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Best performances from NFL rookies in Week 8: Hard Knocks’ star shines, Garrett Wilson explodes

Matt Johnson
NFL rookies Week 8
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL rookies have made significant impacts throughout the 2022 NFL season, especially the young running backs. However, NFL Week 8 shook things up with football fans becoming aware of some unheralded first-year.

Our first Sunday without Breece Hall certainly diminished some of the excitement for the NFL rookies. To make matters worse, Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III didn’t quite meet expectations until the closing minutes against the New York Giants

It means there aren’t many familiar names among this week’s best rookie performances, but the players highlighted absolutely earned their recognition. Of course, there are still a few first-round picks from the 2022 NFL Draft we need to appreciate.

Related: NFL QB Rankings – Check our top-20 quarterbacks, find out why Josh Allen is No. 1

Here are the best performances from NFL rookies in Week 8.

Tyler Linderbaum, center, Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive linemen rarely get a lot of love in comparison to other NFL rookies and appreciation for centers is even rarer. When you deliver performances like the one we saw from Tyler Linderbaum, you must tip your cap.

Linderbaum already entered Week 8 graded as the 16th-best center by Pro Football Focus, a remarkable accomplishment considering his assignments. On Thursday Night Football, Linderbaum dominated as a run blocker with a season0high 79.0 PFF run-blocking grade. He helped paved the way for 231 rushing yards, serving as a crucial piece in a much-needed victory.

Related: NFL defense rankings

Greg Dulcich, tight end, Denver Broncos

NFL: Denver Broncos Training Camp
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the rookie who could quickly be emerging as a go-to target for Russell Wilson. Trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars 10-7 on Sunday morning, Wilson and the Denver Broncos’ offense desperately needed a spark. On second down, he saw Greg Dulcich get open down the sideline and the 2022 third-round pick turned it into a 38-yard gain, setting up a go-ahead touchdown from the 1-yard line.

Dulcich finished the day with a game-high 87 receiving yards on four receptions and finished second in targets (five). With 182 receiving yards and a touchdown in his last three games, it’s time for fans to meet one of the breakout NFL rookies who will be making a lot more plays in the weeks ahead.

Malcolm Rodriguez, linebacker, Detroit Lions

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions
Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

A star from Hard Knocks 2022, Detroit Lions rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is proving he is more than a training camp standout. Even before Week 8, Rodriguez ranked as PFF’s best rookie linebacker and the 29th-best off-ball linebacker in the NFL. We should see him ascend even further after Sunday’s effort.

After six weeks of being an effective blitzer, Rodriguez was finally rewarded on Sunday with his first career sack. It wouldn’t be the last big play he made. The 5-foot-11 linebacker, the 188th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was in the perfect position to recover a fumble forced by fellow rookie Kerby Joseph. Detroit’s defense is still a massive project, but Rodriguez and Joseph are two of the best defensive NFL rookies this season.

Isaiah Likely, tight end, Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s nice to highlight NFL rookies from different teams, sometimes that can’t be avoided. In NFL Week 8, Baltimore Ravens tight end proved why. Immediately after Mark Andrew left the game, many rightfully worried about how the Ravens’ offense would function. Instantly, the 139th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft stepped in.

Drawing a career-high seven targets, Likely’s third-quarter touchdown with 5 seconds left provided a jolt of confidence for the Ravens’ passing attack and it gave his team the lead. Naturally, he wasn’t finished. He snagged six receptions for a team-high 77 receiving yards and recovered the onside kick that iced the game. If all of that isn’t enough to be listed among the best performances by NFL rookies, he finished with the highest PFF grade (87.4) on the Ravens.

Garrett Wilson, wide receiver, New York Jets

NFL rookies, Garrett Wilson
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While we’re pessimistic about the future for New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, there’s no doubt Garrett Wilson looks like a bonafide No. 1 receiver in the NFL. In fact, he’s already approaching that territory despite the bad situation around him.

Facing a stout New England Patriots’ secondary, Wilson drew seven targets from Wilson on 41 attempts. It’s certainly not the high quantity or quality of volume you want to see, especially considering what he did with those limited opportunities. Wilson turned six receptions into 115 receiving yards, his second 100-yard game this season. Once the Jets find a long-term quarterback, Wilson will take off.