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Northwestern in the NFL, Week Eight: Wildcats thrive in expanded roles across the league

What an awesome week to be a Pro ‘Cat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Week eight had it all: big plays, first career catches and a victory over Tom Brady. Here’s a look at how Northwestern alumni performed in the NFL this past week.

Trevor Siemian: New Orleans Saints, QB

Not only did Siemian play on Sunday, he thrust himself into the national spotlight with a solid performance in the Saints’ upset win over the Buccaneers. After starting quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the second quarter, Siemian completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in a 36-27 win over the defending Super Bowl champions.

Even though Winston is out, it’s unclear as to whether Siemian will keep the starting job for the remainder of the year. Taysom Hill hasn’t practiced since Week 5 due to a concussion, so his eventual return will force Sean Payton to make a tough decision. Regardless, Siemian being the crucial, swing player on a Saints team that is right in the thick of the NFC playoff picture remains a possibility — a notion that would have seemed like a pipe dream just days ago.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Against a tough Patriots front, Slater only allowed two pressures and did not give up a sack. While the right side of the Chargers offensive line faltered late in the 27-24 loss, the first-round pick stood tall against the pass rush and gave Justin Herbert time to make crucial throws.

Slater continues to prove that he is already one of the NFL’s elite left tackles. In Week 9, he’ll face off against Derek Barnett and the Eagles’ defensive line — which just racked up six sacks against the Lions.

Dean Lowry: Green Bay Packers, DE

Although Lowry only played about half of Green Bay’s defensive snaps, he racked up three tackles and a sack against the Cardinals, as 2021 is shaping up to be a career year for Lowry. The former ‘Cat has already matched his career-high for sacks in a season (three) with nine games to go.

Lowry’s success has helped spark the Packers’ defensive resurgence this year, and he can add to his growing streak of solid performances with a matchup against the Chiefs on the horizon for next week.

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

With top corner Denzel Ward out against the Steelers, Newsome II took on even more responsibility. Playing 92% of all defensive snaps, Newsome II broke up a pass and totaled three tackles.

Since returning from a calf injury two weeks ago, Newsome II has reestablished himself as a key piece in the Browns secondary. He faces a tough task next week against the Bengals and their loaded receiving core.

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, ILB

Walker Jr. played every defensive snap in Week 8, finishing second on the Browns with eight total tackles. He also deflected a pass. The fifth-year pro continues to solidify himself as a key cog in the Browns’ defense as Cleveland enters an increasingly important stretch of midseason games after falling to a record of 4-4 on the season.

Justin Jackson: Los Angeles Chargers, RB

Jackson ripped off one of Week 8’s most exciting plays with a 75-yard run in the second quarter, and though he didn’t quite reach the end zone, his long run set up star receiver Keenan Allen for a touchdown.

Since JJTBC left the game with a quad injury soon after, he finished with just three carries for 79 yards. The injury isn’t significant, so Jackson may earn more snaps behind Austin Ekeler if he is able to play against the Eagles next week.

Blake Hance: Cleveland Browns, OL

Due to Jedrick Willis’s return from injury, it seemed like the Browns would take away Hance’s offensive snaps after he replaced Wills at tackle for three weeks, but Jack Conklin’s in-game injury forced Hance back into action once again. Playing 66% of the offensive snaps, the former Wildcat gave up four pressures and a sack against a fierce Steelers’ pass rush.

With Conklin set to miss multiple weeks, Hance is back in the offensive fold as the starting right tackle. He’ll have another opportunity to put his positional versatility to good use against Sam Hubbard and the Bengals next Sunday.

Godwin Igwebuike: Detroit Lions, RB

Igwebuike had his best game of the season in a 44-6 blowout loss against the Eagles. The former Northwestern safety racked up 184 total yards — 126 of which came on kick returns (yes, we count those if it’s Godwin). From scrimmage, Igwebuike rushed for 18 yards on three carries and caught three passes for 40 yards.

Sunday marked Igwebuike’s first true dose of offensive action as a pro, and he made the most of his 11 snaps. When starting running back Jamaal Williams returns from injury, it will be interesting to see if the Lions occasionally deploy Igwebuike as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

In a win over the Texans, Skowronek played a season-high 20 snaps on offense and hauled in all three of his targets for 30 yards. Like Igwebuike, Skowronek hadn’t touched the ball as an offensive playmaker until this past Sunday. He could be in line for more opportunities as a pass-catcher if the Rams decide to move veteran wideout DeSean Jackson before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Tyler Lancaster: Green Bay Packers, DE

Lancaster played 25% of defensive snaps and recorded a tackle. He also played 32% of Green Bay’s snaps on special teams.

Joe Jones: Tennessee Titans, OLB

Jones played a season high 25 snaps on special teams and totaled two combined tackles in a 34-31 win over the Colts.

‘Cats that didn’t play or record stats this week: Joe Gaziano, Los Angeles Chargers; Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cleveland Browns; Ibraheim Campbell, Indianapolis Colts; John Raine, Atlanta Falcons; Earnest Brown IV, Los Angeles Rams; Blake Gallagher, Baltimore Ravens.