Following week six, Justin Hunter is quietly solidifying a role with the Buffalo Bills. After scoring a touchdown on 11 snaps last week, his snap count increased to 46 and the receiver caught another touchdown. Cordarrelle Patterson enjoyed his bye week, but with both of these two becoming increasingly involved in their team’s offenses, maybe productive wide receivers from Tennessee can be a thing again in the NFL.
Former Vol Malik Jackson leads the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line and it faced the Chicago Bears this Sunday. His matchup against Kyle Long, one of the best guards in the NFL, was one of the key matchups to watch throughout Sunday’s game. Jackson played well, but he wasn’t the only former interior defensive lineman that played quality football on Sunday. Others include second year pro defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, Oakland Raider veteran Dan Williams and Tony McDaniel, another veteran who plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
Safety Eric Berry, a Vol legend and fan favorite, was rather quiet Sunday, but he’s still the leader of a defensive unit that shut down a Raider offense that had been hot as of late. But at least former Vol and now Oakland Raider tight end Mychael Rivera caught a pass. It was just his second on the season and it went for 16 yards.
Jason Witten was productive in both the pass and run game, and watch out, his Cowboys look legit. Arian Foster was finally active for the Dolphins, but only saw the field 11 times. His three carries went for only three yards, while fellow Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi ran for over 200 yards. Will the former Texan star eventually regain the role we expected him to have, or is Ajayi now the starter going forward?
Speaking of the Dolphins and former Vols, offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James performed admirably in pass protection. The Dolphins finally kept quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a former Aggie, upright and he responded with a great game, to go along with an upset win over the Steelers. The three punters in the NFL — the Colquitt brothers and Matt Darr — all had very nice days. If Tennessee should be known for one thing, it sure does breed quality punters.
Here are some highlights from some of the former Vols who stood out on Sunday.
Justin Hunter, Buffalo Bills WR
Of his 46 snaps, Hunter only saw two targets, catching just one of them. But, that one catch was a 30 yard touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2016
The third quarter score extended the Bills lead to 24-13, and was the beginning of a dominant second half by them. Buffalo ended up beating the 49ers 45-16 and just saying, the Bills are 2-0 since Justin Hunter debuted. The Bills are lacking depth at the receiver position, especially with the Sam Watkins’ injury, and that’s opened up the opportunity for Hunter. It’s nice to see he’s found success after being cut twice earlier this season.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys TE
Witten caught four of his eight targets for just over 40 yards, but his real presence was felt in the run game, as his blocking played a role in rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott’s big day. The Cowboys have been playing very well of late, and Witten continues to be a reliable tight end for the NFC East leaders.
Malik Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars DT
Matched up against one of the best guards in football, Jackson was still relatively disruptive. His performance may not have lived up to the six-year, $90 million contract he signed in the offseason, but his presence still caused the Bears to focus on him in blocking assignments, occasionally throwing double-teams at him. Because of this, it freed up other defenders and the unit as a whole to effectively shut down rookie running back Jordan Howard, who had been making tons of noise in previous weeks. Jackson’s performance was nothing special, but he stuffed a running play in the backfield and his presence alone made enough of an impact Sunday. Through his first five games as a Jaguar, his nine quarterback hurries rank second among interior lineman in the NFL.
Dan Williams, Oakland Raiders DT
Williams had his second straight start, and facing a run-heavy Kansas City Chiefs offense led to a busy day for the veteran. His 33 snaps played on Sunday was a season-high and he was productive against the run, highlighted by a stop in the backfield. It was a rough day for the Raiders as a whole, but outside of a 45-yard run from Spencer Ware, the run defense did a solid job containing a dynamic Chiefs’ running game. Dan Williams deserves some credit for that.
Tony McDaniel, Seattle Seahawks DT
Due to an injury from Frank Clark, McDaniel saw a season high in snaps (44) and finished with three total tackles as the next man up. The Seahawks effectively shut down a Falcons running game that had been enjoying a very nice start to the season. Maybe it was a good thing Clark was absent for Seattle, with McDaniel providing much stronger play against the run. Clark’s ability to rush the passer is the main reason he’s surpassed the former Vol in snaps, but Sunday was a good time for them to rely on McDaniel, and his impact was evident in their 26-24 win over the Falcons.
Daniel McCullers, Pittsburgh Steelers DT
The second-year nose tackle continues to have a limited role, but his play Sunday may lead to more opportunities. In his eight snaps, he stuffed a run in the backfield and check out this pressure on Ryan Tannehill.
This reminds me of his throw against the Ravens from a few years back. This is an outrageous play. pic.twitter.com/IHiTsYK5dA
— Cian (@Cianaf) October 17, 2016
In addition, he blocked a field goal attempt! With starting nose tackle, rookie Javon Hargrave, struggling, don’t be surprised if McCullers starts seeing more snaps in the near future.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by David Schellhaas, courtesy of creativecommons.org