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Hawkeyes in the NFL: Week 8 Recap

Josey Jewell and Michael Ojemudia have become integral to Denver’s defense while Desmond King gets a new home.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Josey Jewell brought the lumber on Justin Herbert Sunday.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Week seven was a bit of a quiet one for former Hawkeyes in the NFL. In a season filled with injuries and COVID-19, quiet isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Ravens and Vikings were among those on a bye leaving fewer Hawkeyes in action. There were a few standout performances, but largely former Iowa players were held in check.

Here’s a look at how everyone who did play performed in week 7.

Game Ball

Former Iowa star linebacker Josey Jewell continues to have a tremendous season for the Denver Broncos. On the year, Jewell has played nearly 95% of the Broncos’ defensive snaps and is fourth on the team overall in total snaps played. Sunday, Jewell finished second on the team with 10 total tackles, including 6 solos, as Denver mounted a major comeback to defeat the LA Chargers 31-30.

On the season, Jewell now has 47 total tackles, including 31 solos, 2 sacks, a stuff and a pass defended.

Noted Notables

A.J. Epenesa, DE
Buffalo Bills

Former Iowa star defensive end AJ Epenesa was a healthy scratch against the Patriots this week as the Bills opted to take a 5th defensive tackle rather than an extra DE for the matchup. That’s the second time this season Epenesa has been a healthy inactive. On the season, he has 6 total tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a pair of stuffs.

Amani Hook, S
Tennessee Titans

Last week’s game ball winner Amani Hooker added a pair of tackles in Tennessee’s 31-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. As with just about every game this year, Hooker was on the field for just over 25% of the Titans’ defensive snaps. On the season, Hooker has 14 total tackles, 4 passes defended and 2 interceptions.

Anthony Hitchens, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

Former Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens didn’t record any stats in Sunday’s win over the Jets. He did, however, play more than 60% of the defensive snaps for the Chiefs. Look for Hitchens to bounce back next week against the Panthers. On the season, Hitchens has 47 total tackles, including 26 solos.

Anthony Nelson, DE
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive end Anthony Nelson didn’t have any tackles on Monday Night Football, but the former Hawkeye did get a QB hit in on Daniel Jones as the Buccs defeated the Giants 25-23. Nelson has 9 total tackles, including 7 solos, and a pair of stuffs on the season.

Ben Niemann, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

While Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens has been getting around 60% of the reps for the Kansas City defense, fellow Hawkeye Ben Niemann has been getting ~40%. That continued this week as Niemann recorded a pair of tackles, including one solos. Niemann now has 17 tackles on the year, including 10 solos and 1 sack to go along with a pair of fumble recoveries.

George Kittle, TE
San Francisco 49ers

It was a rough week for the San Francisco 49ers and Star right end George Kittle. Kittle finished with just two catches for 39 yards in a 37-27 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. While the output wasn’t impressive, this catch was.

Worse than the stats, however, was the injury Kittle sustained to his foot Sunday. He is now expected to miss up to eight weeks with a broken bone. On the season, Kittle now has 474 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 37 catches.

In addition to Kittle, the Niners saw yet another injury for RB Tevin Coleman with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson already on IR, while QB Jimmy Garrapolo May be headed there as well with a high ankle sprain that has bothered him since week two. With the slew of injuries, it’s possible we see San Francisco’s season go sideways, which may mean they decide to shut Kittle down rather than bring him back for 1-2 games at the end of a lost season.

Jaleel Johnson, DT
Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson had himself a very nice game in week 8. Johnson finished with 4 tackles, including 3 solos, as the Vikings defeated the Packers 28-22. On the season, Johnson now has 25 total tackles, 14 solos, half a sack and a stuff.

Josh Jackson, CB
Green Bay Packers

Packers corner Josh Jackson saw fewer than 100% of snaps for the first time in three weeks on Sunday. Jackson was still highly involved and was out there nearly 90% of the defensive reps. With that work, Jackson totaled five tackles, including 4 solos, in the loss to Minnesota. Jackson now has 17 total tackles, including 15 solos, one stuff and one pass defended on the year.

Micah Hyde, S
Buffalo Bills

Hyde missed week 8 due to a concussion suffered in week 7 against the Jets. Hyde should clear the protocol to be back in week 9 against the Seahawks. On the season, Hyde has 35 total tackles, including 23 solos, and a pair of passes defended.

Michael Ojemudia, CB
Denver Broncos

Broncos corner Michael Ojemudia got yet another start on Sunday and continues to show why he was drafted in the third round last year. OJ finished with four tackles, including 3 solos, in the comeback win over LA. On the season, Ojemudia now has 27 total tackles, including 24 solos, 4 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and one stuff.

OJ also found time to have a little Halloween fun this weekend.

Noah Fant, TE
Denver Broncos

Still battling through injuries, Noah Fant had a very solid outing in Denver’s win on Sunday. The Bronco tight end led the team in receptions (7) and was second in targets (9, behind only WR Jerry Jeudy’s 10) en route to a 47 yard performance. On the season, Fant now has 304 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on 29 catches, putting him 9th (among tight ends) in receiving yardage.

T.J. Hockenson, TE
Detroit Lions

Like Fant, tight end TJ Hockenson has become a favorite target for his QB. Hockenson also led his team in receptions (7) and led in targets (10) as well. Hock finished with 65 yards in a 41-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

On the season, Hockenson now has 321 yards and 4 touchdowns on 29 receptions for an 11.1 yard per reception average. That puts him 7th in the league in receiving yards (among tight ends).

Other Items

Chargers defensive back Desmond King was inactive this week. As we’ve chronicled all season, King has been quite outspoken in his frustration over lack of playing time in a secondary that’s been hit hard by injuries. That seemed to work out well as he saw his snap counts rise, but then things reversed course and his playing time again dwindled in recent weeks.

That came to a head this week as King was inactive for the Chargers’ matchup with the Denver Broncos. On Monday morning, King was traded to the Tennessee Titans for 6th round pick. Nashville has also dealt with a number of injuries and King is expected to slide right into the starting nickel CB position. He’ll have to go through the league protocols on COVID testing and a physical, but should be ready to go in Nashville this week as the Titans face off with the Bears. King will be a free agent after this season.

Elsewhere, Kristian Welch was back on the practice squad during the bye week, but was recalled to the active roster on Saturday. While he didn’t record any stats, this marks the second time he’s been activated. League rules dictate a player can only be moved to the practice squad twice in a season before they must go through the waiver process to be moved again.

And that’s it for this week in the NFL. We’ll be back next week with more action. The Bengals, Browns, Rams and Eagles will be on bye in week nine.