10 unheralded players set to step up in NFL Week 4

By Matt Johnson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As each week rolls around in the NFL, football fans are treated to new players emerging every Sunday. Now in Week 4, let’s take a look at some new unheralded players who could have their first big moment as a professional.

We’ve often seen wide receivers start to take the stage with monster games, becoming the next revelation for fans and fantasy football owners everywhere. This season has also treated fans to several defensive players blossoming early in the year.

Here are 10 unheralded players set to step up in NFL Week 4.

Stephen Weatherly, defensive end, Minnesota Vikings

Everson Griffen’s absence from the team will be felt immediately by Minnesota, but it does open the door for Weatherly to continue to build off his promising start.

The 24-year-old played extensively for Minnesota while Griffen dealt with a knee injury. Now Weatherly will start once again and after impressing in Week 3 with a sack from the left side, that should only continue against the Los Angeles Rams.

Weatherly has shown he can get after the quarterback and he has handled the edge pretty well in defending the run. He is an excellent athlete who was groomed to one day step into a starting role. Now the moment is here for him to shine.

Keke Coutee, wide receiver, Houston Texans

Coutee is an example of a player who came out of the 2018 NFL Draft with some hype around him, then saw it all disappear after a strained hamstring sidelined him for more than a month.

The rookie missed the first weeks of the NFL season but has been able to practice in recent weeks. Now with receiver Bruce Ellington lost for the season, snaps finally open up for Coutee to see the field. While Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins eat up plenty of targets, quarterback Deshaun Watson has thrown 32-plus pass attempts in all three games this season.

Houston needs to get its offense moving and is facing a weak Indianapolis Colts secondary that will be focused on Fuller and Hopkins. Coutee could see some matchups to exploit in Week 4.

Dean Lowry, defensive end, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay lost defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a potentially season-ending injury, which now forces another young player to step up.

The door is open for Lowry, a fourth-round pick in 2016, to see regular snaps as a starter in a defense that has a lot of exciting pieces. Fellow defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels will make Lowry’s job easier, taking most of the attention from the offensive line and at times taking on two blockers.

Lowry showed he could handle being a starter in 2017, so he’ll be ready for this role this time around. Facing a pedestrian offensive line against the Buffalo Bills, don’t be surprised if Lowry puts some pressure on Josh Allen.

Jordan Whitehead, strong safety, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After losing safety Chris Conte, Tampa Bay must now call upon its rookie to step into a critical role.

Whitehead, a fourth-round pick in 2018, will be asked to help against the run in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears. This is not a player who can be trusted in coverage, fortunately, that’s not a major concern against Chicago’s offense led by Mitch Trubisky.

The Bears will want to feed Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen a lot in this game, especially early. If the Buccaneers front seven can win at the line of scrimmage, Whitehead should be around plenty to clean up with some big hits.

MikeĀ Gesicki, tight end, Miami Dolphins

Finally, it may be time for Gesicki to shine. After bringing the rookie along slowly, numerous injuries now create a clear path to playing time.

Gesicki saw three targets in Week 3 and hauled all of them in for 31 receiving yards. If A.J. Derby is unable to play in Week 4, then Miami’s rookie tight end will slide right into the starting lineup.

In a matchup where Miami could need to play catch up against a New England Patriots squad looking to turn its season around, that could mean a lot of passing attempts for Ryan Tannehill and six-plus targets in a great matchup for Gesicki.

Marcus Maye, free safety, New York Jets

It remains unclear if Maye will play this week, though coach Todd Bowles is hopeful his free safety can return to action this coming Sunday.

The 25-year-old’s return would be a welcome addition for a secondary that could really use a presence down the field to help prevent the deep ball. It’s been an issue in recent weeks, but Maye is a player who can solve the problem.

Maye’s return would help New York in what could turn into a low-scoring battle against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He would help take away deep passing plays to the likes of Keelan Cole and could help further limit options for Blake Bortles, giving New York’s pass rushers time to get hits on the quarterback.

Chad Williams, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals

Now that Arizona has an NFL-caliber quarterback under center, its offense has some room to grow.

Williams, who entered the season as the team’s No.2 receiver but struggled through three weeks with Sam Bradford’s issues, could really benefit with Josh Rosen now at quarterback.

The two worked together in the preseason and made a handful of plays, which could help him be a trusted target in Rosen’s first NFL start. After he hauled in just one pass through three games, expect Williams to post a lot better numbers moving forward.

Rhett Ellison, tight end, New York Giants

As long as Evan Engram is sidelined, New York will need Ellison to step up his receiving skills once again.

The 29-year-old is primarily known for his skills as a blocker, but he showed the ability to put up some production last season. Fans saw his contributions in Week 3 with a touchdown and 39 receiving yards, but he is capable of more.

Expect Eli Manning to keep an eye on Ellison inside the 10-yard line or when New York just needs a few yards for the first down. So much attention will be on Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley that Ellison could be wide open.

Cameron Meredith, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints

Injuries derailed an early chance for Meredith to earn snaps at the start of the season, but that all started to change in Week 3.

He finally saw the field on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons and made a quick impression in his first game in New Orleans with an 11-yard touchdown. While Meredith drew the lone target in the game, getting in the end zone is a quick way to earn the trust of Drew Brees.

The Giants defense is going to do everything in its power to stop Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. It won’t be remotely good enough to do it, but so much attention given to two players will create great matchups for Meredith. He is a very talented player and more than capable of 70-plus yards and a touchdown in Week 4.