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UConn in the NFL: Ryan Griffin Emerging for Houston

Former Huskies continue to make their presence felt in the pros.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It is time to revisit the past two weeks of action for the UConn Husky alumni currently playing in the National Football League. A couple of unsung weapons are getting their due as offensive role players, and they are the focus of this week's analysis. We will also check in with UConn's recent first round pick to see how his development is going.

A few weeks ago, the Houston Texans were also-rans in the AFC South. Now, they are tied for first place, and Ryan Griffin is a major reason why. Griffin has run with an expanded role in Houston's offense and had the best game of his career against the New Orleans Saints this past week. Griffin snagged four passes for 72 yards, including a touchdown. Griffin has played four games this year and already has ten catches, matching his full total from last year.

Given that the regular season is beginning to wind down and, somehow, the Texans are in the thick of the playoff chase, Griffin's role should continue to expand over time. Houston has some difficult opponents coming up, including a trek to the frozen tundra of Buffalo this weekend. Griffin's experience in cold weather could come in handy as the playoff chase heats up in December, and he has an opportunity to be a major contributor moving forward. It is great to see a player take advantage of an opportunity and run with it - Griffin has solidified his spot in Houston's pass-catching rotation for the foreseeable future.

Another team that is trying to tread water as the playoff push comes is the Atlanta Falcons, and UConn's Nick Williams, against all odds, has found a niche on this team. Even though NFL.com's player picture of him is incorrect, Williams has become a contributor and safety blanket for beleaguered quarterback Matt Ryan. Williams has 12 catches for 114 yards on the year, and even earned his first touchdown against Minnesota this past week. Hard work has paid off for Nick, as his shiftiness and ability on rub routes has given him a natural role in Atlanta's offense.

It remains to be seen if Williams can sustain his presence on offense. Atlanta fourth round selection Justin Hardy is four games into his pro career and seems to be stealing some snaps and targets thanks to his size and catch radius. Williams, though, deserves credit for making it to even this point, and hopefully he can persevere and stick on this Falcons roster for the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, as two later round Huskies thrive, a highly-touted UConn alum has had some ups and downs. Byron Jones has faced quite a gauntlet of weapons this year, from Gronk to Jordan Matthews, and the past two weeks have been no different. Jones got toasted by Dolphin Kenny Stills for a 31-yard touchdown in his team's victory over Miami, and also got out of position on multiple occasions that permitted Ryan Tannehill to make some plays. However, against Carolina on Thanksgiving, Jones stepped up a bit, matching up against the likes of Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, and Ted Ginn. Jones held his own for the most part, even keeping his team in the game for a short time due to his solid work.

It tends to take cornerbacks two or three years to truly find their footing. Jones has been heavily praised by Cowboys fans and media alike - he eventually could turn into a phenomenal player. Jones may have to face both Desean Jackson and Randall Cobb over the next two weeks. How he deals with their elite speed will showcase his improvement over the course of the year, and what could be expected of him in the seasons to come.