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UConn in the NFL: Week 1

Check out how some former Huskies greats are doing at the pro level.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing quite like Week 1 of the NFL season. Hopes are high and doubts are distant. The prospect of a championship is on the horizon even if your team doesn’t have a prayer of reaching the post-season. You still believe in your fantasy team and haven’t smashed your laptop yet. It’s a magical time.

As if this wasn’t enough, Week 1 also gives us our first chance to take a look at the Huskies who made NFL rosters this season and evaluate their first week performances. Let’s dive in.

Anthony Sherman, an All-Pro tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs, stands out as the week’s top performer. He hauled in a 36-yard touchdown reception from Patrick Mahomes in KC’s 38-28 victory over the San Diego Chargers for the fourth touchdown of his career.

A fan favorite in his time with both the Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals, it’s no surprise that he would be in head coach Andy Reid’s good graces. But even with that in mind, it’s hard not to smile at Reid’s post-game comment, calling Sherman “a sausage with hands,” which is apparently “a good thing”.

On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones continues to shine. In a strong performance against a dynamic Carolina Panthers offense, Jones recorded five tackles, bested only by elite pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence who had six. The Cowboys offense looks to be in trouble, scoring only once in a 16-8 loss. But the defense looks rock-solid, and Byron Jones is one of the best talents on the squad.

And finally, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen recorded his first tackle with the Seattle Seahawks after starting his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. Look for Stephens to make an impact as the season progresses and he becomes more integrated into the defensive game plan. The Seahawks lost a close one to the Denver Broncos, 27-24 and look to bounce back against Bears on Monday Night Football.

The rest of the former UConn players failed to make an impact this week, though it’s not without explanation.

Defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi was the only UConn player to be selected in this year’s draft and it’s likely going to take some time before he can work himself into the rotation. The New York Jets blew the Detroit Lions out 48-17 Monday night, but success doesn’t necessary negate opportunity for change down the road. Stay patient Foley fans.

Meanwhile, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson suffered a shoulder injury in the Atlanta Falcon’s final pre-season game and failed to see action in Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons lost a heart-breaker 18-12 and one may wonder what sort of impact Blidi Wreh-Wilson could have had. Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic, described him as providing “dependable veteran depth at CB” and went on to say “it’d be a shame to lose him.” Here’s to a speedy recovery.

Wide receiver Geremy Davis failed to see action on Sunday despite ample opportunity. Philip Rivers hit eight different receivers in the San Diego Charger’s 28-38 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Davis wasn’t one of them. In fact, he didn’t even enter the game according to Pro Football Reference. No word on whether it was some sort of injury or simply a game plan decision. Maybe next week.

The wait will be likely longer for Green Bay Packers quarterback Tim Boyle who nearly found himself in a backup role when Aaron Rodgers went down with a knee injury. Rodgers came back in the game to lead the Packers to an incredible come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears, but his health is still in question. With DeShone Kizer making some major mistakes in his brief appearance Sunday night, could we possibly see the Connecticut-native work his way into a game this season? It’s quite possible.

And finally, the most disappointing performance of the weekend came from tight end Ryan Griffin. With the off-season retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz, Griffin had finally stepped into a starting role with the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, he failed to catch a single pass on Sunday, despite being targeted five times. Many were looking for Griffin to make an immediate impact this year, but it was a rocky start Sunday.

By comparison, Jordan Akins went 2/2 for 11 yards and Jordan Thomas went 1/2 for 27 yards. Both Akins and Thomas are rookies this year, and Griffin is still getting the lion’s share of the targets. But with a couple hungry newcomers gunning for his job, Griffin would be smart to avoid another week like this one.