Rookies around the NFL are making an impact but few have proven capable of carrying a team to victory. One player, at the game's most important position, proved that the moment is never too big for him.
Here are three rookies that stood out on each side of the ball in Week 9:
Offensive Rookies of the Week
Defenses that sit back in zone coverage are going to be picked apart by Stroud. When rushed, he stands tall in the face of pressure and does not panic. Three Texans pass catchers ranked among the top five in receiving yards for Week 9. Houston fell behind 20-10 in the third quarter. Stroud got the ball back with 46 seconds and led his team downfield for a go-ahead touchdown with six seconds remaining.
The rookie out of Ohio State completed 30-of-42 passes for 470 yards and 5 touchdowns. His day actually could have been better had a few passes not gone through the hands of Tank Dell and Nico Collins. The ball placement and anticipation on a stutter go to Dell was remarkable for a rookie:
WR Tank Dell, Texans
Dell was integral in the Texans' come-from-behind victory over the Buccaneers. There was a lot to like about the way he sinks his hips into his routes and presents himself as an option for Stroud. He did have a drop on 2nd-and-1 in the second half but otherwise was efficient catching the ball and getting upfield quickly. His impact was felt even when he was not the intended target. On the 75-yard touchdown reception by Noah Brown, Dell did a good job of putting a shoulder into pursuit and allowing Brown to reach the corner.
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Kincaid was targeted 11 times against the Bengals on Sunday. He did a good job settling in the middle of zone coverage. It was not exactly conducive to creating yards after the catch but his 1.88 yards per route ran, according to TruMedia, was important for a Bills offense that struggled to finish drives. Kincaid did have a debilitating fumble in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, which essentially ended any chance of Buffalo making a comeback.
Defensive Rookies of the Week
CB Carrington Valentine, Packers
Valentine was targeted eight times against the Rams but gave up zero receptions. It certainly helped that Brett Rypien was the trigger man instead of Matthew Stafford, but Valentine made multiple pass breakups on arrival. There was one play in particular where Darrell Henderson took a handoff to the right and the seventh-round selection slid under the defender just in time to get the foot of Henderson for a tackle for a loss.
#GoPackGo rookie CB Carrington Valentine (37) made a lot of plays in coverage but I loved this play in run support. Smooth.— Josh Edwards (@EdwardsCBS) November 6, 2023
The 7th round pick should get more opportunities after the Rasul Douglas trade to Buffalo. @Aspirationsgym pic.twitter.com/ssXjTRXT81
Green Bay's trade of Rasul Douglas to Buffalo allows Valentine a larger opportunity during the second half of the season.
Kancey is an undersized player with shorter arms so there was concern about how that would translate to the NFL. Against Houston, the Pittsburgh product was pushing the pocket and showed an ability to get off blocks. The rookie displayed a good cabinet of pass rush moves to get C.J. Stroud off his spot. Kancey showed a spin move as well as quickness to get on the hip of Tytus Howard and other interior blockers. He plays to the whistle and finishes plays.
CB Darrell Baker, Colts
Baker was targeted eight times in Sunday's win over the Panthers. Four of those were completed for 19 yards, according to TruMedia. The rookie out of South Alabama just looked confident and he was breaking fast on the ball. He was not getting stuck at the top of his drop.