A handful of rookies didn't look like first-year players in their NFL debuts. In fact, they made strong impressions that suggest we only saw the beginning of what's to come in the near future.
Even though one game isn't enough to stamp a Pro Bowl or All-Pro label on a rookie, we saw several players stand out among the 2021 draft class. Some of them showed flashes during the preseason and training camp, while others flew under the radar until Sunday's matchups.
Nonetheless, five rookies made an immediate impact on the outcome of their games or exceeded expectations and deserve more spotlight going forward.
Let's take a closer look at these players and what they did to separate themselves from their rookie peers.
Nick Bolton, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns 33-29 in an offensive battle, but Nick Bolton made stops all over the field. He also burst into the backfield to take down two-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb behind the line of scrimmage for a clean solo tackle.
With Willie Gay on injured reserve (turf toe), Bolton started at linebacker alongside Anthony Hitchens and didn't show many signs of inexperience. He diagnosed plays and followed the action sideline to sideline. The Missouri product tied safety Juan Thornhill and cornerback L'Jarius Sneed for a team-leading seven tackles (four solo).
Nick Jacobs of KSHB 41 News made note of the rookie's ability to handle the physical aspect of the game while also keeping himself free to roam for stops.
"Nick Bolton's tackling is on point this series. Great job getting his hands in the TEs chest, disengaging him, keeping tabs on the backfield and making a great tackle," Jacobs tweeted.
Hitchens' contract expires at the end of the 2022 season, though the Chiefs may have a solid long-term linebacker tandem with Gay and Bolton in the middle of the defense.
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja'Marr Chase struggled to catch the ball at practice and during the preseason. He had no issues with his hands Sunday, though.
Chase converted seven targets into five receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings, which included a 50-yard catch over cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
Perhaps skeptics made too much of Chase's struggles through the summer. He spoke about the differences between footballs on the collegiate and pro levels. His comments made rounds across social media a week before Sunday's game.