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Northwestern in the NFL, Week One: Slater, Skoronski dominate in the trenches

Rashawn Slater and Peter Skoronski kept their QBs on their feet on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II celebrates a play with safety Grant Delpit.
Photo by Joshua Gunter/
Joshua Gunter,

The NFL kicked off the 2023 season on Sept. 7 when the Detroit Lions shocked the Kansas City Chiefs. As the weekend slate of games progressed, many former ‘Cats found a way to contribute for their respective teams.

Every week, Inside NU will look at how some Northwestern alumni are faring in the big leagues. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the most notable players who once donned the purple-and-white.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

The Chargers didn’t have quite enough firepower to keep up with the Miami Dolphins in a close loss, but Slater did his part to keep Justin Herbert upright in the pocket. The 13th overall pick in 2021 played the third-most snaps in the league with 80, and didn’t give up a sack or record a penalty. Coming off of a season-ending biceps tendon injury last year, Slater looked energized and utterly dominant. He will look to notch his second Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods as the Chargers fight for the AFC West title.

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

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

It’s not easy for a rookie offensive lineman to stand out immediately, but Skoronski did exactly that in his first NFL game. Skoronski finished as the Titans’ highest-graded player on offense according to Pro Football Focus. Tennessee may have left New Orleans with a loss, but the rookie showcased the power and technique that warranted a top-15 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Week two matchup: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome II played a vital role for Cleveland’s defense, who absolutely smothered Joe Burrow and the Bengals in a dominant win. The third-year cornerback recorded five total tackles, which was the second-most behind safety Grant Delpit. Newsome also recorded a pass deflection, batting down one of Burrow’s attempts in the rainy weather. He will look to intercept his first career pass this season and form a fearsome tandem with Denzel Ward.

Week two matchup: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Dean Lowry: Minnesota Vikings, DE

Lowry failed to make his mark on the Vikings’ pass rush during their loss to the Buccaneers. He recorded four total tackles but did not pressure the quarterback. Drafted in the fourth round by the Packers in 2016, this is Lowry’s first season in Minnesota. The eight-year veteran has a tough task next week against Philadelphia’s offensive line.

Week two matchup: at Philadelphia Eagles (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Evan Hull: Indianapolis Colts, RB

Hull entered the NFL season with an immediate chance to contribute, as star back Jonathan Taylor landed on the Physically Unable to Perform List with an ankle injury. Unfortunately, Hull suffered a knee injury during the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and will be out for multiple weeks. Before exiting the game, the rookie recorded one rush for one yard and one reception for six yards.

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

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek failed to catch a pass in the Rams’ victory against the Seahawks, marking a disappointing start to his 2023 season. Though he was targeted twice, he took a back seat to young receivers like Tutu Atwell and Puka Nacua. Skowronek made his biggest impact on special teams when he recorded a tackle. The 2021 seventh-round selection was used all over the field last year, but the emergence of the receivers around him could severely limit his touches.

Week two matchup: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell got involved on special teams, seeing the field for 23 snaps and recording a solo tackle. The fifth-round rookie is currently buried in the depth chart, so it’s encouraging to see him make an impact in any way he can. Mitchell will look to keep making plays on special teams and stay ready to step in if a starter gets injured.

Week two matchup: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

Earnest Brown IV: Los Angeles Rams, DE

Brown IV recorded just one tackle in the Rams’ victory over the Seahawks, bringing running back Kenneth Walker III to the ground in the second quarter. Drafted in the fifth round in 2021, Brown has bounced back-and-forth between Los Angeles’ active roster and practice squad. He is currently listed as the second-string left defensive end, so Brown will try to make the most of his limited snaps.

Week two matchup: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)

Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB

Walker Jr. had a quiet day on the field during Cleveland’s win against the Bengals, assisting on one tackle in the fourth quarter; however, his performance does not reflect his impact on the Browns’ defensive unit. Walker is their starting middle linebacker and one of Cleveland’s five team captains. The 2017 fifth-round pick is coming off of a torn quad tendon suffered last September and will aim to lead his teammates by example.

Week two matchup: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week (or record any stats): Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), Blake Hance (Jacksonville Jaguars), Tyler Lancaster (Denver Broncos, practice squad), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets)