore has joined the veteran as the Panthers clear cut starters at the midway point, which immediately led to an unsurprising increase in production as well.
Moore’s five catches for 90 yards (and two carries for 39 yards) indicate how quickly he can become an explosive threat for Carolina, as he ran through one of the best defenses in the NFL to post career-high numbers. Moore isn’t a polished product just yet, but his speed to win deep, ball skills in contested catch spots and ability to make things happen post-catch will allow him to make an impact regardless. I think a huge second half of the season is coming for Moore.
2. Austin Corbett, OG, Cleveland Browns
I get it, y’all don’t want to read about offensive linemen, but why in the world is Corbett riding the bench in Cleveland? Sure, he wasn’t great in the preseason, but how many offensive linemen were? None that I saw. He’s smart, physical and will be a whole lot better than fellow rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle, who has been whooped up on constantly throughout the season.
Corbett will make mistakes, sure, but I’d rather have growing pains at guard than at left tackle protecting my quarterbacks blindside. Sliding Joel Bitonio to left tackle and plugging Corbett in next to him is a move Cleveland needs to make, before Harrison gets Baker Mayfield injured.
Kyle Lauletta Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
Miller’s usage has increased some, the problem is that guys like Kevin White and Josh Bellamy are still cutting into his weekly snap counts. Miller is the far more effective receiver, but Matt Nagy has used a deep and balanced rotation that isn’t helping the rookie produce like he could.
Of course, Mitch Trubisky’s inaccuracy hasn’t helped either, as Miller got open all game long against New England a few weeks ago, yet the quarterback couldn’t hit him. Miller’s production is pedestrian this season, but he’s too good and playing too confidently for that to continue. Despite Trubisky’s struggles, I think he breaks out over the second half of the season.
4. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos
Everyone will talk about Courtland Sutton being the winner of the Demaryius Thomas trade, but DaeSean Hamilton is the one who really stands to gain. Sutton was already receiving equal playing time to Thomas and even out-snapping the veteran on some occasions, so he’ll just continue to assume his current role.
On the other hand, Hamilton should see a significant bump in playing time due to the Broncos operating heavily out of 11 personnel this season. He should step into the WR3 role immediately, and has the nuance and attention to detail to make an immediate impact in Denver. I’m extremely excited for a cool dude and a player I loved pre-draft.
5. Harold Landry, EDGE, Tennessee Titans
For the love of all that is holy, why is Kamalei Correa out-snapping Harold Landry in the Titans last game?? There is just no good reason for something like that to be happening. Yet it is. I don’t get it.
Landry has shown everything the Titans could have hoped for when they traded up for him in the second round, flashing rare burst and bend around the edge in his playing time this season. Yet he’s stuck in a time share with Derrick Morgan, Correa and Brian Orakpo, who have all been less effective than the rookie this season.
Let Landry play. He should be leading this edge defender group in snaps. Allow his game to blossom, allow him to get in rhythm as a pass rusher and the rest of the Tennessee defense will prosper. The team is 29th in the NFL in sacks, what could possibly be the drawback to such a move? There isn’t one. Play him.