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Hawks in the NFL 2018 Rewind: Defense

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Taking a look back at how former Hawkeyes performed defensively in the 2018 NFL season.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL season is in the books, and it was a notable one for many former Hawkeyes. Let’s revisit what some former Hawk defenders did this past season:

Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

King became the 15th Hawkeye ever to earn first-team All-Pro honors. He earned the recognition from the AP after a standout second season that saw him continue to shine in coverage while also getting more opportunities on special teams. Defensively, King tallied 62 tackles, including four for a loss, along with three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. He also returned 23 punts for 318 yards — a 13.8 yard average that ranked third in the NFL — with one going for a 73-yard touchdown.

Adrian Clayborn, New England
As if signing a two-year, $10 million deal with $5 million guaranteed for pro football’s top franchise wasn’t enough, Clayborn capped off his first season as a Patriot by becoming a Super Bowl Champion. He recorded only 11 tackles with 2.5 sacks during the season as he played an edge usher role on primarily passing situations, but he also had 13 quarterback hits for a defensive front that generated a lot of pressure.

Anthony Hitchens, Kansas City

Hitchens commanded a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs after spending his first four seasons with the Cowboys, and didn’t disappoint in terms of production. His career-high 135 tackles were fifth in the entire NFL behind only Darius Leonard, Blake Martinez, Leighton Vander Esch, and Bobby Wagner — and that was with one missed game due to injury.

Micah Hyde, Buffalo

Hyde wasn’t as productive from a numbers perspective as he was in his Pro Bowl season of 2017, but still graded out as Pro Football Focus’s 90th ranked player. He had 58 tackles, two interceptions, and five passes defended, and his 88.6 coverage grade from PFF was their third-highest among all safeties. Hyde missed only the second game of his six-year NFL career in Week 5 after suffering a groin injury the previous week against Green Bay, his former team.

Josey Jewell, Denver

Jewell had a very impressive rookie season for the Broncos, racking up 58 tackles while seeing action in every game, including nine starts. The 106th overall pick in last year’s draft also had four tackles for loss.

Josh Jackson, Green Bay

The second-round pick started 10 games for the Packers, seeing most of his action at nickel cornerback. Jackson’s season was highlighted by a recovered punt block for a touchdown in a Week 2 tie against Minnesota. He also had 49 tackles and 10 passes defensed on the year.

Mike Daniels, Green Bay

Count Daniels as yet another Hawkeye who was beset by injuries in 2018. He went on injured reserve after suffering an unspecified foot injury in Week 11, though he didn’t require surgery. His 10 games played were the fewest of his seven NFL seasons, while his 18 tackles were his fewest since his rookie campaign. However, he was tied for fifth in the NFL in quarterback hurries at the time of his injury, according to PFF.

Christian Kirksey, Cleveland

Kirksey’s 2018 was marred by injury. Multiple injuries saw him miss action in Weeks 2 and 3, and then his season was cut short in early November when a hamstring ailment prompted the Browns to place him on injured reserve. Kirksey was solid before the injury, recording 43 tackles in seven games and the first two interceptions of his NFL career.

Ben Niemann, Kansas City

Niemann’s biggest opportunity of the season was brought on by the injury that caused Hitchens’s only missed game. He got the starting nod in Week 10 against the Cardinals as the Chiefs shuffled things around in their linebacking corps, and Niemann recorded six tackles. He had four tackles the rest of the season combined as he primarily saw action on special teams.

Greg Mabin, San Francisco

Mabin saw action in 13 games for the 49ers, tallying 16 tackles with one pass defensed and a fumble recovery.

Carl Davis, Cleveland

Davis played a key role for Baltimore in 2017, but saw much sparser action in his first season with the Browns. He had just one tackle over 39 snaps in five games after playing 15 contests last year for the Ravens, including nine starts.

Jaleel Johnson, Minnesota

Johnson had 13 tackles with a half-sack while playing all 16 games for the Vikings, including his first career NFL start. He also forced a fumble.