We all know the NFL stars who fuel conversation on SportsCenter with weekly monster days, showing off their eye-popping highlight skills. But what about the performances make us say, “Who was that?”
It could be the undrafted rookie receiver who becomes his team’s leading receiver, the backup quarterback who leads his team to one or two upset road victories, or the journeyman defensive end who out of nowhere becomes the sack bogeyman.
This is for them.
Introducing the NFL’s Quarter 1 unheralded ballers, starting with a rookie quarterback who is already a legend in Duval County and a Buccaneers defender who will soon reap the rewards on betting on himself in free agency.
69.4% completion, 905 yards, 7 TDs, 106.9 passer rating, 2-1 as starter
Why it matters: The power is in the mustache! The Jaguars looked to be doomed after Nick Foles went down with a fractured collarbone, but that’s before we knew about the legend of Minshew.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) September 29, 2019
The rookie sixth-round pick is the only player since 1990 to post a 95-plus passer rating in each of his first four games. He led a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and put on a show beating the Tennessee Titans in prime time in Week 3.
Maybe we all need a little more Minshew magic.
NFL-leading nine sacks, three forced fumbles, interception
Why it matters: Barrett should have North Carolina AT&T coach Sam Washington’s “bring me my money” speech on a loop.
There might not be another player whose stock and value has risen more than Barrett’s over the past month.
Barrett spent the past five years primarily as a reserve outside linebacker for the Broncos before signing a one-year, prove-it deal worth $4 million with Tampa Bay in March. The price just went up for next year!
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 29, 2019
Barrett is a big reason why the Bucs are 2-2. On Sunday, he made a third-quarter interception that led to a Bucs TD and a fourth-quarter sack/forced fumble that Ndamukong Suh returned for the game-clinching touchdown in an upset of the Los Angeles Rams. He also had three sacks in a six-point road victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Leads all tight ends with 33 receptions for 320 yards in first significant action since 2016
Why it matters: Waller’s battles with substance abuse and addiction almost ended his NFL career. He underwent a commendable journey to get clean and get back in shape, and he has looked like one of the NFL’s best tight ends so far this season.
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) September 10, 2019
Waller is the Raiders’ leading receiver, and in Week 3 vs. Seattle he had an uber-impressive 13-catch, 134-yard day.
71.7% completion, 493 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 118.3 passer rating, 2-0 record
Why it matters: Like the Jaguars, it appeared as though the Panthers’ season was doomed when Cam Newton went down with a foot injury, but we didn’t know about Houdini — also known as Allen.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 29, 2019
Dating to last season, Allen — undrafted in 2018 — is 3-0 as a starter with all three wins coming on the road. That’s something only Patrick Mahomes and Jeff Hostetler have done in the Super Bowl era.
Newton doesn’t appear to be ready to return soon, so it will be Allen’s show for a while. And if he continues to play the way he has, Panthers fans have nothing to worry about.
Two interceptions, blocked punt in tight win over Bills
Why it matters: On a day when Tom Brady struggled to get much going offensively, the Patriots pulled out a tough road divisional victory thanks to four interceptions and a blocked punt that went for a touchdown. Jackson, a fourth cornerback, played a significant role on those plays and deserved the game MVP.
The Patriots have had tremendous success developing undrafted cornerbacks such as Jackson and Malcolm Butler. Jackson’s effort might eventually make a difference in terms of playoff seeding.
Tied for NFL lead with four touchdown catches
Why it matters: Dissly suffered a major knee injury in Week 4 of last season, derailing his rookie year, but he has bounced back as a red zone monster for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Will Dissly, AGAIN, to take the lead! 🤩
Q3: SEA 14, PIT 10 pic.twitter.com/VIz9sEewXp
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 15, 2019
Dissly, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has six touchdowns in his first eight NFL games — tied for the most TDs ever by a TE in that period.
Game-saving pass breakup on his second career defensive snap in Eagles’ win over Packers
Why it matters: With the Packers driving toward the end zone late in the fourth quarter of what was a near must-win game for the Eagles, James was forced into his first career defensive action because the team was down to just two healthy cornerbacks. On James’ second play, Aaron Rodgers threw at him — a slant pass on the goal line intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. James deflected the ball in the air and linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted it to clinch the win.
James was called up from the practice squad due to injuries earlier that week and his play helped the banged-up Eagles become 2-2 instead of 1-3, a big difference for a Super Bowl hopeful.
NFL Nation reporters Michael DiRocco, Jenna Laine, David Newton, Mike Reiss, Brady Henderson and Tim McManus contributed to this story.