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Northwestern in the NFL, Week Four: Former Wildcats shine under the lights of Monday Night Football

Despite several injuries, the Pro ‘Cats played key roles in wins for their squads.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Northwestern had an uncharacteristically poor performance – yes, even for this season – against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a myriad of Pat Fitzgerald’s protégés excelled on the NFL gridiron this past weekend.

Below is a summary of how NU alumni performed at the next level in week four – many as recently as last night.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater continues to be at the cream of the crop among not just rookies, but also all offensive linemen. The 2021 13th overall pick has yet to miss an offensive snap for the Chargers and still has given up zero sacks or committed any penalties.

What Slater is doing should not be taken for granted. He’s already been battle-tested by opposing defenders like Chase Young, Demarcus Lawrence, Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, yet hasn’t been intimidated whatsoever, earning the praise from top offensive line analysts and coaches.

Slater’s matchup against Myles Garrett this Sunday will be a major storyline when the Chargers host the Cleveland Browns in a matchup of two AFC powerhouses. So far, though, Slater is certainly a top contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year and has been a catalyst for Los Angeles’ 3-1 start.

Justin Jackson: Los Angeles Chargers, RB

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler had a monster night against the Raiders, tallying 145 total yards and two touchdowns. However, Jackson also provided a boost when supplanting Ekeler, especially when the latter momentarily went down with an injury in the first quarter.

Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher was swarmed in the ground game, as he posted -4 rushing yards on three carries. However, Jackson amassed four receptions for 17 yards, catching all four of his targets. Moreover, he was especially important during the first drive of the game, as his seven-yard catch inside the red zone moved the chains and ultimately led to a Chargers touchdown.

The player affectionately known as JJTBC is still somewhat splitting RB2 duties with rookie Larry Rountree III, but if the NU alum can keep up his performance from last night, he should be poised to earn more touches.

Joe Gaziano: Los Angeles Chargers, DL

In his third game this season, Gaziano posted one tackle – though it could hardly have come at a more opportune time.

With the Chargers leading 28-14 and under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Raiders QB Derek Carr took off to scramble, but Gaziano grabbed hold of Carr and limited the run to just one yard. On the following play, Carr was intercepted by Chargers safety Derwin James.

As Joey Bosa would say, maybe Carr was so “shook” by Gaziano that he threw an INT. Causation or correlation? Who can know for sure.

Dean Lowry: Green Bay Packers, DE

Lowry and the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Pro ‘Cat accumulated two total tackles while playing 63% of defensive snaps as well as 36% of special teams snaps.

The sixth-year defensive end may not necessarily stuff the stat sheet – he’s yet to record a sack this year – but he is certainly a staple of Green Bay’s pass rush.

Godwin Igwebuike: Detroit Lions, RB

In somewhat of a homecoming for Igwebuike, the Lions traveled to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears. While Detroit fell 24-14, Igewbuike played 71% of special teams snaps. He’s also shown the propensity to return kicks, as he did so in the Lions’ first two games this year.

Blake Hance: Cleveland Browns, OL

Hance didn’t see any offensive snaps in the Browns’ win over the Minnesota Vikings, but he did suit up for two special teams snaps: kicker Chase McLaughin’s two field goals. As detailed earlier, Hance and Cleveland will have the chance to rekindle their Purple Pride this upcoming weekend as the Browns will encounter the red-hot (possibly literally, with lightning delaying yesterday’s game) Chargers.

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

The once-NU receiver has yet to play any snaps alongside Matthew Stafford on offense, but he did see action on 54% of Sean McVay’s special teams snaps. Interestingly enough, Skowronek posted two tackles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week three – maybe that’s the recipe that the Rams need to get back to their winning ways as they venture into Seattle for a tenacious battle with the Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns (Calf injury); Tyler Lancaster, Green Bay Packers (COVID-19 List); Anthony Walker Jr., Cleveland Browns (Injured Reserve); Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cleveland Browns; Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints; Blake Gallagher, Baltimore Ravens; John Raine, Atlanta Falcons; Earnest Brown IV, Los Angeles Rams; Joe Jones, Tennessee Titans