NFL Early Games Preview: Players to Watch
RB Adrian Peterson (B. Bahr /Getty Images)
RB Adrian Peterson (B. Bahr /Getty Images)
Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst
Posted Sep 27, 2008


Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst Ed Thompson takes a look at the players who are on a roll -- and a few who can't seem to get rolling -- as 16 teams prepare to clash in the Week 4 early games.

Vikings (1-2) at Titans (3-0)

Adrian Peterson: His 21.3 carries per game puts him in a tie for third-most in the league, while his 340 total rushing yards is second-best. Averaging 5.7 yards per carry, the second-year runner is at his best during his first ten carries of the game, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. After that, he averages 4.0 yards per attempt. He's been struggling with a hamstring problem for the second straight week and was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.

Ryan Longwell: The Vikings kicker has converted nine out of ten field goal opportunities. He's averaging ten points per game, which puts him in a tie for second-best in the NFL.

E.J. Henderson: The Vikings linebacker is tied for the team lead in total tackles with 23. He's also registered a sack, three quarterback hits and forced a fumble.

Cortland Finnegan: With four interceptions during the first three games, Finnegan's been drawing a lot of attention. In addition to intercepting at least one pass in all three contests, he's also made 15 tackles and has been credited with six passes defensed. All four of the third-year player's have been grabbed in the second half.

Albert Haynesworth: In addition to three sacks, the Titans defensive tackle has made nine tackles, forced a fumble, defensed a pass, and has been credited with seven quarterback hits. He sat out a couple of practices this week due to a mild concussion, but was back in action at Friday's practice.

Bo Scaife: The tight end leads all Titans receivers with 10 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Seven of his ten catches have been made in the Titans' half of the field.

Kerry Collins: His 90.5 passer rating is roughly double Vince Young's 45.6 rating, but it's mainly his efficiency that is responsible for his solid mark. The 14-year veteran has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for an average gain of 7.9 yards per attempt, while 39.6 percent of his passes result in a first down, fifth-best in the league. He's only been sacked once and has thrown just one interception. 

Chris Johnson The rookie continues to impress with a 5.5 yards-per-carry rushing average. He's splitting reps with LenDale White, and while White has four touchdowns, Johnson has 276 rushing yards compared to just 148 by White.

Packers (2-1) at Buccaneers (2-1)

Aaron Rodgers: After three outings, the Packers quarterback still hasn't thrown an interception. He's thrown four touchdown passes and rushed for two more. Rodgers is fearless about throwing the ball even when his offense is operating from within their own 20-yard line. He's completed 12 of 19 passes in that area of the field (63.2 percent).


WR Greg Jennings
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Greg Jennings:
The team's leading receiver with 19 catches, Jennings is tied for fourth in the NFL in receptions. Although he's covered 373 yards after catching the ball, he hasn't made his way into the end zone yet this year. Jennings' 124.3 receiving yards per game is second-best in the league. He's made five catches of 20-plus yards already this season.

Aaron Kampman: The Packers' star defensive end has four sacks during the first three weeks, placing him in a tie for second-best in the league at putting the quarterback on the ground. He's made all four sacks in the first half of play.

A.J. Hawk: The Packers linebacker leads his team with 26 tackles (19 solo). He's logged three quarterback hits and two sacks. Eighteen of his tackles were made in the opponents' territory.

Earnest Graham: Tampa Bay's leading rusher is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, but was held in check last week by the Bears, rushing for just 16 yards on 12 carries.

Greg White: The second-year defensive end has 3.5 sacks, fifth-best in the NFL. He's also been credited with five quarterback hits and eight tackles.

Chris Hovan: The Bucs' defensive tackle has made 15 tackles, tied for fifth-best among defensive linemen in the NFL.

Brian Griese: His 407 passing yards was the second-highest total in Week 3. Completing 38 of 67 passes, Griese tossed two touchdown passes, but three interceptions.

49ers (2-1) at Saints (1-2)

Frank Gore: The 49ers' featured running back leads the NFL with 412 yards from scrimmage. He's the team's top receiver with 13 catches, and he's averaging 4.8 yards per carry. His 287 rushing yards ranks him fifth in the NFL heading into Week 4.


QB J.T. O'Sullivan
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

J.T. O'Sullivan: San Francisco's mobile quarterback is averaging 4.6 yards per rush, but has been sacked 13 times. O'Sullivan's 104.6 passer rating is fourth-best in the league, aided by his 66.7-percent completion rate. Forty-four percent of his completions have resulted in a first down, putting him ahead of all NFL quarterbacks in that important category.

Walt Harris: The 13-year veteran is showing he can still keep up with younger receivers, leading the team with three passes defensed. He's picked-off one pass and made 11 tackles so far.

Isaac Bruce: The fifteen-year veteran is averaging 28.7 yards per catch on his six receptions. All six completions resulted in first downs. He scored his first touchdown of the year during San Francisco's 31-13 win over Detroit last weekend.

Drew Brees: The Saints quarterback has passed for a league-leading 980 yards, and he's currently fifth in passer rating at 103.9. His 74.3-percent completion rate is unmatched in the league. And he's thrown ten passes for 20-plus yards, fourth-best in the NFL.

Reggie Bush: The Saints' running back has established himself as the league's leading receiver with 26 catches, including a pair for touchdowns. As a runner, he's averaging a mediocre 3.6 yards per attempt, and has scored once. The versatile back has also handled four punts, averaging 21.3 yards per return.

Jonathan Vilma: The Saints linebacker is tied for sixth in the NFL in tackles with 28. He's also logged three quarterback hits and one pass defensed. 

Usama Young: The cornerback has made six special teams tackles, four of them solo efforts. 

Falcons (2-1) at Panthers (2-1)

Michael Turner: Plugging along with a gaudy 6.2 yards-per-carry average, Turner's five rushing touchdowns puts him in a tie for first-place in the NFL in that category. His 366 rushing yards is tops in the NFL, edging out Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.


RB Jerious Norwood
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jerious Norwood: The Falcons' other running back is sporting a 6.0 yards-per-carry mark and has scored one rushing touchdown. Add in his 24.1-yards per kickoff return, and Norwood has contributed a team-high 423 yards.

Lawyer Milloy: His 22 tackles is a team-best, but he's also tied for sixth in the NFL in that category. The Falcons' strong safety also has one interception and has defensed three passes. 

John Abraham: The Panthers' offensive line is coming off of an erratic performance against the Vikings, so the Falcons defensive end could add to his league-leading total of six sacks this Sunday.  His two forced fumbles puts him in a tie at the top of the NFL.

Jonathan Stewart: The Panthers' exciting rookie running back is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored three rushing touchdowns. But Carolina hasn't gotten him involved in the passing game yet, which is a mistake. Stewart is also contributing to the team's success by handling kickoff return duties, averaging 24.8 yards per return. 

Thomas Davis: Carolina's outside linebacker has made 22 tackles during the first three weeks. He's also forced a fumble and defensed a pass. 

Mark Jones: The fifth-year receiver out of Tennessee is averaging 10 yards per punt return during his first ten opportunities.

Broncos (3-0) at Chiefs (0-3)

Tony Scheffler: In his third season, Denver's young tight end has made 11 catches, including two for touchdowns. His 56 receiving yards per game puts him in a tie for third-best in the league among tight ends. 


QB Jay Cutler
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Jay Cutler: Denver's quarterback is second in the NFL in both passing yards (914) and touchdown passes (8). And opponents are finding it tough to put him on the ground, sacking him just once in the first three games.  His passer rating of 110.6 and completion percentage of 67.6 percent are both third-best in the league.

Selvin Young: The Broncos' running back is tough to stop, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

Brandon Marshall: His 24 catches are the second-most in the NFL and tops by a wide receiver. Marshall's 160.5 yards per game is best mark among receivers in the NFL. 

D.J. Williams: The outside linebacker leads the team with 28 tackles (23 solo) and has logged one sack.

Dustin Colquitt: The Chiefs punter has a net average of 42.9 yards per punt, third-best in the NFL. He's put a league-best ten punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, with just one touchback this season.

Tank Tyler: His 16 tackles is fourth-best by a defensive lineman heading into Week 4.

Tony Gonzalez: The always-reliable veteran has made 15 catches, third-best by a tight end. 

Cardinals (2-1) at Jets (1-2)

Kurt Warner: The Cardinals' veteran signal-caller has an NFL second-best passer rating of 111.7, but has been sacked seven times already. It's hard not to be impressed by his touchdown to interceptions ratio of six to one. Those six touchdown passes place him in a tie for third in the league.


LB Karlos Dansby
Stephen Dunn /Getty Images

Karlos Dansby: The outside linebacker has made a team-leading 24 tackles, recovered a fumble, and recorded a quarterback sack. 

Anquan Boldin: With a team-best 17 catches, Boldin is averging 14.5 yards per reception. His four touchdown catches are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Fourteen of his 17 receptions have moved the chains for Arizona. 

Leon Washington: 33.1 average on 7 KO returns (3rd best for returners with at least two returns), 94-yard long. 5 PR for 12.8 yards.

Calvin Pace: The Jets linebacker will be lining up against his old team on Sunday after they didn't make a strong enough bid to keep him in Arizona. Pace has 17 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks to date. 

Chansi Stuckey: While Jerricho Cotchery draws most of the media attention, Stuckey's 12 catches are second-best on the team. He's averaging 10.2 yards per catch, and his team-leading three touchdown catches place him in a tie for third-best in the league.

Wallace Wright: The second-year wide receiver has made seven of the team's 20 special teams tackles. 

Texans (0-2) at Jaguars (1-2)

Steve Slaton: The rookie's 5.1 yards-per-carry rushing average looks really impressive at first glance, but take away his one big 50-yard run and he's averaging 3.6 yards per carry. That said, his results aren't too shabby for a back who is just beginning his NFL career.


LB DeMeco Ryans
Jed Jacobsohn /Getty Images

DeMeco Ryans: The young linebacker continues to make plays all over the field, logging 25 tackles, a quarterback hit and two fumble recoveries.

Matt Schaub: The Texans quarterback has a 50.3 passer rating, 30th in the league. And he's tossed just one touchdown pass, but five interceptions. 

Andre Johnson: Houston's best wide receiver has made 12 catches, averaging 11.8 yards per catch. Ten of his 12 catches have provided the Texans with a new set of downs.

David Garrard: The Jaguars quarterback has been sacked nine times already behind a makeshift offensive line. Garrard's completing 65.9 percent of his passes, but his four interceptions and just one touchdown have contributed to his 25th ranking in passer rating (68.1).  

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jones-Drew provided the spark that the Jaguars offense needed last week against the Colts, both as a runner and receiver. He's averaging 4.4 yards per carry rushing and has scored twice running the football. The versatile running back is Jacksonville's second-leading receiver with 11 catches.

Matt Jones: After a rocky offseason that included a felony drug arrest, Jones appears to be hitting his stride on the football field, posting a team-high 16 catches for 173 yards through the first three weeks.

Brian Witherspoon: Jacksonville's return specialist is averaging 32.0 yards on kickoff returns. And his 13.0 yards-per-return average on punts is fourth-best in the league among players with at least four returns.

Browns (0-3) at Bengals (0-3)

Derek Anderson: This is a critical outing for Anderson, whose 405 yards is 26th among the league's signal-callers. He's also tied for the lead in the NFL with 5 interceptions during a rocky three-week start. Sacked five times already, his 43.5 passer rating is 31st in the league. 


TE Kellen Winslow
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Kellen Winslow: The tight end has 14 catches, fourth-most in the league by a tight end. He's averaging 8.3 yards per catch and has scored once.

Jamal Lewis: The Browns running back hasn't been much help in establishing the run to help open up the passing game. Lewis is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and hasn't scored a rushing touchdown. 

D'Qwell .Jackson: A real bright spot for the Browns, Jackson's 32 tackles are second-best in NFL, and tops by a linebacker. Jackson intercepted his first pass of the season last weekend. 

Carson Palmer: He started showing signs of life last week in an overtime loss to the Giants, but he's been roughed up this season and has already been sacked nine times, including six last weekend. Palmer's 63.8 passer rating is 26th in the league, but he should have a good day against the Browns with young cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald tasked with covering Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Chris Perry: The Bengals running back is averaging a mere 3.0 yards per carry. He has scored twice so far this season.

T.J. Houshmadzadeh: The Bengals' top receiver by far, Houshmandzadeh has reeled-in 18 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown. His receptions total is more than double the eight posted so far by Chad Johnson.

Leon Hall: The second-year cornerback leads the team with five passes defensed. He's also made nine tackles.

Rashad Jeanty: The Bengals linebacker has made five solo special teams tackles out of the team's 17 during the first three contests.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.



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