The 2021 National Football League regular season got off to a hot start this weekend. 18 former Maryland football stars, representing 13 different franchises, kicked off their seasons and some familiar faces are in new places.
Defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson signed with the Las Vegas Raiders back in March and he shined in his first game in the silver and black. Jefferson forced a fumble on quarterback Lamar Jackson in the final quarter of Monday Night Football. The Raiders tied the game on the following drive, proving Jefferson’s forced fumble as a game-changer.
Q!— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) September 14, 2021
Big time play from Quinton Jefferson on MNF. pic.twitter.com/CCpwrqiYS3
Additionally, Jefferson totaled five tackles, including one solo tackle against Baltimore.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also played in his first game for the Raiders on Monday after signing with the club in March. He went up against his former team in the Ravens, and he was a force on the front line for the Raiders’ defense.
Ngakoue recorded four total tackles, two solo tackles, a pass deflection and a quarterback hit on Jackson. Now in his sixth season, Ngakoue is a captain for Las Vegas and is looking to continue his impressive career as a very versatile defender.
The duo of Jefferson and Ngakoue upfront for Las Vegas was crucial all game and the clutch play off the offense led to a 33-27 overtime victory over Baltimore on Monday night.
The familiar faces in the same places shined, as usual. Carolina Panthers fourth-year wide receiver DJ Moore was efficient on Sunday against the New York Jets. Moore caught six of his eight targets for 80 yards and added one rush for 14 yards.
Moore, who changed his jersey number to No. 2 this season, made a sensational catch on a pass to the sideline from his new quarterback Sam Darnold. The former first-round pick got both of his feet down on the sideline in the red zone to help move the ball for Carolina.
Last season, Moore played in 15 games and caught 66 passes for 1,193 yards. He’s recorded back-to-back 1,000+ receiving yard seasons coming into 2021.
Much like Moore, Buffalo Bills star wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the way on the receiving end. Diggs caught nine passes for 69 yards and was targeted 14 times by quarterback Josh Allen. He led the team in receptions, receiving yards and targets, after leading the entire NFL in receptions and receiving yards last year.
Diggs had 127 receptions for 1,535 yards last year in his first season in Buffalo. Despite Diggs leading the receiving corps, the Bills fell short to the Steelers, 23-16. Diggs was previously named the No. 11 overall player in the NFL.
Buffalo has been predicted by many analysts to reach the Super Bowl this season, including former Maryland star quarterback and current CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason. If Diggs can replicate his 2020 season in 2021, the Bills will be in a great position to dominate in the AFC.
- Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. was very productive for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday against the Jets. Carter recorded five total tackles, one solo tackle and one quarterback hit on rookie Zach Wilson. The fourth-year, former fifth-round, linebacker played 95% of the defensive snaps for Carolina and is looking to continue building off his spectacular 2020 season.
- New York Jets running back Ty Johnson was the second-most productive runner on the team Sunday behind veteran Tevin Coleman. Johnson, who just began his first full season with the Jets, rushed four times for 15 yards and added one reception for 11 yards. Johnson seems to have found a home in East Rutherford, New Jersey for Gang Green.
- Safety Darnell Savage Jr. entered his third season as a starter for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The New Orleans Saints, led by Jameis Winston, torched Green Bay’s defense and Savage only recorded one total tackle. He played over 80% of the defensive snaps for the Packers in the 38-3 loss.
- Coming off of a breakout season with the New England Patriots, defensive back J.C. Jackson started at cornerback against the Dolphins. He recorded three total tackles, which were all solo tackles. The third-year defensive back also recorded a pass deflection from Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, after having a career-high 14 pass deflections last year.
This RPO looked as if it were executed as it should be and it was sound in theory. Just sometimes it’s good player vs. good player and you have to see which good player wins. pic.twitter.com/KBiLPAoo9j— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) September 13, 2021
- Los Angeles Rams rookie running back Jake Funk made his NFL debut on Sunday Night Football. Funk played strictly on special teams for the Rams and recorded two tackles. The seventh-round draft pick did not appear on the offensive side of the ball but was a part of over half of the special teams snaps for Los Angeles.
- Linebacker Josh Woods played all of his snaps on special teams for the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Woods did not record a stat but participated in 60% of the Bears’ special teams snaps.
- Offensive lineman Michael Dunn made the active roster for the Cleveland Browns ahead of the 2021 season, but he did not appear on Sunday.
- Tight end Tyler Mabry was signed by the Seattle Seahawks from their practice squad last week, leading up to the season-opener. Mabry appeared in six snaps offensively and seven on special teams for Seattle, but he failed to record a stat in his NFL debut.
- Safety Sean Davis participated on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad this week.
- Running back Trey Edmunds participated on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad this week.
- Defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. participated on the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad this week, after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason.
- Linebacker Keandre Jones spent his week on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad.
- Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. is currently on the injured reserve for the Pittsburgh Steelers, resulting in rookie running back Najee Harris getting 16 of the 21 carries on Sunday.
- Defensive tackle Byron Cowart is currently on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list for the New England Patriots.