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Terps in the NFL: Ngakoue goes off and Moore re-emerges

See how former Terps fared around the league in week 12.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

This week many former Terrapins, from bonafide stars to struggling starters and even third-string backups, had great performances for teams across the National Football League.

The Maryland alum who played best this week wasn’t a receiver, it was actually Indianapolis Colts defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who had his best game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Ngakoue put up two sacks in the first quarter alone, finishing the game with two sacks, three solo tackles and an assisted tackle along with two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Despite his efforts, the Colts lost to the Steelers, 24-17.

Ngakoue only played 77% of defensive snaps but was able to make his mark. He’s been the standout performer on a team with the 10th most sacks in the NFL this season. The seventh-year pro has 8.5 sacks this season, which is 11th most in the NFL and most on the Colts. He’s had at least 0.5 sacks in six straight games this season, and his tackling numbers have been good, currently having just three fewer tackles than he did all of last season. Four of Ngakoue’s 8.5 sacks have come since interim head coach Jeff Saturday arrived in Indianapolis, and it seems like the defensive end is thriving under his new coach.

With yet another quarterback starting for the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver D.J. Moore, who has been struggling recently, had more receiving yards against the Denver Broncos this week than he had in the last three weeks combined. Moore finished the game with four receptions on six targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. One of his catches included this beautiful running grab on the sideline that got Carolina inside the red zone instantly.

Quarterback Sam Darnold starting this week for the Panthers was clearly a factor for this great performance by Moore. The star wide receiver has been struggling to get on the same page with quarterback Baker Mayfield all season — currently having just 605 yards receiving in 12 games — and at the beginning of the year he was on track for a career-worst receiving year. However if he keeps up this pace with Darnold over the last six weeks of the season, Moore should be able to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth straight season.

Usually the star performer among former Terps in the NFL, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was still extremely important during the team’s Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions. Diggs had eight catches on 15 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown. It definitely wasn’t his best performance of the year; his 53.3% catch percentage was his second lowest in a game this year. However, when someone needed to make a play in the last minute of the game, Diggs came up clutch. He secured this 36-yard catch to set up the game-winning field goal in a 28-25 win.

This play added to Diggs’ highlight reel of a season, which has the potential to go down as the best of the former Viking’s career. His 84 receptions are second most in the league, and he ranks third in the league in both receiving yards (1,110) and receiving touchdowns (nine). This week may have been a down week before the last catch of the game for Diggs, but it’s clear that he’s on track to be a Pro Bowler and a First-Team AP All-Pro for the second time in his career.

In a surprise breakout performance, running back Ty Johnson provided a boost in the running game for the New York Jets against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Getting more playing time this week with the healthy scratch of running back James Robinson, Johnson didn’t disappoint, putting up five rushes for 62 yards and a touchdown along with one catch for 16 yards during the Jets’ dominant 31-10 win over the Bears. His highlight play came in the third quarter, where Johnson shrugged off multiple tackles to take a 32-yard rush to the house for his first touchdown of the year, sealing the win for the Jets.

Johnson had more rushing yards Sunday than he’d previously had all season. Usually a designated special teams player or kick returner early on, problems in the running back room have given Johnson an opportunity to play more at the end of this season. Johnson hopes he can show his potential to be a part of the team during its possible playoff run.

Other performers

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. got called up to the active roster for the first time this season Monday after running back Jaylen Warren was declared out with injury. He actually had a great day as a third-string running back, rushing six times for 30 yards and catching the ball twice for 11 yards. He could be a short-term effective answer, as the Steelers got the win on Monday Night Football.
  • Tennessee Titans rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo had his most targets in a game this season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Okonkwo had three catches on five targets for 35 yards while playing 33% of offensive snaps. It’s the fourth straight week in which he had over 30 yards receiving in a game, and it looks like the young tight end has finally made an impact in this Titans offense. He’s got 207 yards receiving this season, which is third most among rookie tight ends in 2022.
  • Undrafted rookie defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu has been in and out of the active roster for the Tennessee Titans this season, but he’s played on the team for the last three weeks and hasn’t gone silent. This week while he played his lowest percentage of defensive snaps in a game this season — just 19% — but still had two assisted tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Titans did end up losing to the Bengals, 20-16.
  • Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson contributed in his rotational role again during the team’s overtime thriller with the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. He played 51% of defensive snaps and had an assisted tackle as the Seahawks lost to the Raiders in overtime, 40-34.
  • Defensive tackle Byron Cowart played his usual defensive line rotation role in the middle for the Indianapolis Colts in week 12. He played just 26% of defensive snaps and managed to come up with a solo tackle.
  • Detroit Lions linebacker Josh Woods plays an important special teams role for the team, making six combined tackles on special teams this season. Against the Bills on Thanksgiving, though, Woods did not record a tackle, playing 85% of special teams snaps in Detroit’s loss.
  • Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. was called up from the Cleveland Browns practice squad again this week to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his third game for the Browns this season, Carter played 74% of special teams snaps and recorded no stats as the Browns upset quarterback Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in overtime, winning 23-17.
  • Indianapolis Colts safety Nick Cross was relegated to a special teams role early in the season, and he’s been playing that role all season. Cross recorded no stats while playing 58% of special teams snaps against the Steelers as the Colts lost at the buzzer.
  • The Indianapolis Colts recently signed running back Jake Funk to the team’s practice squad after he was cut from the New Orleans Saints practice squad. Funk started his season out on the Los Angeles Rams’ active roster before being waived by the Rams, causing him to end up in New Orleans. It’s been a rocky second season in the NFL for Funk, who was not called up to the active roster Monday night.
  • Cornerback Tino Ellis signed with the Miami Dolphins practice squad and hasn’t been called up to the active roster at all this season as of week 12.
  • Seattle Seahawks tight end Tyler Mabry remained on the practice squad this week. He hasn’t played a game for the team all of the regular season.
  • Linebacker Keandre Jones has only played in one game for the Cincinnati Bengals all season, the team’s week three matchup against the New York Jets. Since then, he has been on the practice squad.
  • Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage was injured early in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles after playing just one defensive snap, and he did not return to the game. Inactive players this week included Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Michael Dunn and Los Angeles Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson.