This past weekend was a fairly successful one for the UConn Huskies. Diaco's #squad trudged through the mud in New Orleans en route to win number five of the year, and then on Sunday and Monday many ex-Huskies took to professional football fields to compete. Two secondary players stood above the rest in terms of performance, while one needs to elevate his game a bit if he is going to stay in his team's defensive line rotation.
The golden son of Storrs remains Byron Jones, the cornerback/safety hybrid who has found a home in Dallas covering large flex tight ends and possession oriented wide receivers. Jones has the springiness to match movements with pretty much any pass catcher, and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has utilized Byron's prodigious physical gifts against a number of the league's top receivers. Last week, we mentioned his success against Rob Gronkowski, who may well be the best tight end of all time by the end of his career. Against the Eagles, Jones drew another challenge, as he had to handle second-year pass catcher Jordan Matthews.
Overall, Jones acquitted himself fairly well, making some important pass breakups in the game and staying on the field despite being beaten up a bit. However, Matthews was able to break off some big plays, specifically by creating yards after the catch and breaking the brittle Jones' arm tackles. Jones will hopefully be educated by this experience and work on his physicality and finishing hits. Jones should be challenged this week, as he faces two more massive targets in Tampa Bay's Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
Jones' predecessor made a big play of his own this past week, as Darius Butler's diving interception was Peyton Manning's final offensive snap in the Denver Broncos' loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Butler's diagnosis on the play was exceptional - he read the crossing route, stayed off the receiver, and positioned his body in the ideal way to have a solid angle and make the play. Butler's hands have always been a strong suit of his, and they showed up in this instance as he cradled the ball in his arms.
Butler has bounced around a bit from team to team in his career, but Indianapolis' scheme fits him well, and coordinator Greg Manusky is a solid defensive mind. Perhaps Butler has finally found a long-term home - and given Greg Toler's struggles, Darius is probably the second best cornerback on the team at this point.
On the other hand, Kendall Reyes continues to languish in San Diego. After another bad week in the Chargers' loss to the Bears, Reyes has the third worst grade of any starting defensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus, earning a mention on the site's Midseason All-Worst Team. Reyes is out of place in San Diego's defensive scheme, which forces him to hold the point of attack rather than letting him rush forward, but his play still does not bode well for his future prospects.
The Chargers are probably not going to make the playoffs, and Reyes is a free agent after this season. It is unlikely that San Diego resigns him. Hopefully, he is able to raise his level of play a bit in the coming games and find a more ideal suitor that will use him as a rotational player. A team like the Eagles or Titans may benefit from his presence.