Life in the NFL is hard, as rookies everywhere are finding out after their first taste of action. While in your typical year rookies have the preseason to be phased into the realm of professional football, the rookie class of 2020 will have to endure a baptism by fire. We're playing for keeps right out of the gate.
Which rookie performers were able to make the most of their first pro action? We, along with our partners at Panini, are recognizing the best of the best each week. Here are the Offensive Rookies of the Week from each conference for Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season.
AFC Defensive Rookie of the Week
CB C.J. Henderson, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars made Henderson a top-10 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and he was sensational in his NFL debut. Jacksonville stunned the Indianapolis Colts, claiming a 27-20 victory with much credit due to Henderson.
Indianapolis wasn’t shy about testing the rookie in coverage but Henderson responded. Despite facing 10 targets against his coverage, Henderson allowed just five completions for 58 yards. On the catches he did surrender, Henderson was quick to tackle and allowed a total of just one yard after the catch. Henderson also broke up three passes and logged his first career interception.
While there were questions about Henderson’s tackling in general and enthusiasm as a run defender based on his college tape at Florida, he was terrific in that regard on Sunday. In addition to quickly shutting down receivers in coverage, he was effective as a tackler in run support.
Losing superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey stings, but seeing Henderson play so effectively on Sunday softens the blow. If Henderson continues to perform at this level, the value of the contracts (Ramsey just signed a $105 million deal with the Rams and Henderson is on a rookie deal) in addition to the two first-round picks Jacksonville acquired in the Ramsey trade will make this a major win for the Jaguars.
NFC Defensive Rookie of the Week
EDGE Chase Young, Washington Football Team
Chase Young was the first defensive player selected in the 2020 NFL Draft and he proved why in Washington’s 27-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Playing 78% of the defensive snaps for Washington, head coach Ron Rivera understands how special of a talent Young is and that he’s already deserving of playing a high volume of snaps despite it being his NFL debut—and Young made the most of them.
Young was dominant against both the run and pass. He recorded 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and forced a fumble on Sunday in addition to playing stout run defense. Young was part of a Washington defensive effort that sacked Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz eight times while recording 15 quarterback hits and 13 tackles for loss. The Eagles recorded just 57 rushing yards in the game.
The clear strength of the Washington Football Team is its defensive line. While the rest of the roster has clear holes, Washington’s defensive line has already proven capable of taking over games to a level that leads to wins. Young is only scratching the surface for how good he can be in the NFL. If Week 1 is any indication, he’s going to be a real problem for NFL offenses for years to come.