Another NFL week, another round of contributions from our former ‘Cats. Week Three featured a depleted cast of NU alumni, as recent graduates like Greg Newsome II and Peter Skoronski missed their games with short-term injuries.
Others like Evan Hull won’t be coming back so soon. The Colts announced last week that the rookie running back would miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus. Here’s to a speedy recovery for Hull, who will look to make a difference for Indianapolis next year.
With that being said, let’s see which ex-‘Cats starred — or struggled — on the gridiron this week.
Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT
Slater didn’t let an early holding penalty faze him, as he and the Chargers’ linemen allowed just a single sack during their exhilarating 28-24 win over the Vikings. Keeping Justin Herbert upright was integral to Los Angeles’ success — he threw for over 400 yards and three passing touchdowns.
The 2021 first-round selection has been simply elite at protecting Herbert’s blindside since he was drafted. While the Chargers’ offensive line has been solid in pass protection, the team has struggled to establish the run. Slater and his teammates will try to rekindle that half of their attack against a Raiders team allowing 127.3 yards per game on the ground.
Week Four matchup: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT)
Dean Lowry: Minnesota Vikings, DE
Lowry played just 47% of Minnesota’s defensive snaps in their 28-24 loss to the Chargers, marking a trend of dwindling playing time since Week One. The Illinois native didn’t record any statistics, which should lead to a demotion to a spot in the dreaded laundry list at the bottom of this article. However, I think Lowry’s lack of production is worth mentioning, as he’s been pretty dreadful for the winless Vikings.
This about sums it up:
#Vikings DT Dean Lowry has a 37.7 PFF grade and zero pressures in three games. That grade ranks 48th of 49 IDL who have played at least 100 snaps so far.— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) September 25, 2023
Lowry's snap count has decreased each week and could continue to drop as Jaquelin Roy (9 snaps this week) gets more involved.
This might be a premature eulogy for Lowry’s time as a starter, but Minnesota would be better off seeing what they have in Jaquelin Roy, the fifth-round rookie out of LSU.
Week Four matchup: at Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)
Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR
The opportunities for Skowronek to make a difference for the Rams are becoming fewer and farther between. He caught just one pass for three yards in a tough 19-16 loss to the Bengals on Monday night. However, he did get a boost in special teams snaps, seeing the field for 68% of those plays.
Skowronek was a solid contributor during his four years in the purple-and-white. His best statistical output came in his sophomore season when he recorded 644 receiving yards and caught five touchdowns. The Rams took a flyer on him in 2021, using a seventh-round pick to bolster their receiving corps. Like his days at NU, his best pro season has been his second. Skowronek blossomed as a utility piece in Sean McVay’s elaborate offensive puzzle, occasionally putting his 6-foot-3 frame to use at fullback.
With Cooper Kupp close to returning from the PUP list, Skowronek will lose even more chances to get his hands on the ball. The hope is that McVay can continue to employ his versatile skillset as the season progresses.
Week Four matchup: at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)
Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB
The Browns were dealt a substantial blow before their clash with the Titans when news broke that starting slot corner Greg Newsome II would be out with an elbow injury. But Mitchell was up to the task. The rookie stepped right into the starting lineup, covering dangerous route-runner DeAndre Hopkins at times. After playing just 13 combined defensive snaps over the first two weeks, Mitchell held it down for 34 snaps at home.
Mitchell didn’t have to do much heavy lifting, as Cleveland’s pass rush absolutely dominated the trenches to the tune of five sacks. With Ryan Tannehill under duress all game, Mitchell helped the Browns by playing mistake-free football. It would have been nice to see some counting stats, but the fifth-round pick made the most of his spot start.
Week Four matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)
Anthony Walker Jr.: Cleveland Browns, LB
Walker Jr. remains an integral part of the Browns’ swarming defense. As the starting middle linebacker, he acts as an extension of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his playcalling. Walker made three solo tackles and deflected a pass, asserting himself against an unsure Ryan Tannehill.
Walker has allowed a passer rating of just 47.9 through the first three weeks of the season. Though a small sample size, it’s representative of how disruptive both he and his teammates have been against opposing quarterbacks. Walker will look to wreak havoc against Lamar Jackson’s squad on Sunday afternoon.
Week Four matchup: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)
Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OG
Hance is Ben Bartch’s backup at left guard, so he didn’t see any offensive snaps during the Jaguars’ 37-17 loss to the Texans. However, he got involved on special teams, taking the field for Brandon McManus’s three field goal attempts and two made extra points.
It was admittedly an alarming result for Jacksonville, who had high hopes this season after reaching the AFC divisional round in January. Hance and the Jaguars will try to return to .500 when they face the Falcons in London.
Week Four matchup: vs. Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. CT)
‘Cats that didn’t play this week (or record any stats): Greg Newsome II (Cleveland Browns, elbow injury), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Peter Skoronski (Tennessee Titans, appendectomy), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), Blake Hance (Jacksonville Jaguars), Tyler Lancaster (Denver Broncos, practice squad), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Godwin Igwebuike (Pittsburgh Steelers), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons), Trevor Siemian (New York Jets)