Allen Park — For the third time, and first since 1997, two Detroit Lions rookie defensive players were named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez were selected to the squad, making the Lions one of seven teams represented by two selections.
The No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, Hutchinson capped a stellar debut season with 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Meanwhile, Rodriguez, a sixth-round choice out of Oklahoma State, earned a starting job out of training camp and racked up 87 tackles and a forced fumble in 16 games.
Offensive tackle Penei Sewell made the team last year, but no Lions rookies were selected in 2019 or 2020. The last time Detroit had two defensive players selected came in 1997, with cornerback Bryant Westbrook and linebacker Matt Russell.
Westbrook went on to play five seasons in Detroit, while Russell, who currently works in the front office for the Philadelphia Eagles, never played another down in the NFL after suffering season-ending knee injuries the next two seasons.
The Lions also placed two rookie defenders on the PWFA’s team in 1988, with linebacker Chris Spielman and safety Bennie Blades.
Detroit has actually landed three total selections three times, in 1980 (Billy Sims, Tommie Ginn and Eddie Murray), 1997 (Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola and Shaun Rogers) and 2013 (Larry Warford, Ziggy Ansah and Sam Martin).
Hutchinson lost on the organization’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors to New York Jets cornerback and Detroit native Sauce Gardner, who led the NFL with 20 pass breakups.