These NFL rookies could make quick impact

It’s not easy for a rookie to turn heads at his first minicamp. Contact isn’t allowed, and there are only so many things he can do in a T-shirt and shorts.

Nonetheless, these 11 draft picks were among the rookies who made good first impressions during their NFL indoctrinations.

Despite all of the past controversy surrounding him, new Cowboys WR has received rave reviews so far.
Despite all of the past controversy surrounding him, new Cowboys WR has received rave reviews so far.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (first round). In his first practice, he showed some fatigue. In his final practice, he twisted his ankle. In between, Bryant displayed outstanding hands and athletic ability. He caught just about every pass thrown his way and made at least a couple of spectacular receptions in every practice.

"Dez Bryant is an absolute talent," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips gushed. "You don’t get to be around that many players who come in and look that good that early. In 33 years, I can say that there haven’t been that many that have come in and looked that talented in the first three-day period as he has."

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (first round). With Reggie Kelly still un-signed and Chase Coffman coming off a rookie season in which he was slowed by an ankle injury, Gresham has a chance to open the 2010 season as Cincinnati’s starting tight end if the Bengals can get him signed and into training camp on time. Although he missed the ’09 season with a knee injury, Gresham was a quick study at minicamp.

"I didn’t think he would be doing so well so quickly," tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes said. "His movement skills, his strength, his balance — all those things stand out to you. Not only is he a talented guy, he also has a little chip on his shoulder when he catches the ball. He’s a very, very competitive person."

Brandon Spikes, ILB, Patriots (second round). The former Florida linebacker has the immediate challenge of adjusting to the Patriots’ 3-4 defense after playing in a 4-3 scheme at Florida. He is expected to contribute right away and should be a standout defender against the run. At minicamp, he assumed the role of signal caller for the rookies on defense.

"I just want to come in and gain the respect of the coaching staff and my teammates," Spikes told the Boston Herald. "Let them know I’m here to contribute, I’m an accountable guy, and I’m going to be there when my number’s called. I just want the guys to know I’m dependable and they can count on me — rookie or not."

Kyle Wilson, CB, Jets (first round). The Jets are building quite a cornerback corps. In the offseason, they have acquired Antonio Cromartie and drafted Wilson out of Boise State to complement shutdown corner Darrelle Revis.

Drafted 43rd overall, Ravens LB Sergio Kindle had 168 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks in four seasons with the Longhorns.
Drafted 43rd overall, Ravens LB Sergio Kindle had 168 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks in four seasons with the Longhorns.

Wilson is projected to be the Jets’ nickel back and cover slot receivers. He also may get a chance to return punts. He looked so good at minicamp that defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman reportedly advised the team’s offensive coaches to not challenge Wilson.

Zane Beadles, OT, Broncos (second round). Given that left tackle Ryan Clady (torn patellar tendon) probably won’t be ready until at least the start of the regular season and the team’s uncertainty at guard, Beadles has a chance to find an immediate niche for himself in Denver. Although he primarily is a tackle, the former Utah lineman is versatile enough to be a swing lineman and play inside.

"He’s got a great attitude. We spent a lot of time with him before the draft, and he didn’t disappoint us this weekend with what he was able to do," coach Josh McDaniels said after Denver’s minicamp. "We tried to put a lot on him in two days and he reacted really well, as did the rest of our linemen that we had in this weekend."

Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Falcons (first round). Weatherspoon, who will be asked to learn both outside positions, is about 20 pounds lighter now than his playing weight in his final season at Missouri. Falcons coach Mike Smith thinks Weatherspoon has the speed to cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game.

Sergio Kindle, OLB, Ravens (second round). With Jarret Johnson sidelined (shoulder surgery), Kindle worked with the first team at minicamp. He could start off being used as a pass-rush specialist, like Terrell Suggs was as a rookie in ’03.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (first round). He showed quickness and an explosive burst through the hole and was elusive dodging traffic once he got into the open field.

Jacques McClendon, G, Colts (fourth round. Coach Jim Caldwell believes McClendon, who can bench-press 645 pounds and has a master’s degree in sports management, can be a force in the middle of the line.

Tyson Alualu, DT (first round) and D’Anthony Smith, DT (third round), Jaguars. Coach Jack Del Rio thinks these two athletic, disruptive tackles will make Jacksonville’s line a more penetrating front up the middle.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

It’s not easy for a rookie to turn heads at his first minicamp. Contact isn’t allowed, and there are only so many things he can do in a T-shirt and shorts.

Nonetheless, these 11 draft picks were among the rookies who made good first impressions during their NFL indoctrinations.

Despite all of the past controversy surrounding him, new Cowboys WR has received rave reviews so far.
Despite all of the past controversy surrounding him, new Cowboys WR has received rave reviews so far.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys (first round). In his first practice, he showed some fatigue. In his final practice, he twisted his ankle. In between, Bryant displayed outstanding hands and athletic ability. He caught just about every pass thrown his way and made at least a couple of spectacular receptions in every practice.

"Dez Bryant is an absolute talent," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips gushed. "You don’t get to be around that many players who come in and look that good that early. In 33 years, I can say that there haven’t been that many that have come in and looked that talented in the first three-day period as he has."

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (first round). With Reggie Kelly still un-signed and Chase Coffman coming off a rookie season in which he was slowed by an ankle injury, Gresham has a chance to open the 2010 season as Cincinnati’s starting tight end if the Bengals can get him signed and into training camp on time. Although he missed the ’09 season with a knee injury, Gresham was a quick study at minicamp.

"I didn’t think he would be doing so well so quickly," tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes said. "His movement skills, his strength, his balance — all those things stand out to you. Not only is he a talented guy, he also has a little chip on his shoulder when he catches the ball. He’s a very, very competitive person."

Brandon Spikes, ILB, Patriots (second round). The former Florida linebacker has the immediate challenge of adjusting to the Patriots’ 3-4 defense after playing in a 4-3 scheme at Florida. He is expected to contribute right away and should be a standout defender against the run. At minicamp, he assumed the role of signal caller for the rookies on defense.

"I just want to come in and gain the respect of the coaching staff and my teammates," Spikes told the Boston Herald. "Let them know I’m here to contribute, I’m an accountable guy, and I’m going to be there when my number’s called. I just want the guys to know I’m dependable and they can count on me — rookie or not."

Kyle Wilson, CB, Jets (first round). The Jets are building quite a cornerback corps. In the offseason, they have acquired Antonio Cromartie and drafted Wilson out of Boise State to complement shutdown corner Darrelle Revis.

Drafted 43rd overall, Ravens LB Sergio Kindle had 168 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks in four seasons with the Longhorns.
Drafted 43rd overall, Ravens LB Sergio Kindle had 168 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks in four seasons with the Longhorns.

Wilson is projected to be the Jets’ nickel back and cover slot receivers. He also may get a chance to return punts. He looked so good at minicamp that defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman reportedly advised the team’s offensive coaches to not challenge Wilson.

Zane Beadles, OT, Broncos (second round). Given that left tackle Ryan Clady (torn patellar tendon) probably won’t be ready until at least the start of the regular season and the team’s uncertainty at guard, Beadles has a chance to find an immediate niche for himself in Denver. Although he primarily is a tackle, the former Utah lineman is versatile enough to be a swing lineman and play inside.

"He’s got a great attitude. We spent a lot of time with him before the draft, and he didn’t disappoint us this weekend with what he was able to do," coach Josh McDaniels said after Denver’s minicamp. "We tried to put a lot on him in two days and he reacted really well, as did the rest of our linemen that we had in this weekend."

Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Falcons (first round). Weatherspoon, who will be asked to learn both outside positions, is about 20 pounds lighter now than his playing weight in his final season at Missouri. Falcons coach Mike Smith thinks Weatherspoon has the speed to cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game.

Sergio Kindle, OLB, Ravens (second round). With Jarret Johnson sidelined (shoulder surgery), Kindle worked with the first team at minicamp. He could start off being used as a pass-rush specialist, like Terrell Suggs was as a rookie in ’03.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (first round). He showed quickness and an explosive burst through the hole and was elusive dodging traffic once he got into the open field.

Jacques McClendon, G, Colts (fourth round. Coach Jim Caldwell believes McClendon, who can bench-press 645 pounds and has a master’s degree in sports management, can be a force in the middle of the line.

Tyson Alualu, DT (first round) and D’Anthony Smith, DT (third round), Jaguars. Coach Jack Del Rio thinks these two athletic, disruptive tackles will make Jacksonville’s line a more penetrating front up the middle.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

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