Year Two: The Second Time Around
What a difference a year makes! Year two in the NFL can provide players increased confidence and a clearer understanding of what it takes to succeed.
"I just feel more relaxed out there, I'm not nervous at all," says Texans second-year defensive end J.J. WATT, whose club is 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. "I'm just going out there and playing the game I love. I just feel confident in my game. I know what I'm doing. I know what my teammates are doing and I can just let loose and have fun."
Through Week 5, Watt leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks and has played a pivotal role in a Texans defense that allows AFC-lows in points per game (14.6) and yards per game (275.6).
The Cincinnati Bengals' second-year tandem of quarterback ANDY DALTON, who was selected in the second round (No. 35 overall), and wide receiver A.J. GREEN, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, have connected 97 times for 1,422 yards and nine touchdowns since last season. Dalton's development this season has been on display late in games as he leads the NFL with a 127.7 fourth-quarter passer rating. He says that his increased production in year two is due to playing with confidence and being more relaxed.
"Last year, I was trying to learn an offense," says Dalton. "Now I have a good understanding of everything and I'm really comfortable out there. And I've been able to do a better job as the leader of the offense."
Green, who played his 20th career game last week, is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 receptions (101), 1,500 yards (1,550) and 10 touchdowns (11) in his first 20 career games. Through Week 5, Green is tied for third in the NFL with four touchdown receptions, ranks fifth in the NFL with 493 receiving yards and is tied for fifth with 36 catches.
"Andy and I were lucky to have a pretty good natural communication from the start, but this year I feel like it's a lot better," says Green. "More and more things, we just seem to be thinking the same way without really saying it. And I'm more comfortable personally with everything this year. The whole routine of being a pro player is more natural. It's easier to focus."
The second-year players that rank in the top five in various statistical categories through Week 5:
|Christian Ponder||Minnesota||Completion Percentage||69.0||2|
|Stevan Ridley||New England||Rushing Yards||490||5|
|Stevan Ridley||New England||Rushing Touchdowns||4||T2|
|A.J. Green||Cincinnati||Receiving Yards||493||5|
|A.J. Green||Cincinnati||Touchdown Receptions||4||T3|
|Julio Jones||Atlanta||Touchdown Receptions||4||T3|
|Kyle Rudolph||Minnesota||Touchdown Receptions||4||T3|
|Justin Houston||Kansas City||Sacks||6||T3|
|Robert Quinn||St. Louis||Sacks||6||T3|
|Jeremy Kerley||NY Jets||Punt Return Avg.||17.0||3|
|Tommie Campbell||Tennessee||Punt Return TDs||1||T1|
|Randall Cobb||Green Bay||Punt Return TDs||1||T1|
|Jeremy Kerley||NY Jets||Punt Return TDs||1||T1|
Vikings second-year quarterback CHRISTIAN PONDER has led his club to a 4-1 record through Week 5 after the Vikings started 1-4 in 2011. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft ranks second in the NFL with a 69.0 completion percentage (ROBERT GRIFFIN III, 69.1). Opponents certainly have been impressed with Ponder's development in year two.
"I think you're seeing the steps that a second-year player takes," says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ. "He had his feet wet last year and he's a smart guy. He's a first-round draft pick, he had a good off-season this year, he had a good training camp and you're seeing improvement."
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