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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 5: New faces enter the fold

Some NU alumni made their mark for the first time this season.

Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Peter Skoronski smiles during a practice.
Photo by Tennessee Titans

We’ve got some new NU alumni in the fold! Week Five saw many of our regular contributors take a rest on their bye, but other former ‘Cats stepped up in unexpected places. Let’s take a look at what they achieved in the NFL this weekend.

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski’s return to Tennessee’s O-Line after a three-week absence was much welcomed by his teammates. The rookie guard picked up where he left off in the season opener, protecting Ryan Tannehill without a penalty or sack allowed in the Titans’ 23-16 loss to the Colts. Skoronski had a difficult matchup in All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, but he held his own.

If Skoronski is able to stay healthy for the rest of the season, he should be a strong contender for All-Rookie honors. His presence immediately bolsters Tennessee’s entire line in both the pass and run. Skoronski and the Titans will look to rebound against the Ravens in London.

Week Six matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. CT)

Dean Lowry: Minnesota Vikings, DE

Lowry’s one contribution in the Vikings’ 27-20 loss came in the third quarter, when he helped bring down Isiah Pacheco to force a Chiefs’ fourth down. His stop didn’t end up mattering; Harrison Smith was called for pass interference, gifting Kansas City a first-and-10 on a drive that ended in a touchdown.

It’s the same story for Lowry and the 1-4 Vikings, week in and week out. They shoot themselves in the foot with porous defense and undisciplined offense, which has led to a league-worst turnover differential of minus nine. If Minnesota can’t right the ship against the Bears, they might think about becoming sellers at the Oct. 31 trade deadline.

Week Six matchup: at Chicago Bears (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek saw just one target in the Rams’ 23-14 loss to the Eagles. He was buried even further down Los Angeles’ depth chart with the return of star receiver Cooper Kupp. Nonetheless, Skowronek was able to contribute on special teams, recording a solo tackle.

The third-year receiver’s offensive playing time will likely remain paltry. Skowronek will stay ready in the event of an injury to a Rams receiver and continue to put in work on special times. Los Angeles faces the 1-4 Cardinals at home on Sunday afternoon.

Week Six matchup: vs. Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Adetomiwa Adebawore: Indianapolis Colts, DE

A new addition to this week’s column, Adebawore was active for the second straight week. The fourth-round rookie didn’t see any defensive action in the Colts’ 23-16 win, but he came in for six snaps on special teams. Perhaps Adebawore will get a chance in Indianapolis’ pass rush rotation in the near future.

Adebawore starred for NU’s defense last season, putting up five sacks and nine tackles for loss. His output earned him a third team All-Big Ten selection, and Indianapolis took a chance on his upside with the 110th selection in April. Adebawore only improved in his four years in the purple-and-white, and he will look to do the same as his first NFL season progresses.

Week Six matchup: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Earnest Brown IV: Los Angeles Rams, DE

Brown IV was active for the first time since the Rams’ season opener on Sept. 10. Los Angeles fell to Philadelphia in a 23-14 loss, but Brown managed to contribute in his eight defensive snaps. His PFF grade of 81.3 was the second-highest out of all Rams defenders as he helped stuff the run.

The Rams lost starting defensive lineman Bobby Brown III to a Grade 3 MCL sprain on Sunday, which could lead to more snaps for Brown IV. Drafted in the fifth round in 2021, Brown never put up gaudy sack numbers for NU, but he notched 8.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He will look to capitalize on a potentially expanded role against the Cardinals and get after quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

Week Six matchup: vs. Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OG

Hance saw some more offensive action in the Jaguars’ impressive 25-20 against the Bills. The undrafted lineman briefly filled in for left tackle Cam Robinson, who missed three snaps with an elbow injury. During that time, Hance helped clear a path for running back Travis Etienne as he galloped into the end zone to seal a Jacksonville win with three minutes remaining.

Hance has been an unexpected contributor in spot situations for the Jaguars. He’ll look to keep that momentum going at home against the Colts.

Week Six matchup: vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week (or record any stats): Rashawn Slater (Los Angeles Chargers, bye week), Greg Newsome II/Anthony Walker Jr./Cameron Mitchell (Cleveland Browns, bye week), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Tyler Lancaster (Denver Broncos, practice squad), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Godwin Igwebuike (Pittsburgh Steelers), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons), Trevor Siemian (New York Jets, practice squad)