With three weeks in the books, the Detroit Lions are beginning to learn what they have in two members of their 2022 draft class.
Hutchinson and Rodriguez were the only two rookies who saw significant time in the team's Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Safety Kerby Joseph saw action only on special teams for the second straight week, while James Mitchell, Chase Lucas and Demetrius Taylor were all inactive.
Here are the grades for each participating rookie in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings.
Aidan Hutchinson: F
After a record-setting first half in Week 2, Hutchinson set a high standard for his performance in the coming week. Unfortunately for the Michigan product, Sunday’s performance was largely a dud.
It’s fair to question whether Hutchinson was hampered during the game, given that he missed two practices leading up to the matchup with an injury. But, his workload suggests that the team felt confident in his status.
Hutchinson did not record a tackle in 57 snaps Sunday, while producing only two pressures. His performance is the lowest-graded by Pro Football Focus in his brief career. He received a 52.0 overall grade, and earned a 24.0 mark for his pass-rushing efforts.
There’s no denying the physical skills that Hutchinson possesses, but it’s clear offensive linemen are prepared for his array of moves. There’s still time to grow, and Week 3 struggles are rarely a cause for concern. But, the rookie must continue to show growth.
Kerby Joseph: C+
For the second straight week, Joseph was limited to snaps exclusively on special teams. He started at gunner, and made three tackles.
However, what was less encouraging for the rookie’s status was the emergence of JuJu Hughes in the absence of Tracy Walker III. When Walker went down with what has since been diagnosed as a torn Achilles, it was Hughes who stepped in instead of Joseph.
The Illinois product will continue to battle for snaps, as Walker will miss the rest of the season. Joseph, as of now, is behind Hughes on the depth chart.
Malcolm Rodriguez: C+
After two weeks near the top of PFF’s defensive grades, the Oklahoma State product took a step back against the Vikings. Rodriguez received a 35.8 overall grade, which ranked as fourth worst among all Lions defenders.
He finished with eight tackles, a solid number that ranked second on the team, and looked adequate in coverage. However, he struggled to match up with running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in key situations.
Though Rodriguez graded out poorly, he made a key play when he bumped a Vikings blocker into Cook, who fumbled the ball. That play served as a reminder of the physicality that made the rookie an attractive late-round pick despite size concerns.
Struggles aside, Rodriguez has cemented himself as an every-down player through three weeks. Derrick Barnes did not play a defensive snap for the second straight week, showing the coaching staff’s confidence instead in its sixth-round pick.