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Best performances from NFL rookies in Week 9: Kenneth Walker continues to shine

Vincent Frank

Some of the top NFL rookies did their thing as Week 9 unfolded around the league. No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson made a game-changing play in the Detroit Lions’ surprise win over the Green Bay Packers.

On the other side of the ball, running back Kenneth Walker continued his excellent recent run with another 100-yard performance in the Seattle Seahawks’ divisional win over the Arizona Cardinals.

As we have done all season, let’s check in on the best performances from NFL rookies in Week 9.

Related: Top NFL rookie of the Year candidates

Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Detroit Lions

nfl rookies: aidan hutchinson

Despite some issues with consistency this season, the No. 2 pick now ranks first among all rookies in sacks (4.5), quarterback hits (nine) and QB pressure (24). Hutchinson certainly looks like a franchise cornerstone for the Lions.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers found that out first-hand during Sunday’s surprising Lions win. That included Hutchinson picking Rodgers off in the end zone to stall a Packers scoring drive in the second quarter. It’s these types of game-changing plays that teams are looking for from NFL rookies, and Hutchinson provided it big time as his Lions pulled off an upset home win over Green Bay.

Dameon Pierce, running back, Houston Texans

nfl rookies: dameon pierce, houston texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Pierce’s Texans put up a fight against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9. But it was not to be. That had nothing to do with the performance from this rookie fourth-round pick out of Florida.

Staying true to form during what has been a brilliant first season in the NFL, Pierce tallied 139 yards on 27 rush attempts. One run exemplifies this more than anything else.

Talk about a resounding combination of vision, athleticism and strength against one of the best defenses the NFL has to offer. Through the first eight games of the season, Pierce is on pace for nearly 1,700 total yards at a clip of 4.6 yards per touch. Regardless of the Texans’ lack of all-around talent, he’s one potential franchise cornerstone moving forward.

Related: Sportsnaut’s Week 10 NFL power rankings

Sauce Gardner, cornerback, New York Jets

nfl rookies: sauce gardner, new york jets
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being burnt for a long play by Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs in Week 9, Sauce Gardner was one of the primary reasons New York upset the first-place team. He picked off Josh Allen on Buffalo’s side of the field with the Jets down 14-10 in the third quarter. It was a huge game-changing play that helped give New York the lead. Gardner also broke up a pass intended for Diggs late in the final stanza to help secure the win.

Forget about being one of the top NFL rookies this season, Gardner could very well be a first-year All-Pro. Through nine games, he’s leading the league with 13 passes defended while picking off two passes. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 52.9% of the passes thrown in his direction for a 54.9 passer rating. That seems darn good.

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Cade Otton, tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

nfl rookies week 9: cade otton
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With Tom Brady leading the league in pass attempts (398), it stands to reason that targets will be aplenty in Tampa Bay right now. A fourth-round pick out of Washington back in the spring, Otton is now benefiting. He caught 5-of-6 targets for 68 yards in Tampa Bay’s thrilling Week 9 win over the Los Angeles Rams. That included the game winner late in the fourth quarter.

Otton being on the receiving end of a record-breaking pass from Mr. Brady is something we’ll see in trivia questions down the line. But his importance to the Buccaneers can’t be denied. We know how much Brady loves to target his tight ends. With Rob Gronkowski having opted to retire ahead of the 2022 season, an opportunity opened up for Otton. He took full advantage of that against the Rams in Week 9.

Kenneth Walker, running back, Seattle Seahawks

nfl rookies: kenneth walker
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Since taking over for the injured Rashaad Penny back in Week 5, this reigning Heisman finalist has not looked back. Walker was back up to his old tricks in Week 9 by torching the Arizona Cardinals’ run defense to the tune of 109 yards on 26 attempts with two touchdowns. His ability to gain the tough yardage late in the game also helped melt this one away.

Not only has Walker proven to be a dynamic back for Seattle, he’s now being seen as a bell-cow. Here’s a dude who has run the ball a whopping 88 times for 424 yards with six touchdowns over the past four games alone. Heading into Week 10, Walker is on pace for north of 1,200 yards on the ground. Somehow, we figure that number will increase as he continues to get opportunities for the surprising ‘Hawks.