by Josh Kipnis
There is no dispute: The past few years for the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers have been a struggle. But this year, a group of rookies have swept in and rescued these damsels in distress. Here is my list of the “Rookie Superheroes” halfway through the season.
Superman - Cam Newton
Superhuman strength and speed, as well as the ability to fly, are among his key attributes. The scouts thought he wasn’t good enough, but boy were they wrong. It’s been years since we’ve seen a rookie dominate like Newton. His “freeze breath” is sending more than a chill down the spines of NFL teams. He does it all: threads the needle in the pocket, escapes pressure with dazzling footwork, and bulldozes defenders with brutal force. His only kryptonite is his 2-6 record; but you can’t blame Newton for having below average teammates. Newton ranks 3rd in the NFL in total touchdowns and 6th in passing yards. I have him as my Offensive Rookie of the Year and possibly even a backup for the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
Batman and Robin - Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
Ever since the demise of Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals have been in search of a new dynamic duo. They found just that in this year’s NFL draft with 1st rounder A.J. Green and 2nd rounder Andy Dalton. You hardly ever see a pair of rookies having this much success. The two have hooked up for 599 yards and 5 TDs. Together, they have the Bengals back in playoff contention. Cincinnati is 6-2 this season and tied for first in the AFC North. The next few games are crucial for this young Bengals squad as they take on the hard-nosed defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Will Dalton and Green continue their heroic success? Let’s see what kinds of gadgets Batman and Robin pull out of their tool belts next.
The Flash - Patrick Peterson
Keep your eyes peeled or you might just miss him, seriously. Did you see his game-winning 99-yard punt return last week? The kid was backpedaling faster than players could run forwards. Peterson has accumulated three punt return touchdowns this season, two of which were the go-ahead scores for the Arizona Cardinals. He doesn’t even play offense and he is tied for second on the team in touchdowns. Talk about a playmaker.
Professor X - Jim Harbaugh
What goes on inside the mind of 1st year coach, Jim Harbaugh? Under Harbaugh, the 49ers already have more wins than their entire season last year. At 7-1, it looks as if San Francisco is going to run away with the NFC West. The key to their success has to be attributed to their coaching. The offense is night and day in comparison to last year. Just look at how much of an impact Harbaugh has made on Alex Smith. In 2010, Smith was thrown in and out of the starting lineup, but in 2011 he has proven that there is no better man for the job. Smith ranks 5th in completion percentage and has thrown the fewest interceptions in the NFL. Harbaugh, a former NFL QB, clearly has imparted his wisdom on Smith and the rest of the 49ers team.