Nine weeks into the NFL season, several former Gators are having success at the professional level:
After bouncing around the league for several years, running back Mike Gillislee has established himself as a credible goal-line threat for the New England Patriots. Gillislee had a breakout performance in the team’s opening game, scoring three touchdowns in a loss to Kansas City.
After finding the end zone again the following week, Gillislee has slowed down a bit, failing to score in his last six games. However, he has still been New England’s go-to running back, leading the team in attempts, yards and touchdowns.
Rookies making an impact on defense:
On the defensive side of the ball, safety Marcus Maye has been a consistent performer for the surprising New York Jets. Maye, a second-round pick in this year’s draft, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is third in tackles with 45.
Cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor were also selected in the second round of this year’s draft. After playing in the Colts’ first two games, Wilson missed time with an injury and hasn’t played despite being healthy the last two weeks. Tabor, on the other hand, has seen his playing time increase as of late. After not playing for the first three weeks, he’s seen the field in three of the Lions’ last five games, finally recording his first tackle against Green Bay on Monday night.
Tabor was reunited in Detroit with former teammate Jarrad Davis, who was the only Florida player selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. Davis, a linebacker, has seen consistent playing time this year, despite missing a couple weeks with a neck and head injury. Davis had a big game in Week 2 against the New York Giants, registering six tackles and one sack. He is tied for second on the Lions with 41 tackles.
Veteran defensive ends coming up big:
In his third NFL season, defensive end Dante Fowler has had a bounce-back year for the Jaguars. After missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL and only starting one game last year, Fowler has become a key contributor in a Jacksonville defense that has given up just 14.6 points per game, the best mark in the NFL.
With 5.5 sacks, Fowler has already eclipsed his total from last year and ranks third on the team in that category. Fowler has also forced two fumbles and has one fumble recovery that he took 53 yards to the end zone in Week 1.
Carlos Dunlap, now in his eighth season with the Cincinnati Bengals, is having another solid campaign at defensive end. The two-time Pro Bowler has two sacks to go along with his 22 tackles and has forced one fumble. His pick-six in Week 8 earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in his career.
You can follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano, and contact him at [email protected].