Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season is officially wrapped up, with four Syracuse alumni hitting the field in their teams’ respective opening contests. None of the four walked off the gridiron with a win, but not all of them fell in defeat. Let’s see how the Cardinals’ Justin Pugh and Chandler Jones, the Colts’ Zaire Franklin and the Giants’ Riley Dixon performed in their early games.
Justin Pugh, G, Arizona Cardinals
The seven-year vet took his place as the starting left guard for the Cardinals on Sunday, protecting No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray in his debut alongside new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Through three quarters the offense was anything but pretty and, fortunately for Pugh, it was his counterpart guard that was part of the first “c’mon man” of the season when he sacked his own quarterback.
You know, JR Sweezy DID play defensive tackle at NC State... pic.twitter.com/sdxVUMqdDo— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) September 9, 2019
Eventually the Cardinals offense caught fire in the fourth quarter, and an 18-3 advantage over the final 15 minutes of regulation sent things into overtime. The magic died down shortly after, however, as the Cardinals couldn’t edge out their foe in the extra period — creating the second-ever Week 1 tie in NFL history.
Chandler Jones, OLB, Arizona Cardinals
After dropping weight to switch from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, Jones went right to work on disrupting the Detroit offensive line.
Chandler Jones with a release that would make Late Night Larry proud. pic.twitter.com/lqcNWvBrca— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 9, 2019
The all-pro, entering his eighth season in the league and fourth with the Cardinals, had a terrific and well-rounded outing — boasting four solo tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack and a forced fumble/fumble recovery. Aside from a 17-point second quarter, the Cardinals defense shut down an otherwise poor Detroit offensive unit and held the Lions to just 10 points in the remaining 55 minutes.
Zaire Franklin, LB, Indianapolis Colts
The young Colts linebacker was just a short drive away from his Arizona counterparts, as Franklin and his Indianapolis team travelled to sunny California for a Week 1 battle with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The second-year pro didn’t see a single snap for the Indy defense behind a crowded linebacking corp, but he was on 77% of the Colts’ special teams plays (20 total). Just like Pugh, Jones and the Cardinals, the Colts marched their way back in the fourth quarter to force overtime — but fell on a touchdown run by Austin Ekeler in the extra period.
Franklin managed to keep his roster spot despite the Colts drafting three linebackers this past April, which means general manager Chris Ballard thinks highly of his impact on special teams. He did start two games last season and racked up 29 total tackles, which means there could be a change he sees snaps next to All-Pro Darius Leonard sometime down the road.
Riley Dixon, P, New York Giants
Meanwhile, in Dallas, Riley Dixon the New York Giants were handed a massive loss at the hands of the Cowboys, 35-17. The lopsided affair meant plenty of action for the 26-year-old in his fourth NFL season — who held on to his starting job despite battling things out with two additional punters this preseason.
Dixon punted the ball four times for the Giants’ special teams unit for 166 yards, an average of 41.50 yards per punt. It wasn’t the best outing for a punter who’s averaged 45.2 yards per punt in his career, but some short-field scenarios definitely took some yardage away.