Week three of the NFL season proved to be a mixed bag of results for your favorite former Hawkeyes, as no player really performed badly. However, there were some players who underproduced based on the high expectations they’ve played themselves into.
That said, you’ll notice a number of new names added to the list this week and it’d be awesome to see those names stick on here moving forward.
As always, keep in mind, this is not meant to be a full update on every former Hawkeye in the NFL. This is more catered to the former Hawkeyes who stood out or had something interesting or important happen to them this past week.
Hope you enjoy and go Hawks!
Well, that didn’t take long.
Three weeks into Chauncey Golston’s rookie campaign — after missing the preseason with an injury — Golston has already made an impact on the Cowboys defense as both a pass rusher and run defender.
Last season for the Hawkeyes, Golston was a bonafide star as a lengthy run defender as well as a guy who good consistently get after the passer and generate pressure. That appears to have carried over into the NFL in the wake of an injury to Cowboys starting defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence, and although it’s unfortunate that Golston’s opportunity is coming at the expense of an injury, it’s an opportunity nonetheless.
We’ll continue to monitor Golston’s performances moving forward and hopefully, following week four, he’s able to give us even more substance to talk about!
An encouraging sign for the #Cowboys:— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 28, 2021
DE Chauncey Golston was the team's second-highest graded defender in Week 3.
He had two stops, two pressures and two hurries on 30 snaps.
In case it wasn’t already easily apparent, the University of Iowa also doubles as Tight End University and there’s really no competent argument for any other school at this point (sorry, not sorry Notre Dame).
Former Hawkeye tight end George Kittle continues to light up the league each week, whether as a blocker or as a receiver and there’s no telling how or where he’ll be used on the field in a given week.
Against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, Kittle totaled 101 yards on seven catches and one carry en route to heartbreaking loss in the last 30 seconds of the game. The loss brought the San Francisco 49ers to 2-1 on the season, so the sky isn’t falling yet for the team, especially when Kittle is lining up on your side of the line of scrimmage.
Coming into week three, former Hawkeye tight end, T.J. Hockensen, had been on an absolute roll through the first two games. However, in week three, Hockensen was targeted only twice for a total of 10 yards on two catches.
This was admitted as a failure on part of the Detroit Lions coaching staff and moving forward, they expect to design more creative ways to get Hockensen more and more targets. It only makes sense after all, he’s their best offensive weapon.
Which TEs are running the most pass routes?— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) September 29, 2021
Here's your top 10:
1. Darren Waller
2. T.J. Hockenson
3. Travis Kelce
4. Kyle Pitts
5. Logan Thomas
6. Jared Cook
7. Mike Gesicki
8. Mark Andrews
9. Dawson Knox
10. Rob Gronkowski
Week three might’ve spelt the end for Matt Nelson’s time starting at right tackle for the Detroit Lions … at least for now, as offensive tackle Taylor Decker is expected to be re-activated from his stint on the injured reserve in week four.
That said, what a solid note to end on for Nelson, as he undoubtedly turned out his best performance of the season. As I said last week, Nelson isn’t a world-beater at offensive tackle by any means, but there are a number of guys who are starting around the league who look worse by comparison and none of them are in the process of learning a completely new position. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next with Nelson’s career in Detroit.
Despite putting on one of the best single game performances from a pass rusher over the past two seasons two Sundays ago, A.J. Epenesa is still platooning at defensive end with a few different players.
That said, mainly because of his performance in week two, Epenesa is currently leading all second-year NFL defenders through the first three weeks in QB pressures. Topping popular names such as Chase Young and Alex Highsmith.
The best is yet to come for Epenesa who appears set to breakout as the season moves forward.
Holy AJ Epenesa second year leap:— Joe DiBiase (@SneakyJoeSports) September 21, 2021
2020 - 291 snaps - 7 pressures
2021 - 53 snaps - 15 pressures
What’s really left to be said in these posts that hasn’t already been said about former Hawkeye defensive back, Micah Hyde?
Hyde, once again, is lighting up the league and appears on track for yet another Pro Bowl or potentially All-Pro selection at the end of the season. Hyde continues to make plays all over the field for the Buffalo Bills and this past Sunday was no exception.
One of the players who got to see a bit action out of Epenesa in week three was former Hawkeye offensive tackle — now All-Pro right guard — Brandon Scherff.
The day probably didn’t go as Scherff and the Washington offense would’ve hoped, as the Bills defense created havoc en route to a convincing win. In addition, Scherff appeared to suffer some sort of lower body injury before halftime that resulted in him being in some pain. That said, Scherff was able to return to play in the second half and played very well, which is really what everyone has come to expect from him in the NFL.
Much like Hockensen, in week three, former Hawkeye tight end, Noah Fant, had a surprisingly quiet week, totaling only 15 yards on two catches with zero touchdowns.
That said, his lack of productivity in the passing game didn’t seem to hurt the Denver Broncos as they ended up rolling the hapless New York Jets 26-0… I think it’s about time the Jets start drafting some Hawkeyes.
In post-game interviews, Fant received praise from head coach, Vic Fangio, and responded to that praise by throwing some back at George Kittle calling him “the best tight end in the league.”
"You ask the best tight end & best blocker in the league.. which is George Kittle.. you ask him every game 'how do you think you did?' and he will say it needs to be better."— Taylor Brooks (@TaylorBrooksTV) September 29, 2021
One Hawkeye to another‼️
Noah Fant praises George Kittle & chats about the TE's around him blocking. pic.twitter.com/y04yrEciUZ
Former Hawkeye defensive tackle, Daviyon Nixon, has been one of the best rookie defenders in the NFL this season… who would’ve saw that coming?
Oh yea ... about 90% of the people reading this post.
It’s really not a shock to many of us, but Nixon has already shown a lot through three games of work and as the season moves forward, you have to expect that he’ll only see more and more playing time and continue to be a presence on the inside. A defensive rookie of the year award may be a little bit of a stretch, but if Nixon continues to receive more snaps, there’s a real chance he could catch fire and steal the NFL spotlight.
Rookie DT Daviyon Nixon had played extremely well. Here gets great hand placement, stacks and sheds this guard and gets in on the play.— The 4 Man Rush (@4ourmanrush) September 29, 2021
Love seeing these young rookies come in and make day 1 impacts. pic.twitter.com/h8DH0nydxO
Former Hawkeye linebacker, Christian Kirksey, continues to cement himself as one of the few bright spots on the Houston Texans roster this season, after churning out 10 tackles (seven solo) in week three against the Carolina Panthers.
In addition, Kirksey has yet to miss a single tackle on the year and his ability in coverage has lifted the Texans defense immeasurably.
#FFIDP The linebackers who played 80% of the snaps and missed 0 tackles in Week 3:— Mike Woellert (@Mike_Woellert) September 29, 2021
The streak continues… Coming into week three, Tristan Wirfs had posted a 17-game streak of not allowing a single sack from an opposing defender and you can now make that an 18-game streak.
This week’s extension on the impressive run was made even more impressive due to the opponent, as Wirfs lined up on a number of snaps across from Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman, Aaron Donald, who quite possible might be the best defensive player in the NFL over the past two decades.
Wirfs continues to leave his mark on the league and the scary part is that if you were to compare his week one performance to now, there’s an argument that he’s already substantially improved his game in that short amount of time.
The Kansas Chiefs defense this season has faced the ire of their fan base — former Hawkeye Anthony Hitchens included — as the defense has struggled to get off the field at times.
That said, I decided to take my own look under the microscope to pinpoint where some of the fault lies and the reality is, Hitchens has actually played pretty well against the run and pass this season, despite what many might believe. It’s true that Hitchens is somewhat limited as an athlete and has been bitten on clever play designs that stretch that athleticism to its limits when isolated in man coverage or while working out to the flat.
Even with that being the case, Hitchens has shown more positive moments than negative and is certainly one of the lone bright spots on that defense.
Anthony Hitchens has been the Chiefs' best defender today.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) September 26, 2021
And he had a minor surgery on Monday.
BEN NIEMANN & NICK NIEMANN
The Niemann family got to experience a moment that very few families have ever been able to experience this past Sunday, as both Ben and Nick played at least one snap from their respective teams in the same game.
The odds of being good enough to make an active NFL 53-man roster are borderline astronomical and I can only imagine what the odds have to be for having two brothers make an active NFL 53-man roster. What a moment and hopefully they get an opportunity to experience more of them for seasons to come.
What a day! Proud of these two! pic.twitter.com/LvUh3h6BNd— Jay Niemann (@Coach_Niemann) September 26, 2021
Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, former Hawkeye offensive tackle and first round pick, Riley Reiff, has proven to be one of the best acquisitions of the offseason across the entire league.
Although Reiff’s main staple as an offensive tackle is being a plus run blocker, the most impressive aspect of his game through these first three weeks has been his stability in pass protection. It’s obviously a small sample size but, through three weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals may have struck gold with their signing of the 32-year-old NFL vet and I’m sure Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense are loving the addition.
Best OT Pass Block Win Rate Through Week 3 (ESPN)— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) September 28, 2021
Patrick Mekari, David Quessenberry-96%
Lane Johnson, Jedrick Wills-95%
Riley Reiff, Ty Sambrailo-94%
Duane Brown-Rob Havenstein, Morgan Moses-93%
Former Northern Illinois graduate transfer and Hawkeye defensive tackle, Jack Heflin, may be in store for some more playing time in the coming weeks.
As many of you know, Heflin performed very well this offseason as an undrafted free agent for the Green Bay Packers and successfully parlayed that performance into a spot on the active 53-man roster for the team. Well, in week four, it appears Heflin’s playing time is set to ramp up, as the Packers have just placed fellow defensive tackle, Tyler Lancaster, on the COVID-19 list.
Much like Golston and Nelson’s situation, it’s unfortunate to see an opportunity emerging from another player being out with COVID or an injury. However, it’s still an opportunity and a major one at that, as a good performance could propel Heflin into getting serious playing time the rest of the season.
#Packers put DL Tyler Lancaster on the COVID-19 list, team announces. They’ve also signed TE Tyler Davis off the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad.— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) September 28, 2021
JAKE GERVASE & COLE BANWART
Let’s go ahead and end this post on a positive note!
This past week, former Hawkeye defensive back, Jake Gervase, and former Hawkeye offensive guard, Cole Banwart, have officially been signed to an NFL practice squad!
For Gervase, he ended up resigning with the Los Angeles Rams, which makes sense as the Rams are the only team he’s played with since coming out of college. For Banwart, he decided not to reunite with his previous team, the Tennessee Titans, and instead signed with the New York Giants, which is an interesting location for him, as a lack of quality depth could potentially lend itself to Banwart getting a chance to hop on the active 53-man roster at some point down the road.
#Rams have signed DB Jake Gervase to their Practice Squad— James Layton (@RedZoneInsider) September 25, 2021