The Detroit Lions rookie class has shown up to play all season.
Rookie linebacker James Houston is the fourth different Lions rookie to be nominated for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award.
Houston made his NFL debut on Thanksgiving against Buffalo and recorded two sacks in five defensive snaps. He also recovered a key fumble on one of his 10 special teams snaps.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez was nominated for the award Week 8 after recording seven tackles, his first career sack and recovering a fumble in Detroit's loss to Miami. Rodriguez has started nine games this season and has 64 tackles, six tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits.
Safety Kerby Joseph was nominated for the award the following week after picking off Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice in Detroit's Week 9 win over Green Bay. Joseph was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for that performance. Joseph leads the Lions with three interceptions on the year.
Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson was nominated for ROW in Week 7 after racking up 1.5 sacks, three other quarterback hits and a tackle for loss against Dallas. Hutchinson won the award Week 11 and was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after helping Detroit to their third straight win in New York by intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble. Hutchinson has 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, 18 pressures and 10 quarterback hits on the year.
Defensive lineman Josh Paschal (second round), tight end James Mitchell (fifth) and cornerback Chase Lucas (seventh) have also made contributions this year.
And just think, we haven't even seen No. 12 overall pick Jameson Williams suit up yet, though that should be coming soon. Everyone is eager to see what his world class speed at wide receiver could mean for a Lions' offense that currently ranks eighth in the NFL in total offense.
Not only are Detroit's rookies banking valuable reps this season, which bodes well for the future, but they're also making impact contributions right now. General manager Brad Holmes has to like what he's seeing from what's turning out to be a terrific rookie class for him and the Lions.
PRO BOWL VOTING
Voting is underway for the 2023 Pro Bowl, and there are a few Detroit Lions players getting some early love. Six Lions currently rank in the top 10 in voting at their position, as follows:
- Center Frank Ragnow, fourth
- Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, sixth
- Safety DeShon Elliott, seventh
- Safety Kerby Joseph, eighth
- Tackle Penei Sewell, ninth
- Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, 10th
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected defensive lineman Travon Walker No. 1 overall in this year's NFL Draft, which allowed the Lions to take fellow defensive lineman Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick.
Walker has 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games for the Jaguars. Hutchinson has 31 tackles, four tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 11 games.
Asked about Walker on Wednesday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said the team had a really positive evaluation on Walker coming into the draft.
"Yeah, we really liked Travon. Liked him a lot," he said. "We were really high on him and I think he is what we thought he'd be. He's very versatile. He plays their outside linebacker in base and then plays their rush end. He can play both sides. He's got length, he's got speed, he's got power. Every week he gets a little better."
Campbell said Jacksonville got a good pickup in Walker, but Campbell loves that Detroit got Hutchinson.
Defensive line coach Todd Wash certainly agrees.
"I will say this, I love the one we got," Wash said with a big smile Wednesday.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
There's a lot of things to like about the way the Lions have played on offense most of the year. They've got the most rushing yards at this point in a season since 1998. They haven't had this many rushing touchdowns (16) at this point in a season since 1981.
But something else that's really stood out over the first 12 weeks is how good this offense has been in the red zone. The Lions are tied with Cincinnati with the second best red zone touchdown percentage in the league at 71.4 percent. Philadelphia leads the NFL at 72.5 percent.
The Lions have scored a touchdown on 30 of their 42 drives in the red zone this season. Their 30 red zone touchdowns are second behind only Kansas City (32).
One catalyst behind that high percentage has been their ability to convert in goal-to-go situations. Detroit's scored a touchdown in 23 of their 26 chances in those situations, the third highest percentage in the league. Campbell said being able to run the football in the red zone is why they've been so successful there.
The Chicago Bears signed Lions quarterback Tim Boyle off Detroit's practice squad as a precaution with their top two quarterbacks dealing with injuries. Boyle worked with Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in Green Bay.