The Monday Spotlight

You can find more in-depth columns from me each Monday on the NFL UK and Sky Sports websites, but I do want to put a few thoughts on after each set of NFL games.

So every Monday morning – normally while travelling into London bleary-eyed on the train – I will shine the spotlight on 10 players who caught my eye on Sunday evening.

For good or bad reasons, these 10 players are worthy of discussion when chatting with your work colleagues and friends after yet another typically wild Sunday night in the NFL.

J.J. Watt – Defensive End, Houston Texans

Just days after signing a contract extension worth a cool $100 million, the powerhouse defensive lineman went out and proved he was worth every cent. During a hard-fought 17-6 win over Washington, Watt recorded 1 sack, had another wiped out by an intentional grounding penalty, recovered a fumble, blocked an extra point and recorded 7 hits on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. There’s supposedly no such thing as a one-man team in any sport, but Houston and Watt make me think twice about such theories.

Knowshon Moreno – Running Back, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins running back became something of a laughing stock in the off-season as he reportedly turned up in Miami out of shape and then in need of a knee operation. But Moreno looked more than fine on Sunday as Miami knocked off New England 33-20. In fact, he was the driving force behind the Miami attack, rushing for 134 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. Moreno ran hard throughout the contest behind a new and improved offensive line.

Josh McCown – Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

McCown was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the NFL a year ago while subbing for the injured Jay Cutler in Chicago. He failed to live up to that billing on Sunday night when placed into the spotlight as the full-time starter in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers lost 20-14 at home to a Carolina team missing starting passer Cam Newton. McCown did lead a late rally, but not before he had made some very ill-advised and poor throws that resulted in a couple of picks.

Matt Ryan – Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

Matty Ice was outstanding on Sunday while leading Atlanta to a thrilling 37-34 overtime win over New Orleans. Ryan completed 31 passes for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns. Given the distinct lack of defense in Atlanta, Ryan might need regular performances of this stature to keep the Falcons on course. If that is the case, they should be one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch. They racked up 568 total yards against the Saints.

Allen Hurns – Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars

Not many fans outside of Jacksonville would have heard of Hurns heading into Week 1, even though the undrafted rookie free agent out of Miami led the NFL in receiving yards in the preseason. But Hurns made an immediate impact against the Eagles, catching touchdown strikes covering 34 and 21 yards. He ended the day with 4 receptions for 110 yards. Fellow rookie Marqise Lee also caught the eye. The Jags lost in Philadelphia but found a couple of young receivers around whom they can build in the future.

Tony Romo – Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

There is always so much attention placed on Tony Romo and that was the case even more on Sunday night as he is coming off a couple of off-season back surgeries. Romo looked out of sorts in a 28-17 loss to San Francisco. He was a beat slow on some of his passes, never really looked on the same page as his receivers and forced the issue too many times while throwing three first-half interceptions. Back injury or not, that performance was simply not good enough.

Kelvin Benjamin – Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers

I like the look of the Panthers giant-sized rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who caught 6 passes for 92 yards and one very impressive touchdown on his NFL debut. At 6-foot-5, Benjamin is an imposing prospect for defenses and an encouraging sight for any quarterback. He is raw and has plenty to learn, but that was a very promising first outing during the win over Tampa Bay.

Cordarrelle Patterson – Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings

While a more attacking defense under Mike Zimmer may have been the bigger story in Minnesota’s 34-6 road hammering of the St. Louis Rams, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the performance of Patterson. He ended 2013 with a touchdown in each of the final five games and picked up right where he left off. Patterson had a modest 3 catches for 26 yards but also carried 3 times for 102 yards, scoring on a spectacular 67-yard run. This guy is Percy Harvin-like in terms of versatility but is built more like Randy Moss. That’s not a bad combination!

Cameron Wake – Defensive End, Miami Dolphins

I want to finish by returning to Miami’s win over New England that featured 23 unanswered second half points for the Dolphins. At the top of our Sky Sports show we stressed the need for Cameron Wake to have a big game and to get pressure on New England’s star quarterback. He did just that in recording 2 sacks of Tom Brady. But you can add Miami’s entire front to the list of those deserving credit. Brady was sacked 4 times after the break, was constantly harassed and was knocked to the ground on 10 occasions. That was quite the effort from the Miami defense.


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