Through Week 6 of the NFL, Penn football alumni are looking to make solid impacts in the NFL. As teams continue to toil with the effects of the coronavirus, we check in on Penn alumni in the league.
Justin Watson — wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite the Buccaneers blowing out a previously undefeated Green Bay Packers, Justin Watson did not make the impact he may have wanted to in Week 6. While Watson missed two of the past three weeks due to injury, the third year wideout did not play a single offensive snap against the Packers despite suiting up.
Before his injury, Watson had been seeing his utility increase compared to a season ago. So far this season, Watson has seven receptions for 94 yards, already surpassing almost 60% of his 2019 total yards before even the halfway point of this season. Watson will look to bounce back against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night in Week 7.
Brandon Copeland — outside linebacker, New England Patriots
It was a tough week for Brandon Copeland and the rest of the New England Patriots. Despite getting quarterback Cam Newton back from the COVID-19 reserve list, the Patriots were upset by the Denver Broncos and are now under .500 this late into the season for the first time since 2001.
Copeland only played 22 snaps on Sunday against the Broncos, all of which were on special teams, with none coming on defense. Heading into the rest of the season, Copeland will look to find his way back into the defensive rotation as the eighth year linebacker has accounted for 11 tackles so far this season.
Greg Van Roten — guard, New York Jets
It was another disappointing week for the New York Jets. After getting shut out by the Miami Dolphins in Week 6, Penn alumnus Greg Van Roten and the rest of the Jets are now the NFL's only team without a win.
While Joe Flacco remains under center for an injured Sam Darnold, the Jets released running back Le'veon Bell earlier in the week, so Van Roten found himself blocking for running backs Frank Gore and La'Mical Perine. After a Penn career with two Ivy League titles, Van Roten finds himself in unfamiliar territory playing for a winless Jets squad.
Kevin Stefanski — coach, Cleveland Browns
For Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns, their hot streak may have ended on Sunday when the Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-10. This loss ended a four-game winning streak in addition to four straight games scoring 30 or more points. Simply put, the Browns did not have a good game in Week 6. After a slow start, falling behind 24-0 in the second quarter, Stefanski benched quarterback Baker Mayfield for Case Keenum after Mayfield had thrown two interceptions and only 119 passing yards.
“I didn’t want to see him get hit one more time,” Stefanski said. “I know he wants to fight, but it’s a long season, we’ve got a game next week, and I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to put him back there.”
Additionally, Cleveland's dominant running game was nowhere to be found, rushing for a mere 75 yards on 22 carries. Sunday’s loss against the Steelers put Stefanski in an unfamiliar spot as he took full responsibility for their blowout loss. However, the Browns are in their best position to make the playoffs in over a decade and are still strong contenders.
“I think that is such a big part of the NFL season is you are going to lose some games," Stefanski said. "Not many teams go 16-0, so it's what you do with those losses. What do you learn from them and how do you respond? We have already started talking about that, started talking about it in on the sideline as the seconds were ticking off, talked about it in the locker room after the game and talked about this morning. This is what you do in the National Football League. You come back after a loss, and you try and get better from it."
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