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UConn in the NFL: Week 12

Obi Melifonwu gets a second chance at a first impression.

NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official! Obi Melifonwu has made his New England Patriots debut this week. While the numbers may not jump off a stat sheet, it’s an important step forward for the former 2nd round draft pick.

Following the 2017 NFL Combine, hopes were incredibly high for the athletic safety. He was built off his pre-draft performance to improve his position in the draft, ultimately getting selected by the Oakland Raiders at 56 overall.

Unfortunately, things took a turn from there. Melifonwu was placed on injured reserved almost immediately and subsequently missed the first 8 games of the season. He finally debuted for the Raiders on Nov. 5th, 2017 and made his first start the following game.

Again, the success was short-lived as Obi was faded out of action and ultimately placed back on injure reserved on December 15th, 2017. He was ultimately released by the Raiders in October of this year.

Obi Melifonwu has suddenly found himself on a Super Bowl contending roster; not exactly something that you could say about the Raiders this year. Signed to a two-year contract with the Patriots, Melifonwu has a real shot at securing pivotal role on this team and potentially taking home some hardware in the next season or two. He just needs to stay healthy.

Opposite Obi and the Patriots, rookie DT Folorunso Fatukasi finally made his New York Jets debut. As the only Husky to be selected in the 2018 draft, Fatu has been patiently waiting for his chance to enter a game. Though his time was limited and the box score was blank, this could mark the beginning of bigger things for Fatukasi.

On the offensive side of the ball, Ryan Griffin finally returned to form. The tight end was targeted four times, recording three catches for 38 yards in the Houston Texans’ win Monday night. This was Griffin’s first multi-catch game since week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Speaking of the Cowboys, cornerback Byron Jones had himself a solid Thanksgiving. Defeating the Washington Redskins 31-23, Jones contributed with three tackles. The majority of the damage came from tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, likely the result of backup quarterback Colt McCoy behind center. Still, Jones virtually shut down the passing game along with corners Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie.

Finally, Shamar Stephen matched a season high with 4 combined tackles in Seattle’s 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Stephen is currently on pace to eclipse his tackling totals from last year, despite this being his first year with a new team.