Duke in the NFL: Anunike Back, Crowder and Cockrell Emerging

Credit:Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Jamison Crowder saw his first extended action of the season last Thursday against the New York Giants.  According to Football Outsiders, Crowder saw 51 offensive snaps last week.  Crowder had been on the field for just 23 offensive snaps total through the first two weeks of the NFL season.  Crowder has been the lead punt returner for Washington since the start of the season. Last week he caught all six of his targests for 45 yards in addition to his two point conversion catch.  An injured hamstring slowed Crowder in the preseason, but he appears to be getting adjusted to the NFL game.  Crowder received an early bump up the depth as a result of Desean Jackson’s early season injury, but is progressing well, according to head coach Jay Gruden.  Jackson could be back soon, and while its unclear exactly how that may affect Crowder’s playing time, the rookie is showing in practice, and on the field, that he is ready to contribute.

After another promising preseason, Kenny Anunike had his right knee scoped on August 20.  After spending all of his rookie season on IR, Anunike is anxious to get his NFL career officially started. Anunike returned to practice Monday, the 21st, but was inactive for last Sunday night’s game against Detroit.  The scope was done on his right knee, Anunike has had four surgeries on his left knee, but he says he’s feeling great and ready to step in and contribute.  The Bronco pass rush has been excellent so far this season, but Anunike will provide even more speed and strength on the edge.  He could be ready for this Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

After seeing limited time during his rookie season in Buffalo, cornerback Ross Cockrell was released during the preseason by the Bills and signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  After sitting out week 1, Cockrell has seen his role in the defense increase.  Cockrell has been a pleasant surprise and seems to be progressing quickly through his first few weeks as a Steeler, logging over 50 snaps on defense over the last two weeks.  Albeit in limited time, Cockrell has graded out as the Steelers best corner to date, and from an analytical perspective, has been one of the best CBs in the NFL.  Cockrell received a lot of work as the nickel corner in week 2 against San Francisco and spent some time defending Kenny Britt during week 3’s matchup against the Rams.  If Cortez Allen is forced to miss Thursday night’s game against Baltimore, Cockrell will likely be the third corner for the Steelers.  Pittsburgh likes what they’ve seen so far, and if Cockrell continues to improve he may become more of a permanent fixture in the Steeler’s defensive backfield.

Both Laken Tomlinson and Juwan Thompson have seen extensive time on the field for the Lions and Bronos, respectively.  Thompson left last week’s game with a neck injurty after collliding with a defender on a goal line rushing attempt.  Thompson has also stood out on special teams, forcing a fumble on a punt return in week 2.  Former Duke QB Thad Lewis was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles last week.  Lewis spent the preseason with the Cleveland Browns , but was released right before the regular season started.  He worked out for the Eagles, but wasn’t signed until last week.  He will backup Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.