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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 14: Newsome and the Browns make a postseason push

The ‘Cats are thriving at the Dawg Pound.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While NU prepares for their showdown in Las Vegas, the pro ‘Cats are gearing up for a playoff push. Let’s take a look at how these former Wildcats fared across the NFL.

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome had a career-best game in the Browns’ 31-27 win at home against the Jaguars. In addition to five solo tackles and a career-high four pass deflections, the third-year corner snagged his second interception of the season. In the fourth quarter, Trevor Lawrence lofted a pass down the sideline to Calvin Ridley, Newsome read the route the entire way and made a diving grab, picking Lawrence off for his third INT of the game.

As the year goes on, Newsome continues to prove why he was drafted in the first round in 2021. He has been the heart and soul of the Browns’ secondary, spurring them on with his infectious energy and penchant for celebrating splash plays. Cleveland now sits at 8-5, good for second in their division and fifth in the AFC playoff picture. Their postseason hopes will likely hinge on 38-year-old Joe Flacco’s play at quarterback, but Newsome will do the best he can to lead the defense to victory.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater didn’t have one of his better games in Los Angeles’ 24-7 loss to the Broncos. Despite finishing with the offense’s third-best PFF grade (79.2), he allowed his second sack of the season. It was another rough result for the Chargers, as they are now tied with the Raiders for last in the AFC West with a record of 5-8.

Slater will likely be protecting Easton Stick for the rest of the year, as Justin Herbert left the game with a fractured index finger on his throwing hand. The third-year tackle will continue to produce, but his team should be looking ahead to next season already.

Week 15 matchup: at Las Vegas Raiders (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski added another solid performance to his rookie campaign in the Titans’ 28-27 win over the Dolphins. He played all 71 offensive snaps, bolstering a line that surrendered just one sack all game. Skoronski’s protection was vital to Will Levis’ second-half success, as the quarterback went 14 of 22 for 200 yards and a passing touchdown in that span.

Despite their electrifying Monday night win, the Titans still sit at 5-8, good for last in the AFC South. Their hopes for the playoffs might be dashed, but Skoronski will look to finish an excellent rookie season with a strong few weeks.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Houston Texans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek didn’t record any receiving statistics in the Rams’ 37-31 loss to the Ravens in overtime. He played just six offensive snaps, and his most eventful play was getting leveled on a block by linebacker Patrick Queen. However, he did make two solo tackles while playing 30 special teams snaps.

In the first quarter, Skowronek pushed Devin Duvernay out of bounds on a punt return. His second takedown came in the final frame, when he tackled Tylan Wallace at Baltimore’s 28-yard line, again as a gunner on the punt team. It’s clear that Skowronek hasn’t been in the Rams’ offensive plans this season, but he’ll continue to contribute in any way he can.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Washington Commanders (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB

Walker played a vital role in the Browns’ unexpected win against Jacksonville. He recorded five combined tackles (three solo) on 52 defensive snaps and forced a fumble for the Jaguars’ third turnover on the day. In the third quarter, Walker grabbed receiver Parker Washington and ripped the ball from his arms. He immediately fell on it to give the Browns possession on Jacksonville’s 22-yard line, setting up a touchdown on the other end to put his team up 21-7.

All in all, Walker finished with a PFF grade of 81.9, which was fifth-best on Cleveland’s defensive unit. It’s been a great two weeks for the linebacker, who was nominated for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award last Tuesday.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Adetomiwa Adebawore: Indianapolis Colts, DE

Adebawore went backward in the Colts’ 34-14 loss to the Bengals, but it wasn’t his fault. The rookie lineman’s only statistical contribution was a solo tackle because he played just five defensive snaps and six special teams snaps. In the third quarter, he pushed Ja’Marr Chase out of bounds and allowed just one yard.

In his last five games, Adebawore has seen the field for just 30% of Indianapolis’ defensive snaps on average. He’s still managed to get on the stat sheet in every one of those appearances. Drafted in the fourth round in April, Adebawore is an unfinished product but has plenty of potential that he’ll look to flaunt against the Steelers on Saturday.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OL

Hance had a rough showing in the Jaguars’ 31-27 loss to Cleveland, to say the least. He was thrust into action following an injury to second-string tackle Ezra Cleveland, and he surrendered a whopping eight pressures in 52 snaps. With that being said, he had to guard All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett for most of the game. That’s a tall task for an undrafted lineman whose natural position is guard, not tackle.

Despite his valiant effort, Hance finished with a PFF grade of 18.3, including a pass-blocking grade of 0.0. Yikes. On Sunday night, the wily veteran will look to keep a physical edge that prompted Garrett to complain about a missed holding call.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 7:20 p.m. CT)

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell returned to the Browns’ secondary after missing the last four weeks with a hamstring injury. The rookie recorded two combined tackles (one solo) and deflected a pass in his second start of the season. On a crucial fourth-quarter possession for the Jaguars, Mitchell batted a throw intended for Evan Engram. That deflection would turn into a turnover on downs for Jacksonville, helping the Browns secure the win at home.

It’s no small feat for a rookie corner to return from injured reserve and excel while playing a career-high 57 defensive snaps. But Mitchell was up to the task, and he’ll be vital to Cleveland’s defense for as long as Denzel Ward continues to miss time.

Week 15 matchup: vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Pittsburgh Steelers, RB

Igwebuike made some important contributions in the Steelers’ 21-18 loss to New England. He started Pittsburgh’s first drive with a 27-yard return, setting the offense up for an eventual field goal. To begin the second half, he took Chad Ryland’s kickoff to the 17-yard line.

The veteran back also showed off his acting skills in the second quarter, flopping to the ground after making contact with Patriots special teamer Brenden Schooler. Igwebuike drew a flag that pushed New England back to their 11-yard line, prompting a punt a few plays later. He’ll look to contribute to Pittsburgh’s playoff push in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.

Week 15 matchup: at Indianapolis Colts (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Trevor Siemian (New York Jets), Joseph Jones (Tennessee Titans), Dean Lowry (Minnesota Vikings, torn pectoral), Tyler Lancaster (Denver Broncos), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons)