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Stanford in the NFL: Superstars shine bright

Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey explode onto the scene in the 2018 season

The NFL season is once again in full swing, and the mania of the first two weeks has been thoroughly interesting, to say the least. Rivalries are sharpening, teams are looking to cement themselves among the league’s elite and every single player on every roster is looking to show that they can contribute. Amongst the players suiting up every Sunday are 29 former Cardinal, now putting their skills on display in the NFL. Here’s what some of them have been up to the past two weeks!

Let’s start with the biggest name that comes to mind when envisioning Stanford alumni. Andrew Luck is back on the field after missing the entirety of last season and is proving to the entire country that he is still an elite talent. There’s some rust on the gears for the Indianapolis Colts signal caller, but he’s demonstrated the same pocket awareness, strength and accuracy that has highlighted his career so far. So far this season, he’s completed 71.4 percent of his passes, far above his career average of 59 percent. He’s notched 498 total yards and four touchdowns in two games, including a beautiful 26-yard touch pass to tight end Eric Ebron versus the Bengals. At 1-1 on the season, he has thrown three interceptions and needs to continue progressing, but hope is alive for Luck supporters and Colts fans everywhere.

The Cardinal’s second recent superstar alumnus, Christian McCaffrey, has also been dominating in a revamped Carolina Panthers offense under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Through two games, McCaffrey has only rushed 18 times but has amassed 87 yards, good for 4.8 yards per attempt, currently tenth best in the NFL. But McCaffrey has truly excelled as a receiver out of the backfield, catching screens and dropping into the slot as a target for Cam Newton. McCaffrey currently has 20 receptions through two games, which is second among all players in the NFL. Once he has the ball with a bit of open space, he flashes his elite ability to make people miss and has an astounding 7.4 yards per reception for 147 total receiving yards. McCaffrey hasn’t scored a touchdown yet, but with the amount of times he’s touching the ball, he surely will soon.

On the defensive side of the ball, Blake Martinez continues to cement himself as one of the top linebackers in professional football. As the defensive leader for the Green Bay Packers in just his third season, Martinez is the brains of Mike McCarthy’s operation and has had strong showings against the Bears and the Vikings. He has played every defensive snap in the two games and has 11 total tackles on the year. Martinez led the league in tackles last year with 144, tying for first place, and has set lofty goals for himself, trying to break the all-time record of 195, set by Chris Spielman in 1994.

And the freshest faces from Stanford football took to the field for the first time, as Justin Reid and Harrison Phillips suited up and saw playing time for the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills respectively. These two rookies did not let the bright lights phase them, even as their teams fell to 0-2 around them. Reid has seen time on the field in nickel packages for the Texans and has five tackles already on the season. Four came against the Titans and one against the Patriots, but his biggest moment against New England came in coverage against all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, when Reid broke up the pass intended for Gronk on a third and short.

Phillips also has five tackles and has seen a large amount of playing time on the Bills defensive rotation, due in part to injuries to Kyle Williams. Four of Phillips’ tackles came against the Baltimore Ravens in week one. Two of those tackles were for a loss, and he also registered two quarterback hurries, flashing back to his days on The Farm.

The NFL season will continue to unfold, and more Stanford players will surely make their mark as time passes and they gain more experience under their belts.

 

Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu

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