The NFL can come at you fast as a rookie. Sometimes a rookie hits the ground running, while others take time to progress in their inaugural season. And then some get smacked in the face along the way, as two rookie left tackles learned. The Week 5 NFL rookie report card returns for more action.
NFL Rookie Report Cards
Kenneth Walker III and Breece Hall both broke out in their Week 5 matchups. Dameon Pierce didn’t have his most prolific game as a rookie, but his performance late led to the Texans’ upset over the Jaguars. Meanwhile, the league’s top draft pick may have landed the devastating penalty that lost his team the game.
Remember, we don’t hedge our bets here. There will be no pluses or minuses on these report cards. We give whole letter grades around here.
Jets RB Breece Hall: A
Even though Hall was drafted in the second round and Michael Carter was drafted in the third round, it wasn’t a given that he’d supplant the 2021 NFL Draft pick. But Hall already has more carries than Carter and is the clear favorite when the Jets go to their pony personnel package.
Hall had a massive 79-yard reception on a wheel route and out-carried Carter 18 to 10 in the game. Additionally, Hall has been the more efficient of the two backs early on as well. Hall was just three yards from notching 100 yards rushing and receiving in the Dolphins game.
Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III: C
Walker had a nice 69-yard scamper in the Seahawks’ matchup against the Saints on Sunday, but he could only muster a C grade because of his inadequacies in pass protection and the inefficiency of his seven other carries. Eight carries for 88 yards looks good, but seven of his touches went for just 19 yards, and the Seahawks don’t seem interested in using their backs in the passing game.
The Seahawks lost Rashaad Penny to an unfortunate leg injury, so Walker will have more than enough time to prove himself over the next few weeks of action. Shane Waldron might get more creative with Walker in the passing game as he progresses as a pass protector.
Texans RB Dameon Pierce: A
Pierce broke more tackles against the Jaguars than Justin Fields has completed passes in a game thus far in 2022 (17). The rookie may have broken 10 of them on his single 20-yard run in the fourth quarter. That play was shades of prime Marshawn Lynch.
Pierce runs so mad. Tacklers are a nuisance to him. Although his average for the game was under four yards, he was the engine of a Houston offense that has struggled to move the ball through the air in 2022. The Texans produced seven first-down runs, and his ability to chew the clock is how Houston won the time of possession despite producing seven fewer first downs.
Colts WR Alec Pierce: B
The ascension of Alec Pierce wasn’t just a lovely surprise for the Colts, it was a necessary part of the process given Indianapolis’ lackluster receiving corps outside of Michael Pittman Jr. They desperately needed a secondary weapon, and Pierce has proven to be just that after his uninspiring Week 1 performance.
Pierce caught eight of nine targets and amassed a team-high 81 yards against a dominant Broncos defense. This was Pierce’s third straight game with at least 60 yards receiving, which is a streak that may continue, given the lack of quality options outside of him.
Jaguars OLB Travon Walker: F
Travon Walker hasn’t amassed the pressure statistics we’d like to see from a top draft pick, but he has been a solid addition to the Jaguars’ defense against the run. The Jaguars outside linebacker got to quarterback Davis Mills once.
But there’s a problem with that. It was 3rd-and-20 in the fourth quarter in a tie game, and Walker jumped offsides. Nobody blocked him, the whistle blew, and yet Walker inexcusably wrapped Mills up and chucked him to the ground. Third and forever turned into a first down, and the Texans would go on to move the ball downfield for the go-ahead touchdown.
Rapid-Fire Week 5 NFL Rookie Report Card Grades
It’s time for some quick hitters.
Steelers WR George Pickens: A
Aside from Pickens’ receiving ability — which has been even more evident alongside rookie Kenny Pickett — he’s been a menace as a blocker, introducing defensive backs to the turf whenever possible.
Seahawks OT Abraham Lucas: B
Having to block Cameron Jordan is no easy task, especially for a rookie offensive tackle whose game has never been mistaken as being overly physical. Lucas allowed a sack but was solid in his other pass-blocking snaps.
Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr.: C
Stingley is still taking his lumps in coverage, but he made a crucial play in the end zone to turn over Trevor Lawrence on an ill-advised throw, which kept Jacksonville from taking the lead.
Jets CB Sauce Gardner: B
Gardner almost got his first sack against Teddy Bridgewater on the first play of the game, but Bridgewater got the ball off in time. Gardner did, however, intercept his first pass as a pro against the Dolphins.
Cowboys OT Tyler Smith: C
Tyler Smith was finally welcomed to the NFL properly in Week 5 against Aaron Donald. Even while holding Donald, he was unable to block the league’s premier defender, who sacked Cowboys backup QB, Cooper Rush.
Chargers OT Jamaree Salyer: D
Jamaree Salyer also received an unfortunate welcome to the league in Week 5, although Justin Herbert’s pocket presence kept it from ending in a sack. Salyer faced Myles Garrett, who mounted pressure after pressure and dominated the rookie making his second start.