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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 15: Siemian melts in Miami heat

Not a great relief appearance for the Jets QB.

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

Week 15 of the NFL season has come and gone, and an unprecedented 11 NU alumni saw the field for their respective teams. Let’s take a look at what the former ‘Cats accomplished on the gridiron.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater played the worst game of his young career in a 63-21 drubbing at the hands of the Raiders. He gave up two sacks to defensive end Malcolm Koonce, both of which ended in fumbles. In the first quarter, Koonce bent around him for a strip sack that would set the Raiders up for a touchdown drive. Two quarters later, he bent around Slater for another strip sack that was returned by nose tackle John Jenkins for six.

The Chargers are now 5-9 and soundly at the bottom of the AFC West. With Justin Herbert out for the rest of the season, Slater will have to protect Easton Stick for the next few weeks. He will look to bounce back at home against the Bills on Saturday night.

Week 16 matchup: vs. Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 7 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome had yet another stellar performance in the Browns’ 20-17 win against the Bears. He finished with four solo tackles — two of them for loss — and a pair of pass deflections. He had a chance to grab his third interception in six weeks, but he let an errant pass by Justin Fields slip through his hands late in the second quarter.

The Browns now hold an impressive 9-5 record, tied with formidable teams like the Chiefs. Newsome has played a huge role in Cleveland’s defensive success, and he’s only continuing to gain momentum. He has a chance to earn his first Pro Bowl selection as one of the league’s best slot corners.

Week 16 matchup: at Houston Texans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski struggled in pass protection during the Titans’ 19-16 loss to the Texans in overtime. He was beat multiple times by Houston D-tackles Maliek Collins and Khalil Davis, and the Titans gave up seven sacks as a team. Skoronski’s most egregious play came at a crucial moment — with 33 seconds left in regulation, he got tossed aside by Collins and let Will Levis get crushed, forcing Tennessee to punt.

Like his time at Northwestern, the rookie guard has been excellent in the run game. But Skoronski must improve his balance when it comes to keeping Levis upright in the pocket. He’ll look to return to form against a league-average Seahawks pass-rush unit.

Week 16 matchup: vs. Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell made a massive impact in limited action in the Browns’ 20-17 win against Chicago. On a crucial fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, he tripped up Justin Fields behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a turnover on downs. That gave Mitchell his first NFL sack, and the Browns would score 10 unanswered points after that play to secure the win.

The fifth-round rookie has been an excellent addition to Cleveland’s secondary rotation. He’ll stay ready to make plays against the Texans, who are in the thick of the AFC playoff race at 8-6.

Week 16 matchup: at Houston Texans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Trevor Siemian: New York Jets, QB

Siemian had a rough showing in the Jets’ 30-0 loss to the Dolphins. He went 14-for-26 with two interceptions and a lost fumble in relief of a concussed Zach Wilson. Both of his picks came on errant deep shots in the second half as he tried to put points on the board.

In two appearances this season, Siemian has completed 48.7% of his passes for 176 yards without a touchdown. He’s also managed to cough up the ball four times. If Wilson can’t clear concussion protocol in time, Siemian will likely get another chance as signal-caller against the Commanders.

Week 16 matchup: vs. Washington Commanders (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek left his typical mark on special teams in Los Angeles’ 28-20 against the Commanders. He made two tackles on 18 snaps as a gunner — the first came in the final play of the first half, when he brought down tight end John Bates at Washington’s 39-yard line. Skowronek made his second tackle during the Commanders’ first punt of the third quarter, when he stuffed Byron Pringle at Washington’s 25-yard line.

The third-year receiver played just three offensive snaps, so it’s clear that his role remains on the special teams unit. He’s remained focused on his job as a gunner, despite the fact that his timeshare in the offense has dwindled. Skowronek will look to impact the game in any way he can on Thursday night against the Saints.

Week 16 matchup: vs. New Orleans Saints (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Pittsburgh Steelers, RB

Igwebuike had his best game of the season in the Steelers’ 30-13 loss to the Colts. He returned the game’s opening kick to Pittsburgh’s 38-yard line, but the offense couldn’t get anything going. In the second quarter, he brought a kick back to the team’s 36-yard line, but that drive ended in an interception.

The veteran running back set his team up for success twice, but the Steelers have had their fair share of offensive woes in the last few weeks. Igwebuike will look to give new starting quarterback Mason Rudolph some help in the form of advantageous field position on Saturday against the Bengals.

Week 16 matchup: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT)

Joe Gaziano: Atlanta Falcons, DE

A new addition to this week’s column, Gaziano notched his first tackle of the season in Atlanta’s 9-7 loss to the Panthers. He brought down Miles Sanders in the second quarter after a three-yard run, bringing up 2nd-and-7 for Carolina. Gaziano played 22 defensive snaps and came in for the Falcons’ extra-point attempt in the second quarter.

Undrafted in 2020, Gaziano recorded 30 sacks and 10 forced fumbles, both of which are the most in Northwestern history. He was selected to the second-team All-Big Ten team in 2017 and 2018, and received first-team honors in 2019. Gaziano will look to build on his performance on Sunday afternoon against Gardner Minshew and the Colts.

Week 16 matchup: vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OL

After last week’s deplorable performance, Hance didn’t play nearly as much in Jacksonville’s 23-7 loss to the Ravens. He saw the field for five offensive snaps and three special teams snaps, entering for jumbo packages and field goal attempts.

Though he isn’t a starter, Hance is still a valuable member of the Jaguars’ offensive line. He’s been vital in a season full of minor injuries for the team’s pass protectors. Hance will stay ready to contribute in a road showdown against the Buccaneers.

Week 16 matchup: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Tyler Lancaster: Denver Broncos, DT

Lancaster saw his first NFL action since Week 11 in the Broncos’ 42-17 loss to the Lions. He didn’t record any statistics, but he played 11 defensive snaps as a run stopper. This was his third game of the season.

The veteran tackle notched 18.5 tackles for loss in three years as a Wildcat, including nine as a senior in 2017. He’ll look to stuff the Patriots’ run game at home on Sunday night.

Week 16 matchup: vs. New England Patriots (Sunday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Earnest Brown IV: Los Angeles Rams, DE

Brown was featured as a rotational lineman during the Rams’ 28-20 win over the Commanders. He played nine defensive snaps but did not record any statistics.

This was Brown’s first game since Week Seven and his fifth appearance of the season. The second-year defender recorded seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in his four years at Northwestern. Brown will look to impact the game in any way he can during Thursday night’s matchup against the Saints.

Week 16 matchup: vs. New Orleans Saints (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Anthony Walker Jr. (Cleveland Browns, knee), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), Joseph Jones (Tennessee Titans), Dean Lowry (Minnesota Vikings, torn pectoral), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve)