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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 16: Slater returns to form

The All-Pro-caliber tackle is as staunch as ever.

Buffalo Bills v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

With Week 16 of the NFL season in the books, it’s clear that some ‘Cats are making the most of their time in the pros. Let’s dive into how NU alums are performing on their respective squads.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater had a bounce-back performance in the Chargers’ 24-22 loss to the Bills. In 70 offensive snaps played, the tackle didn’t give up a single pressure. Better yet, his PFF grade of 76.9 was second-best among Los Angeles’ offensive players.

It’s been tough sledding for the Chargers, who are just one of three AFC teams with double-digit losses. Nonetheless, Slater has battled through nagging injuries to protect both Justin Herbert and Easton Stick in the pocket. He’ll look to neutralize Denver’s pass rush in a divisional showdown on Sunday afternoon.

Week 17 matchup: at Denver Broncos (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome played a quiet game on the stat sheet during the Browns’ 36-22 win over the Texans. He recorded two tackles (one solo) and a pass deflection while playing just 73% of Cleveland’s defensive snaps. Listed at 192 pounds, the third-year corner has had some issues bringing down ball-carriers. With 30 seconds to go in the first half, Newsome opted to ram into tight end Dalton Schultz rather than wrapping up, allowing the pass catcher to slip by for a first down.

Luckily, his teammates bailed him out one play later after Case Keenum threw his first interception of the day. Newsome has been an electrifying presence for Cleveland’s defense, but his less-than-sound tackling could come back to bite him in a crucial postseason moment. He’ll continue his Pro Bowl-caliber season on Thursday night against the floundering Jets.

Week 17 matchup: vs. New York Jets (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski experienced all the highs and lows of being a rookie lineman during the Titans’ 20-17 loss to the Seahawks. Late in the first quarter, he came across the line for a trap block that freed a lane for Derrick Henry. He had some more highlight plays blocking out front on screens throughout the game.

Despite his success in the run game, Skoronski had a crucial slip-up in the final frame of action. With just 20 seconds left for Tennessee to drive down the field, the rookie let Leonard Williams bully him and collapse the pocket. Before Skoronski could recover, Dre’Mont Jones came screaming around the edge to sack Will Levis. That lost yardage was simply too much to overcome as the Titans fell to 5-10.

Week 17 matchup: at Houston Texans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Trevor Siemian: New York Jets, QB

Siemian made his first start of the season during the Jets’ 30-28 win over the Commanders. His statline certainly could’ve been worse, as he went 27-of-49 with a touchdown and an interception. However, the Jets punted in five of their seven second-half possessions, almost blowing the 27-7 lead they held entering halftime.

The 32-year-old added 18 yards on four scrambles but lost his fifth fumble in three games. He managed to do just enough to secure the win for the Jets, even though it wasn’t a particularly convincing victory. Siemian is in line to start his second consecutive game in Week 17 with Zach Wilson still in concussion protocol.

Week 17 matchup: at Cleveland Browns (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell played his typical relief role in the Browns’ 36-22 victory in Houston. He made a solo tackle in the fourth quarter, bringing down veteran receiver Robert Woods after a two-yard gain. Mitchell played 61% of Cleveland’s defensive snaps as he subbed in for starters when they needed a rest.

In 11 games played, Mitchell has recorded 13 combined tackles, two pass deflections, and a sack. The fifth-round rookie has been a pleasant surprise for the Browns, who continue to produce effective players in the secondary. Mitchell will continue the hunt for his first NFL interception against Trevor Siemian on Thursday night.

Week 17 matchup: vs. New York Jets (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Adetomiwa Adebawore: Indianapolis Colts, DE

Adebawore had another quiet output during the Colts’ 29-10 loss to the Falcons. He played just 15 defensive snaps and six more on special teams, failing to get on the stat sheet. With the Colts in search of a playoff spot, Adebawore’s immediate development hasn’t been the team’s priority.

To date, Adebawore has notched 1.5 sacks, four QB hits, and one tackle for loss. His production shouldn’t be discounted, considering he’s played just 132 defensive snaps all season. Adebawore will look to make a larger impact at home against the Raiders and Aidan O’Connell, a fellow rookie who has been very skittish in the pocket.

Week 17 matchup: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek played a particularly quiet game during the Rams’ 30-22 win over the Saints. He had his first day without a catch or tackle on special teams since Week Nine. In fact, Skowronek only saw the field for one offensive snap — his fewest all season.

These days, the third-year receiver’s best bet at recording statistics is on special teams as a gunner. Even then, Skowronek has been rendered all but invisible in the Rams’ offensive scheme. He’ll attempt to make a difference on the road against the Giants.

Week 17 matchup: at New York Giants (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Pittsburgh Steelers, RB

Igwebuike had an uneventful day during the Steelers’ 34-11 loss to the Bengals. For the first time since Week 11, he didn’t get the chance to return a kickoff. He still managed to see the field as a gunner, playing half of Pittsburgh’s snaps on special teams.

The veteran will have to keep producing to hold onto his job as the Steelers’ starting kick returner. He’s done a great job so far, averaging 25.1 yards per kickoff return. Igwebuike will look to make Seattle’s defenders miss on Sunday afternoon’s return opportunities.

Week 17 matchup: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OL

Hance didn’t see much action during the Jaguars’ 30-12 drubbing at the hands of the Buccaneers. He played just one special teams snap and didn’t enter on offense for the fifth time this season.

At 8-7, Jacksonville is now in a three-way tie with the Colts and Texans for the AFC South crown. They do hold tiebreakers over the two teams, but Hance and the Jaguars are facing a must-win game against the Panthers to maintain their playoff hopes.

Week 17 matchup: vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Earnest Brown IV: Los Angeles Rams, DE

Brown played just his sixth game of the season during the Rams’ 30-22 victory against New Orleans. He didn’t record any statistics, as he saw the field for just five defensive snaps.

The second-year defensive end hasn’t made the impact he would’ve hoped in 2023. He’s assisted on two tackles and played just 44 defensive snaps all season. Brown will look to improve his production against the Giants, who are struggling to find stability at the quarterback position.

Week 17 matchup: at New York Giants (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

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