Last week, we turned to the NFL in the hopes of seeing some Tar Heel Football alums put out a better product than what we had seen from the UNC football team itself. This week, we turn to it again for our UNC football needs due to the cancellation of this weekend’s home opener against UCF. Fortunately, the alumni came through again, providing us with lots of Tar Heel highlights at the game’s highest level. Let’s run through them:
- Giovani Bernard got on the field more this week, playing just about half the offensive snaps in the Bengals’ 34-23 Thursday night victory over the Baltimore Ravens compared to a fifth of snaps last week. He carried 6 times for 27 yards and caught 4 of 7 targets for 15 yards. With Joe Mixon out briefly with injury, Bernard will be seeing a lot more touches in the next few games, starting with a matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. On the other end, James Hurst started at right tackle. But his unit had a rough day against the Bengals’ fierce defensive line, allowing 4 sacks and providing just 3 yards per carry in the run game.
- Julius Peppers is still on a pitch count for the Panthers after undergoing surgery in the offseason, and didn’t make much of an impact (along with the rest of the Carolina defensive line) in a 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Coaches have expressed an interest in getting him on the field more often in the coming weeks, so watch out for him. Da’Norris Searcy was a little bit more visible with 2 tackles, but exited the game early with a concussion.
- Robert Quinn continued his hot start with the Miami Dolphins, recording two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the Fins’ 20-12 victory over the New York Jets. Keep an eye on him and the Dolphins, one of the NFL’s few remaining undefeated teams and probably not one that a lot of people saw coming.
- So how about Ryan Switzer? Some may have thought he wouldn’t see much opportunity on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, which seems pretty stacked at wide receiver, but he just about doubled his snaps share from last week and saw two targets, catching one for 14 yards in a 42-37 loss. The other was a miscommunication between him and Ben Roethlisberger on a hot route, and while the mix-up is unfortunate, Roethlisberger communicated a lot of trust in Switzer and his future in this interview explaining it. Switzer also took two carries, gaining 6 yards on one and losing a yard on the other. Switzer seems to have both return jobs locked up, too. It looks like he might have finally found a place to stick around.
- With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ two starting cornerbacks out, M.J. Stewart was thrown into a starting role early in his NFL career, and acquitted himself well. He had 5 tackles, including one for loss, and a QB hit in addition to helping limit the vaunted Eagles to one touchdown through the air and just 20 points in another Tampa Bay upset, this time 27-21.
- Eric Ebron scored his second touchdown in two weeks for the Indianapolis Colts in a 21-9 victory over Washington, and caught 2 more balls for a total of 26 yards. Even though he’s the clear second tight end, it’s evident that Andrew Luck likes him, as he’s drawing almost the same number of targets as the #1 guy, Jack Doyle (it was 5 to 4 this week), while playing less than a third of the snaps. It’s early, but you have to wonder what exactly Detroit was doing with him... Tackling machine Zach Brown lived up to the name for Washington with 10 tackles, including one for loss.
- While he seems to have been overtake as a running back, T.J. Logan looks to be the Arizona Cardinals’ kick returner. He wasn’t anything special in a 34-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but that’s worth noting. He certainly excelled in that role as a Tar Heel. Tre Boston’s defense obviously got torched, but he did his job with 6 tackles.
- And finally, in his second primetime game in a row to open the season, Mitchell Trubisky came out of Week 2 with a win despite a somewhat shaky performance. Trubisky went 25/34 for 200 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The picks were pretty close together in the first half, and Trubisky was able to settle down after them and lead his team to a 24-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks (helped by his defense pick-sixing Russell Wilson). He still showed flashes of what he can do, though, like this jaw-dropping play:
Trubisky hasn’t been as good to open the season as some would have hoped given the improvements all around him, but given that this is his first year with a coach who actually cares about his development, some growing pains are expected. As long as he keeps making plays like this alongside them, he’ll be fine. Until next week!