Best rookie performances of Week 2: Deshaun Watson, Kareem Hunt star

Here’s a closer look at how some of the top rookies fared in Week 2:


Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Draft round: 1

Statistics: 15-of-24, 125 yards; five carries, 67 yards, one TD

Analysis: Watson provided the most exciting play, and the only touchdown, of the Texans’ 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals -- on a scramble up the middle and then down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. Watson showed some improvement from his Week 1 performance but acknowledged after the game that he still has a lot to learn before he is a complete quarterback. Watson didn’t turn the ball over but did have two passes that were almost intercepted. Head coach Bill O’Brien said he liked the poise Watson showed, especially on the Texans’ last drive, which ate up a lot of clock and ended with a field goal. On that drive, Watson got the Texans into the right play almost every time, which O’Brien called “a really good sign.” -- Sarah Barshop


Indianapolis Colts S Malik Hooker

Draft round: 1

Statistics: Two tackles, interception

Analysis: Hooker didn’t waste any time showing why he was projected as a top-10 pick in last spring’s NFL draft and that the Colts made a wise decision in selecting him after he slid to pick No. 15. Hooker put an end to a drive that likely would have resulted in at least three points when he intercepted a Carson Palmer pass at the Colts' 3-yard line with just 1:34 remaining in the first half and the Colts holding on to a 10-3 lead. Hooker’s ball instincts allowed him to intercept seven passes and return three of them for touchdowns last season at Ohio State. Hooker, who missed all offseason workouts and part of training camp while working his way back from several injuries, started only because Darius Butler missed the game with a hamstring injury. “I thought our young guys in the back end played some really good football,” coach Chuck Pagano said. -- Mike Wells

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku

Draft round: 1

Statistics: Three receptions, 27 yards, including 23-yard TD

Analysis: Njoku seems to be growing up. He struggled early in camp, came on the second part of camp and now is playing with more confidence. His TD catch was a leaping grab toward the corner of the end zone. “I ran the route that was called, Kevin [Hogan] threw a great ball and I executed,” Njoku said. Njoku admitted the game is slowing down for him. As it does, he should play better. He had a drop late in the game, but his size and skills are evident. Learning the NFL game is a new experience. “It’s a very special moment catching your first professional touchdown, and hopefully by God’s grace there will be many more to come,” he said. -- Pat McManamon

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette

Draft round: 1 (fourth overall)

Statistics: 14 carries, 40 yards, one TD; two catches, 21 yards

Analysis: Week 2 was much tougher than Week 1 for Fournette, who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars’ victory over Houston in the season opener. Tennessee’s defensive game plan was evident from the beginning: Stop Fournette. The Titans put eight players in the box, and Fournette had little room to maneuver all day. His longest run was only 7 yards, and he had five carries that went for zero yards or 1 yard, though one was a 1-yard touchdown run. Fournette had only four carries in the second half, mainly because the Jaguars fell behind by double digits and were forced to abandon the run. -- Michael DiRocco

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

Draft round: 2

Statistics: 12 carries, 64 yards; two receptions, 0 yards

Analysis: He continued to shoulder the load for the Vikings running backs and came within a yard of scoring his first touchdown. Out of 65 total plays, Cook was in on 37 snaps and turned 12 carries into 64 yards. The Vikings ran Cook out of the shotgun on a 25-yard outside rush he took all the way inside the 1-yard line. That play set up fullback C.J. Ham for a score on the next drive, the only time Minnesota made it into the end zone in Week 2. Minnesota found itself behind the chains often on Sunday, so Cook wasn’t utilized all that much in the passing game. He caught a 1-yard pass on the Vikings' first offensive series, but that gain was negated on another reception. For a second consecutive week, Cook picked up his run-blocking assignments and was the best thing going for the Vikings offense as it struggled in the absence of Sam Bradford. -- Courtney Cronin

Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Draft round: 2

Statistics: Three catches, 16 yards, one TD

Analysis: The Steelers’ top draft choice, linebacker T.J. Watt, will make this list plenty of times and came up with a pass deflection Sunday. But Smith-Schuster showed he’s ready for physical football, too. The Steelers trusted him with a goal line shovel pass, and Smith-Schuster secured the ball and absorbed contact as he pushed into the end zone for a 4-yard TD. Smith-Schuster also delivered a vicious block on a running play for Le'Veon Bell. Miscues have been a problem for Smith-Schuster, who has three penalties through his first two games. But that hasn’t swayed the team’s confidence in him. As the fourth receiver in a good offense, Smith-Schuster’s stock should continue to rise. -- Jeremy Fowler

Cleveland Browns QB DeShone Kizer

Draft round: 2

Statistics: 15-for-31, 182 yards, two sacks, three interceptions, one lost fumble

Analysis: Kizer’s day was as tough as his numbers indicate. Not only did he struggle on the field, he also missed a quarter with a migraine headache. Kizer said he had migraine issues in high school and his problem is hereditary. He also said he has a series of medications that clear things up quickly. On the field, he never looked in rhythm. The fumble was a result of holding the ball too long. His first interception was a pass he did not throw accurately that tipped off Duke Johnson to Ravens safety Eric Weddle. The second interception was a poor throw in the end zone, and the third was a forced throw. Attribute the game to going through rookie struggles. Coach Hue Jackson stood by him and will turn to him again Sunday in Indianapolis. But these are the kinds of days the Browns knew were coming when they went with Kizer as the starter this season. -- Pat McManamon

Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt

Draft round: 3

Statistics: 13 carries, 81 yards, two TDs; three receptions, 28 yards

Analysis: The Philadelphia Eagles held Hunt down for almost three quarters but couldn’t finish the job. That’s difficult to do against Hunt, who is tough to knock off his feet and seems to get stronger as the game goes on. Hunt busted loose for a 53-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter for Kansas City’s first touchdown and later finished the Chiefs’ scoring with a 2-yard run. Afterward, Hunt used the ball as a pillow in the end zone. His message: "Stop sleeping on me. I want everyone to know that." -- Adam Teicher

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Kendell Beckwith

Draft round: 3

Statistics: Five solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass breakup

Analysis: Beckwith was one of two rookies to start for the Bucs, along with tight end O.J. Howard, with Beckwith getting the nod at strongside linebacker. Then when middle linebacker Kwon Alexander left the game with a hamstring injury early in the second quarter, Beckwith shifted over to Alexander’s MIKE spot. He played a huge role in limiting Tarik Cohen to just 13 rushing yards and the Bears’ offense to 20 total rushing yards. Beckwith is just 10 months removed from suffering a torn ACL. “He’s been doing that since he got here, since he was able to practice,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “He is just one of those guys. You don’t have to worry about him being a rookie. Obviously, he will have some rookie moments this year, but he just loves to play the game. He came from LSU. He kind of reminds me of somebody else that came from LSU [Alexander].” -- Jenna Laine

Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen

Draft round: 4

Statistics: seven carries, 13 yards; eight catches, 55 yards; two punt returns, 10 yards

Analysis: For the first time since he arrived in Chicago, Cohen actually looked like a rookie on Sunday when he tried to pick up a live punt return only to fumble it to the Bucs. It was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgment for a player who acts like a seasoned vet -- even though he’s just a first-year player out of North Carolina A&T. But to Cohen’s credit, he answered all the tough questions about the incident after the game, vowing to put the episode behind him. Cohen also didn’t have much luck running the football, but the turnover was by far the worst part of his day. Besides, the Bears were in their two-minute offense almost the entire second half. The positives: Cohen still led the Bears in receptions and continues to make guys miss in the open field. Cohen handled the muffed-punt fiasco like a professional, which bodes well moving forward. -- Jeff Dickerson

New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara

Draft round: 3

Statistics: 1 carry, 3 yards; three receptions, 51 yards

Analysis: Kamara’s impact was felt early Sunday against the Patriots, with a 38-yard catch on a deep passing route during New Orleans’ first touchdown drive to start the second quarter. Drew Brees dialed him up on another deep ball later, and they just missed a connection even though he had a step. Dating back to the preseason, we have now seen Kamara’s explosiveness as a runner between the tackles, on short passes around the edges and on deep passing routes. And it’s clear they’re excited to continue using him as an unpredictable weapon they can create mismatches with. “Here’s a rookie who obviously is very talented and has the ability to do a lot for our offense,” Brees said. “I think you’ll see from week to week his role continue to expand [with] the more time on task that we have and the more that we game plan and find different opportunities for him. He’s definitely a guy you want the ball in his hands.” -- Mike Triplett

Atlanta Falcons DE Takk McKinley

Round: 1

Statistics: Two quarterback hits

Analysis: McKinley, who played 14 snaps in his debut in Week 1, was more of a factor against the Packers because the Falcons played more nickel. He put two punishing hits on Aaron Rodgers that affected plays. It was a case of a pass-rusher making an impact without recording one of the team's three sacks. McKinley, who rushes off the right edge, told ESPN he's more than willing to rush off the left, too. And he might have to in the immediate future if top pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. is sidelined for any amount of time after leaving Sunday night's game with a hamstring injury. -- Vaughn McClure