[Vandal] Locals Show Their Wares On NFL Fields

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Tue Jan 26 09:45:10 PST 2021

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoTuesday, January 26, 2021
Locals Show Their Wares On NFL Fields

Former Idaho, WSU, local high school products prove their worth
By Colton Clark
With the NFL season one game away from being complete, here’s a roundup of how local products fared this year:
Benson Mayowa (Seahawks, Idaho): The NFL journeyman’s eighth year was his best yet. Mayowa started nine games and appeared in 13 — he only missed a few because of a midseason injury — and recorded six sacks, 24 tackles (seven for loss), two forced fumbles, three pass break-ups and nine quarterback hits for the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, with whom he won a Super Bowl as a reserve during his rookie year in 2013-14. Mayowa inked a one-year deal for this season, but some media outlets have argued for the Seahawks to re-sign the former Vandal (2009-12), who has played for four franchises since going undrafted in 2013.
Mike Iupati (Seahawks, Idaho): The veteran offensive guard — a former All-Pro, first-round pick, and All-American at Idaho (2006-09) — started 10 games but struggled with injuries throughout the season. When healthy, he was one of Seattle’s most reliable blockers, grading out at a solid 67.8 on Pro Football Focus’ scale. Iupati allowed just one sack. He signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks before the season.
Elijhaa Penny (Giants, Idaho): The New York Giants’ No. 1 fullback started 14 games, carrying six times for 15 yards. Penny’s impact wasn’t with the ball in hand, however, as the former All-Sun Belt Vandal rusher (2014-15) and undrafted free agent had five powerful lead blocks that led to touchdowns on the year. He added two receptions for 20 yards and made seven special-teams tackles. Penny signed a two-year deal before the season.
Jesse Davis (Dolphins, Idaho): Davis, a fourth-year pro out of Asotin and Miami team captain, started 15 games on the Dolphins’ offensive line. The former undrafted free agent once again showed his versatility, splitting reps between guard and tackle, and playing on both sides. He committed two penalties and allowed four sacks on 1,055 snaps played.
Kaden Elliss (Saints, Idaho): The former star edge-rushing Vandal (2015-18) returned from a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2019, and played 275 special-teams snaps in 15 games. The strongside linebacker started on three special teams units, and finished the year with five tackles. Elliss’ first defensive play of his NFL career came in Week 1 against Tampa Bay. He was on the field when Tom Brady scored his first touchdown — on a 1-yard quarterback sneak — as a Buccaneer. Elliss only played a handful of reps on defense.
Jeff Cotton (Chargers, Idaho): The record-breaking All-American Idaho receiver (2018-19) signed to the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad after the NFL draft in April. He didn’t appear in a game this season.
Gardner Minshew II (Jaguars, Washington State): Minshew lost his starting role after the first three games of the year, but went on to reclaim it for another short period when former Idaho/Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton and Mike Glennon fizzled out. Minshew posted a 1-7 record, throwing for 2,259 yards on a 66.1-percent completion rate (216-for-327) with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He added 153 yards and a score on 29 carries. Speculation is Minshew will have to move on from Jacksonville — what with the Jags expected by everyone to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the top pick in the NFL draft. His chances of being picked up look good, considering his solid numbers and his showings during his first year in 2019, when he was in contention for the NFL’s rookie of the year award.
Daniel Ekuale (Jaguars, WSU): The second-year defensive tackle played in nine games and started the final five of the year. Ekuale, a Cougar from 2013-17, recorded one sack and 13 tackles (one for loss).
Jalen Thompson (Cardinals, WSU): A starting safety for Arizona, Thompson appeared in five games before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. The former fifth-round draft pick out of WSU (2016-18) totaled 19 tackles and deflected one pass.
Joe Dahl (Lions, WSU): The fifth-year Lions guard played in nine games and started four, logging 264 snaps in total. Dahl, the former All-American at Wazzu (2012-15), started 13 games in 13 appearances last season. But he dealt with injuries throughout this year.Dezmon Patmon (Colts, WSU): A sixth-round draft pick last year, Patmon appeared in just one game — against Jacksonville on Jan. 3 — and played two snaps at receiver. The big-bodied pass-catcher was a healthy scratch throughout the season.
Hercules Mata’afa (Vikings, WSU): The edge-rusher played in 13 games and started one, recording 2½ sacks and 24 tackles (three for loss). Mata’afa, a consensus All-American at WSU (2014-17) and former undrafted free agent, has another year on his deal with Minnesota.
Frankie Luvu (Jets, WSU): The third-year strongside linebacker, who played at Wazzu from 2014-17, appeared in 13 contests and started three for the Jets, registering 25 tackles (three for loss) and two sacks.
River Cracraft (49ers, WSU): The former undrafted free agent and All-Pac-12 receiver as a Coug (2013-16) was signed by San Francisco before the season and later landed on the 49ers’ practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster for nine games, in which he caught six passes for 41 yards and returned five punts for 40 yards. A questionable call overturned what appeared to be his first-career touchdown reception, on Nov. 5 against Green Bay.
Anthony Gordon (Chiefs, WSU): The Cougars’ record-breaking quarterback in 2019 was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent, but didn’t make the roster. In January, Gordon landed a reserve/future-contract deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Deone Bucannon (Buccaneers, WSU): The former first-round draft pick out of WSU (2010-13) was promoted to Tampa Bay’s active roster ahead of the postseason. That means he will at least be on the sideline during the Super Bowl. Bucannon, a linebacker converted from safety, played five years with the Arizona Cardinals and last appeared with Tampa Bay in 2019. He spent the early stages of this season on Atlanta’s practice squad. Bucannon has played 28 special-teams snaps in two games for the Bucs this year.
Andre Dillard (Eagles, WSU): The former first-round draft pick sustained a biceps injury during the preseason in August and missed the entire season after being projected to start at offensive tackle.
Leighton Vander Esch (Cowboys, Salmon River): The Riggins native and standout linebacker for Dallas returned from an injury to start 10 games. The former first-round draft pick — and two-time state champion at Salmon River High School (2012-13) — compiled 60 tackles and a sack.
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