The Detroit Lions 2022 rookie class is a little over a month into their first NFL season and have enough game tape available now for coaches to really start to evaluate their performance during the bye week.
Detroit is one of the youngest teams in the NFL and injuries and inconsistent performances from veterans have pushed some youngsters into early action. While there's going to be some growing pains that comes with playing young guys, it's hopefully going to help the Lions down the road with some of these players getting quality experience early in their careers.
Let's take a look at how Detroit's rookies have performed through the first five games of the season:
Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson
It's been a little bit of an inconsistent start for the No. 2 overall pick. Hutchinson had a great half against Washington Week 2, when he recorded 3.0 sacks, six tackles, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. That 30 minutes of football really showed the kind of production he's capable of.
But outside of that one half against the Commanders, Hutchinson hasn't recorded a sack and has just eight tackles, no tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. Rookie pass rushers don't typically come in and light the league on fire right away, but the Lions do need a little more consistent production from Hutchinson the remaining 12 games of the season if this defense is going to take strides forward.
Wide receiver Jameson Williams
We've yet to see Williams on the field as he's still rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game while he was playing for Alabama. Williams' rehab is on schedule and we could see him on the field sometime in the second half of the season.
Defensive lineman Josh Paschal
Like Williams, Paschal has been rehabbing an injury and has yet to play this season. He underwent surgery for a sports hernia in the summer. The Lions did start his 21 day return-to-play window last week when he returned to practice, and the hope is he makes his NFL debut Week 7 in Dallas in the Lions first game action after the bye. Paschal is expected to add some pass rush from the interior of the Lions' defensive front.
Safety Kerby Joseph
Joseph made his first start of the year Week 4 against Seattle. He's coming off arguably his best performance of the season Week 5 in New England. Joseph is a rangy safety with terrific ball skills. The more he plays, the more opportunities he's going to have to help the Lions generate more takeaways on defense.
Tight end James Mitchell
Mitchell was rehabbing a knee injury suffered in college last season and got a late start to training camp. That put him a little behind and he was inactive to start the year while he continued to get his legs under him.
Mitchell has since worked his way into an active role the last couple weeks, mainly on special teams. The Lions like his size and potential, and he'll get more opportunities on offense as the season moves on.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez
Detroit's most productive rookie so far this season, Rodriguez is proving to be a steal as a sixth-round pick.
He's third on the team in tackles with 38, and leads the defense with four tackles for loss. He's also got a couple quarterback hits. Rodriguez is instinctive and fundamentally sound. He doesn't miss assignments. Detroit has struggled on defense to begin the year, but Rodriguez's play has been one of the few bright spots.
Linebacker James Houston
Houston is currently on the team's practice squad. He's a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher the team wants to continue to develop.
Cornerback Chase Lucas
Lucas has been active for three games, including last week in New England, where he played a few snaps at free safety because of injuries. He made one tackle against the Patriots playing just three snaps on defense. The Lions like Lucas' toughness. He plays with an edge and could get the opportunity to play a more significant role on defense coming out of the bye week.
KEY UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS:
Defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor
Taylor got his first game action last week against the Patriots and didn't record a stat in 13 snaps played. The Lions like Taylor's versatility in playing both inside and outside along the defensive line and think he can provide them something as a pass rusher.