INGLEWOOD—One of the biggest stories of this Seahawks season has been the standout play from Seattle's rookie class.
From the way tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross have helped Geno Smith and the offense function at a high level, to the play of cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, who have combined to create seven turnovers, the continued growth of outside linebacker Boye Mafe, who has taken over a starting stop at outside linebacker, the early returns on the Seahawks' 2022 class have been outstanding.
And with Kenneth Walker III taking over the stating running back spot for an injured Rashaad Penny, it's evident that yet another rookie is not just ready to contribute, but ready to be a huge factor. Walker, who took over the lead role two weeks ago when Penny injured his leg against the Saints, had a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in Sunday's win over the Chargers. Sunday's performance, which featured a 74-yard touchdown run that helped seal the victory, gives Walker 353 yards and four touchdowns in two-plus games since Penny got hurt.
"That kid is unbelievable, man," receiver Tyler Lockett said. "He's a star in the making. The way he gets better each and every week, you can tell the more and more opportunities he gets, the more comfortable he gets, and the more electrifying he is. This is exactly why we drafted him. We knew what he could do, and Everybody on the team is excited he's with us."
Walker has scored on runs of 74 and 69 yards in the past three games, and that type of big-play ability is what is going to get him noticed the most, but his rare talents have also been on display on some short runs in which he turns a potential tackle-for-loss into a short or modest gain, usually thanks to a devastating cut or two that leaves would-be tacklers grasping at air.
"He's just got a ton of ability," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's really a natural football player. There's nothing he can't do. He can catch it, he can run it, he can break the big plays, he can run short yardage, he can run off tackle, he can run around the edge like you saw on the big play. He's a terrific draft pick. He's a terrific guy to add to our football team."
On his 74-yard touchdown, Walker took a pitch from Geno Smith, got to the corner thanks to some good blocking, took off down the sideline right in front of his teammates, then used his speed to outrun the Charger defense.
"The guys were nuts about it, it just looked so cool," Carroll said. "He just came right to us… He certainly has big-play ability, you can see the speed that he has, it wasn't even in doubt. It was really exciting to see that happen."
On that run, Walker hit 22.09 miles per hour, making him the fastest ball carrier in the league this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
"Having a guy like that who can explode at any minute is awesome," Smith said.
Walker said getting in the open field like that is "a great feeling, because it's rare. It doesn't really happen much in football, so when you get the opportunity, you've got to make the best of it."
Yet for all he has accomplished in the past few weeks, Walker knows he can still get even better.
"It's a blessing, but also we go back and watch film, and there's a lot of mistakes I did make, a lot of runs I could have done better on," he said. "It's great, our O-line, I'll always give them credit, they did a great job. They make my job a lot easier."
Check out the best sights from the sideline and locker room following a 37-23 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles.