Here are the 33rd Team’s standout rookie performances from Week 16:
A.J. Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers (2nd Round, Boston College)
A.J. Dillon has struggled to find playing time this year in a crowded Green Bay backfield and Aaron Jones seems to get better by the week, but Dillon looked like a natural in the Wisconsin snow on Sunday night. Dillon came into this game with only 115 yards on the season and surpassed that total with relative ease against the Titans.
In a game in which it seemed the Packers could do no wrong, DIllon ran the ball 21 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns against a Titans defense that prides itself on toughness. Green Bay will probably go back to using Jones as the primary back next week when he is healthier, but Dillon has definitely earned more carries after this week’s performance.
Krys Barnes, LB, Green Bay Packers (Undrafted, UCLA)
Shoutout to Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, because we’re doubling down on Green Bay rookies this week! A snowy primetime game in December looked like a perfect scene for Derrick Henry to run wild, but Krys Barnes and the Packers defense had other plans. Barnes led the team in tackles against the Titans and helped set the tone for the game early, totaling four tackles in the first two drives. He finished the game with 7 tackles and a big win against a team that came into the game ranked third in the league in rushing offense.
Henry still ended the game with 98 rushing yards, but that seems like a win for the Packers when he was averaging 120 per game coming into this week. Barnes and the Packers are gaining momentum and looking hard to beat at home, which is bad news for the rest of the NFC playoff teams.
Chase Young, EDGE, Washington Football Team (1st round, Ohio St.)
With all the headlines focusing on Washington’s quarterback drama, it would be easy to miss the news of Chase Young being named a team captain this week. After Dwayne Haskins’ captaincy was revoked, the team felt that Young’s impact on the team was worthy of being named a team captain coming into Sunday’s game against Carolina. Young didn’t disappoint, recording 4 tackles and a strip sack that led to Washington’s only points in the third quarter. Young is the odds-on favorite to finish the year as Defensive Rookie of the Year and he is arguably Washington’s best player. Young’s 4 forced fumbles on the season are tied for third in the league.
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (2nd round, Clemson)
Higgins has quietly had a very good rookie season despite offensive struggles in the Queen City. Higgins hadn’t had a touchdown or produced more than 75 yards in a game since Joe Burrow was hurt in Week 11, but that all changed Sunday against Houston. Higgins had one of his best games of the season, with a toe-tap touchdown catch in the third quarter and 99 receiving yards to go along with it. Higgins helped the Bengals earn their first road win since September 2018 and flashed the skills that he showcased in South Carolina the last several years.
Willie Gay, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (2nd round, Mississippi State)
The Chiefs narrowly avoided a big upset loss at home against the Falcons this week and the rookie out of Starkville was a major contributor. With the Chiefs winning 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Atlanta was in the red zone and threatening to take the lead. Matt Ryan threw a short pass to Brandon Powell and was met short of the first-down marker by a pair of rookie defenders, Gay and L’Jarius Sneed. Gay came flying in from the middle of the field and put a shoulder directly on the ball to jar it loose on contact. It was picked up and returned 10 yards in the opposite direction for the Chiefs. Gay led the team in tackles for the game, but his biggest play was the difference in a game that was decided by one score and earned him a spot on this week’s list.