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Thursday, November 30, 2023

How ex-Badgers have fared so far this NFL season

The Wisconsin Badgers have produced a plethora of noteworthy NFL players. With just three games played this season, how have ex-Badgers across the league performed?

Any fan of professional football blocks out at least part of their week for viewing pleasures and woes, cheering on 22 men in pads and helmets. While only one team’s fans celebrate ultimate success in a season, it is essential that any fan has other places to turn when their hometown team is suffering. 

For past and present Badger fans, fond memories of the rich history tied to Wisconsin football provides an outlet during the chaotic and unpredictable NFL game week. 

The beginning of this NFL season, like any other, has been quite volatile, and some of the greatest recent Badgers have been right in the middle of the storm.

Russell Wilson

Seeing Russell Wilson in any professional colors other than the green, blue and gray of Seattle is undeniably off-putting. The high expectations he left for Denver with were such of a top-tier quarterback. 

In his first three games for the Broncos, Wilson struggled with production, throwing only two touchdowns compared to one interception. Fewer than 750 passing yards places him at 19th in the league, which is concerning considering the firepower of his receiving core in Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Albert Okwuegbunam. 

The Broncos lost their season opener in Wilson’s return to Seattle, and while the clock management at the end of the game was the main point of concern, the Broncos’ stagnant offense is not to be overlooked. Again in Week 3, they only managed 11 points, which was somehow enough to beat a struggling San Francisco team in not-so-primetime Sunday Night Football. In their first three games, the Broncos have not yet scored more than 17 points. 

Badger fans want to see Russ cook, but the Broncos are struggling to provide him with the opportunity.

Jonathan Taylor

Arguably one of the most elite talents to ever come out of Madison, Taylor broke out as one of the best, if not the best, running back in last year’s regular season. A consensus number one pick in any fantasy football league, Taylor entered this season with massive expectations — not to mention how last season was cut short when the Colts burnt out of the playoff picture on the last Sunday of last season. 

Adding Matt Ryan to the cause behind a top-rated offensive line has set Taylor up for possibly his best season yet. Even with Taylor’s 4.7 yards per rush and 286 overall yards so far this season, the Colts found themselves with a tie against Davis Mills’ Texans and a shocking blank-slate loss to Jacksonville (Trevor Lawrence is back). 

While the Colts did pull off a surprising win over Kansas City this past Sunday, they’re a long way from a meaningful season. In terms of personal success, Taylor is third in yards, second in touches and thirteenth in touchdowns so far this season. While it would be painful to be a Colts fan, it will be fun to watch Taylor continue to develop into form throughout this season.

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J.J. Watt

Watt is no stranger to the spotlight ever since his glory days at Camp Randall. Unfortunately, as of late, the dominant defensive end has struggled with a plethora of injuries. 

Last season, he missed 10 games with a slew of tears in his shoulder. Watt also missed the Cardinals’ season opener this year with left calf concerns. At this point, Watt is viewed as extremely injury-prone. 

Nonetheless, he still holds superiority over much of the league at the defensive end position. In his first two games in almost a year, Watt returned with three solo tackles and two sacks. While the numbers are not eye-popping yet, Watt’s role on an unpredictable Arizona defense is bound to compare to the likes of his Texans days. Watt will be back, but we just may have to wait.

T.J. Watt

Yet again, a Badger finds himself on the injured reserve list within the first few games of the season. However, in comparison to other Watt family injuries, this is one of the least concerning. 

The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year has been turning heads on an elite Pittsburgh defense since he was drafted in the first round almost six years ago. Just recently, though, has he ascended to such high levels of gameplay that led to his DPOY award last season. Between J.J. and T.J., four of these awards belong to the family. 

This season, Watt picked up without any signs of falter. In just the one game Watt played before injuring his pectoral muscle, he tallied up an interception, six tackles and a sack. While the Steelers defense has been volatile, Watt will continue to be a cornerstone of the black and gold, so long as he returns healthy after his five week recovery.

Melvin Gordon III

Wisconsin football is famous for their high level production of professional talents in the running back department (Badgers earned the #2 spot on ESPN’s RBU rankings for the 2022 season). 

Melvin Gordon III is often mentioned among the Wisconsin running back history that is evaluated for such rankings, and rightfully so. Gordon has held a solid starter/backup position with the Broncos for the past two seasons after finding personal success with the Chargers.

Through the first three games of this season, Gordon has only 131 yards on just 34 touches and one touchdown. While the stats are not thrilling compared to other dynamic running backs of the league (like Taylor), Gordon’s solidified role in the soon-improving Broncos offense will continue this season as the veteran will continue to add to his respectable professional resume

The slew of elite linemen

As much as Wisconsin is famous for being the best RBU (running back university) in the Big Ten, there is no doubt that the entire conference is a powerhouse for linemen production. Countless professional first round picks have been cashed in for Big Ten linemen, no more elite than the products of Camp Randall’s trenches. 

There are currently more than 20 Wisconsin lineman alumni on an NFL roster. While it would take hours to admire the abundance of success these players have displayed, there are some highly respected names on rosters throughout the league. Kevin Zeitler, Tyler Biadasz, Leo Chenal, David Edwards, Rob Havenstein and Isaiahh Loudermilk are just a few of the Badgers who have landed solid starting jobs or supporting roles. These players, along with many others, will continue to bring Wisconsin excellence to the professional offensive and defensive lines.

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