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Stanford in the NFL, Week 6: Linebacking corps hitting their stride

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The New York Giants secured their first win of the season on Sunday, and it was former Cardinal linebacker Blake Martinez ’16 who led the defense.

With a team-high 14 tackles in a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Washington Football Team, Martinez continues to solidify himself as one of the game’s premier linebackers, ranking eighth overall this year according to Pro Football Focus. The 2016 fourth-round pick, who signed a three-year, $30 millon deal with the Giants last summer, also sits at third in the league in total tackles.

Another linebacker, Bobby Okereke ’18, put on an impressive performance as well last weekend. Okereke recorded seven tackles and two passes defended as his Indianapolis Colts erased a 21-point deficit against the Cincinnati Bengals in a 31-27 victory. After not recording more than four tackles in his first three games, the 2019 third-round pick has registered at least seven in his last three games.

Linebacker James Vaughters ’15 of the Chicago Bears also made solid contributions registering a season-high three tackles and half a sack in the Bears’ 23-16 win over the Carolina Panthers. 

Brennan Scarlett ’15 of the Houston Texans was yet another former Cardinal linebacker with a standout performance this weekend, as he made a season-high six tackles in a heartbreaking 42-36 overtime loss to the undefeated Tennessee Titans. Scarlett’s teammate, safety Justin Reid ’18, contributed seven tackles and a pass defended on Sunday afternoon, and fellow safety Michael Thomas ’12 recorded two tackles as well.

Around the league, Baltimore Ravens safety Jordan Richards ’15 registered his first tackle of the year in a 30-28 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Defensive lineman Casey Toohill ’19 was claimed off waivers by the Football Team but did not play on Sunday. Toohill was a late seventh-round pick in last year’s draft.

Offensively, the group of former Cardinal tight ends made solid contributions once again. Austin Hooper ’17 of the Cleveland Browns caught five passes for 52 yards, and Dalton Schultz ’18 of the Dallas Cowboys recorded four receptions for 35 yards in a 38-10 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Giants tight end Kaden Smith ’20 picked up three receptions for 15 yards, and the Eagles’ Zach Ertz ’13 recorded four receptions for 33 yards before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. He is expected to miss three to four weeks.

Ertz’s teammate and former Cardinal wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside ’19 scored his first touchdown of the season on Sunday — without recording a reception. Eagles running back Miles Sanders broke a run starting from the Eagles’ 19-yard line but fumbled inside the opposing ten-yard line. Arcega-Whiteside, who was blocking for Sanders downfield, recovered the fumble as the ball rolled into the endzone and gave the Eagles their first points of the game.

Finally, on special teams, New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey ’19 averaged 48.3 yards on his three punts this Sunday, with two landing inside the 20-yard line, as the Patriots lost 18-12 to the Denver Broncos to fall to 2-3 on the season.

Contact Jibriel Taha at jtaha “at” stanford.edu.

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Jibriel Taha ’24 is a staff writer for the sports section. He is from Malibu, California and studies economics and political science. In his free time, he enjoys watching football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and tennis. He also umpires and referees youth sports. Contact him at jtaha ‘at’ stanford.edu.