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NFL Pro Dawgs: Extended Dominance

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Vita Vea has a new contract as several Huskies advance to the playoffs

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is now over in the NFL as for the first time ever 14 teams have qualified for the playoffs with the new extra week and extra playoff team in each conference. They may be concentrated within a few teams specifically but Washington is one of only 10 college programs to have an average of more than 1 alumni per playoff squad. Let’s go through each of the playoff-bound Huskies.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vita Vea- It was another dominant season for Vea who continues to show he’s one of if not the best nose guards in the NFL. He signed a $73 million contract extension that certainly puts him right up there among the highest paid players in the sport. In 16 games this season he had 33 tackles and a career high 4 sacks but just like at Washington his impact was most strongly felt by absorbing double teams and disrupting pockets. Expect at least one viral moment on Twitter this playoff season when Vea completely destroys a center or guard trying to block him in single coverage and getting shoved backwards 10 feet into the QB’s lap.

Joe Tryon- After getting drafted in the 1st round this past spring, Tryon has certainly had flashes. He started 6 games for Tampa and has been a situational pass rusher in the rest to end up with 29 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, and 10 QB hits. Playing for such a veteran team there wasn’t a chance for Tryon to get the playing time necessary for a DROY campaign but he could see his numbers explode next year if given a full-time starting gig.

Benning Potoa’e- It has been an uphill battle for Potoa’e after going undrafted out of Washington but he managed to make the active roster for one game this season and now has 1 career tackle. He might have had a chance to play a bigger role if not playing for the defending champions.

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker- Ho hum. Nothing to see here. Just a 3rd consecutive and 4th overall Pro Bowl appearance for Baker who continues to be one of the top few safeties in the sport. He finished the year with 98 tackles and career highs of 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended for the Cards who faded from a hot start but still made the playoffs.

Byron Murphy- Murphy broke out in a big way this year with career highs of 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended. The corner position was clearly an area of need for Arizona and Murphy helped fill that void by living up to his status as the first pick in the 2nd round a few years ago. Still only 23 years old, Murphy has the look of a potential star.

Ezekiel Turner- Back in October Turner was placed on IR with a shoulder injury which knocked him out for the majority of the season. At the time of the injury he had 4 tackles in 5 games in a reserve role. He has been designated to return as of a couple weeks ago but still hasn’t gotten in a game yet after that point. We’ll see if he can come back for the playoffs.

Darrell Daniels- Unfortunately Daniels’ role in Arizona’s offense diminished this season as he only started 4 games and finished with 1 catch for 0 yards.

Andre Baccellia- He spent the season on the practice squad and never got into a game but he is still technically with Arizona.

Los Angeles Rams

Greg Gaines- Gaines has finally started getting credit as one of the best run stuffers in the NFL playing alongside Aaron Donald for the NFC West champs. He had a career high 4.5 sacks this year which certainly helped draw the eye. His 55 total tackles also shattered his previous career high which wasn’t a surprise as he earned his first 13 career starts. If Gaines plays at this level again next year we could see him alongside Vita Vea in the Pro Bowl.

Taylor Rapp- This year Rapp managed to more than double his career interception totals as he had 4 in 2021 after a combined 3 in his first 2 seasons. He also managed to secure his first 1.5 career sacks alongside 94 total tackles. Rapp hasn’t quite blossomed into a safety the caliber of Budda Baker but he’s been a reliable starter on one of the better defenses in the NFL.

Coleman Shelton- Due to injuries at the center position Shelton got to make 2 starts for the Rams after spending most of the year as the backup (and played 99% in a 3rd game). We likely won’t see a lot of Shelton in the playoffs but he’ll always be 1 injury away from getting back in the game.

Las Vegas Raiders

Corey Littleton- The Raiders had an incredibly dramatic season that saw them clinch a playoff spot with the final play of the NFL regular season on Sunday night. Littleton had a bit of a reduced role this year for Las Vegas starting 13 out of 17 games. He still finished with 98 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 4 passes defended from his linebacker spot.

Desmond Trufant- Yes, he’s still around. Trufant started the year with the Saints but was cut and has gotten an opportunity with the Raiders. He has 1 start and 8 total games for Las Vegas and has put up 14 tackles with 4 passes defended. I love that Trufant continues to chug along in the NFL because he’s my age which both makes me feel older and younger.

Cincinnati Bengals

Drew Sample- After getting drafted as a mostly blocking tight end, that’s what Sample has been this year. In 2020 Sample managed 349 receiving yards but with all of the other weapons now in the Cincinnati rotation he was an afterthought as a pass catcher ending up with 11 for 81. In the last month he has been playing about 30% of the offensive snaps as the 2nd tight end.

Dallas Cowboys

Josiah Bronson- It’s unlikely Bronson ends up seeing the field in the playoffs but you never know. He was picked up by Dallas onto their practice squad last week after appearing in 7 total games for the Saints and the Browns in his rookie year. It’s still a promising sign for his career that he wound up with 12 tackles as a rookie UDFA even if he has been on 3 teams already.

Green Bay Packers

Kevin King- The Packers are the #1 seed in the NFC and they got there in part by drafting a ton of players in the secondary with high picks which has created competition for King. In between that and injuries he ended up starting 6 contests and appearing in 10 total. The lack of playing time meant no career highs but King finished with 29 tackles, 3 passes defended, and 1 interception.

New England Patriots

Myles Bryant- It seemed a no brainer that the former walk-on would quickly show that not getting drafted was a mistake on the part of the league. In his 2nd year he appeared in 12 games for New England including 2 starts and finished with 41 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 1 sack, and 3 passes defended. That’s the kind of versatility Husky fans got used to seeing from the do everything nickel/safety hybrid.

Tennessee Titans

Elijah Molden- Similar to Myles Bryant it was glaringly obvious that Molden was going to be a good pro even though his height dropped him down a full round behind when he should’ve gotten drafted. Things really picked up for Molden down the stretch as he played an increasingly key role for the #1 seed in the AFC. In 7 starts and 16 total games for the Titans Molden had 62 tackles, 4 passes defended, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. I’m looking forward to watching Molden dominate in the NFL for years to come.