Former Hawkeyes shine in primetime, Kittle suffers knee injury in NFL’s opening week

Former Iowa football players showed up all over the league, including four of them in a Monday Night Football matchup.



Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) catches a ball during training camp at UCHealth Training Center on Aug. 11, 2019 in Englewood, Colo. (Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/Getty Images/TNS)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The first week of the 2020 NFL season ended with the second game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader. Former Hawkeyes took over in primetime.

The Tennessee Titans narrowly defeated the Denver Broncos, 16-14. The first touchdown of the game was scored by Noah Fant. The former all-Big Ten Hawkeye finished the opener of his second professional season with five receptions for 81 yards and that score — all of which came in the first half.

Linebacker Josey Jewell and cornerback Michael Ojemudia also had their share of highlights for the Broncos’ defense.

Jewell finished with eight tackles, including a punishing hit on defending rushing champion Derrick Henry that made the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back known for running through defenders’ tumble.

The play immediately before that, Ojemudia, who was starting in his first game as a pro, made an acrobatic interception that was negated by a penalty.

Along with the three starters on the Broncos, defensive back Amani Hooker also rotated in and saw snaps in the Titans’ secondary.

“Monday Night Football with Hawkeyes OJ, Hook, Fant, and Jewell,” Iowa assistant coach Seth Wallace tweeted during the game. “Not a bad lineup for Hawkeye football.”

Kittle’s status questionable after injury scare

Former Iowa tight end and current star for the San Francisco 49ers George Kittle suffered a sprained left knee in the team’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that Kittle is questionable for the team’s Week 2 matchup against the New York Jets.

“We’ll see how he comes in on Wednesday,” Shanahan said at a press conference. “He was a little sore today, but we’ll wait to see how he is on Wednesday to see if he’s able to practice or be able to go this week. We know there will be some question.”

Kittle finished Sunday’s game with four receptions for 44 yards. Prior to the season’s start, the reigning All-Pro signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension, making him the highest paid tight end in NFL history.

Kirksey leads Green Bay defense

Christian Kirksey started 54 games as linebacker over six seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

On Sunday, he led the Green Bay Packers’ defense for the first time. Replacing a productive starter in Blake Martinez, Kirksey finished Green Bay’s 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings with a team-best 12 tackles.

Kirksey naturally fit in as inside linebacker, and was the team’s most productive player on a defense that allowed 382 yards to Minnesota.

RELATED: Opinion | Hawkeye storylines to watch as the NFL season kicks off

Other highlights from Week 1

  • Along with Fant, fellow 2019 first-round pick T.J. Hockenson got out to a quick start to begin the season. The second-year tight end caught five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown for the Detroit Lions, who lost, 27-23, after a late comeback by the Chicago Bears.
  • Rookie second-round defensive end A.J. Epenesa was a healthy scratch for the Buffalo Bills’ opening game against the New York Jets. Epenesa was inactive as defensive ends Trent Murphy, Daryl Johnson, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Addison clogged the depth chart in front of him.
  • The Cleveland Browns suffered an ugly 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn was one of the team’s few bright spots. In his first game with the Browns, Clayborn recorded a sack and two tackles for loss in limited snaps.

The second week of the 2020 NFL season begins on Thursday as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Browns. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels will be an Iowa representative for the Bengals, while Clayborn takes the field for the Browns.

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