Former Ute Star Lotulelei honored as NFL rookie of the week
Despite the Carolina Panthers suffering a 12-7 loss to Seattle on Sunday, rookie Star Lotulelei created havoc for the Seahawks all game long.
The former Utah standout was tenacious on the Carolina defensive line after receiving his first NFL start. His performance earned him nfldraftscout.com's NFL Rookie of Week One honors.
The Seahawks' Pro Bowl center Max Unger presented a tough matchup for Lotulelei in his NFL debut, but he rose to the challenge. The No. 14 first-round draft pick recorded four tackles, one of which was a three-yard tackle for loss on Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. He had several near-sacks and constantly kept the pressure on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
According to CBS Sports writer Rob Rang, Lotulelei consistently broke double-teams formed by Unger and Paul McQuistan and showed the instincts of a true NFL standout.
"Among the rookie's most impressive plays was his first regular season NFL tackle, a thundering collision with Lynch for one-yard gain in which Lotulelei initially split an Unger-McQuistan double-team to threaten Wilson in the end zone," Rang wrote.
Profootballfocus.com also recognized Lotulelei's heroics. In the website's NFL first-round draft picks week-one analysis, it graded the defensive tackle the highest among all 32 first-rounders. Profootballfocus.com grades players based on an intelligent grading system that doesn't look at raw statistics, but instead gives players plus or minus points based on key plays.
Lotulelei scored a +3.3, while an average player scores zero. The site acknowledged that the former Ute showed exquisite promise as a run defender. On 11.8 percent of run defense plays, Lotulelei picked up a stop. He and the Carolina defense held Lynch to just 43 yards on 17 carries.
Profootballfocus.com also graded former BYU Cougar Ziggy Ansah. In his debut, Ansah scored a -0.4. He had a solid showing in Detroit's 34-24 victory over Minnesota, recording a sack and three hurries. He was called for one penalty, which was the lone reason he finished with a negative score.
The two first-rounders from the Beehive State will look to continue making an impact in the NFL when Lotulelei faces the Bills and Ansah goes up against the Cardinals this Sunday.
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
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