Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.
This week, we examine a key rookie from each team in the NFL, including the AFC East below.
BUFFALO BILLS: Kevon Seymour, cornerback. The Bills might've landed legitimate CB1s in back-to-back years, with Seymour potentially following Ronald Darby's blueprint for cracking the starting lineup. The sixth-round pick continues to impress with suffocating coverage on the perimeter. Seymour locks receivers up with perfect hip-pocket positioning, but he also flashes the short-area quickness and ball skills to bat away passes at the moment of truth. He recorded a pair of pass breakups in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt and a potential touchdown toss on consecutive possessions in Saturday's preseason matchup with the Colts. With the rookie stepping in and looking comfortable with the first unit, Seymour could emerge as the Bills' nickel corner by the end of camp. GRADE: A
MIAMI DOLPHINS: Jakeem Grant, wide receiver. The undersized (5-foot-7, 172 pounds) but slippery pass catcher is a jitterbug on the perimeter, with his stunning combination of stop-start quickness and burst making him nearly impossible to contain with the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants on Friday, Grant flashed his potential as a "catch and run" specialist with his four receptions for 68 yards (check out his 24-yard gain on a quick screen) and 113 combined return yards. The sixth-rounder delivered a pair of explosive plays (that is, gains of 20-plus yards) and displayed the kind of big-play potential the Dolphins' offense has lacked in the past. If he can avoid the drops and muffs that've plagued his training camp performance, Grant could carve out a role as a specialty playmaker for the Dolphins. GRADE: B+
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Cyrus Jones, cornerback. The Patriots' top pick (Round 2, No. 60 overall) is already making a strong case for cracking the starting lineup as the CB2 or CB3 opposite Malcolm Butler. The 5-10, 200-pounder looks like a seasoned vet on the island, exhibiting solid footwork, fundamentals and instincts in coverage. In addition, Jones is a talented returner with the kind of wiggle and burst to create big plays in the kicking game. He was held to a 2-yard gain on his lone punt return against the Saints on Thursday, but with a college resume full of dynamic returns, he could be an immediate "two-phase" contributor for the Patriots. GRADE: B
NEW YORK JETS: Darron Lee, linebacker.Jets coach Todd Bowles unleashed Lee against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, and the football world should take notice. Lee was a Tasmanian devil on the field, exhibiting outstanding speed and explosiveness as a "run and chase" player. In addition, he displayed natural rush skills (one sack) and disruptive potential as a designated hunter from the second level. Yes, he did most of his work against the Jags' second team -- still, the first-rounder from Ohio State could be a big-time playmaker as part of the Jets' sub-packages. GRADE: A