Four players who have a lot to prove and could have big performances in NFL game week 13.
Riley Cooper – Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles
Last week fifth year wide receiver DeSean Jackson was placed on injured reserve after fracturing his ribs against the Cleveland Browns. With Andy Reid’s tenure in Philly looking like it’s coming to a close, this is a great opportunity for one of the back up receivers to put together some game tape for the incoming regime. Riley Cooper was drafted by the Eagles in 2010 in the fifth round out of the University of Florida. In his three year career Cooper has 33 receptions for 541 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper will see his game time go up with Jackson out but will have to compete with veteran Jason Avant for the second receiver slot. With Michael Vick still out with a concussion, Cooper has the advantage of having worked with backup quarterback Nick Foles with the Eagles second string. On Foles’ first start Cooper was targeted eight times, up from the 2.5 targets he was averaging in the first three games on the season.
David Wilson – Running Back – New York Giants
David Wilson was drafted by the Giants as the last pick in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Virginia Tech. The Giants had high hopes for Wilson as a ‘change of pace’ running back and someone they could rely on when Ahmad Bradshaw picks up an inevitable injury. But after fumbling on his week one debut against the Cowboys, head coach Tom Coughlin benched the rookie for journeyman Andre Brown. Brown earned his spot as the number two back with impressive performances against Tampa Bay and Carolina. With Brown now on injured reserve – designated for return, the Giants will look to Wilson to back up Bradshaw again. The Giants picked up Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin this week, so the pressure is on Wilson to hang on to his spot on the depth chart and prove to the Giants that they made the correct decision to take him in the first round of the draft.
David DeCastro – Guard – Pittsburgh Steelers
Another rookie whose season didn’t start well is Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro. DeCastro was the 24th overall pick by the Steelers out of Stanford. In the third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, DeCastro injured his ACL and MCL when teammate Marcus Gilbert landed on his leg. The rookie was finally activated off injured reserve-designated to return this week, and not a moment too soon for the Steelers, who can’t seem to keep lineman healthy. Starting tackle Marcus Gilbert was placed on injured reserve and starting guard Mike Adams picked up a high ankle sprain against the Cleveland Browns, so DeCastro could play this Sunday at right guard. The rookie should help Pittsburgh’s running game, which has been struggling of late due to injuries on the line. It doesn’t help that backup quarterback Charlie Batch’s noddle arm can’t keep defenses honest. With no respect for the passing game, defenses are stacking the box against Pittsburgh. The Steelers take on their division rivals Baltimore on Sunday and their offensive line will need all the help it can get.
Bryce Brown – Running Back – Philadelphia Eagles
I missed “Off the Radar” last week but if I hadn’t, I probably would have brought up this guy. Bryce Brown stepped in for the concussed LeSean McCoy last week and was a revelation for the Eagles. At the start of their game against Carolina, Philadelphia looked a down and out team with nothing to play for, but Brown was a breath of fresh air as he broke tackles and eluded defenders on his way to a 178 yard and two touchdown game off 19 carries. All of this in his first start since high school, as the 2012 seventh round pick didn’t start a game in college. Beginning his college career as backup to Montario Hardesty at the University of Tennessee, he left at the start of his second year and joined Kansas State, where his brother had just transferred some weeks earlier. A year later Brown left Kansas, having only played in their 2011 opener, and entered the NFL draft. Brown has both speed and size, running a 4.48s 40 in the 2012 Combine and coming in at six feet tall and over 220 lbs. Brown compliments the nippy LeSean McCoy perfectly and the two should give opposition defenses headaches next season.