The first week of the NFL season is in the books, which means there are officially 22 active former Tennessee Vols across the league. Each week, we will breakdown the good, the bad, and the most surprising storylines involving our favorite former players on the gridiron.
Side note: How many of the 22 can you name off the top of your head? I hit 18 of 22 myself. Tweet me your answer, @Ric_Butler.
Without further delay, the good, the bad, and the surprise for the NFL VFL’s in Week 1.
Alexander Johnson may be a household name for Tennessee fans, and he will soon be a household name for NFL fans. Johnson was able to rack up 12 total tackles, including eight solo tackles, in Denver’s loss to Tennessee.
Johnson was absolutely flying from sideline to sideline all night. He was instrumental in capping Derrick Henry to just 3.7 yards per attempt and zero total touchdowns. With Von Miller now out for likely the season, Johnson will be looked up to lead this defense. As the leading tackler in the entire game, he looks to be off to a good start.
Just one day after signing a contract extension just north of $75 million, Alvin Kamara showed exactly why the Saints opened the bag for him. All he does is score touchdowns. Kamara ran one in on the ground as well as adding a reception through the air.
Kamara was a large factor in the Saints getting the quick jump on the Bucs, despite only rushing for 16 total yards. That being said, the Buccaneers were the No. 1 run defense team in the league last year, and Kamara is far more than a traditional running back. He also racked up 51 yards receiving on the five receptions, showing that unconventional players can still thrive even in an unconventional year.
Jason Witten’s black and silver debut looked about as disappointing as his broadcasting career did. In his first year away from Dallas since his days at Rocky Top, Witten caught the lone attempt thrown his way for a measly two yards.
The 17-year veteran was only on the field for 44% of the Raiders offensive snaps. However, it is important to remember that Witten was not brought in because he is some world-beater at 38. He was brought in as a piece to help teach the Raiders very young offense, including breakout tight end Darren Waller. So while the on-the-field play may not look so good, his behind the scenes work is immensely valuable.
Justin Coleman did not have a bad game on Sunday versus the Bears but did receive some bad news on Tuesday morning. According to multiple sources, Coleman has been placed on injured reserve by the Lions after suffering a hamstring injury on Sunday. With this news, the earliest Coleman could return to the field is Week 6 against Jacksonville.
There’s never any rhyme or reason why most injuries happen, but Coleman does fall into a large grouping of injured players from Week 1. Who’s to say whether the injuries are due to the lack of preseason/training camp or something else, but here’s to a speedy recovery for the former Vol nonetheless.
Deandre Hopkins had a wildly successful debut for the Arizona Cardinals, largely thanks to Emmanuel Moseley. You don’t have to remind me of the fact that Deandre Hopkins is a Top 5 wide receiver in the NFL, and any corner matching up against him is in for a long day.
It’s not to say that Moseley had a terrible night. It was the scheming that was the surprising part. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hopkins caught 10 receptions on 11 targets on 22 routes for 96 yards when Moseley covered it. On the flip side, when covered by Richard Sherman, Hopkins only caught three passes on four targets on 15 routes for 22 yards.
San Francisco seemed to be scheming Hopkins his way all night and trying to take advantage of it. If the first game was any indication of things to come, teams may continue to single out Moseley over Sherman for the Niners.
Malik Jackson returned to the Eagles lineup after missing all but the opening game of the 2019 season but suffered from the same disappointment as the Eagles did. Even though Jackson was on the field for 79% of the Eagles defensive snaps, the ninth year player only accounted for two combined tackles on the day.
On the one hand, it shouldn’t be surprising that a player who missed an entire season before entering the pandemic lockdown had a slow start during his return. But on the other hand, only two tackles seemed surprisingly low for 55 total snaps on the field. That being said, I wouldn’t think this is a trend that continues much longer as Jackson continues to find his footing in his return.