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Week 5 Rookie Report: The Marlon Mack Saga

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie of the week: Marlon Mack

We all saw this one coming. Instead of just writing about the beautiful artistry Mack put on display this Sunday, why don’t we watch it?

These videos are a sight for sore eyes.

This is nice too:

Mack is an explosive player that provides a spark to a backfield that sorely needs it.

He was the reason the blue and white got the win this weekend, and I, like a lot of fans, was expecting him to get more touches throughout the match-up.

Is there a reason that Mack doesn’t handle a bigger workload? Besides being out with injuries for the last few weeks, there might be another excuse.

I hate to focus on the negatives after such a splendid performance, but I do have a few quarrels with Mack’s playing style.

This nitpicking isn’t anything new. In fact, his insistence on kicking runs outside the hashmarks is one of the biggest issues that he’s had since coming out of college.

There were several occasions where he had a hole, or tiny crease, on an inside running lane but chose to bounce it outside instead.

Even in the second to last GIF where Mack dives for a near touchdown, he hesitates when a lane opens up in the middle of the offensive line and decides to run towards the edges instead.

The funny part of it is, he may have actually gained more yards by bailing towards the sidelines, rather than keeping it inside.

Only on one or two occasions this weekend did I feel as if he left yards on the field due to this tendency.

The only question is, is it sustainable?

If he is to obtain a larger share of the offense, most likely not.

I expect and hope Mack becomes a more essential component moving forward, but he will have to at least hint at the ability to break through the middle.

That’s not to say he hasn’t shown the aptitude to do this at all, I’d just like to see it become a more consistent part of his game.

With that said, I really believe Mack will gain this ability through experience, especially under the tutelage of the ageless Frank Gore, so it shouldn’t keep Colts’ fans up at night.

Especially not after the stellar performance he just put up against the San Francisco 49ers.

Honorable mention: Malik Hooker

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Early in the game, I was very impressed with Malik Hooker’s ability to stay disciplined against the play action and break on the ball to mitigate any run after catch opportunities the 49ers receivers had.

As time wore on, his restraint began to wane.

Granted, he was facing an offensive mastermind in Kyle Shanahan, and I may be setting the bar too high for Hooker, but considering how I’ve felt about him throughout the season, this was a slight bump in the road.

Hooker was falling for play actions more often towards the end of the game, including on a play where he potentially contributed to helping Marquise Goodwin get wide open on a deep route.

Thankfully, Hoyer thoroughly misplaced the pass and it was incomplete.

That’s not to mention the man coverage flaws that have carried over from his Ohio State days.

On Sunday, he got completely burned by Kittle on an out route in the end zone (again Hoyer missed the pass here and it fell harmlessly incomplete).

He did make up for it with hip-pocket coverage on a later play, but that was only a brief moment of happiness, as he got beat by the same tight end again a few plays later.

When Hooker is in man to man coverage, it seems as if he was never coached in the craft. It appears as though he’s winging it and simply relying on his natural athleticism, which doesn’t work at the professional level.

A big reason for this is lack of repetitions, as he’s still relatively new to the position, and improvement in this area is essential.

I encourage the Colts coaching staff to continue to challenge him in situations like these, even if it costs the team a few big plays here and there.

An interesting note is that Hooker plays better as a single high safety than when he is part of a Cover 4 or Cover 2 defense.

This seems a bit odd, seeing as he should have less ground to cover in those schemes, but he’s a bit more decisive and determined when he’s in solitary confinement at the top of the screen.

Is this is because of his abilities or the scheming/coaching that Chuck Pagano has provided for the defense?

I am willing to wager a lot of money that Pagano is running some sort of funky scheme, that leaves ginormous holes on the field, in order to seem ‘creative’.

The good news is Hooker still put together a pretty solid performance overall.

If a down week is one where he doesn’t record an interception for the first time in 4 starts, and still does a decent job of covering deep routes for most of the game, I’ll take it.

I just expect more from the first rounder going forward.

The others:

Tarell Basham has been severely disappointing.

He wasn’t a prospect I liked all that much, and definitely wasn’t the 3rd round pick that I preferred. I was begging for Derek Rivers, but the hope was that he would prove me wrong. So far, he has not. In fact, he hasn’t done much of anything.

That doesn’t mean it’s time to wave the white flag when it comes to Basham, but early returns haven’t been favorable, especially for a roster that’s been in need of a pass rusher for quite some time.

Grover Stewart is a player that has a lot of physical ability but he has looked lost on the field so far.

This is understandable, seeing as he came from a very small school, but I’m not sure he deserves the playing time he’s gotten thus far. Where has Hassan Ridgeway been?

Stewart uses his length well at times, but loses sight of the ball carrier often and gets run out of plays just as frequently.

He’s shown some flashes which I’ll hold onto, and that’s really all you can ask of a 5th round pick from a small school at this point.

Darrell Daniels has been a fine placeholder for Erik Swoope, and Rigoberto Sanchez has done a valiant job of filling Pat McAfee’s shoes.

Everyone else seems to get mysteriously hurt when they start to get their feet under them.

Speaking of, I didn’t know I’d miss watching Nate Hairston this much. Hairston has been my favorite rookie through the first 6 weeks, and though he may not have the most rookie of the week performances, the ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’ quote holds true here.

Hairston has been a joy to watch, and I hope to see him back on the field soon. Props to GM Chris Ballard for finding such a gem in the latter rounds of the draft.

Overall, it was an uneven showing from the rookies that was simply saved by Mack’s explosive performance.