Going from the college game to the NFL is a tough adjustment. And while many rookies struggle, some hit the road running. After two weeks of NFL football here are rookies that have made an instant impact.
1. Aidan Hutchinson — Lions (Edge)
The Lions rookie edge rusher looks like the real deal in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s fast and aggressive defense. While the team has allowed a total of 65 points during their 1-1 start to this season, the defense has been opportunistic, making plays and forcing turnovers to offset that.
“Hutch,” the Plymouth, Michigan, native who grew up a Lions fan has nine tackles and three sacks — all Sunday versus Washington — in his first two NFL outings. Right now it looks like the 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up was a great pick at No. 2 in April’s draft.
With those three sacks Hutch set a single-game Lions rookie record. But he also knows getting sacks are a byproduct of the entire defensive line. Here’s what he said in his postgame presser:
“Sacks are a very tedious thing, so you need everyone clicking and I thought we were clicking today.”
Aidan Hutchinson has three sacks today which is the @Lions rookie record for sacks in a single game…
It's only halftime pic.twitter.com/X7mjxVv2K9
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 18, 2022
2. Jahan Dotson — Commanders (WR)
The diminutive Dotson has immediately established himself as the most talented receiver on the Commanders team, as far as talent goes. Yes, Terry McLaurin got the big deal and it was well deserved, but he works hard and has overachieved.
The former Penn State star has eight catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s first two games.
His game-winner against the Jags in Week 1 was thing of beauty. The one thing that Washington should do is figure how to get him more touches, as one-third of his grabs have already resulted in three paydirt touches. The Dotson pick caught a lot of flak in April, but he’s showing many why he was chosen at No. 16 by the franchise.
— Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) September 11, 2022
3. Garrett Wilson — Jets (WR)
The new-look Jets have added some quality pieces to the their roster over the last couple of drafts. In the 2022 draft they landed former Ohio State Buckeyes stalwart pass catcher Garrett Wilson, who has shown why he was so coveted. He has the ability to line up at all three wideout positions, allowing the offense to move him around and avoid consistent coverage.
He’s responded with 11 grabs for 154 yards and one touchdown, including the game-winner in a surprising come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Browns on Sunday.
An animated and excited Wilson says he didn’t want his earlier drop to be the reason the Jets lost the game.
”I went absolutely crazy on the sideline. I didn’t want my drop to be the reason we lost the game.”
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 18, 2022
4. Sauce Gardner — Jets (CB)
When you talk about Gardner, stats don’t tell the whole story. The rangy No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 draft has shown that man-to-man coverage ability that allowed him to never give up a touchdown catch his entire college career at Cincinnati.
Thus far, Sauce hasn’t had much work on his side of the field. In fact, it looks as if his reputation precedes him. In his first two games he’s only been thrown at three total times. He’s allowed one grab for 8 yards, his pass deflection against the Ravens in Week 1 saved a would-be touchdown from Lamar Jackson to tight end Mark Andrews. In Week 2, Cleveland Browns play-caller and head coach Kevin Stefanski chose not to even test Sauce with backup Jacoby Brissett filling in for the suspended Deshaun Watson.
5. Travon Walker — Jaguars (Edge)
The surprise top overall pick in the 2022 draft has flashed in both games this season. In his NFL debut against the Commanders he tallied four tackles, a sack and one interception. In Week 2 the Colts seemed to game plan more for him off the edge, and while he didn’t make a lot of plays, the focus on Walker allowed his teammates to tee off in a 24-0 win.
This season, Walker has four tackles, two sacks, one interception and two batted balls.
His early production indicates the Jaguars made the right choice by choosing him as the cornerstone of a rebuild on the defensive side of the football under first-year Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson.
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