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Hawkeyes in the NFL: Week 4 Recap

There were more injuries in week 4, but also some big time games, including a former Hawkeye getting his first snaps at QB in 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle: #GoodAtFootball
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

It wouldn’t be 2020 without more injuries in week four of the NFL season. That includes some former Hawkeyes, as well as some key pieces to your fantasy football teams no doubt. Despite some Hawkeyes injuries, there were also some big time performances from guys who are stepping into major roles in the league.

With that, let’s dive in to who did what in week 4 of the NFL season.

Game Ball

The Outlaw Josey Jewell and the Denver Broncos were in action to kick off week four last Thursday night and the Broncos finally got into the win column as they took down the New York Jets 37-28. Jewell led the way for the Denver defense, recording 10 total tackles, including 8 solos and 2.5 tackles for loss. He also added a pair of sacks in the win.

Jewell is developing before Bronco fans’ eyes and has slowly gone from a stopgap inserted into the lineup due to injury to a leader on the defense that can be trusted to make plays. The Broncos look to improve on their 1-3 record with a trip to New England in week 5.

Noted Notables

Anthony Hitchens, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are officially rolling. KC took down the New England Patriots on Monday night after their Sunday game was pushed back when Patriots QB Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19. Hitchens tallied 6 total tackles, including 3 solos, as the Chiefs defeated New England 26-10 to remain undefeated. Hitchens will continue to man the middle as the Chiefs look to repeat as world champions.

Ben Niemann, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

Fellow Chief Ben Niemann, who is listed as Hitchens’ primary backup on the KC depth chart, also had a solid night in the win. Niemann had a pair of tackles, including a solo, and added a fumble recovery for the second straight week. Niemann continues to earn reps on what is proving to be a solid Kansas City defense.

C.J. Beathard, QB
San Francisco 49ers

Former Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard saw his first action of the 2020 season on Sunday night. With San Francisco 49ers starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo still nursing an ankle injury, backup Nick Mullens again got the start against Philadelphia. Mullens had a bit of a rough night, finishing with a QBR of 12.9 and a pair of interceptions, including a brutally bad pick-six.

The poor night from Mullens meant Kyle Shanahan went to the bullpen in the 4th quarter, calling on Beathard to mount a comeback. Beathard did just that. After falling behind 25-14 on the Mullens interception returned for a TD, Beathard carved up the Eagles defense driving 75 yards on 12 plays on the ensuing possession. Beathard went 8-9 passing for 79 yards (for you math nerds out there, there was a 9-yard sack on the drive that means more yards gained by the individual players than the team is credited with) and had a touchdown pass reversed with his receiver ruled down just short of the goal line. The Niners went for 2 and Beathard passed up what looked like an easy waltz into the endzone for a pass to former Hawkeye George Kittle who couldn’t come up with what was a pretty catchable ball.

Beathard was again cooking on San Francisco’s final drive of the game, moving the offense 55 yards in 1:40 with a shot at the win (it’s worth noting the Niners were well within field goal range and could have sent the game to OT if Kittle had come down with the 2-point try). Unfortunately, Beathard’s Hail Mary as time expired fell incomplete and the the Niners fell to 2-2 on the season.

CJB finished the night 14 of 19 passing for 138 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. With Garoppolo’s status for week five still up in the air, Beathard could be in line for his first start of the 2020 season.

Desmond King, CB
Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers defensive back Desmond King has had a wild ride thus far in 2020. King was limited in week three despite a slew of injuries in LA’s defensive backfield. The Chargers lost another DB heading into week four and King saw a big boost because of it. He ended up playing 50 snaps for the Chargers and racked up 5 tackles. While there appears to still be some turmoil in LA, the Chargers will need to rely on King for the foreseeable future.

George Kittle, TE
San Francisco 49ers

Let’s start by saying that Kittle probably deserves a game ball for his ridiculous comeback this week. However, Kittle is Kittle and he’s going to get plenty of game balls this season so sue me for handing one out to The Outlaw. Now secondly, that missed opportunity for a 2-point conversion was about the only negative for Kittle on the entire day and if that’s as bad as it gets you know you’re doing alright.

Kittle finished a ridiculous 183 receiving yards on 15 catches (which was more than double the next highest receiver) and a touchdown. With a depleted receiving group in San Francisco, Kittle is receiving options 1, 2 and 3. He’ll continue to be hyper-targeted going forward regardless of who is lined up at QB, but look for him to really thrive next week if Beathard indeed gets a start.

Jaleel Johnson, DT
Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings finally got into the win column on Sunday and it cost Houston and former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien his job. Former Hawkeye Jaleel Johnson had a pair of tackles, including a solo, as the Vikings beat the Texans 31-23. Johnson remains a starter at defensive tackle as the Vikings look to build on that win and find their footing on defense.

Joshua Jackson, CB
Green Bay Packers

Green Bay corner Joshua Jackson saw his playing time increase quite a bit on Monday night as the Packers saw two of their typical top three corners out with injuries. Jackson held up very well against the Atlanta Falcons, including matched up man-to-man with budding star Calvin Ridley. Jackson recorded only two tackles (both solo), but was talked up frequently during the broadcast by ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who knows a thing or two about evaluating NFL talent. Look for Jackson to continue pressing for reps as the Packers deal with injuries throughout their secondary.

Michael Ojemudia, CB
Denver Broncos

Similar to Jackson, Denver corner Michael Ojemudia found himself in the starting lineup again this week as the Broncos deal with injuries in the back end of the defense. Ojemudia continues to grow with each rep and is looking better every week. He finished week 4 with two tackles, both solo, and a pass defended as the Broncos got into the win column for the first time this season.

Micah Hyde, S
Buffalo Bills

After suffering an ankle injury in week three, Hyde was back in the lineup for the Bills on Sunday as they moved to 4-0 on the season with a 30-23 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Hyde had 6 tackles, including 5 solos, and added a pass defended in the winning effort. Hyde continues to be a staple of the Buffalo secondary.

Noah Fant, TE
Denver Broncos

Broncos tight end Noah Fant was off to a solid start in last Thursday’s win over the Jets, but saw his night cut short by an ankle injury. Fant finished with 35 yards on 5 catches, but exited in the second half and was ultimately carted off the field after appearing to fight through some pain for nearly a full series. Fant is currently listed as questionable heading into the Broncos’ week five matchup with the Patriots.

T.J. Hockenson, TE
Detroit Lions

Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson had a very good game in week four, though not all of it will show up in his stat line. He finished with just two catches for nine yards, but one of them was good for a touchdown. Despite the limited catches, Hockenson graded out as the best offensive player for the Lions this week according to Pro Football Focus

Other Items

Some updates in week four:

Browns defensive end Adrian Clayborn missed week four with a hip flexor issue. That has been bothering him for two weeks now, but Clayborn looks to be back in the lineup in week five as the 3-1 Browns take on the Colts.

It wasn’t as good of news for former Brown Christian Kirksey. The Packers LB landed on IR this week with “an upper body injury.” That’s not exactly specific, but it does mean the former Hawkeye will miss at least the next three weeks.

On a brighter note, Tristan Wirfs is doing essentially the same thing in the NFL as he did at Iowa. That is keeping his QB clean and paving the way on runs. Wirfs had the tall task of staying between all-world DE Joey Bosa and Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady this week and held up quite well.

Through four weeks of the NFL season, Wirfs has proven to be the best of the offensive tackles taken in the first 15 picks of the draft. He’s graded out better than all tackles drafted ahead of him so far.

Not bad for a kid from Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

And that’s it for this week in the NFL. We’ll be back next week as hopefully we get past the COVID-19 issues of week four and into a regular rhythm of no games moving around. This week will kick off the regularly scheduled bye weeks around the league, meaning there will be fewer former Hawkeyes to follow every Sunday.