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Northwestern in the NFL week one: Newsome and Slater have impressive debuts

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Cleveland is Wildcat country now.

Los Angeles Chargers v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Well, it’s that time of the year again. With the NFL season kicking off this past weekend, it’s now time to check in on how former Northwestern Wildcats are performing in the NFL. Northwestern had a historic draft class last year, with both Rashawn Slater and Greg Newsome II being selected in the first round. Three additional 2020 ‘Cats made their way into NFL organizations. Let’s see how the former Wildcats are faring at the next level.

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB

It seems that Cleveland is the pipeline for Northwestern players. The Browns hold four former ‘Cats between the 53-man roster and practice squad, including Walker and Greg Newsome II as defensive starters.

Walker signed a one-year, three million dollar contract with Cleveland in the offseason and now holds the starting MLB spot. In his Browns debut (donning the number four), Walker finished with eight solo tackles and nine total. The Browns clearly have trust in the former Colt, who played 95% of defensive snaps, and his starting spot appears to be safe.

Week two matchup: vs. Houston Texans (12:00 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

The second of the Northwestern Browns who was starting on Sunday was their 2021 first round pick, Newsome. The rookie beat out Greedy Williams for starting privileges on the outside, and performed well. He ended the game with a single combined tackle, but for a corner who played 97% of defensive snaps, fewer tackles is usually a good thing.

According to Pro Football Focus, Newsome saw just one target and gave up an impressive four yards in coverage for the whole game facing one of the league’s best offenses.

The Browns defense fell to the mighty Chiefs in the second half, but Newsome certainly did his job.

Week two matchup: vs. Houston Texans (12:00 p.m. CT)

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

The second — well, first, if you’re going in order of who was picked — of Northwestern’s 2021 first-round picks is Slater, who started at LT for the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The rookie was thrown right into the fire by matching up with one of the league’s best defensive lines and particularly being responsible for Chase Young, a familiar face that Slater bested when the Wildcats played Ohio State in 2019, who has become one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the league.

Like 2019, Slater was able to neutralize the dominant Young in a way few are able to. According to CBS Sports, Slater didn’t allow as much as a QB pressure on passing situations. Based on his opening performance, it appears the Chargers have a special one in the former Wildcat.

Week two matchup: vs. Dallas Cowboys (3:25 p.m. CT)

Dean Lowry: Green Bay Packers, DE

This is Lowry’s sixth year in Green Bay and his third as a full-time starter. He signed a three-year, $20 million contract extension in 2019 and has yet to play up to the elevated standards the organization has for him.

In a lowly 38-3 season opening defeat by the New Orleans Saints, Lowry kept with the struggles of the entire team. He finished with three solo tackles and four total, without making any impact plays. He appeared in 61% of defensive snaps, which is down from where he opened a year ago. It’s possible that Lowry is potentially on his way out Green Bay if his lack of consistent production continues.

Week two matchup: vs. Detroit Lions (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Tyler Lancaster: Green Bay Packers, DE

Lancaster is the backup to Lowry this season for the Packers. He started three of the first four games in 2020 but lost his starting spot and saw his snaps go down as the season prolonged due to lack of consistent pocket pressure.

In the season opener, Lancaster played 47% of defensive snaps and, in that time, produced one solo tackle and two combined tackles. He is still sitting behind Lowry and Kingsley Keke in the depth chart, and will have to make the most of his snaps if he wants to slide back into a starting role.

Week two matchup: vs. Detroit Lions (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Justin Jackson: Los Angeles Chargers, RB

JJTBC won the preseason competition for the Chargers’ second-string running back job behind Austin Ekeler. This is Jackson’s fourth year for the Bolts and projects to be a complimentary piece for what looks to be a dynamic offense in LA. In the opener against the WFT, Jackson rushed once for five yards while playing 14% of offensive snaps and 52% of special teams snaps. Ekeler has been dealing with a nagging injury, so the Chargers will need Jackson to be ready in case he needs to take on a larger role.

Week two matchup: vs. Dallas Cowboys (3:25 p.m. CT)

Trevor Siemian: New Orleans Saints, QB

This is Siemian’s second year in the Saints’ organization, now working as the team’s third-string QB behind Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. It’s unlikely that the former Wildcat signal-caller will see the field this season, but he brings good depth to the organization and there is always a chance that a third-stringer will have to be desperately thrown into action.

Week two matchup: at Carolina Panthers (12:00 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Detroit Lions, RB

Igwebuike returned four kicks in his debut with the Lions, gaining 55 total yards in those four returns. Igwebuike is carving a role for himself on special teams while also being the third-string running back in Detroit. He did muff a kickoff though, so he must work on minimizing mistakes if he wants to stay in the league.

Week two matchup: at Green Bay Packers (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance, Cleveland Browns, OG

Hance appeared in three special teams snaps in Cleveland’s opening week loss to Kansas City. This is Hance’s second year on the Browns 53-man roster, and he will work as a backup offensive lineman on one of the best units in football.

Week two matchup: vs. Houston Texans (12:00 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek, Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek was selected in the seventh round by the Rams, but sadly suffered a fractured forearm during preseason practice that head coach Sean McVay reported will keep the rookie out four to six weeks on Aug. 18.

Week two matchup: at Indianapolis Colts (12:00 p.m. CT)

Mike Kafka, Kansas City Chiefs, QB Coach

Patrick Mahomes was really, really good. Again.

Week two matchup: at Baltimore Ravens (7:20 p.m. CT)

Practice squad players: John Raine (Falcons), Ifeadi Odenigbo (Browns), Earnest Brown IV (Rams), Joe Gaziano (Chargers), Blake Gallagher (Ravens)