Sam Bradford or Ndamukong Suh? Who's made the bigger impact?
By: Nathan Rush | 12/8/10, 7:39 PM EST
What rookie has made the biggest impact?
Heisman winners are notorious for flopping in the NFL, but somebody forgot to tell Sam Bradford. The rookie from Oklahoma, drafted to the pro football wasteland of St. Louis, is single-handedly rejuvenating a moribund franchise and waking echoes of the Greatest Show on Turf that took the NFL by storm a decade ago.
It’s not like he had time to grow into the job, either. Coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Paul Shurmur tossed Bradford into the deep end without a life jacket, making him the focus of their attack despite the presence of elite running back Stephen Jackson, whose first 100-yard game was in Week 5.
Bradford has responded like a seasoned veteran. Yes, there have been speed bumps — eight interceptions in his first five games — but he’s racking up yards and touchdowns at historic rates and could even threaten Peyton Manning’s rookie records for passing yards (3,739) and touchdowns (26). Bradford surveys the field with preternatural poise; six Rams receivers have caught at least 25 passes this season.
Wins are what matter most, and that’s where Bradford is making his biggest impact. He already has more wins as a starter than fellow former No. 1 overall draft picks Manning, Troy Aikman and John Elway each had in their debut seasons. Suddenly, a team that went 6–42 from 2007-09 is a legitimate factor in the NFC West race and is flirting with its first winning season since 2003 and its first playoff trip since 2004.
Bradford’s defining moment thus far came in his first road win and first 300-yard passing performance, at Denver’s Invesco Field. In a 36–33 victory, Bradford was 22-of-37 for 308 yards, three TDs and no interceptions, becoming the first rookie since the merger to post a 300-yard, three-TD game in a road win. Big wins, big stats and helping a coach (Denver’s Josh McDaniels) get fired? Yep, I think I’d call that impact.
– Rob Doster
The Lions’ terrorizing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is not just the best rookie in the NFL this season, he is the most dominant, versatile, athletic and feared interior defensive lineman in the entire league right now.
Weighing in at 6'4", 307 pounds, the No. 2 overall pick out of Nebraska entered the pro ranks as one of the most decorated college players in history — as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the recipient of the AP College Player of the Year, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award and Bednarik Award.
Since arriving in the Motor City, the 23-year-old Suh has brought the aggression and tenacity that coach Jim Schwartz had the luxury of when he coached former All-Pro Albert Haynesworth — before the $100 million deal and petty Mike Shanahan 3-4 feud — as the Titans defensive coordinator. And if Suh keeps playing like he has early on, his next deal will dwarf Haynesworth’s contract.
Unlike Haynesworth in his prime, Suh has the ability to play anywhere along the line. In a 4-3 scheme, he is a dynamic pocket-collapsing, pass-rushing 3-technique tackle who can stunt out to end and be equally disruptive. Suh also has the classic 3-4 end body type and power. And, taking a step out on one of Suh’s tree trunk limbs, I think the big man could probably hold his own at the nose tackle, if asked — although that would be his least efficient role, so hopefully he never plays for Shanahan.
As a rookie, Suh has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Lions, with eight sacks in 12 games, along with one INT for 20 yards and one fumble recovery taken 17 yards to the end zone — as Redskins receiver Santana Moss comically tried to tackle Suh, who laughed as he spun and swatted the diminutive Moss away like a rhino to a fly.
If you don’t think Suh is the top rookie, don’t tell him. Rumor has it, Jake Delhomme said as much before being thrown down by the “next Reggie White” this preseason.
– Nathan Rush
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