There are plenty of lovable characters from Hard Knocks who never really make an impact on Sundays, much less earn a start. Malcolm Rodriguez is not one of those fall camp favorites.
On Sunday, in his Detroit Lions’ 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the sixth-round rookie not only played, he earned the start. And he know only started, he shined.
In his first NFL game, “Rodrigo” (as he has become affectionately tabbed within Detroit’s locker room) recorded six total tackles (four solo), and a tackle for loss while appearing on the field in 60 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps (46). But more than the raw numbers, Rodriguez graded well according to the Lions coaching staff with zero missed assignments according to their film study.
Rodriguez graded out with a 73.4 mark from Pro Football Focus, the name brand in per-player evaluation, and with an 80.8 grade in coverage. That overall grade was the highest among his team and the 12th-highest among linebackers for Week 1, leading all rookie LBs. It was also the highest rookie Week 1 grade the service has doled out in the last five seasons.
And he would have graded out even higher if they had a column for hip toss efficiency.
He did, however, have a little trouble with a former Bedlam foe. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts picked up 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Rodriguez was this close to getting to the mobile passer in pass rush before he squeaked out a 24-yard pass that set up a touchdown on the next play. To be fair, the entire defense had trouble with Hurts who, himself, graded out T-7th among QBs at 76.8 per PFF.
“Rodrigo” and the Lions will be back in action next Sunday at 12 p.m. CST when they host the Washington Commanders and former OSU teammate Christian Holmes.