Another week of preseason action brings another round of performance-based grading. With my red pen in hand, I chose one notable rookie per game in Week 2, and they are arranged according to grade, as you can see below:
Drafted: Round 3, No. 77 overall
Credit Bill Belichick for striking gold on an edge player ideally suited to play in his scheme. Winovich looks like a 10-year veteran, with superb technique and relentless energy on full display. No. 50 played like a Tasmanian devil on the field, recording four tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack on his ledger. At first glance, Winovich's energy, effort and overall game remind me of former Patriot stalwart Rob Ninkovich. If Winovich can continue to refine his hand skills and rush moves off the edge, the rookie could become a key contributor to the Patriots' defense very quickly.
Drafted: Round 4, No. 128 overall
Whenever Jerry Jones is capable of making "Zeke who?" jokes based on a running back's performance, it speaks volumes about the player's impact on the game. Pollard dazzled playing alongside the Cowboys' starters, amassing 51 scrimmage yards (42 rushing, nine receiving) on six touches (five rushes, one reception), particularly on the team's 97-yard scoring drive that concluded with the rookie back's 14-yard touchdown run. No. 36's ability to handle the workload on the kind of smashmouth drive that embodies the Cowboys' preferred style of play certainly eased some of the anxiety associated with an extended holdout from their franchise running back. However, Pollard's poor pass protection led to a Dak Prescott sack. He could be a liability on passing downs when opponents force him to stay in the backfield with heavy pressure.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 28 overall
The big-bodied interior defender made quite the impression during his debut performance with the Chargers. Tillery blew past a pair of offensive linemen to crush Taysom Hill for a sack that showcased his disruptive potential at the point of attack. Additionally, No. 99 held his own against the Saints' offensive line on running plays, exhibiting outstanding strength and leverage. Overall, an inspiring first impression from a defender filling a big void in the middle of L.A.'s defense.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 56 overall
It is hard to crack the Chiefs' star-studded rotation in the passing game, with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins playing lead roles, but Andy Reid will need to find a spot for Hardman after watching the rookie burner score his second touchdown of the preseason on a courageous grab between three Steelers defenders. No. 17's speed, explosiveness and burst will make him a dangerous WR3/WR4 in Kansas City's spread packages, particularly with all eyes on Hill and Kelce. Naturally, you would like to see Hardman convert more of his targets into productive plays, but he's an intriguing playmaker whom Reid can incorporate into game plans.
Drafted: Round 3, No. 81 overall
The preseason is all about player development and Hill has made the biggest strides of any member of Detroit's rookie class. The third-round pick is starting to come into his own, as evidenced by his solid performance against the Texans. Hill finished the night with six tackles and put the ball in the paint with a scoop-and-score touchdown in the second quarter. The Boston College product was solid in coverage for most of the night, flashing solid instincts and awareness as a deep player. He showed adequate man-coverage skills when he forced an incompletion on a pass to Texans TE Jordan Thomas. Despite the many positives with his performance, Hill can continue to make strides as a pass defender, which will ultimately determine whether he eventually cracks the starting lineup as a first-year starter.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 50 overall
On a team loaded with playmakers on the perimeter, Smith could get lost in the shuffle during the regular season. However, he has the kind of receiving skills that could make him a dynamic weapon over the middle of the field when opponents attempt to double Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the outside. Smith gave the football world a sneak peek at his potential on Sunday with five receptions for 28 yards and a score. Although the yardage was minimal, the consistent pass-catching should encourage Vikings officials to find more ways to utilize the rookie in the passing game. Smith could help his cause by turning those receptions into bigger gains; moving the chains is always a good way to stand out.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 6 overall
Big Blue's QB of the future had an uneven performance against the Bears. Despite connecting on 11 of his 14 pass attempts for 161 yards and a score, Jones had points deducted from his total score due to a pair of lost fumbles in the pocket. Considering the impact of turnovers on the outcome of games, the rookie's carelessness with the ball should draw the ire of Giants coaches. That said, the youngster spins it pretty well, and Dave Gettleman has to feel good about the progress of this highly scrutinized draftee.
Drafted: Round 2, No. 53 overall
After playing poorly in Week 1, the Eagles' young RB1 was better prepared for the speed, tempo and intensity of an NFL game. Sanders played with more urgency against the Jaguars and his play popped off the screen when watching the tape. No. 26 picked up 31 rushing yards on five carries, exhibiting some of the traits (speed, quickness, balance and body control) that made him a coveted prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft. Sanders' no-nonsense running style enabled him to run through arm tackles and glancing blows in the hole. He made a nifty cut on a 16-yard run that showcased his short-area quickness and followed it up with a handful of impressive jaunts that confirmed his high-end wiggle and burst. If Sanders can continue to improve on the little details away from the ball (blocking in pass protection), he could make noise as a first-year playmaker.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 3 overall
The Jets' top pick is a disruptive pocket pusher as a versatile interior defender. Williams creates problems at the point of attack with his size, strength and athleticism, as evidenced by his ability to draw holding calls on blockers unable to stymie him without assistance. Additionally, the Alabama product controls the guard-to-guard area against the run with his rare ability to two-gap or penetrate based on the defensive play call. Williams needs to stay off the ground and improve as a finisher, but his disruption enables others to make plays in an aggressive defense.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 15 overall
The rookie's up-and-down performance against the Bengals likely diminished his chances of earning the starting job for the season opener. Haskins only completed 7 of 14 passes for 114 yards with a score. Although No. 7 showed guts standing tall against pressure on his 55-yard touchdown pass, he missed too many throws that should be layups at the NFL level. Sure, it takes some time for young quarterbacks to adjust to the speed of NFL defenses, but Haskins' repeated misses make it hard for Washington's coaching staff to justify elevating him to the No. 1 role.
Drafted: Round 5, No. 144 overall
The former USC safety is still in the early stages of his transition to cornerback and it showed during his performance against the Browns. Tell was beaten a few times in coverage and received a flag for defensive pass interference on a questionable call. To his credit, he kept battling throughout the game and registered a pass breakup on an effort play. Overall, Tell is still a work in progress, but his combination of physical tools and energy could help him stick as a developmental player.
Drafted: Round 3, No. 100 overall
The rookie passer obviously isn't pushing Cam Newton for his job, but team officials would love to see Grier show promise as a potential QB2 this season. The 24-year-old connected on 10 of 19 passes for just 75 yards, with an interception that was returned 70 yards for a score. The pick-six was certainly an ugly one, based on the errant nature of the throw and the questionable coverage read. Grier unfurled a couple of promising throws, but he will need to improve his accuracy and judgment to climb up the charts as a young passer.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 12 overall
The Michigan product is an explosive athlete, but those traits rarely translated into impact production as a collegian. Gary remains the ultimate tease at the position, based on his natural gifts and underwhelming disruption. Despite playing significant snaps for the Packers on Thursday, No. 52 didn't make much of an impact against the Ravens. He failed to record a tackle or generate a pressure, which is disappointing from the No. 12 overall pick. The rookie struggles to finish his pass-rush efforts -- his inability to corral the quarterback after a winning move is a bit of a concern for a player expected to make an impact early.
Drafted: N/A (undrafted)
The big-bodied pass catcher couldn't build on the momentum created during his spectacular performance in Week 1. Williams snagged only one pass on six targets and suffered through a case of the drops (two) during the game. No. 82's struggles with the first team will temper some of the enthusiasm about his potential as a future WR1 and prompt Dolphins officials to take a closer look at his game this week to see if he has the resiliency to bounce back from tough moments.
Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall
The No. 1 overall pick didn't look like a generational talent against the Raiders. Murray couldn't get into a rhythm as a playmaker and his clapping at the snap led to a pair of penalties. With the rookie passer also taking two sacks while directing an offense that only mustered 12 yards of total offense during the first four possessions, the Cardinals need to get better play from their QB1 (yes, despite shaky performances from their play caller, offensive line and skill players).