By Nick Gerhardt
With 15 players playing for 10 NFL teams, Mizzou has finally established a verifiable presence on rosters across the NFL. Yet the former Tigers didn’t fare much better than the 2011 Tiger team did against Arizona State on Friday. Sean Weatherspoon and Martin Rucker earned media attention for gaffes on key plays, and most of their former teammates scarcely saw the field, if at all.
Weatherspoon, Atlanta’s starting linebacker, led the Falcon’s in tackles on Sunday in a 30-12 loss to the Chicago Bears. Despite his statistically significant performance, coach Mike Smith berated “Spoon” on the sidelines after the linebacker failed to tackle Chicago running back Matt Forte during a 56-yard touchdown reception.
Weatherspoon went for the glory shot, lowering his shoulder pads into Forte’s chest instead of tackling the running back conventionally.
“I had some steam and thought I could just knock him over,” Weatherspoon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s a good back. That’s where I have to be smarter and wrap him up.”
No one else touched Forte after Weatherspoon missed.
Mizzou alumnus and Falcon’s safety William Moore had three tackles in the loss.
Down by the bay, the 49ers’ two Smiths, defensive linemen Justin Smith and rookie Aldon Smith, took to the field for the first time in 2011. Justin Smith, a savvy 11-year veteran, sacked Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson twice and had four tackles overall. Aldon Smith entered the game for the first time on the third defensive play from scrimmage. He had no tackles, but he did bat down one of Jackson’s passes at the line. He replaced starter Parys Haralson whenever San Francisco lined up in the nickel package.
Former Mizzou quarterback and current Buffalo Bill’s wide receiver Brad Smith returned to the state of Missouri to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills rolled the Chiefs 41-7, but Smith didn’t have much to do with it. He rushed three times for six yards, returned a kickoff 21 yards and threw an interception to Chiefs’ cornerback Brandon Flowers.
Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin logged only one catch, for 20 yards, in the Eagle’s debut victory over former teammate Danario Alexander’s St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis deactivated Alexander, a wide receiver for the Rams as he was at Mizzou, for the contest.
Cowboy’s tight end Martin Rucker’s name never appears on the stat sheet after a Dallas loss to the New York Jets, but he still had an impact–albeit a negative one. After his teammate cornerback Bryan McCann steadied a punted ball on the opponent’s 1-yard line, Rucker swooped in and got his hands on the football. The tight end lost track of his feet, however, and when his toe touched the end zone chalk, Rucker essentially handed the Jets an extra 19 yards of valuable field position. It was the only time the announcers called Rucker’s name on Sunday.
San Diego Chargers’ reserve linebacker Andrew Gachkar recorded one assisted tackle, an unspectacular first stop for his NFL career.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Ziggy Hood had no tackles in the Steelers’ blowout loss to the Ravens, but make no mistake about it–Hood has established a place in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defense. In a LeBeau “D,” though, the defensive tackles make fewer “stat” plays (tackles, forced fumbles, etc) because LeBeau predominately uses them to fill space in the trenches to open up the field for the linebacking corps. Hood subbed in frequently for starter Aaron Smith.
The Jaguars’ have the most Tigers on their roster of any NFL team, with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, reserve cornerback Kevin Rutland, and the throwback–seven year veteran C.J. Mosley. Gabbert, a rookie, watched from the sidelines as Luke McCown led the Jags to a 16-14 finish over the Tennessee Titans. Fellow rookie Kevin Rutland was inactive for the game, and C.J. Mosley made no perceptible impact on the final outcome, statistically or otherwise.
Chase Daniel rocked the clipboard in New Orlean’s Thursday loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel has clearly expanded the program’s visibility on the professional level. Now, the waiting game begins. Will the influx or young former Missouri players make a major impact on the NFL this year?
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