NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 4: Five rookie matchups to watch

We’re going to switch up the prospect preview this week and highlight some rookie matchups that we’ll be watching this weekend. Whether it’s rookie vs. rookie, a favorable matchup, a difficult one or just an intriguing player, these are the matchups that intrigued us the most.

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QB Daniel Jones vs. The Washington Redskins

For as impressive as his debut was, Jones was still very far from perfect. With the fumble and a good deal of off-target throws, the Giants quarterback ended with a 69.4 overall grade. That may be head-scratching to some, but to me, it simply means that there’s room to improve — and that’s a scary thought. Jones' command of an NFL offense was lightyears ahead of most rookies, and his mobility is a huge plus that was rarely mentioned in the pre-draft process. Now he’s facing one of the softest pass defenses in the NFL. Through three weeks, opposing quarterbacks are completing an absurd 79.0% of their passes against Washington this season for a passer rating of 122.2.

[See PFF Greenline's projections for this game by clicking here]

TE T.J. Hockenson vs. The Chiefs' linebackers

After a monster Week 1 where Hockenson racked up 131 yards on six catches including a touchdown, the rookie tight end has been M.I.A. ever since. He’s caught two passes for eight yards on four targets over the past two weeks, with a drop thrown in there for good measure. If Hockenson can’t rebound against the Chiefs' linebackers, it may be time to ask if his Week 1 performance was a fluke. Since the start of 2018, starters Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson have coverage grades of 53.4 and 56.3, respectively.

[See PFF Greenline's projections for this game by clicking here]

G Michael Deiter vs. DI Jerry Tillery

These aren’t simply two rookies going head-to-head, they’re two struggling rookies in need of a turnaround. The Dolphins' left guard has taken it on the chin a bit in pass protection so far, with 11 pressures allowed through three games (although some of that can be chalked up to being forced to play left tackle after Jesse Davis went down last week). The Chargers' first-rounder, on the other hand, has barely even sniffed the backfield so far. His two pressures last week were his first two of the season on 38 pass-rushing snaps. With Tillery finishing seventh on the PFF draft board for the 2019 draft, we expected a more productive pass-rusher out the gate than what the Chargers have gotten.

[See PFF Greenline's projections for this game by clicking here]

EDGE Brian Burns vs. G Tytus Howard

Burns, along with Nick Bosa and Josh Allen, is part of a trio of first-round edge rushers who have hit the ground running early in the season. He’s already amassed 12 pressures through three games with his overall grade increasing every week. The undersized edge defender hasn’t made much of an impact against the run, but quite frankly, we couldn't care less given the way he’s rushing the passer. While those numbers may be a tad inflated by facing some ugly right tackles, that’s not going to change this week. Tytus Howard went bust at left tackle, then left guard, before the Texans finally decided to move him to his college position of right tackle this past week. He looked more comfortable than at his previous stops, but still allowed six pressures on 43 pass-blocking snaps. The great thing about this matchup is that Burns has been nearly locked in on the left side through three weeks, so we get to watch this matchup all day.

[See PFF Greenline's projections for this game by clicking here]

WR Marquise Brown vs. CB Greedy Williams

It’s a shame that Williams' status is still up in the air for this one, as he was coming off his most impressive performance as a pro against the Jets when he got hurt. In that game, Williams made two stops and didn’t allow a catch on one target. The man he’d be facing has no such injury concerns though; he’s coming off his most ineffective game as a pro. After hauling in 12 catches for 233 yards the first two weeks of the season, Brown only caught 2-of-7 targets for 49 yards against the Chiefs last week. His game-breaking speed is something that Williams can match, but the intermediate route tree is an area where Brown’s game got underrated coming out of Oklahoma. Even though he’s 5’9”, 170 pounds, Brown has been far more than solely a deep threat in the Ravens' offense so far this year.

[See PFF Greenline's projections for this game by clicking here]

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