On the back of Penn football’s 37-21 victory over Bucknell, it’s time to recap how Penn alumni faired in the NFL over the weekend.
Greg Van Roten — Guard, Las Vegas Raiders
Van Roten and the Raiders were handed their second consecutive defeat on Sunday night, at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. An experienced veteran who has solidified his role as Vegas’s starting right guard, Van Roten finds himself in a talented yet dysfunctional Raiders offense. In terms of his individual play, the Penn alumnus has performed fairly well and currently ranks fifth among interior linemen in run block win rate percentage. That being said, the Raiders offense as a collective has struggled to get the most out of star running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs improved on a disastrous performance against the Bills, which saw him end with negative two rushing yards, but once again failed to get in the end zone. Instead, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tried to make the most of wide receivers Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers.
Garoppolo’s drive-ending interception at the end of the game epitomizes the Raiders’ season thus far. Despite the experience across the Raiders’ offensive line, Pittsburgh — boasting one of the better pass-rushing defenses in the league — was able to keep the pressure high in key moments throughout the matchup. Van Roten is just one part of an offense that has yet to click and will continue to be tested. Next week’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers should be a little bit less punishing for the Raiders’ offense.
Justin Watson — Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
After a promising first two weeks, Watson picked up where he left off in Kansas City’s 41-10 rout of the Chicago Bears. Watson amassed 51 receiving yards on two receptions and three targets. The two-time Super Bowl winner trailed only Travis Kelce and Rashee Rice for receiving yards on the Chiefs' offense.
Watson’s first catch midway through the second quarter had a high degree of difficulty. The receiver lined up to the left of the quarterback, made a post route to the opposite side of the field, and completed an over-the-head catch for 37 yards while squeezed between a Bears defender and the sideline. Watson would go on to make his only other reception right before halftime, helping the Chiefs get into field goal range before the break.
It will be interesting to see how Watson’s role develops in this Kansas City team that lacks a clear standout wide receiver. With Kadarious Toney having an up-and-down season, Watson and the rest of the receiving unit will have an unpredictable but somewhat balanced share of targets. The abysmal Bears offense definitely played a role in the Chiefs' high offensive snap count. It remains to be seen how Watson’s volume will be impacted over difficult stretches of games down the road.
Kevin Stefanski — Head Coach, Cleveland Browns
When the Browns lost to the Steelers in week two, immediate doubts were cast on quarterback Deshaun Watson, the defensive unit, and, of course, Stefanski. This weekend, the Browns answered back in a resounding 27-3 home win against the Tennessee Titans. After a shaky start, Watson was able to find his footing, finishing with an 82% completion percentage, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 123.4 passer rating. Cleveland will only go as far as Watson takes them, and early performances like this one are very encouraging.
Stefanski will be particularly happy with the Browns’ defensive performance, holding the Titans to a measly field goal over the contest. There are no questions about Myles Garrett’s elite ability and consistency. Strong outings from Garrett and second-year defensive end Alex Wright contributed to the team’s impressive five sacks. Losing running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending injury during week two was certainly a nightmarish setback for Stefanski, but the head coach can at least take solace in the growth his team exhibited this weekend. Stefanski has utilized Jerome Ford more than Kareem Hunt to fill Chubb’s role as lead back over the past two games. Ford hauled in an impressive receiving touchdown in the second quarter, showcasing his pass-catching ability. The Browns' coaching staff have another weapon at their disposal and will most likely look to incorporate him more creatively going forward.