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Hawkeyes in the NFL: Week 2 Recap

Noah Fant-astic strikes again!

NFL: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers
Fant is on pace for 16 touchdowns this season, which seems good.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 of the NFL season is in the books and just like that, your fantasy football team has fallen apart. There was a rash of injuries across the league this week and former Hawkeyes were not immune. However, there were a slew of guys who had big weeks and a couple who were able to take advantage of additional playing time thanks to some of those injuries.

So with that, let’s dive in to who did what in week 2 of the NFL season.

Game Ball

We’re two weeks into the NFL season and second year tight end Noah Fant is collecting his second game ball of the year. After racking up 81 yards and a TD in week one, Fant topped that performance in week two as he hauled in four catches for 57 yards and added not only a touchdown, but the 2-point conversion that followed.

On the season, Fant now has 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns on nine receptions for a 13.8 ypc average. Fant is fourth among tight ends in receiving yards and third in yards after catch. It will be interesting to see how his usage trends over the next several week after starting QB Drew Lock went down with an injury in week 2.

Noted Notables

Adrian Clayborn, DE
Cleveland Browns

For the second week in a row, former Hawkeye star defensive end Adrian Clayborn made the Cleveland Browns thankful they made the investment in him. He again posted two tackles and added a sack, also adding 1.5 tackles for loss this week. Now with 4 tackles and 2 sacks on the season, Clayborn needs just one more sack to match his total from all of last season.

Anthony Hitchens, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

The defending world champions struggled a bit in week two, needing overtime to defeat their division foe Los Angeles Chargers. But former Hawkeye linebacker Anthony Hitchens showed out with 9 total tackles, including 7 solos as the Chiefs defense held LA to 20 points. Hitchens now has 17 total tackles on the season.

Ben Niemann, LB
Kansas City Chiefs

Fellow Hawkeye Ben Niemann is listed as a backup on the Chiefs depth chart, but he played like a starter on Sunday. Niemann finished with 9 total tackles, like Hitchens, and tallied 5 solos as well. Kansas City isn’t known for its defense, but continued efforts like we saw on Sunday could earn Niemann a bigger role in it.

Christian Kirksey, LB
Green Bay Packers

Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey had another tremendous week that candidly could have easily landed him with a game ball. After an impressive 12-tackle performance in week one, Kirksey followed that up with another dozen tackles in week two, including a ridiculous 10 solo tackles. The Pack moved to 2-0 on the year with a 42-21 win over the Detroit Lions.

Desmond King, S
Los Angeles Chargers

Desmond King was a start at Iowa. During his time in the NFL, he’s been very good as well. In week one, he spent time at both safety and corner. In week two, it was largely at safety. However, that only came after starter Rayshawn Jenkins went down with a groin injury in the second half.

King made the most of the opportunity with six solo tackles. He also picked off Patrick Mahomes and had a nice little return, but the play was nullified due to an offsides penalty.

Despite the strong showing, King has been left wondering why the injuries have been needed to get him on the field.

Regardless of how he got there, King should see plenty of run over the next several weeks. Whether the cause leads to some tension in the locker room remains to be seen.

Jaleel Johnson, DT
Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had another rough outing in week 2, but that didn’t stop for Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson from having himself a day. Johnson totaled 6 tackles, including 4 solos and a TFL in a 28-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Johnson now has 10 total tackles on the year.

Josey Jewell, LB
Denver Broncos

As noted last week, former Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell was thrust into a starting role in week 1 when Broncos star Von Miller hit the IR with an ankle injury. After a strong showing in the opening week, Jewell was a little less noticeable on Sunday. He finished with 4 total tackles, including 3 solo, but didn’t have the big play as he did in week one with his TFL on Titans RB Derrick Henry. Look for Jewell to have plenty of opportunities down the stretch as a full time starter in Denver.

Micah Hyde, S
Buffalo Bills

Safety Micah Hyde remains a stalwart in the back end of a talented Buffalo Bills defense. He played a staggering 99% of Bills defensive snaps in week two and racked up 9 total tackles, including 6 solos. He also added a pass defended in a 31-28 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Michael Ojemudia, CB
Denver Broncos

Candidly, OJ should have been up in this section a week ago, but all the formatting was done prior to his Monday night debut. Thanks to the injuries we noted a week ago, the rookie got his second straight start for Denver in week two. As you might expect for a rookie, Ojemudia had a bit of an up and down day against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He finished with 7 tackles and a pass defended, but also gave up a long score to Chase Claypool and dropped what would have been a nice interception in the endzone as the Broncos fell 26-21.

T.J. Hockenson, TE
Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson had another really solid game in week two. He finished with 62 yards on 4 catches, including a long of 29 yards, though he missed out on the endzone this week. On the season, Hockenson now has one TD and 118 yards on 9 catches for an average of 13.1 ypc. That puts him 8th among tight ends in yardage. More impressive, however, is the 76 yards after contact on the year. That’s second behind only Jonnu Smith for tight ends. Look for Matthew Stafford and the Lions to continue working the ball to Hock as the season progresses.

Tristan Wirfs, OT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If an offensive lineman is standing out, it’s either a really good thing or a really bad thing. If rookie Tristan Wirfs were standing out for the latter, we probably wouldn’t be highlighting him in this portion of the weekly update. Instead, Wirfs graded out as the best rookie this week according to Pro Football Focus, earning him Rookie of the Week honors.

Candidly, he probably deserves a game ball, but without stats it’s tough to hand out game balls to offensive linemen. However, Tampa Bay has seen some struggles on the left side of the line from veteran starter Donovan Smith. If the Mt. Vernon native gets a shot at protecting Tom Brady’s blind side, he’s going to get a game ball and likely a bag full of money.

Other Items

Some updates in week two:

Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa dressed in week two and got some run. While he didn’t record any stats, Epenesa played on 23% of Bills defensive line snaps. That was 8th on a 9-man rotation. Not ideal, but certainly an improvement from his healthy scratch a week ago. Hawkeye fans should know by now not to count out Eppy’s hard work. Look for that percentage to slowly creep up this season.

We noted last week that 49ers star tight end George Kittle left during the second quarter with a knee injury. While it was not believed to be serious as Kittle did return in the second half, it turned out to be a sprained MCL and bone bruise which cost Kittle his week two. It’s possible we see Kittle back in action in week 3, but this could also linger.

Another injury to note comes from Washington Football Team offensive lineman Brandon Scherff. Scherff has been a staple of the Washington OL since entering the league in 2015. On Sunday, he got rolled up on and appeared to have a serious knee injury. Fortunately, it appears to be an MCL sprain, similar to Kittle. Scherff is still expected to miss 3-5 weeks.

Scherff has some financial incentive to avoid a long stint on the IR. He’s currently on a 1-year, $15M deal and will be looking for a new contract at the end of the year.

And finally, former Iowa star Amani Hooker, who among other things will notably be remembered for his pick-six against Ohio State in 2017, got some serious run in the secondary for the Tennessee Titans in week 2. He finished with a pair of tackles, as well as a pass defended. Look for Hooker to continue earning a role in the back end of the Titans defense.

That’s it for week two in the NFL. Stay tuned each week as update you on all the action from former Hawkeyes.