Rookie of the week: Nate Hairston
Originally, I had Hooker in this coveted spot, but I realized Hairston deserved more recognition for his play than I’ve been affording him.
One look at these Pro Football Focus statistics gives you a glimpse of how fantastic he’s been:
Rookies that have impressed pic.twitter.com/fMyzXSvYLi— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 26, 2017
Nate Hairston's day in coverage pic.twitter.com/qmixLFkqDM— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 24, 2017
And the eye ball test backs this information up. He has some struggles with awareness of what’s going on around him, especially in zone coverage, but his break on the ball and athletic intangibles make him a promising contributor in the secondary.
Take this crucial 3rd down play in the middle of the 2nd quarter for example:
Hairston gets lost in the traffic created by Cleveland’s play design, but he recovers quickly and jars the ball loose from Rashard Higgins’ arms.
Plays like these highlight how superb Hairston has looked playing in the slot. He has the size, speed and reaction time to thrive in that role for the foreseeable future.
Honorable mention: Malik Hooker
Hooker did it again. He recorded his second interception in his second career start. Of course, this one was of a different nature than his inaugural pick and isn't why he was considered as rookie of the week material for the second straight week.
Besides the fact that the rookie pool was dwindled this week, with injuries to Marlon Mack, Quincy Wilson and Anthony Walker, Hooker seemed to be in position to make plays on the ball on several occasions.
And when he seemed to be out of place, he did what he does best and ate up grass like a gazelle to make up for it. If not for what seemed to be a few poorly placed balls by DeShone Kizer, Hooker may have added even more intercepted pigskins to his trophy case.
One particular pass was in the 4th quarter on 3rd and 9, Kizer attempted a throw up the middle to Ricardo Louis and Hooker jumped it. If the ball had been a little more on target, it would've been an easy Hooker pick.
Here’s a look at that play below (Hooker is the safety on the top of the screen):
He wasn't perfect, however, as he did get beat deep on occasion. An example of this was early in the 2nd quarter, Kizer heaved a ball deep down the left sideline to Kenny Britt who was left open due to a Hooker false step.
Later on, during the 2nd quarter, Hooker was in man coverage, which is not one of his strong suits, and he let Seth DeValve body him up and catch a bullet for a 20-yard gain.
Hooker is playing an infinitely difficult position as a single high safety, one that is among the rarest in terms of talented players. So, even though his downs are evident, his ups are promising enough to light up the eyes of Colts fans.
There’s not much to say in this department since, as I mentioned before, a platoon of rookies were out of action this Sunday.
What can be stated, though, is the play of Deyshawn Bond has been pleasantly surprising. He’s no world beater, but he’s filled in admirably for Ryan Kelly, particularly as a pass protector. As an undrafted free agent, Bond becoming a solid backup would be an almost ideal scenario, and a shrewd move on the part of GM Chris Ballard to keep him over Brian Schwenke.
Outside of that, Tarell Basham showcased more of the same, except with a glimpse of upside. He had a nice pass rush to get by Cleveland Browns’ right tackle Shon Coleman, but before Basham could progress towards the quarterback, his own teammate tackled him to the ground.
All in all, a good day for the Colts roster as a whole, was mirrored by the play of the rookie class.