The Detroit Lions have been battling injuries early this year. Several star players have had to take a seat on the sidelines during the first five games of the season. While it hasn’t been easy for the team, it’s given a lot of rookies the opportunity to earn their spots.
Six rookies played last week in the 29-0 shutout loss to the New England Patriots. Aidan Hutchinson and Malcolm Rodriguez have started in all 5 games played this year, while Kerby Joseph started in two. James Mitchell, Chase Lucas, and Demetrius Taylor have also made appearances in their first NFL games as well.
While many injured players are expected to return after the Bye Week, it’s possible all of these rookies will play in Dallas. Dan Campbell is confident they have the right group of athletes in the locker room.
“I think we’ve got plenty here to win with,” Campbell said. “On this roster, on the practice squad, we’ve got plenty. And man, there’s a number of combinations we haven’t even tried yet.”
Here are the Rookie Progress Reports so far this year:
Aidan Hutchinson: C
Hutchinson’s spotlight game so far has been the Lions home win against the Washington Commanders. The rookie recorded a team-high 16 quarterback pressures and tacked on three sacks in that game. While that was a notable game, he’s been pretty quiet on the stat sheet in other games.
Hutchinson has faced the second-highest rate of double teams among edge rushers. That means he’s seen a second blocker in more than 30% of his pass-rush snaps. His inconsistency, however, results in one of the worst pass-rush win rates in the league.
Hutchinson was part of Detroit’s changes on defense. Coach Campbell still sees room for improvement.
“We moved him to the rush end yesterday with Charles (Harris) being out and he did some real good things,” Campbell said. “Particularly in the run game. There’s some things, certainly he could be better at…but being on that open end, it was good to see him out there. He’ll grow from that experience.”
Malcolm Rodriguez: A-
Malcolm Rodriguez has been an amazing asset to this team. As a sixth-round draft pick, no one expected him to be as good as he is. The linebacker consistently shows up and makes plays. His performance against New England wasn’t his best, but not many Detroit Lions had their best games last week.
The rookie has 38 total tackles in his five starts, including four tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble in Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Rodriguez is an instinctive player, and he doesn’t miss assignments. He has been an absolute steal of a sixth-round pick for the Detroit Lions.
Kerby Joseph: C+
Kerby Joseph has been showing a lot of progress since his first NFL game. He began the year on special teams but moved into a starting safety spot after Tracy Walker’s injury.
Joseph almost earned his first interception in Sunday’s 29-0 shutout by the New England Patriots. Dan Campbell spoke highly of him in a press conference on Monday.
“I thought Kerby played a heck of a game,” Campbell said. “That was good to see.”
While Joseph has played well, he’s not immune from mental errors and rookie mistakes. His game is promising, but he still has a long way to go.
Demetrius Taylor: D
Demetrius Taylor made his NFL debut on Sunday against the Patriots, and it was a forgettable performance. The lineman didn’t record a single stat in the 13 snaps he played. He finished last weekend tied for the worst defensive grade among the Lions.
It was only his first game, so he still has a lot to learn. With different combinations being utilized on defense, we may see him again in Dallas.
James Mitchell: C
It’s a bit too early to tell what James Mitchell will be for the Detroit Lions. He has been rehabbing a knee injury that set him back a little bit this season. He’s only seen five offensive snaps this season, but Coach Campbell is confident in his size and abilities.
“He’s a really good penetrator, he has leverage because of his stature,” Campbell said. “And he plays his butt off, and so at some point in time he was going to get his opportunity to come in and play for us. And this week he will, now in what capacity we’re still trying to get that figured out. The thing is we just want to make sure we have a good player, he’s got a chance to show what he can do. So, but he’s excited I think he’s going to do a good job.”
Chase Lucas: C+
Lucas has been active for just three games so far this season. Last week in Massachusetts he played a few snaps at safety due to all of the injuries the team suffered during the game. Coach Campbell applauded him for the difficult task on Monday.
“We had ucas playing safety,” Campbell said. “He’s never played safety, and then Bobby (Price) is out there at corner, and they got us. Those guys will learn from it, but they got put in a tough spot so – particularly Lucas.”
He has just one tackle on the season so far. But Lucas plays with toughness, and with a few more games under his belt he will be much better.
Maddy Miller – Detroit Lions Beat Reporter
On Twitter: @madelynvmillerr
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