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Northwestern in the NFL, Week Four: Slater bends but doesn’t break

The NU alumni showed serious grit in this week’s NFL matchups.

Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Rashawn Slater blocks for quarterback Justin Herbert during an NFL game.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Week Four yielded good injury news for some former ‘Cats. Greg Newsome II (elbow) returned to the Browns’ secondary against the Ravens while Peter Skoronski (appendectomy) is getting closer to returning to practice for the Titans.

There were plenty of once-Wildcats who saw action for their teams this week. With that being said, let’s take a look at our NU alumni’s accomplishments on the field.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater and the Chargers’ offense were a little spotty in their divisional clash against Las Vegas. While they escaped with a 24-17 win, the third-year tackle allowed four pressures after giving up just three all season. Slater still hasn’t missed a snap or given up a sack this season, but it was an uncharacteristic performance for the typically consistent lineman. He was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury, so that could be the reason for his rough game.

The 2021 first-round pick will get a chance to recover during the Chargers’ upcoming bye week. Los Angeles will need Slater at full health when they host the Cowboys in what should be a shootout.

Week Five matchup: Bye

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome II returned to the Browns’ lineup after missing last week with an elbow injury. His presence wasn’t enough to reinforce the defense, as Cleveland was shredded by Lamar Jackson in a 28-3 loss. With Deshaun Watson out, rookie quarterback Dorian-Thompson Robinson barely completed half of his passes and threw three interceptions.

The Browns are still the NFL’s best defense in terms of yards allowed, but they’ve picked off opposing quarterbacks just once this season. Newsome can help take Cleveland to a new level by making more impact plays. He had an encouraging statline on Sunday, with a pass deflection and a tackle for loss. Newsome and the Browns will spend this week watching film and bracing for a tough opponent in the 49ers on Oct. 15.

Week Five matchup: Bye

Dean Lowry: Minnesota Vikings, DE

Lowry’s role is continuing to decrease, as he saw the field for just 31% of the Vikings’ defensive snaps in a 21-13 victory against the Panthers. He managed to get on the stat sheet this week: the eight-year veteran assisted on two tackles (one of them for a negative gain) and deflected a pass.

Still, Pro Football Focus shows that Lowry and Jaquelin Roy — his presumptive replacement — struggled mightily against Carolina’s offensive line:

It’s getting more and more clear that the Vikings simply missed on Lowry, who they signed to a two-year, $8.5 million contract this offseason in hopes of bolstering their pass rush. Minnesota will hold out hope for Lowry to contribute against a solid Chiefs offense on Sunday.

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

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB

The Browns didn’t get the result they wanted against Baltimore, but Walker Jr. had his best individual performance of the season. He played a season-high 41 defensive snaps and recorded nine tackles (six solo) as he patrolled the middle of the field.

As one of Cleveland’s five captains, Walker is a leader on the team who exemplifies sheer effort every time he suits up. He is looking more confident by the week as he continues to work back from a season-ending quad injury last year. Walker and his teammates will use their bye week as an opportunity to rest and recharge before facing the Niners.

Week Five matchup: Bye

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell returned to his special teams duties after admirably filling in for Newsome last week. He didn’t record any stats in five defensive snaps. If last week’s result proves anything, it’s that Mitchell can hold his own in the slot. For now, he will continue to back up Newsome and jump in if injuries arise in the secondary.

Week Five matchup: Bye

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

After contributing in some capacity every week, Skowronek was completely blanked in the Rams’ 29-23 overtime win over the Colts. He played his normal amount of snaps on offense (27%) and special teams (67%), but was unable to make a difference for Los Angeles. Skowronek has almost completely disappeared in Sean McVay’s scheme, but the Rams will need all hands on deck when they host the Eagles this weekend.

Week Five matchup: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OG

Hance saw the field for 10 offensive snaps after playing just one over the first three weeks of the season. He featured in the Jaguars’ jumbo packages on the way to a 23-7 win against the Falcons in London. Sixteen-year veteran Calais Campbell manhandled Hance at times, showing why he isn’t one of Jacksonville’s starting guards.

After going undrafted in 2019, Hance is on his seventh team. He and the Jaguars will look to notch a season-defining win against the Bills in front of the London fans in Week Five.

Week Five matchup: at Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week (or record any stats): Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Peter Skoronski (Tennessee Titans, appendectomy), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), 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)