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Orange in the NFL: Recapping week 18 for Syracuse football alumni

The bright lights await for three Orange alums

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Well, we’ve finally made it to the NFL playoffs. While some Syracuse Orangemen alumni are advancing to compete in the national spotlight, others have already entered off-season mode. Here’s the final rundown of where your favorite former SU players stand.

Garrett Williams, Arizona Cardinals

Williams didn’t play in Arizona’s season finale against Seattle. It was a disappointing rookie campaign for the former third-rounder, who missed eight games due to knee and ankle injuries. He finished with 23 tackles, one interception and two pass deflections.

Matthew Bergeron, Atlanta Falcons

The left guard saw 61 snaps last weekend against New Orleans, allowing a sack and two pressures in the loss. The second-rounder lived up to the hype in his first season in the Peach State, posting run-blocking and pass-blocking grades of 60.1 and 57.1, according to Pro Football Focus. Both of those stats rank third of all rookie guards. Bergeron was only one of four guards from the 2023 draft class to start all 17 games and had the most run-blocking opportunities of anyone at the position.

Kingsley Jonathan, Buffalo Bills

Jonathan was another former Orangemen who didn’t play in Buffalo’s final regular season matchup, a thrilling division-clinching victory over Miami. The defensive lineman filled in for injured starters in 13 games this year and contributed with five tackles and a forced fumble. He’s still under contract for one more season in Western New York for a little under one million dollars.

Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos

The eight-year veteran set a season-high in punt attempts in Denver’s loss to Las Vegas last weekend. Setting a career high is great, but as a punter, it comes with a caveat. The Broncos finished third in the AFC West with an 8-9 record and have missed the playoffs every year since 2015. Dixon, meanwhile, finished averaging 46.3 yards-per-punt over his 79 tries and has an opt-out agreement at the conclusion of this season.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Detroit Lions

The safety finished with three tackles, allowing two receptions for nine yards in Detroit’s win over Minnesota. After bouncing back and forth from the starting lineup due to injuries, Melifonwu’s recent success has found him a spot on the first team. The third-year pro notched two interceptions over the last three contests and even earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after week 16. His next chance to shine comes against the Rams in the Wild Card round on Sunday night.

Zaire Franklin, Indianapolis Colts

In a race for the tackling title, Franklin managed “just” nine against Houston and ended up second behind Seattle’s Bobby Wagner with 179 takedowns. Despite setting a franchise record in tackles, Franklin got snubbed from the Pro Bowl. He’s currently listed as one of Indianapolis’ first alternates for the AFC vs. NFC game, so he might still be selected.

Andre Cisco, Jacksonville Jaguars

Cisco completed his third season on a high note, intercepting Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ loss against the Titans. The safety snagged his fourth pick of the year, but unfortunately, the Jacksonville offense couldn’t punch the ball in from close range, ending its season. Cisco tied a team-high in interceptions and started in a career-high 14 games. He’s under contract for one more year in the Sunshine State.

Justin Pugh, New York Giants

The 11th-year man put together his highest weekly PFF grade in almost two months against Philadelphia, allowing no sacks in the win. Jumping “straight off the couch” and onto the field in week six, Pugh has been an anchor for the G-Men. The former first-rounder rotated from the left tackle and left guard positions, starting in the season’s final 12 games. Free agency awaits the veteran, so we’ll see if he returns to the couch for good.

Sean Tucker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tucker hasn’t taken the field for Tampa since week 10, despite being on the active roster. It’s a little surprising, given he was the #2 back to start the campaign, but 23 yards on 15 carries mostly likely contributed to his benching. Still under contract with the Bucs, I’d expect Tucker to move to the team’s practice squad once their season concludes.