The NFL returned this weekend, and it was the start of a new season for 14 former Maryland players. Shaun Hill and Stefon Diggs stood out this week, as they played key roles in the Vikings’ 25-16 win over the Titans, and three members of Maryland’s 2016 draft class made their NFL debuts.
Shaun Hill, QB, and Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Diggs: 13 games, 52 receptions, 720 yards, 4 touchdowns
Hill: 3 games, 2 for 7 for 15 yards
Hill and Diggs both served their roles well in the Vikings’ win. Hill did what was asked of him, going 19-33 for 236 yards. Head coach Mike Zimmer refused to say who would start next week, but newly acquired Sam Bradford should be under center sooner rather than later.
After finishing second among rookies in receiving yards, Diggs picked up where he left off and finished with seven catches for 103 yards. Here’s Hill to Diggs:
Diggs already said he knows he’s better than he was last year, and should be a big part of the Vikings offense going forward.
Darius Kilgo, DT, Denver Broncos
2015 stats: 9 games, 6 tackles, 1 pass deflection
Kilgo started out hot for the Broncos last year, but found himself on the bench by the end of last season, according to Mile High Maniac. That trend continued on Thursday, when he made one tackle and played just 11 snaps.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 stats: N/A
Ngakoue struggled in his first game, recording just one tackle. The Jaguars were looking for Ngakoue and Dante Fowler to help improve their struggling defense, but they failed to make an impact. This was only his first game, and he should grow and improve as the season progresses.
Nick Novak, K, Houston Texans
2015 stats: 13 games, 18-21 field goals, 29-31 extra points
After suffering a concussion in the preseason, Novak started his 12th season in the NFL with a clean slate, hitting both of his extra points and three field goals. He signed with the Texans during the middle of last season, and has held down the starting job ever since.
Jon Condo, LS, Oakland Raiders
2015 stats: 16 games played
Condo is back for his tenth season as the Raiders’ long snapper, and is now the second longest tenured player on the team. He will again be snapping to Marquette King, who’s in his fourth season with the Raiders.
Erin Henderson, LB, New York Jets
2015 stats: 16 games, 45 tackles, 1 PBU
Henderson had a great comeback last season, appearing in every game for the Jets after taking a year off to turn his life around. Henderson was arrested for driving under the influence for the second time in 2014 and spent a night in jail, and was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. According to Vice Sports, Henderson said the arrest really woke him up, and he checked into an impatient rehab facility after his arrest.
The Jets re-signed Henderson after his performance in 2015, but he had only one tackle in a loss to the Bengals. The Jets sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton seven times, but Henderson couldn’t get in on the action.
Nolan Carroll, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
2015 stats: 11 games, 42 tackles, 10 PBU, 2 interceptions (1 touchdown)
After having a potential breakout season cut short by a broken ankle in 2015, Carroll will be looking to be even better in 2016. The injury severely cut Carroll’s value on the free agent market, and he ended up re-signing with the Eagles on a one-year deal.
He had a good start to his 2016 campaign, making three tackles and helped the Eagles limit Robert Griffin III to just 12-26 through the air. If Carroll has the season he had last year for a full 16 games, he could cash in this offseason.
Quinton Jefferson, DT, Seattle Seahawks
2015 stats: N/A
Jefferson saw just nine snaps in his NFL debut, but according to the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta he may be hampered by a hand injury. It will be interesting to see how much he plays and improves in one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Sean Davis, S, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Heyward-Bey: 21 receptions, 314 yards, 2 touchdowns
Davis had the best debut of the three rookie Terps, starting at safety for the Steelers and recording four tackles. Unlike Jefferson, who will start low on the depth chart and learn from talented players such as Michael Bennett, Davis was thrown into the fire right away. He will be counted on to improve a patchwork secondary, which may be the Steelers’ only weakness.
Heyward-Bey also had a chance to step up after Martavis Bryant’s suspension and Markus Wheaton being ruled out with a shoulder injury, but saw no targets and played in just 15 snaps. The playing time went to second-year wideouts Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates, and if both continue to impress the eighth-year wideout could be in for a long season.
D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Indianapolis Colts
2015 stats: 150 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 9 PBU
After finishing second in the NFL tackles last year, Jackson had just two on Sunday. His teammates didn’t fair much better, giving up 449 yards and squandering a late lead in a 39-35 loss to the Lions. Following the game, Jackson briefly summed up the defense’s abysmal performance.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
2015 stats: 38 receptions, 395 yards
Davis saw a limited role in Washington’s offense Monday night, catching just one pass for 20 yards. His reception got the Redskins down to Pittsburgh’s 1-yard line, and running back Chris Thompson punched it in on the next play.
Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers
2015 stats: 33 receptions, 663 yards, 4 touchdowns
Following his worst season since entering the NFL, Smith had just two receptions for 13 yards. However, he was second on the team with six targets. That means quarterback Blaine Gabbert is looking his way.