NFL's 2011 rookie class off to a fine start

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 13 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Solder helped the Patriots prove the exception to the notion that the offensive line and secondary would be the groups most affected by the lack of OTAs because they need the most synergy.

"We all worked together tonight and I think that's good for him," Solder said of Brady, who recorded the 11th 500-yard passing performance in NFL history.

Marcel Dareus, the third overall pick out of Alabama, was a beast for the Buffalo Bills in their 41-7 whooping of the Chiefs in Kansas City.

The Bills had the worst run defense in the league last year but with Dareus anchoring the middle with his 6-foot-3, 340-pound frame, they held Jamaal Charles to 56 yards rushing. Although he was only credited with two tackles, Dareus was so good at jamming up the line of scrimmage with his brute force and agility that Buffalo's linebackers had a field day.

By contrast, the Chiefs got nothing from their rookies. Jonathan Baldwin, who hurt a thumb in a training camp fight with Thomas Jones, was one of many first-round picks across the league that weren't even active on opening weekend.

The Philadelphia Eagles didn't even dress their top three picks but started rookies at two important spots, sixth-rounder Jason Kelce at center and fourth-rounder Casey Matthews at middle linebacker.

And the low draft pick who got the highest marks was Chris Neild, a nose tackle from West Virginia whom the Redskins chose with the next-to-last overall pick in the draft. He had two sacks in Washington's 28-14 win over the Giants.

Of course, the star was another rookie, Kerrigan, the Redskins' first-rounder, who swung the momentum early in the third quarter when he batted Eli Manning's pass into the air, caught it and returned it 9 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

"I just remember not really being able to see anything," said Kerrigan, the No. 16 overall pick from Purdue, "as I was getting mauled by my teammates."

It was a familiar scene for first-timers across the NFL in Week 1.

AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi and Sports Writers Tom Withers, Dave Skretta, Joseph White, Tom Canavan and Steven Wine contributed.

Connect with AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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