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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 12: Offensive linemen hold it down

Slater and Skoronski had solid days for their NFL squads.

Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Chargers
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Another week in the NFL, another round of games for our NU alumni. Let’s see what the former ‘Cats contributed to their teams on Feast Week.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater had a solid game in the Chargers’ 20-10 loss to the Ravens, but his fellow O-linemen struggled to give Justin Herbert the time he needed in the pocket. As per usual, the third-year tackle played all 66 offensive snaps and continues to be the best lineman on an overall shaky unit.

Herbert got sacked three times and felt the pressure from Baltimore all night long. On fourth down with less than two minutes to go, Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet came screaming in on a blitz, getting to Herbert before he could react. He threw the ball away before Maulet brought him down, but the Chargers turned the ball over on downs as Slater and the O-line failed to pick up the extra rusher. Los Angeles now sits at 4-7, but Slater and his teammates will have a chance to right the ship against the lowly Patriots.

Week 13 matchup: at New England Patriots (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Typically Cleveland’s starting slot corner, Newsome moved out to the boundary to fill in for an injured Denzel Ward. He looked uncomfortable in the Browns’ 29-12 loss to the Broncos, struggling to guard receiver Courtland Sutton. The 6-foot-4 Sutton has a four-inch advantage on Newsome, and it showed Sunday afternoon.

Newsome was flagged for pass interference on the Broncos’ opening drive, moving Denver a whopping 34 yards down the field. Sutton also shook him at the top of his route for a 31-yard grab on third down. Overall, the third-year corner recorded seven tackles, five of which were solo, and a pass deflection. If Ward misses more time, Newsome will have to prove he can translate his elite play from the slot to the outside.

Week 13 matchup: at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski had yet another solid game at left guard in the Titans’ 17-10 win against the Panthers. In 29 pass-blocking snaps, the rookie didn’t surrender a single sack or pressure. Overall, Tennessee’s entire O-line gave up just one sack to the dynamic edge rusher Brian Burns.

Since missing three weeks early in the season after undergoing an appendectomy, Skoronski has shown why the Titans took him 11th overall in April. He’s given up just one sack and has been called for one penalty through eight games. Skoronski will be a foundational piece for Tennessee as it evaluates whether to buy or sell this offseason.

Week 13 matchup: vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek had yet another quiet week in the Rams’ 37-14 blowout win against the Cardinals. His only contribution wasn’t really a contribution at all — in the first quarter, he caught a screen pass on 3rd-and-9 but got stuffed for a loss of one, bringing the punt unit onto the field.

Over the span of 11 games, the third-year receiver has caught just four passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Skowronek continues to contribute on special teams as a gunner, but he hasn’t been in head coach Sean McVay’s plans with the emergence of rookie pass-catcher Puka Nacua. He’ll look to make an impact in any way he can at home against the Browns.

Week 13 matchup: vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Adetomiwa Adebawore: Indianapolis Colts, DE

Despite his limited playing time, Adebawore found a way to make a difference in the Colts’ 27-20 win against the Buccaneers. He and Tyquan Lewis took down Baker Mayfield in the third quarter to bring up 2nd-and-17 on a drive that ended in a Tampa Bay punt. With that half-sack, Adebawore now has 1.5 sacks in his last three games.

The rookie edge rusher saw the field for just 15 defensive snaps, but he made the most of his opportunities. Hopefully, the Colts will continue to reward his recent play with more playing time. Adebawore will look to get after fellow 2023 draftee Will Levis in Tennessee on Sunday.

Week 13 matchup: at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OL

Hance played just one offensive snap in the Jaguars’ 24-21 win against the Texans, but it was an important play. He missed a crucial block on a pitch to running back Travis Etienne, preventing him from getting into the end zone. It was an example of why he’s best as a backup offensive lineman.

The journeyman also played five special teams snaps, making his regular contributions to the kicking unit. He’ll aim for a better performance in his sporadic snaps on Monday night against the Joe Burrow-less Bengals.

Week 13 matchup: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Pittsburgh Steelers, RB

Igwebuike played 14 special teams snaps in the Steelers’ 16-10 win against the Bengals at home. He didn’t return any kicks, but he charged hard as a gunner during Pressley Harvin’s punts.

The Steelers opened the season with Anthony McFarland as their starting kick returner, but he was a healthy scratch on Sunday afternoon. This is a vote of confidence for Igwebuike’s veteran presence, as he has played for six NFL teams and the XFL’s Seattle Dragons since going undrafted in 2018. Igwebuike will stay ready for opportunities to return kicks against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.

Week 13 matchup: vs. Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Tyler Lancaster: Denver Broncos, DT

Lancaster was elevated from the Broncos’ practice squad for their 29-12 win against the Browns, seeing his first action since Week Six. In 18 defensive snaps, the run stuffer notched two solo tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Lancaster spent his first four pro seasons in Green Bay. He signed with the Raiders in 2022 but spent the season on the injured reserve before joining the Broncos this year. Lancaster has spent most of his time on Denver’s practice squad, but he’ll stay ready if they need him for their road trip to Houston.

Week 13 matchup: at Houston Texans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Anthony Walker Jr. (Cleveland Browns, hamstring), Cameron Mitchell (Cleveland Browns), Dean Lowry (Minnesota Vikings, torn pectoral), Joseph Jones (Tennessee Titans), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons), Trevor Siemian (New York Jets)