Apologies for the delay on getting this updated this week. It is, after all 2020 and time is a flat circle. But at the end of the day, it was another strong showing for several former Hawkeyes in the NFL this week. We get some serious lineman love, some solid performances on defense, as well as a Pro Bowl contender at a skill position (or in Iowa City THE skill position).
Here’s our weekly dive into how former Hawkeyes performed in week 13 of the NFL.
Micah Hyde was a complete standout during his time at Iowa creating some incredibly memorable moments. Since he entered the NFL in 2013, he’s pretty much done the same thing. This week was no different for the Buffalo Bills safety. Hyde came away with a highlight reel interception that was nearly converted for a pick-six thanks to a patented Hyde (and seek?) return.
But it wasn’t just the highlight interception this week. Hyde also led the team with 12 total tackles, including 6 solos, and a pass defended. One of those tackles was a bit more noteworthy than the rest:
He’s fun to watch. On the season, Hyde now has 64 total tackles, including 43 solos, 5 passes defended and a stuff.
A.J. Epenesa, DE
Fellow Bill AJ Epenesa saw his snap count elevated a bit for the second week in a row. He was in on 38% of reps for Buffalo this week and came away with one solo tackle on the day. That takes his season totals to 9 total tackles, including 6 solos, two stuffs and a tackle for loss.
Amani Hooker, S
Tennessee safety Amani Hooker had a solid outing this week seeing action on 43% of defensive snaps for the Titans. He finished with a pair of tackles, including a solo, as Tennessee fell 41-35 to the Cleveland Browns. On the season, Hooker has 32 total tackles, 5 passes defended and 3 interceptions.
Anthony Hitchens, LB
Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens remains a leader in Kansas City. He again led the team with 7 total tackles last week, including 4 solos as the Chiefs defeated the Broncos 22-16. On the season, Hitchens now has 73 total tackles, including 41 solos, a pass defended and two stuffs.
Ben Niemann, LB
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City backup linebacker Ben Niemann saw a bit of a dip in his playing time this week, dropping below 30% of total defensive snaps. He still managed 2 tackles, including a solo, in the winning effort. On the year, Niemann has 28 total tackles, including 17 solos, a sack and two fumble recoveries.
Christian Kirksey, LB
Green Bay Packers
Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey continues to be a stalwart in Green Bay. He again play 100% of defensive snaps this week, leading the team in tackles at 7, including 5 solos. Kirksey also added a pass defended as the Packers defeated Philadelphia 30-16. Despite missing five games on the year, Kirksey now has 57 total tackles, including 35 solos, 2 passes defended and an interception.
Desmond King, DB
Titans defensive back Desmond King saw a bit of a drop off in his playing time this week, playing on 56% of snaps. That’s his lowest since joining Tennessee and just a week after seeing the field on 96% of snaps. Despite the drop off, King still had 6 total tackles, including 3 solos. On the season, King now has 44 total tackles, including 32 solos, 1 sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Jaleel Johnson, DT
Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson continues have pretty solid season. He was in on 68% of defensive snaps this week and came away with a pair of tackles. On the season, Johnson now has 35 tackles, including 17 solos, 1.5 sacks and a stuff.
Josey Jewell, LB
The Outlaw continues to show he deserves serious playing time even when the Broncos aren’t dealing with injuries. Jewell saw action on 91% of defensive snaps last week and totaled 7 tackles, including a pair of solos, in the loss to Kansas City. On the season, Jewell is second on the team with 85 total tackles, including 28 solos, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, a stuff and a pass defended.
Josh Jackson, CB
Green Bay Packers
While fellow Hawkeye Christian Kirksey is a staple in Green Bay, corner Josh Jackson has still not returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion a couple weeks ago. The Packers have both starting corners back, limiting any opportunities since then. On the season, Jackson has 25 total tackles, including 21 solos, one stuff and two passes defended.
Kristian Welch, LB
Ravens linebacker Kritian Welch continues to stay on the active roster, making an appearance in five straight games. Welch has yet to play a defensive snap in Baltimore, but has found a role as a special teams player. He had his third tackle of the season this week, all have been solos. Here’s hoping he can continue to contribute.
Michael Ojemudia, CB
While fellow former Hawkeye Josey Jewell has been steady all season, Michael Ojemudia has been a bit more up and down. He earned praise early on, but has been picked on a bit when pressed into duty on the outside. That was the case this week as starter Bryce Callahan was out. Ojemudia came away with 7 total tackles, including 6 solos, as he played every defensive snap in the loss to Kansas City.
OJ will likely see that increased playing time continue the rest of the way in Denver. Callahan is expected to miss two more weeks and the other starter, AJ Bouye, was just suspended 6 games. Meanwhile, nickel corner Essang Bassey, blew out a knee last week. That should mean plenty of on the job training for rookie Michael Ojemudia.
On the season, he has 40 total tackles, including 31 solos, 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and one stuff.
Noah Fant, TE
Fellow Bronco Noah Fant had a solid showing last week despite continued struggles at the QB spot in Denver. Fant led all Bronco receivers with 4 catches for 57 yards on a team-high 7 targets. Despite being the most reliable target, Fant has been held without a touchdown for months now. On the season, Fant has 492 receiving yards (third on the team) and a pair of touchdowns on a team-high 44 catches.
T.J. Hockenson, TE
Fellow tight end TJ Hockenson continues to have a tremendous season in Detroit. If not for the performance from Hyde, he would have likely garnered a game ball this week. Hockenson hauled in 7 catches for 84 yards in a 34-30 win over Chicago this week. That’s a solid day at the office, but more impressive has been the consistency this year.
Among all NFC tight ends, @Lions TE @TheeHOCK8 ranks:— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) December 8, 2020
- 1st in receptions (52)
- 1st in yards (614)
- 1st in YAC yards (288)
- 1st in receiving 1st downs (33)
- 1st in 10+ yard receptions (28)
- t-2nd in receiving TDs (5)
-t-3rd in 25+ yard receptions (4)#ProBowlVote#OnePride pic.twitter.com/QUzAAWgN5a
As noted last week, Hockenson has worked his way into a legitimate Pro Bowl contender.
Elsewhere, Iowa continues to get some lineman love in the NFL. Former Hawkeye Ike Boettger graded out as the top offensive lineman on Monday Night Football in Buffalo’s win over San Francisco. There’s some great stuff on his journey in the link here.
Per @PFF, Ike Boettger was best o-lineman on MNF.— Matt Parrino (@MattParrino) December 8, 2020
Heard from Sean McDermott & Mitch Morse yesterday on Boettger's standing in #Bills locker room + how he's earned his spot.
“Ike’s a tough dude. We appreciate the way he’s worked since he’s gotten here." https://t.co/lqHHtc2ZWM
And speaking of great PFF grades, Tristan Wirfs continues to be a favorite of the numbers. Nobody is perfect, but he’s been darn close.
Tristan Wirfs on 3rd/4th down this season— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 7, 2020
144 pass-blocking snaps
4 QB pressures allowed
0 sacks pic.twitter.com/b8kn11cx3x
And that’s it for this week in the NFL. We’ll be back to recap all the action next week.