Led by star Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the sizable group of former Clemson Tigers suiting up in the NFL has gotten off to a solid start to the 2018 slate. With 33 Clemson football alumni serving on active NFL rosters at the start of the regular season, the orange and regalia is well represented in the professional ranks.
The opening week of the NFL season saw several former Tigers put on a show. Playing in his first regular season game since his marvelous rookie season came to an abrupt end due to injury last November, Watson picked up right where he left off in regard to connecting with former Clemson and current Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins. “Nuk” hauled in eight catches for 78 yards to lead the Texans in receiving.
Hopkins was not the only former Clemson receiver to stand out in Week 1. Los Angeles Chargers wideout Mike Williams accrued 81 receiving yards on five receptions, including a 25-yard catch. Versatile Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Adam Humphries made an impact on offense and special teams. Catching three passes for 27 yards, Humphries also made two punt returns and one kick return. In addition, Sammy Watkins hauled in three receptions for 21 yards in his Kansas City Chiefs debut.
On the defensive side of the ball, Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader was one of the leading pass rushers in Week 1, as he collected two sacks in his four-tackle showing. Furthermore, Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett attained five total tackles and one hit on the quarterback, and New York Giants linebacker B.J. Goodson recorded three combined tackles and half of a sack.
Elsewhere, safety Marcus Gilchrist was the leading tackler for the Oakland Raiders, as he obtained eight total tackles, six of which were solo. Also of note, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Tyler Shatley helped block on Jacksonville’s first touchdown of the season as part of a 20-15 Jaguars win over the Giants.
In the special teams department, Chandler Catanzaro went 2-3 on field goals and 6-6 on extra points in his first game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and San Francisco 49ers punter Bradley Pinion compiled 174 net yards on four punts, including a 48-yarder.
Week 2 saw more of the same from Watson, who went 22-32 for 310 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also compiled 44 rushing yards on five carries. Watson and Hopkins connected in the end zone for the first time this season, with Nuk corralling a 28-yard pass from Deshaun as part of a six-catch, 110-yard performance by Hopkins. A milestone game for DeAndre, the Texans’ Week 2 contest with the Tennessee Titans saw the 26-year-old wideout become the third-youngest player in NFL history to reach 6,000 career receiving yards.
Williams also experienced a memorable Week 2, as Mike opened the scoring action for the Chargers in their 31-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills with the first touchdown of his professional career. Williams hauled in a 10-yard score in the opening quarter and finished with 27 receiving yards on two receptions.
Keeping it in the receiving department, Watkins came alive for the Chiefs in their win by collecting 100 receiving yards on six catches to along with a 31-yard rush. Additionally, wideout Jaron Brown made a splash for the Seattle Seahawks in the Monday Night Football matchup with three receptions for 36 yards.
Third-year Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander experienced a breakout game, finishing with a career high seven tackles, including his first career sack. Likewise, Gilchrist tabbed five combined tackles to bring his season total to 13, and Reader added four combined tackles to his stat sheet. In Atlanta, Jarrett continued to shine by racking up five total tackles and three quarterback hits.