Gardner has locked down opponents all season and the numbers reflect it. According to TruMedia, he breaks up 23.9% of passes in which he is the primary defender, which ranks fourth in the league.
London represents a mismatch for the defense. The Atlanta offense has not always been conducive to significant statistical output in the pass game but London has been a popular target for Marcus Mariota.
The Saints, as a team, are a bit difficult to read, but Olave ranks in the top 25 of all NFL pass catchers in nearly all statistical categories. Initially, New Orleans used him as a field-stretching outlet for Jameis Winston, but his role has expanded as his performance and injuries have demanded. He has been targeted on 25.4% of the team’s passes when he has been active.
While Elijah Moore’s role may have taken a hit with Zach Wilson under center, Wilson’s has not. He registered his second game with 100-plus receiving yards this season in Week 8 against the Patriots. The Ohio State product does such a good job of creating opportunities for himself with footwork.
Davis is expected to miss some time moving forward after suffering an ankle injury Sunday against the Steelers. The Georgia product has been responsible for a few game-wrecking plays but his role is primarily holding his gap and occupying double teams, which he does well. It is never lost how a man of that size moves the way he does.
Johnson has missed some time with an ankle injury but, when on the field, he has created pressure off the edge with a variety of moves while also holding his ground in the run game.
Hutchinson leads all rookies with 4.5 sacks. He has shown an ability to win with a variety of moves, in addition to holding his ground in the run game. Finding a level of consistency will be important in the second half of the season.
Dotson has not played since Oct. 2 against the Cowboys. He scored four touchdowns in as many games. His footwork allowed him to create separation, and his aggressiveness at the catch point allowed him to finish those opportunities.
Thibodeaux missed the first two games of the season as he recovered from a sprained MCL. He has registered 17 pressures over the course of six games. If he had the full workload, he would be in the same ball park with Aidan Hutchinson as most pressures generated by a rookie.
Hamilton was on the field, but blended in early in the season. He has looked more comfortable as the year has progressed, including a nice diving pass deflection over Buccaneers tight end Cade Otton in Week 8.
Smith has one of the most sustainable, scheme-agnostic approaches to the offensive tackle position among rookies. He allows some pressure high side, but there is a level of confidence that he will be able to clean it up.
Linderbaum is an athletic lineman with a tenacious spirit. He does a good job of getting out on lead blocks and making plays in space. The Iowa product has been a bit late to identify stunts and that has led to defenders getting on his hip. It is a bit of a transition from what he was asked to do in college.
Walker’s professional career is playing out exactly as many expected. He can win as a pass rusher with sheer size and strength but offers little more in terms of a pass rush plan. The Georgia product does a good job of containing the edge and making an impact in the run game.
Early in the season, the first-round pick was being outplayed by teammate and fellow rookie Christian Benford. Elam has shown growth in coverage while maintaining a willingness to play downhill and make an impact in the flat.
Lloyd is capable of being a well-rounded linebacker because he showed that at Utah. He is being asked to cover further downfield rather than just allowing him to spy the quarterback and cloud passing lanes. Lloyd does a good job of cleaning up plays and applying spot pressure.
As it turns out, Myles Garrett and Nick Bosa are not exactly ideal matchups for a rookie offensive tackle. Ekwonu has shown growth over the course of the season so the hope is that he continues that trajectory with a Panthers team suddenly in contention for the NFC South.
Johnson and the Chargers reached a much-needed bye week after suffering several injuries. Johnson plays with good leverage and balance, but is allowing pressure late in the play. According to TruMedia, he ranks No. 8 with 17 hurries allowed. The constant changes along that Los Angeles offensive line could be slowing his development.
Cross has allowed the eighth-most hurries (17) and is responsible for four penalties to this point. His trajectory has been similar to most rookie offensive linemen in that he had a slow start to the year but seems to be coming into his own.
The idea that Stingley has been terrible is overblown, but he has allowed the seventh-most receptions of 20-plus yards, according to TruMedia. He is tied for the sixth-most coverage penalties (2) this season. Stingley has the coverage skills to be a big part of the team’s long-term defensive structure.
There is likely zero coincidence that multiple quarterback changes has less to do with the players than it does with the offensive scheme. Pickett ranks No. 9 in fewest air yards per target (6.93), and has still managed to throw eight interceptions to just two touchdowns. It is not fair to judge the rookie yet, but his career is off to a rough start.
Play strength and staying engaged has been a bit of a chore for Strange, but his athleticism and ability to make plays in space has been vital for the New England run game, which is averaging 123.1 yards per game.
Wyatt has averaged just 7.86 snaps per game. He has shown a few positive reps with his stack and shed ability, but it needs to be more frequent. There are just as many examples of him getting washed out of gaps. He has good grip strength as well.
Neal missed Week 8 and could miss a few more games with a knee sprain. He has a 5.6% beat rate, according to TruMedia, which ranks 23rd highest. His six sacks allowed are tied for the second most.
Karlaftis has done a good job of using power to create pressure, but his contributions in the run game have not met expectations. Kansas City could be looking for edge rusher help at the trade deadline as a byproduct of not getting more from the Purdue product.
Walker is still a bit rough around the edges and that is to be expected. Georgia had a really talented group at linebacker last season and each of their roles were tailored to each of their skill sets. The athleticism is evident, but he just needs to continue growing in his ability to read blocks.
Green was solid early in the season and he continues to show good vision picking up stunts into his gap. However, staying engaged has been an issue for the lineman. According to TruMedia, he ranks No. 17 among all players with at least 100 pass-blocking repetitions in percentage beaten (5.9%). His allowance of 16 pressures ranks No. 11 in the NFL. In his defense, six of the top 11 are rookies.
Burks was impactful through Week 4. He is still rounding in to form, but his ability to make plays after the catch is what has to inspire hope among the fan base.
McDuffie was sensational in Week 1, but suffered an injury that has prevented his return to the field. The hope is that he is able to see the field next week coming out of the bye.
In 2022, Hill has played all of 41 defensive snaps, or 5.1 per game. In that limited exposure, he has looked good. He did play 19 snaps on Monday night against the Browns, which was more than three times what he has played in any other game this season.
Cine was placed on injured reserve Oct. 4 after playing two snaps on defense. His role was always intended to be as a reserve this season, but the injury sets back his development.
Williams has missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL in the National Championship against Georgia. Head coach Dan Campbell indicates that the No. 12 overall selection is still a month away from returning to the field.
Penning suffered a torn ligament in his foot prior to the season commencing. There is optimism that he can play at some point this season.