[Vandal] Former Vandals Making Impact In NFL

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Mon Nov 9 09:47:08 PST 2020

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoSunday, November 8, 2020
Former Vandals Making Impact In NFL
Linemen getting most of the love, pub this season
By Colton Clark
At the midway point of this NFL season, it seemed appropriate to check in on how five former University of Idaho standouts have fared.
Representing the Vandals on America's brightest sports stage are Seattle defensive end Benson Mayowa, Miami tackle Jesse Davis, Seattle guard Mike Iupati, New York Giants fullback Elijhaa Penny and New Orleans linebacker Kaden Elliss.
Mayowa (at Idaho from 2009-12)
The journeyman pass-rusher arguably has been the most productive defensive lineman for a Seahawks team limited on that front.
Mayowa, who’s spent the past seven years grinding his way from undrafted free agent into a starting role, has had a hand in a momentous play in five of the Seahawks’ seven games.
He got in Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan’s line of sight and slapped away a fourth-down pass to set up a quick Seattle score in Week 1. Later that afternoon, Mayowa raced down a fleeing Ryan for a soaring sack on a red-zone fourth-and-2.
In a Week 3 win at home against Dallas, Mayowa collected a tipped ball off a Jarran Reed sack of Dak Prescott. It provided the Seahawks and MVP-contending quarterback Russell Wilson a short field, and they capitalized. Mayowa pressured Prescott on the game’s final play, inducing an off-balance throw that was picked in the end zone.
A week later, he nudged Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s arm, forcing an errant first-quarter pass and another interception.
His week-by-week string of game-changing — yet certainly sporadic — snaps continued Oct. 11 against Minnesota, as he stripped quarterback Kirk Cousins late to clinch a Seattle victory. On Minnesota’s previous drive, Mayowa and All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner combined to stuff running back Alexander Mattison on fourth-and-1, sparking a lead-taking possession.
Mayowa's most recent highlight: pressuring Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray into a fourth-down incompletion in the red zone early in an Oct. 25 rivalry matchup.
Mayowa’s low moment this year came that same game, when he was tagged with an offsides call on a field-goal attempt in the fourth to extend a Cardinals series that ended with a momentum-stealing touchdown.
In his first campaign as a solidified starter, Mayowa owns a share of the team lead with two sacks for Seattle (6-1), but has registered only two tackles for loss on runs. He’s one of the NFL’s fastest edge-rushers, in terms of his jump off the line, but is of leaner stature, and hasn’t always gotten a great power push.
He’s totaled 14 tackles, second most among Seattle defensive linemen.Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called Mayowa a "real nice surprise" ahead of the season. Carroll remembered his work ethic from 2013, when Mayowa was a raw rookie backup for Super Bowl champion Seattle.
Mayowa will not play today at Buffalo as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain that kept him sidelined last week.
A primary concern for Seattle this year has been a spotty pass-rush, which it bolstered recently with the signing of longtime Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Davis (2010-14)
In the three weeks since Davis flipped from right to left tackle to fill in for an injury, the Dolphins are 3-0.Coincidence? Probably — though it is true that the Asotin product has played exceptionally well as of late after a slow start.
Davis hasn’t permitted a sack or quarterback hit during Miami’s current tear. He even graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 left tackle league-wide last week for his performance in a 28-17 defeat of the Los Angeles Rams.
The former undrafted free agent posted career-high PFF grades of 90.7 for his run blocking, and 88.2 overall.
With regular starting left tackle Austin Jackson now off the injured reserve list, it’s possible Davis moves elsewhere for today’s game at Arizona. He’s played every O-line position save center in his four years as a Dolphin, during which time he’s started 48 games.
The 29-year-old team captain, the second-oldest player for Miami (4-3), has been tasked publicly by coach Brian Flores to employ his leadership in anchoring a rebuilding line that was among the league’s most troubled last year.
Iupati (2006-09)
The 11th-year vet and former All-Pro will miss his fourth consecutive game today with lingering back issues.
In his first four outings, starting for a second season at left guard in Seattle, Iupati registered above-average grades of 74.8 in pass protection, and 68.9 in the running game, per PFF. Based on the numbers, one could make a case he’s been the Seahawks’ second-best lineman, behind left tackle Duane Brown.
Iupati is one of two Seattle linemen to not have allowed a sack this year, and he’s committed just one penalty. The Seahawks’ offensive line ranks No. 10 in the ground game and 21st in pass protection, according to data compiled by Football Outsiders.
Coach Pete Carroll has praised the former first-round pick for his awareness, overall football IQ and ability to pick up on stunts.
Penny (2014-15)
Penny has been in on just 23 plays this year (2.9 per game), mostly lining up with jumbo sets in short-yardage situations for the Giants (1-7).
He’s paved the way with strong lead blocks on two goal-line touchdowns — one for Dion Lewis in a Sept. 20 loss to Chicago, then for Wayne Gallman in an Oct. 22 loss at Philadelphia. Penny has one carry, a 3-yarder, on the season.
But the fourth-year pro is projected to see his usage increase as the Giants’ depleted backfield — missing Saquon Barkley and Devonta Freeman — tinkers with new wrinkles.
Idaho fans know Penny is a capable athlete and ballcarrier, considering his name litters their school’s record books. In only two years as a Vandal, he posted 2,094 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns.
The former undrafted free agent showed such versatility with his first catch of the season last week. Penny slid out of the backfield and took a short toss 11 yards to get New York out of dangerous territory.
Penny is a special-teams fixture as well. Playing two-thirds of all reps in that department, he's notched three tackles.
Elliss (2015-18)
He’s been listed atop New Orleans’ depth chart at strongside linebacker all year, but that doesn’t mean much in a 4-2-5 nickel defense.
Elliss, perhaps Idaho’s best defensive prospect of the past decade, has played five relatively forgettable defensive snaps this season. The bulk of his focus has gone to punts and kickoffs. Elliss has been in on approximately two-thirds of all Saints special-teams plays.
The seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft, who fought back from a major knee injury sustained early that season, has three special-teams tackles to his name so far this year.
Of note: Elliss was on the field for Tom Brady’s first touchdown as a Buccaneer — a 1-yard quarterback sneak in Week 1.
Almost There
Receiver Jeff Cotton, an FCS All-American last year, is still cutting his teeth professionally with the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad.
Meeting Of Alums
Former Idaho teammates Mayowa and Davis went one-on-one several times during Seattle's win against Miami on Oct. 4. The two — and Iupati — met at midfield after the game for some Vandal-related photos, which circulated on social media.
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