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Northwestern in the NFL, Week Six: Defense, defense and more defense

Greg Newsome II led the Browns to a shocking upset victory.

Greg Newsome II, Mike Ford, and Grant Delpit celebrate a defensive stop during the Cleveland Browns’ 19-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023.
Photo by Getty Images

Week Six was an eventful one for our former Wildcats. Let’s see how the NU alumni made their mark on the NFL during this midseason slate of games.

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome II and the Browns shocked the NFL on Sunday, handing the previously undefeated 49ers their first loss of the season. Newsome finished with four tackles and a pass breakup, disrupting Brock Purdy’s rhythm on a rainy afternoon in Cleveland. Purdy went just 4-for-15 with an interception when targeting the trio of Newsome, Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson Jr.

The 2021 first-rounder definitely kept receipts:

The Browns have the right to stake their claim as the best defense in the NFL at the moment. They’ve allowed just 1,002 total yards all season, over 550 yards better than the second-place Ravens. Newsome and the Browns’ secondary will next look to lock down Gardner Minshew and the Colts’ offense in Indianapolis.

Week Seven matchup: at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater struggled in the Chargers’ 20-17 loss to the Cowboys on Monday night, allowing a team-high six pressures and one QB hit. It was an uncharacteristic performance made more concerning by the fact he only matched up against All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons once all game. Down seven in the fourth quarter, an offensive holding call on Slater set up second-and-24 and an eventual punt, representing a missed opportunity to score in a crucial moment.

Although he didn’t enter the game with an injury designation, it’s possible that Slater is still nursing the ankle ailment that limited him in practice several weeks ago. The third-year tackle will face a formidable Kansas City defensive front led by Chris Jones on Sunday afternoon.

Week Seven matchup: at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

The Titans took a tough 24-16 loss against the Ravens in London, but Skoronski looked solid in his second game back from an appendectomy. He finished with a PFF grade of 65.7, which was fourth-highest among Tennessee’s offensive players. Skoronski’s highlight play came in the third quarter when he threw a great block after slipping and getting back up to clear the way for a Derrick Henry rushing TD.

Skoronski finished the contest having given up two pressures, but he still hasn’t allowed a sack in three games this season. He and the Titans will use the bye week to prepare for a matchup against the Falcons on Oct. 29.

Week Seven matchup: Bye

Dean Lowry: Minnesota Vikings, DE

Lowry had another quiet day in the Vikings’ 19-13 win against the Bears, recording two combined tackles but failing to disrupt the quarterback in any way. Minnesota escaped with their second victory of the season but still could look to sell at the trade deadline. Lowry is definitely a candidate to either be traded or cut.

Expect Lowry to continue ceding snaps to tackle Khyiris Tonga as his Vikings tenure potentially comes to a close. The Vikings are slated to face the 5-1 49ers on Monday night.

Week Seven matchup: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB

Walker Jr. made a solo tackle before leaving in the third quarter of the Browns’ upset win with a head injury. He was officially ruled out with a concussion by the end of the game, and his status for Cleveland’s game against the Colts is in doubt.

Since being drafted by the Colts as a fifth-round selection in 2017, Walker has notched 318 solo tackles and 25 tackles for loss in 78 career games. He has made his mark on Cleveland’s defense in his second season with the team, being named one of five captains. Walker will look to clear protocol in time for a homecoming against his former team.

Week Seven matchup: at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OG

Hance saw the field for a season-high 41 offensive snaps in Jacksonville’s decisive 37-20 victory against the Colts. He filled in for right guard Brandon Scherff, who exited the game with an ankle injury.

Hance’s PFF grade of 54.9 was fourth-lowest among the Jaguars’ offensive starters, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For the most part, he held his own against an Indianapolis interior line spearheaded by All-Pro tackle DeForest Buckner. The Jags have a short week — if Scherff can’t go against the Saints on Thursday night, Hance will make his first official start of the season.

Week Seven matchup: at New Orleans Saints (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Tyler Lancaster: Denver Broncos, NT

Lancaster was activated from the Broncos’ practice squad before their 19-8 loss to the Chiefs on Thursday night. He played 13 defensive snaps, mainly against the Kansas City run. The nose tackle was able to get on the stat sheet; he assisted on a tackle to bring down Kadarius Toney for a two-yard loss in the third quarter.

Undrafted in 2018, Lancaster recorded 101 total tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss in three seasons at NU. The Broncos, who are now scuttling at 1-5, could keep him on their active roster as they look for a defensive spark leading up to their matchup against the Packers.

Week Seven matchup: vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week (or record any stats): Ben Skowronek (Los Angeles Rams), Cameron Mitchell (Cleveland Browns), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Godwin Igwebuike (Pittsburgh Steelers), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons), Trevor Siemian (New York Jets)