Kurt Coleman, Brian Hartline and James Laurinaitis have all had breakout years so far this season (although some would argue that Lil' Animal came out from day 1 and tore it up). If you had told a Buckeye fan this in, say, 2007, that Buckeye fan would have probably looked at you with one raised eyebrow and said, "Really?" All season, though, those three have torn it up. Let's look at their performances this week, and see who else played well (if anyone).
If you missed Thursday night's game, you probably missed the best Buckeye individual performance of the week. St. Louis' defense terrorized poor Kevin Kolb at home, and James Laurinaitis was once again the catalyst in the middle with ten tackles (7 solo), one sack and one tackle for loss. Lil' Animal actually leads the entire NFL in solo tackles with 39, and is fifth in the league in overall tackles in 49. His performance this year has been off the charts - if he played in the NFC East he'd be one of the league's brightest stars. As it is, he appears headed for a Pro Bowl and is currently playing at a possible All-Pro level. Jake McQuaide, of course, long-snapped for the Rams and did an excellent job. On the other side, Chris Wells is still out with an injury. It appears that AIRBHG is an Arizona Cardinals fan as Ryan Williams is out for the season. Let's see if Wells can earn more playing time if he comes back.
A few former Buckeyes played in the battle of Pennsylvania last week, as the Steelers earned a hard-fought victory over the Eagles. Unfortunately for the former Buckeyes in black and gold, they were not a large part of the victory. Mike Adams was on the field for three whole snaps as a backup tackle, Cameron Heyward earned nine snaps and defensive end, while Will Allen didn't even see the field. Adams started in preseason, but was injured against these very same Eagles in a preseason matchup and is still recovering. Heyward simply hasn't been what the Steelers expected him to be, and has never been able to beat out Brett Keisel for playing time. On the other side, Kurt Coleman was merely okay, recording five tackles and a pass defensed. He was, however, victimized by former Illini star Rashard Mendenhall, being out of position to tackle him a few times and paying for it on a 13 yard touchdown run. Brian Rolle recorded no statistics.
As for Hartline, he again led the Dolphins in catches in a defensive battle versus the Bengals. Hartline had four catches for 59 yards, and more importantly the Dolphins came out with a hard-fought victory, 17-13. Hartline still leads the entire NFL in receptions, in a surprise plot twist. Former Buckeye cornerback Nate Clements actually started at strong safety this week and contributed nine tackles in the Bengals' depleted secondary, while kicker Mike Nugent had two field goals and an extra point, but shanked a 41-yarder that would have brought the Bengals within one point despite an awful offensive performance by the rest of his team. (Crumbs and carrots! Yes, I am a Bengals fan.)
There are other former Buckeyes in the league besides those three. For San Francisco, those Buckeyes participated in a beatdown of the Buffalo Bills. Former Bill Donte Whitner got some revenge on his old mates, recording three solo tackles. Ted Ginn returned three punts for 19 yards for the 'Niners as well. Alex Boone continues to start at right guard and play well, while Larry Grant unfortunately continues to fail to record a statistic. It didn't matter though, as the 49ers won, 45-3.
Green Bay's Buckeyes did decently, but couldn't pull out a victory against Andrew Luck and the Colts. The Packers are now a surprising 2-3 on the year. AJ Hawk finished with 8 tackles, 5 solo stops and one tackle for loss, while Ryan Pickett recorded one stop. Elsewhere in the NFC North: the even more surprising Vikings are 4-1 after recording a victory over the Titans. Their stout secondary is led by Antoine Winfield, who's having a renaissance this year. He just keeps up his solid play year after year, and recorded an interception this week along with four tackles. Michael Jenkins added three catches for 59 yards. We missed that Dane Sanzenbacher was actually active last week, getting a few snaps and one target. This week, he recorded a catch for seven yards in the Bears' beatdown of the Jaguars. Guard Michael Brewster again received some playing time for the Jags versus the Bears, and probably wished he hadn't against yet another dominant defensive line. The Lions, featuring guard Rob Sims, had a bye.
Sticking with the NFC, we have a few former Buckeye stars in the NFC South. Chris Gamble was out with a hurt shoulder against the Seahawks in the Panthers' loss. On Sunday night, the New Orleans Saints again gave up a lot of yards on defense, but were able to earn their first victory. Will Smith contributed two tackles and a big sack of Philip Rivers, while safety Michael Jenkins made one solo tackle and had a pass breakup.
For Monday night's game, Nick Mangold starts at center for the New York Jets, while Santonio Holmes is out for the rest of the season. It turns out his foot injury is a Lisfranc injury, a torn foot ligament that wouldn't have shown up on an x-ray. DeVier Posey is still inactive for the Texans. Other inactives or non-statistic recording players include: Austin Spitler (Dolphins), Terrelle Pryor (Raiders - bye), Justin Boren (Ravens), Jim Cordle (Giants), Ben Hartsock (Panthers), and Nate Ebner (Patriots).
Next week - will James Laurinaitis and Antoine Winfield continue their defensive dominance? No need to watch the No Fun League - just come back to LGHL for the Buckeye recap!