Will any rookie on Week One match Randall Cobb’s 2011 debut?
Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
Last year rookie receiver/return man Randall Cobb made his Green Bay Packers regular season debut with a pair of touchdowns. It was the first time since Javon Walker in 2002 that a Packers rookie scored a touchdown in the team’s first game of the season.
In addition to Cobb, six other rookies scored a touchdown in their team’s first game last season. They were: Doug Baldwin (Seattle), A.J. Green (Cincinnati), Cam Newton (Carolina), Ben Tate (Houston), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington) and Patrick Petersen (Arizona).
Since 1960, there have been 276 rookies that scored a touchdown in their team’s first game of the season, an average of just over five per season. Most in a season was in 1969 when 11 different rookies scored a TD in their team’s first game of the season. That group included O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach.
In looking at stats from the past 25 NFL seasons (since 1987), there have been 131 rookies that scored a touchdown in their team’s first game of the year. It has proven to be a good omen for those teams as they have won 90 and lost 41 in those games, a .687 winning percentage.
Since 1987, the Detroit Lions and New York Giants have each had nine different rookies score a TD in the team’s opening game. Following are the number of times it has happened for each team in the last 25 seasons.
Rookies with a TD in the opening game (since 1987), Teams
9: Detroit, N.Y. Giants
8: Kansas City, Tampa Bay
6: Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans
5: Buffalo, San Diego
4: Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minnesota, New England, Oakland, Tennessee
3: Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Washington
2: Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis
1: Houston, N.Y Jets
Three different teams have not had a rookie score a TD in the opening game this century. The longest drought is in Philadelphia where an Eagles rookie has not scored a TD in the opening game since 1993. Atlanta has not had a rookie score in the first game since 1998, while the Rams have not had one score since 1999.
One final note: Seventeen different members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame scored a touchdown as a rookie in their team’s first game of their rookie season (since the 1960 season). The 17 are: Marcus Allen, Lem Barney, Earl Campbell, Marshall Faulk, Bob Hayes, Michael Irvin, John Mackey, Curtis Martin, Ozzie Newsome, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, O.J. Simpson, Roger Staubach, Lynn Swann, Fran Tarkenton, Charley Taylor, Thurman Thomas.
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