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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 15: ‘Cats shine in primetime, and a rookie starter in the Pro Bowl

And look out for another Wildcat-filled matchup on Christmas Day.

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Rashawn Slater’s absence didn’t stop former Wildcats from continuing to turn heads across the NFL. Here’s a look at how they fared in Week 15.

Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers

The big guy wasn’t able to take the field this past week, but that didn’t stop him from making headlines, as the Northwestern product was selected as a Pro Bowl starter despite being a mere rookie in the NFL.

Just an incredible accomplishment and an incredible start to Slater’s promising professional career.

Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

For the first time all season, Jackson was the Chargers’ leading rusher in Week 15. He racked up a season-high 86 yards on 13 carries in a 34-28 overtime loss to the Chiefs. Jackson created a slew of chunk plays to launch crucial scoring drives. Those big runs helped Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher outpace Austin Ekeler’s production and earn more snaps as the game went on. With Ekeler now on the COVID-19 reserve list and a favorable game script against the Texans coming up, JJTBC could garner even more snaps next Sunday.

Ben Skowronek, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Skowronek put up career-high offensive totals on Tuesday night. Playing just 21 offensive snaps, the former Northwestern-turned-Notre Dame wideout caught four passes for 42 yards in the Rams’ 20-10 victory over the Seahawks. He was second on the team in both categories behind superstar Cooper Kupp. Skowronek also saw the field for 11 snaps on special teams.

Tyler Lancaster, DL, Green Bay Packers

Lancaster rebounded from a few weeks of limited playing time to put together a season-best performance in the Packers’ 31-30 road win over the Ravens. Kenny Clark’s absence thrust Lancaster into a starting role, and he didn’t disappoint. The former Wildcat totaled two pressures, three run stops, and a season-high four tackles on 25 defensive snaps. The performance earned him a Pro Football Focus grade of 81.1, which was the second-highest mark of all Packers defenders.

Blake Hance, OL, Cleveland Browns

With Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills both out, Hance started at tackle and played every offensive snap against the Raiders. Hance surrendered three pressures and struggled as a run-blocker. But he did an excellent job of protecting Nick Mullens on a go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, as his blocking (Hance is No. 62) allowed the quarterback to extend the play and find Harrison Bryant in the end zone for a six-yard score.

Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Cleveland Browns

After missing last week’s game against the Ravens due to a positive COVID-19 test result, Walker returned to action in a 16-14 loss to the Raiders. He racked up three tackles and anchored the linebacking corps for the COVID-ravaged Browns defense. While Walker only played 61 percent of defensive snaps – his lowest snap percentage of the season – it was likely because he was activated from the COVID reserve list just three days before the game.

Godwin Igwebuike, RB/KR, Detroit Lions

The Lions shockingly kept the potent Cardinals offense in check throughout their 30-12 victory, so Igwebuike didn’t see much action on kickoffs. While he played 68% of special teams snaps, he only returned one kick for 17 yards. On 12 offensive snaps, Igwebuike earned two carries and caught two passes for 11 yards.

Joe Gaziano, DL, Los Angeles Chargers

After putting up career-high numbers in a blowout win over the Giants last week, Gaziano took on a reduced role against the Chiefs. Because the game went down to the wire, the Chargers heavily relied on their starters throughout the second half. Consequently, Gaz’s defensive snap count was cut in half. He played 21% of all defensive plays and saw the field for just five special teams snaps.

Dean Lowry, DE, Green Bay Packers

Sunday was a relatively quiet day for Lowry, who finished with a tackle and a pass deflection against the Ravens. However, he played a season-high 53 defensive snaps (76 percent), which speaks volumes to how well Lowry has established his starting role on this championship-caliber defense.

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers (COVID-19 reserve list); Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns (injured); Trevor Siemian, QB, New Orleans Saints; Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Cleveland Browns; John Raine, TE, Atlanta Falcons; Joe Jones, LB, Tennessee Titans; Blake Gallagher, LB, Baltimore Ravens; Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Indianapolis Colts; Earnest Brown IV, DE, Los Angeles Rams.