Kenneth Walker stole the show on Sunday, in a must-win game against the New York Jets. Without a healthy Tyler Lockett, Will Dissly, or Marquise Goodwin, the Seattle Seahawks could have been considered one-dimensional, but that didn’t matter to the breakout rookie.
After struggling from Weeks 10 - 15, it looks like Walker has finally found confidence and cohesion with the offensive line again.
Walker’s explosive first play of the game went straight through the teeth of the Jets defense. Here’s where his fourth 100-yard rushing game has placed him in both the record books and perspective around the NFL.
A Look at the Numbers
Granted, receivers are at a disadvantage with “scrimmage yards,” and we would surely never bring this up to his face but...that does technically mean he’s produced more yards than DK Metcalf did his rookie year.
Seahawks rookie RB Kenneth Walker III needs 64 yards and 1 rushing TD to finish with 1000 yards and 10 TDs.— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) January 2, 2023
The last 3 backs to do that as rookies:
Jonathan Taylor (2020)
Saquon Barkley (2018)
Ezekiel Elliott (2016)
A Look at the Film
The Seahawks did not do much to negate Sauce Gardner’s case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, at least not in the pass game. But Gardner was entirely unprepared for this one.
Rookie-on-Rookie crime here as Kenneth Walker puts a nasty spin move to make Sauce Gardner miss in the hole, on the way to picking up the first down. pic.twitter.com/By3aVai04D— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) January 1, 2023
It’s the hesitation step that has killed Walker at different points throughout the season that also plays as part of his patient game. To be fair, Center and Right Guard have been so bad at times this year that some of Walker’s negative runs are not his fault.
What you can still see, however, is Walker cuts while moving forward, as opposed to coming to a complete stop. That hasn’t really worked in the NFL, but his speed absolutely does.
Speaking of which, here’s a look at his potential.
Kenneth Walker opened the game with a 60-yard run where he reached a top speed of 21.19 mph and gained +57 rushing yards over expected.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 1, 2023
Walker leads all running backs this season with 3 carries gaining at least +50 rushing yards over expected.#NYJvsSEA | #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/RKLkNo09eI
Kenneth Walker is the NFL’s fastest ball carrier so far this season.— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) December 27, 2022
The Seahawks rookie RB clocked in at 22.09 MPH in Week 7 pic.twitter.com/tW3W3wxE4c
It’s the part of the season where draft location matters far less than it did in September. The Seahawks could have drafted somebody else with pick 41, and that might have made the nerd charts a little happier.
But Seattle’s not in a good place without him, especially in back-to-back must-win games in January.
Walker is 15th in RB rushing yards this season, and that’s with four weeks of getting fewer than 10 carries per game behind Rashaad Penny. Nine rushing TDs is 11th, and he has no fumbles this year.
It’s a very promising future for yet another rookie playing meaningful games at the end of a once-lost season.