Week 17 Rookies of the Week

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Dec 4, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker James Houston (59) celebrates after sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The football world has been rocked by the incident that took place during the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, in which Bills safety Damar Hamlin exited the field in an ambulance following a hit to the chest that led to him suffering cardiac arrest. He remains in critical condition, and our thoughts and prayers here at East West Football are with him and his loved ones. While it isn’t easy to talk about football given the present situation, we might expect that Hamlin would want us to continue indulging in the game that he loves. Thus, let’s continue our Rookie of the Week series, which includes a sixth-round defender who, just like Hamlin, is having an unlikely significant impact on the football field early in his NFL career. Enjoy!

Offensive Rookie of the Week: Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Kenneth Walker may have sealed the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with his big performance against the New York Jets on Sunday, in which the Seahawks turned to him in a significant way to top the Jets 23-6 and keep their playoff hopes alive. Walker had more carries (23) than Geno Smith (18) had completions, which speaks to how much of a focal point he has become for Seattle’s offense. The Jets knew Walker was handling the majority of touches, yet could not figure out how to stop him, as Walker rushed for 133 yards at 5.8 yards per carry. He also added a catch for nine yards. Walker is just one of several fantastic Seahawk selections in the 2022 NFL Draft class, including Tariq Woolen, Charles Cross, and Abraham Lucas as well, which figure to be the core of a rising Seahawks team. 

Runners-Up:

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

For the second game in a row, Pickett delivered an extremely impressive game-winning drive. He completed 15 of 27 passes for 168 yards and no turnovers in a 16-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens that kept the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive. 

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Purdy elevated his record as a starting quarterback to 4-0 in a game in which the 49ers’ defense unusually struggled against the Las Vegas Raiders, but Purdy’s offense did the job. Is there a quarterback controversy brewing in the Bay Area ahead of 2023?

Defensive Rookie of the Week: James Houston, DE, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions would see themselves clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football if the Seattle Seahawks lose earlier that day, which is a remarkable turn of events from where the Lions were mid-season, buried in the depths of the NFC and with most fans hoping for a high draft pick. Instead, the Lions have rallied back to 8-8 and can thank the emergence of sixth-round rookie James Houston for playing a big role in their resurgence. In a decisive 41-10 thumping of the Chicago Bears in Week 17, Houston recorded three sacks and a forced fumble, bringing his sack total to eight in just six games. The Lions would likely have been content with the Jackson State product making any impact as a sixth-round rookie who was injured to start the year, yet Houston has been one of the most productive defenders in the entire NFL these past few weeks. The pair of Houston and first-round rookie Aidan Hutchinson should make Lions fans quite excited for the future. 

Runners-Up:

Jalen Pitre, S, Houston Texans

Pitre continues his dominant rookie season in which he stuffs the stat sheet week after week. Despite suffering a blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pitre once again showed out with 13 tackles, one interception, and one pass defended. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, New York Giants

Though his antics in celebrating a sack that left Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles injured were understandably deemed “tasteless” by Colts Head Coach Jeff Saturday, Thibodeaux’s play earned him a spot in these honors.