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Hawkeyes in the NFL: Week 11 Recap

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It was a big week for several former Hawkeyes.

Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Chargers
Vikings DT Jaleel Johnson had the best game of his career on Sunday.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a bit of a slow week in week 10 of the NFL, the Hawkeyes were back in a big way for week 11. Despite several former Iowa players being on a bye, we had some of the best performances of the season, as well as a career day for one former Hawk.

Here’s our weekly dive into how former Hawkeyes performed in week 11 of the NFL.

Game Ball

I’m going to go ahead and own taking the easy way out here. There were quite a few really good performances this week and rather than shorting somebody, I’m handing out multiple (fictional) game balls. Sue me.

The first one goes to Tennessee Titans safety Amani Hooker. Hooker saw a nice uptick in playing time this week with starter Kenny Vaccaro out. Hooker ultimately played on 98% of snaps and made them count. He finished with 6 total tackles, including 3 solos, as well as a big time interception.

On the season, Hooker now has 30 total tackles, 4 passes defended and 3 interceptions.

The second game ball goes to Green Bay Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey. Kirksey returned last week after missing 5 games with a shoulder injury and immediately stepped in to play 100% of snaps and lead the team in tackles. This week, he again played every defensive rep and again lead the team in tackles. He finished with 11 total tackles, including 6 solos and half a tackle for loss. But he also came up with a big time pick as the Packers fell 34-31 to the Indianapolis Colts.

Despite missing five games on the year, Kirksey now has 45 total tackles on the year, including 28 solos, a pass defended and an interception.

And finally, we’re handing out a game ball to Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Johnson stepped up, playing 76% of defensive snaps (he had been averaging around 50% on the year) this week and it showed in the stat line. Johnson had a career-high 8 tackles on Sunday, including 3 solo tackles. He also added a tackle for loss and a sack in what was his most productive day as a pro.

That type of work should earn Johnson more reps. Here’s hoping the big man can make the most of them. On the season, Johnson now has 33 tackles, including 17 solos, 1.5 sacks and a stuff.

Noted Notables

Anthony Nelson, DE
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defensive end Anthony Nelson saw a dip in his playing time this week, playing on just 8% of defensive reps for Tampa Bay. The dip came with a drop off in production as Nelson failed to record any stats this week in a 27-24 loss to the LA Rams. On the season Nelson has 12 total tackles, including 8 solos, and a pair of stuffs.

Desmond King, DB
Tennessee Titans

New Titans corner Desmond King saw a slight bump in his playing time this week, getting in on 80% of the defensive snaps (vs. 70% and 69% in his first two games). He had 4 total tackles, including 3 solos, but really made his impact with a pair of passes defended. One came on a crucial play late in regulation that likely saved his team from a defeat.

On a 2nd and 6 from the Tennessee 10 yard line, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tried to hit Willie Snead just beyond the sticks for what would have set up 1st and goal with just over 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Instead, King made a beautiful defensive play sliding around Snead without contact and batting the pass away. The Ravens would go on to kick a field goal to send the game to overtime where Tennessee would emerge victorious.

[Apologies, I’ve been unable to find video of the play, but believe me when I say it was textbook defense from King at an absolutely crucial moment.]

On the season, King now has 35 total tackles, including 27 solos, 1 sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Unrelated to the results from this week, King did get into a verbal altercation with Ravens RB and former Ohio State Buckeye JK Dobbins. Dobbins tested positive for COVID-19 a day later.

Keep your eyes peeled this week for any news on King’s status for week 12.

Josey Jewell, LB
Denver Broncos

The Outlaw had one of his more quiet outings of the 2020 season. Despite continuing to play roughly 90% of defensive snaps, Jewell finished the day with just 3 total tackles, including 2 solos, as the Broncos defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-13 on Sunday. On the season, Jewell is now second on the team with 71 total tackles, including 22 solos, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, a stuff and a pass defended.

Josh Jackson, CB
Green Bay Packers

Packers corner Josh Jackson saw his usage fall off a cliff this week as both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King returned to take 100% of the defensive snaps at corner. Chandon Sullivan took the nickel corner reps and that left nothing on the table for Jackson. The former Hawkeye did, however, record a tackle on special teams. On the season, Jackson now has 25 total tackles, including 21 solos, one stuff and two passes defended.

Kristian Welch, LB
Baltimore Ravens

Ravens linebacker Kristian Welch remained on the active roster this week, but again did not play any defensive snaps. He was also held without any stats this week on special teams. On the season, Welch has 2 solo tackles.

Michael Ojemudia, CB
Denver Broncos

For the second week in a row, Broncos rookie corner Michael Ojemudia saw his playing time cut down by the return of starters AJ Bouye and Bryce Callahan. OJ played a little more than a quarter of the defensive snaps as Essang Bassey filled the nickel role. Ojemudia didn’t record any stats this week. On the season, he has 30 total tackles, including 22 solos, 4 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and one stuff.

Noah Fant, TE
Denver Broncos

Fellow Hawkeye Noah Fant had a bit of a better day. He finished second on the team with 4 receptions for 55 yards as Denver got their first win in a couple weeks. On the season, Fant now has 422 receiving yards (third on the team) and a pair of touchdowns on a team-high 39 catches. Fant hasn’t caught a touchdown since week two.

T.J. Hockenson, TE
Detroit Lions

Detroit tight end TJ Hockenson also had a very solid game. He led the Lions with 4 catches for a team-high 68 yards as the Detroit offense struggled to do much in a 20-0 loss to Carolina. On the season, Hockenson leads the Lions with 60 receptions for a team-high 5 TDs and is second with 441 receiving yards.

Other Items

Perhaps the most notable item this week was the plethora of Hawkeyes playing in the matchup between Tennessee and Baltimore. We noted the performances of Hooker, King and Welch, but Welch was joined on special teams by Geno Stone, who was again active this week. And Greg Mabin, who played opposite Desmond King at Iowa, was called up from the practice squad in Tennessee this week as well. That made for quite the photo op following the game.

A couple other items of interest this week. After getting a game ball last week, Tampa Bay offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs recorded his first career tackle this week. QB Tom Brady threw two interceptions and Wirfs was there for the tackle on one, which gave him more tackles than teammate Anthony Nelson.

And finally, George Kittle continues to be the absolute best.

Black Friday is going to be fun.


And that’s it for this week in the NFL. We’ll be back to recap all the action next week.