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 North below.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: Matt Judon, defensive end. The small-school standout quickly showed Ravens officials that the impressive college resume he compiled at Grand Valley State could translate to major pro production as a disruptive player along the line. The fifth-round pick racked up seven tackles and a sack against the Panthers on Thursday while displaying a relentless motor and natural rush skills. With Baltimore desperately looking to upgrade the pass rush as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil near the end of their respective careers, Judon's flashes could force the coaches to carve out a role for the energetic rookie. GRADE: B+
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Tyler Boyd, wide receiver. The mass exodus of Bengals receiver talent during the offseason (with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu both leaving for greener pastures) makes it imperative for Boyd to become an impact player this season. Based on his debut performance against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday, the second-round pick could become a key contributor to the offense as a vertical threat. The ex-Pitt standout finished the night with only one reception, but it was a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab that showcased his spectacular ball skills and tracking ability. With A.J. Green attracting double coverage on most passing downs, Boyd could feast on one-on-one coverage on the backside as the Bengals' WR2. GRADE: B
CLEVELAND BROWNS: Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end/outside linebacker. I know we must keep preseason performances in perspective, but the Browns might've discovered their DPR (designated pass rusher) for the season in Ogbah. The ex-Oklahoma State star was like a bull in a china shop rushing off the edge on the way to six tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack against the Green Bay Packers on Friday. Ogbah also displayed the "juice" (energy) that Hue Jackson desires in his top defenders -- a trait that could help the second-round pick wreak havoc as a potential first-year starter. GRADE: A
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Sean Davis, cornerback/safety. The versatile defender from Maryland could play a variety of roles for the Steelers as a nickel corner/safety. Davis had an up-and-down performance against Detroit on Friday, with a missed tackle and penalty on a horse-collar tackle overshadowing the solid cover skills he displayed throughout the game. As Davis gets more playing time at both positions, the second-round pick should settle into his role and help the Steelers shore up a secondary that's been viewed as the team's biggest weakness heading into the season. GRADE: B