The goal of our weekly "Making the Leap" watch is to highlight part-time players making the leap to difference-makers or unproven young talents ascending to key contributors. Once players have truly made the leap, they will graduate from this running list.
As part of our mid-season awards series, this week's list will highlight 10 young players who have made the biggest impact on the first half of the season.
Without further ado, here is the list of players making the leap in Week 9:
Among tight ends, Cameron's athleticism is rivaled only by Jordan's teammate Jimmy Graham. Despite obvious quarterback issues, Cameron's made a series of acrobatic catches down the sideline and in the red zone while leading his position in targets and receptions. The breakout star is on pace for 98 catches, 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns as the best player on the Browns' roster.
Casey plays like a young Geno Atkins, terrorizing interior linemen while putting heat on quarterbacks and stopping the run. Poe's relentless push up the middle has allowed bookend pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali to combine for the most sacks, hits and hurries in the league. The Chiefs are just the fourth team since the 1970 merger to allow 17 points or fewer in each of the first eight games of the season.
Knowshon Moreno, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch are the only running backs with more than Bernard's six touchdowns. Like a young Ray Rice, Bernard has proven capable of succeeding between the tackles while also adding big-play ability to the outside and pitching in as a mismatch in the passing game.
Alonso topped this list in Week 5 after celebrating Defensive Rookie of the Month honors with the best game of his young career on national television versus the Browns. The athletic second-round draft pick is second only to the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict in tackles while becoming one of 15 linebackers in history to have intercepted four passes in a season.
The Cardinals are second in interceptions and third in passes defensed, in large part because Mathieu has made an instant impact as one of the best young ballhawks in football. After taking home the Defensive Rookie of the Month award for October, the "Honey Badger" is battling Alonso, Lotulelei and the Jets' Sheldon Richardson for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Cold list:Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert, Bernard Pierce, Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Tavon Austin, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Chris Givens, Kenbrell Thompkins, James Casey, Eric Fisher, Mike Adams, Lamar Holmes, Peter Konz, Gino Gradkowski, Da'Quan Bowers, Shea McClellin, Dee Milliner, Morris Claiborne
Watch list:Terrelle Pryor, Julius Thomas, Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton, Alterraun Verner, Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, Eric Reid, Junior Galette, Sheldon Richardson, Star Lotulelei, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Zac Stacy, Andre Ellington, Kendall Wright, DeAndre Hopkins, Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen, Jordan Reed, Kyle Long, Cordy Glenn, David Bakhtiari, David DeCastro, Chandler Jones, Malik Jackson, DeMario Davis, Vontaze Burfict, Jamari Lattimore, Corey Lemonier, Sam Shields, Vontae Davis, Captain Munnerlyn, Marcus Cooper, Kenny Vaccaro