Rookies Excelled in 2011
NFL 2012 Football
The future is bright for a cast of NFL rookies around the league. Making the transition from college to the NFL can be just as demanding mentally as it is physically. But year after year, rookies across the league emerge as key contributors.
"The strength of rookies coming into the National Football League is so much more advanced each year due to the quality coaching and offseason programs that they get in college," says GIL BRANDT, former Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel (1960-89) and NFL.com senior analyst. "I think last year's rookie class was an exceptional group in all three facets of the game."
Many rookies excelled in 2011, highlighted by the standout performances of quarterbacks CAM NEWTON of the Carolina Panthers and ANDY DALTON of the Cincinnati Bengals. Newton (NFL rookie-record 4,051 passing yards) and Dalton (3,398) became the first pair of rookies to throw for at least 3,000 yards in the same season. Newton's 21 touchdown passes are the third-most ever by a rookie quarterback, while Dalton's 20 passing TDs are tied with DAN MARINO for fourth on the all-time rookie list.
Newton accounted for 35 total touchdowns (21 passing, 14 rushing), surpassing the rookie record formerly held by CHARLEY CONERLY (27 in 1948). His 14 rushing touchdowns were the most in a single season by any quarterback in NFL history (rookies and veterans).
Most Passing Yards By Rookie QB
|Sam Bradford||St. Louis||2010||3,512|
Most TD Passess By Rookie QB
Dalton's most frequent target last season was fellow rookie wide receiver A.J. GREEN (1,057 receiving yards). Dalton and Green were the first rookie QB-WR teammates in NFL history with 3,000+ passing yards and 1,000+ receiving yards in the same season.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver JULIO JONES led NFL rookies with eight receiving touchdowns and became the first rookie since at least 1970 to have an 80+ yard and 50+ yard touchdown catch in a single game.
On defense, San Francisco 49ers linebacker ALDON SMITH (14 sacks) and Denver Broncos linebacker VON MILLER (11.5) also excelled. Smith's 14 sacks were the second most by a rookie in NFL history, trailing only JEVON KEARSE (14.5 in 1999), while Miller set a franchise rookie record for sacks.
The rookies with the most sacks in NFL history:
|Aldon Smith||San Francisco||2011||14|
|Leslie O'Neal||San Diego||1986||12.5|
Arizona Cardinals cornerback and punt-returner PATRICK PETERSON showed his versatility on special teams. Peterson became the first player in NFL history with four punt-return touchdowns of at least 80 yards in a single season. His four punt-return touchdowns also tied for the most in a single season with Pro Football Hall of Famer JACK CHRISTIANSEN (1951), RICK UPCHURCH (1976) and DEVIN HESTER (2007). Peterson and Christiansen are the only rookies to accomplish the feat.
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