Notable Week 9 rookie performances: McCaffrey sees role expand

Here’s a closer look at how some of the top rookies fared in Week 9:

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Round drafted: 1

Statistics: 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown; five catches for 28 yards

Analysis: McCaffrey finally got the formality of his first rushing touchdown out of the way, taking a pitch from Cam Newton 4 yards for an easy score late in the first half. He also had his longest run, of 17 yards, and finished with a season-high 66 yards rushing. Most of McCaffrey’s plays prior to Sunday came on catches. He still made a few plays there, with five receptions for 28 yards. But he finally made an impact in the running game that many have been waiting for. It wasn’t huge, but it was a positive step and a boost for this offense. McCaffrey should continue to benefit from the trade that sent wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo because his snap count increases with more opportunities across the board. -- David Newton

Philadelphia Eagles RB Corey Clement


Statistics: 12 carries, 51 yards, 2 TD; 1 receptions, 15 yards, TD

Analysis: While new running back Jay Ajayi got most of the attention for breaking off a long touchdown run in his Eagles debut, Clement deserves some of the spotlight after scoring three touchdowns against the Broncos. The undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin continues to exceed expectations. He now has 228 total yards and 5 touchdowns on the season while playing a limited role. Clement has earned a spot in the running back rotation even with the addition of Ajayi, and can serve as an effective change-up along with LeGarrette Blount. -- Tim McManus

New York Giants TE Evan Engram

Round drafted: 1

Statistics: Four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown

Analysis: Engram continues to be the Giants’ most dangerous and effective weapon. Even if Engram and quarterback Eli Manning had trouble connecting at times (four catches on 10 targets with a pair of potential drops), they still combined to make plays like they have consistently for several weeks. Engram has scored a touchdown every week since Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were lost for the season. He has recorded at least 60 yards every week as well. The most impressive play Sunday in a blowout loss to the Rams was a long pass on third down deep down the middle. Engram was blanketed by linebacker Mark Barron, but Manning still managed to sneak the ball to his new top target. Engram made the tough, contested catch. He later added a 10-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to cap another productive day in another Giants loss. -- Jordan Raanan

Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon

Round drafted: 2

Statistics: 13 carries for 31 yards; three receptions for 15 yards, one receiving TD

Analysis: Mixon got the first start of his career after Jeremy Hill was unexpectedly sidelined due to a pregame ankle injury. Mixon was able to score the only touchdown in the Bengals' loss, diving for a 7-yard score. However, the Bengals failed to move the ball at all, and Mixon couldn’t get anything going after that score. It continues to be hit or miss for the rookie, who is running behind a struggling offensive line. -- Katherine Terrell

Buffalo Bills WR Zay Jones

Round drafted: 2

Statistics: Six catches, 53 yards, TD.

Analysis: Jones scored his first NFL touchdown Thursday night against the Jets in what was easily his best game as a pro -- but it came at a cost. Jones got tangled with cornerback Buster Skrine breaking in his route on a play in the second quarter, planting his foot and having his knee awkwardly bend backward. The injury initially looked serious, prompting most of Buffalo’s players to take a knee around him or on the sideline. However, Jones was cleared to return and he played most of the second half before leaving again with the injury. It was a tough break for the rookie who shook off some struggles over his first seven games (10 catches for 115 yards through seven games) to begin to emerge. -- Mike Rodak

New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara

Round drafted: 3

Statistics: 10 carries for 68 yards, one touchdown; six catches for 84 yards, one touchdown; one lost fumble.

Analysis: Kamara has become a weekly staple in this space. But this might have been his best performance yet. Kamara agreed that his 33-yard TD on a screen pass in the second quarter was probably his highlight moment so far. After weaving through traffic behind some excellent blocking, he appeared to be wrapped up around the 12-yard line. But he braced himself with his hand, escaped the tackle and made another defender whiff on his way to the end zone. Kamara had four catches for 67 yards on that 2-minute TD drive, which was especially impressive given that he had just lost his first career fumble on the previous drive. -- Mike Triplett

Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt

Round drafted: 3

Statistics: Nine carries, 37 yards, touchdown; four receptions, 24 yards

Analysis: Hunt was held to his second-lowest rushing total of the season and was held below 100 yards from scrimmage for the second time in two weeks. He cracked 100 scrimmage yards in his first seven games, an NFL record to begin a career. Hunt also was held without a touchdown for the sixth straight week -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp

Round drafted: 3

Statistics: Three catches on five targets for 54 yards

Kupp had a quiet day by his standards but still contributed. One of his catches was the start of a trick play, which saw Kupp run a hitch, then pitch the football to Tavon Austin as he streaked across the field for an eventual 9-yard gain. He also found himself wide open on catches for 19 yards and 35 yards. -- Alden Gonzalez

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack

Round drafted: 4

Statistics: Nine carries, 29 yards

Analysis: Mack’s inability to pick up the blitz put him in the doghouse in the second half against the Texans. Mack, whose breakaway speed makes him a threat every time he touches the ball, didn’t pick up safety Eddie Pleasant, giving him a free shot on Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett with 65 seconds remaining in the first half, when the Colts were trying to extend their 10-0 lead. Brissett fumbled after being hit, and Lamarr Houston scooped up the loose ball and took it 34 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-7. Mack had only one carry for 3 yards in the second half. Mack’s ability to pass protect has been a concern for the Colts all season. His snaps, especially on passing downs, will hinge on how well he can block. -- Mike Wells