We’ve hit the one-third mark of the NFL season, which would be exactly one half of a full college season. And let’s just say these five rookies are continuing to perform at a high level.
The Seattle Seahawks are a surprising 3-3 in large part because of a rookie corner and a journeyman QB the league wrote off, but he didn’t write back.
1. Tariq Woolen — Seahawks, CB
The Seattle Seahawks are no strangers to great defensive backfield play. The Richard Sherman-led “Legion of Boom” terrorized the league for years. With that now in the past, a new group of young talented secondary players is stepping up. They’re being led by the former UTSA cornerback Woolen, who has four interceptions in his last four games. He’s been dominating the competition weekly with technique and skill. For his efforts Woolen was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Tariq Woolen doesn’t have a catchy nickname or social media graphic to hype him up but he’s best top tier!
Another week, another interception! Man to man, C3, it doesn’t matter. He’s locking it down! 🔒pic.twitter.com/92uw0StdJf
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) October 16, 2022
“He’s got all the talent you could ever want,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s got all the quickness and speed, and its explosive speed, almost famous speed right now.”
2. Breece Hall — Jets, RB
With the Jets’ offensive staff trying to protect quarterback Zach Wilson, they’ve leaned heavily on the running game. And thus far Hall has answered the bell. The former Iowa State Cyclones star has dazzled weekly, including Sunday’s 116-yard performance on 20 touches. He also touched paydirt again for the third straight week. For the season he has 391 yards on just 76 attempts, for a 5.1 yards per carry average. Jets found their future running back.
Hall says he’s keeping receipts after falling to the second-round of the NFL draft.
“I definitely took some receipts. Definitely.”
That’s a little internal motivation, for sure.”
3. Sauce Gardner — Jets, CB
The uber-confident Gardner continues to prove why he was so coveted out of Cincinnati. Just like Woolen, Gardner looks like a cornerstone defensive back with his ability to cover and dissect plays pre- and post-snap. Gardner’s film study has been on full display through the first six weeks. While he was targeted six times by Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, he only allowed one catch and had three pass breakups. His seven pass breakups lead the entire league.
Every contested target by Sauce Gardner today.
He's just so relentless. Never gives up on a play even when he's out of phase. pic.twitter.com/aX5q638WEK
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) October 17, 2022
4. Bailey Zappe — Patriots, QB
The play of Zappe has many believing there could be a QB controversy brewing in Foxborough. The former Western Kentucky gunslinger has been great in relief of the injured Mac Jones, including Sunday’s 24-for-34 for 309 yards and two touchdowns against a very talented Browns defense and secondary.
The kid looks unfazed and unbothered, like a former sixth-rounder out of Michigan did when he entered the fray in relief of Drew Bledsoe.
5. Coby Bryant — Seahawks, CB
Another Pete Carroll find in the secondary has been a shutdown corner out of the slot after struggling the first few weeks. He’s also forced two fumbles the last two weeks, including Sunday’s strip of Kyler Murray came at a crucial point in the game.