The NFL regular season started last Thursday, and while some familiar Pitt alumni took to the field once again, some new Panthers joined them in the hopes of making it to the Super Bowl.
Pitt is known for producing all-pros — a distinction the Associated Press gives to players who are considered among the best in the league in their position. ESPN ranked Pitt as the best all-pro-producing factory from the last 15 drafts. As week one comes to a close, here’s a look at how some the former Panthers fared.
Tom Savage, quarterback, Houston Texans
In his fourth NFL season, Savage finally won the starting job — beating out rookie QB and former Clemson Tiger Deshaun Watson.
The first game of the season for Savage and the Texans — the reigning AFC South division champion — should’ve been an easy victory. Their opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, went 3-13 last year — the worst in the division. The Texans were also looking for a win to boost morale for fans, as this game was their first since Hurricane Harvey devastated the city.
Unfortunately for Savage and the Texans, the Jaguars pressed him early on, and were successful in stopping Houston’s offense altogether.
The Texans punted four times in a row on offense to start the game, and on the fifth try, Savage fumbled the ball and was sacked. He also fumbled the ball after a strip by Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Dante Fowler, a defensive end for the Jaguars, recovered the ball and ran it into the end zone to give the Jaguars a 19-0 lead at the end of the half.
Savage was benched after the first half, and Watson replaced him for the rest of the game. The Texans ended up falling to the Jaguars 29-7, and will play the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals
In what was his 14th season opener as a pro, Fitzgerald faced off against the Detroit Lions last Sunday. The wide receiver ended the game with six catches for 74 yards, but his performance wasn’t enough to secure a win, and the Cardinals lost 35-20. The team will face off next against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Sept. 17.
LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills
All-Pro McCoy played a great game against the New York Jets on Sunday. While recent Pitt alum and fellow Buffalo Bill Nathan Peterman did not join him on the field, McCoy ran for 110 yards on 22 rushing attempts as the Bills beat the Jets at home, 21-12. McCoy received help from his defense, who intercepted three passes by Jets quarterback, Josh McCown, and only allowed 38 yards rushing. The Bills will take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Sept. 17, in Charlotte, N.C.
James Conner, running back, Steelers
Conner played his first professional game of his career against AFC North division foe, the Browns, last Sunday. He saw little playing time as a backup to Le’Veon Bell, and only had four rushing attempts for 11 yards. The Steelers managed a close 21-18 victory and will look to continue the streak against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 17.
Tyler Boyd, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
Second-year wide receiver Boyd had little impact in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, with only one catch for 11 yards. Boyd will not be a prime target this season, as he ranks third on the depth chart for wide receiver and will be behind standout receiver A.J. Green and newly acquired Brandon LaFell. The Bengals could not get through the Ravens’ defense, and were shut out 20-0. They will look to get their first win against the Houston Texans Sept. 14.
Andy Lee, punter, Arizona Cardinals
Lee kicked off his third straight year wearing a new uniform. Previously with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 and the Carolina Panthers in 2016, he reunited with Fitzgerald for the first time since playing at Pitt — this time as a Cardinal. The three-time Pro Bowler had four punts for 184 yards, averaging 46 yards, with the longest being 57 during the loss against the Detroit Lions.
Dion Lewis, running back, New England Patriots
Lewis was a significant part of the 2015 Patriots team before he suffered a devastating knee injury, which kept him out the rest of the season and only allowed him to play seven games in 2016. He came back to play the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night in a minor performance, as he rushed for only nine yards on two rushes. Surprisingly, the Chiefs defeated the defending Super Bowl champions, 42-27, and will face off against the New Orleans Saints Sept. 17.
Aaron Donald, defensive end, Los Angeles Rams
Although he’s one of the best defensive players in the league, Donald was inactive against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The young defensive tackle is still negotiating a contract extension that would make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league. Even without his presence on the field, the Rams destroyed the Colts, 49-6. He will likely be back next week to help the Rams as they take on the Washington Redskins Sept. 17.
Tyrique Jarrett, defensive tackle, Denver Broncos
The Broncos moved up the recent Pitt alum from the practice squad to the 53-man roster before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jarrett made only one tackle Monday night, which went down as an assisted tackle, but the Broncos achieved a 24-21 win over the Chargers. Jarrett and the Broncos will take on the Dallas Cowboys at home Sept. 17.