It’s been a wild week for former Ohio State players in the NFL. Playoff pictures are starting to form and postseason honor nominees are being named, including some Buckeyes. It wasn’t all good news this past week with one Buckeye earning a suspension that has ended his season.
Here’s more from Buckeyes in the NFL in Week 14:
Cameron Heyward up for Man of the Year
The NFL’s top honor won’t be announced until the night before the Super Bowl, but team’s announced their nominees last week for the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and Buckeye Cameron Heyward was the Steelers’ pick — for the third time.
“Heyward, who started the “Heyward House” charity, has become a fixture in the city of Pittsburgh helping as many at-risk youth as he possibly can. The Heyward House has done a tremendous job in helping organizations such as: Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, DKMS, KidsVoice, Smyrna Stars Baksetball Club and other after school fitness programs.”
— Jeff.Hartman, Behind the Steel Curtain
Heyward has always focused just as much of his efforts off the field as he has to being an elite defender.
DE Cam Heyward is the Steelers' representative for NFL Man of the Year. This is the third nomination for Heyward, who started the Heyward House Foundation in 2015. "I just want to give back for my community" and set an example for my kids, Heyward said.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 6, 2018
The winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award will receive $500,000 in charitable donations, but all 32 nominees will receive $50,000 donations in their name made to Character Playbook (the NFL and United Way’s digital character education program) and a charity of their choice.
Denzel Ward leads AFC CB Pro Bowl votes
Fan voting for the 2019 Pro Bowl ends on Thursday, Dec. 13, but at last tally, rookie Buckeye Denzel Ward was leading the AFC cornerbacks in votes with 268,092.
Ward was inactive for the Browns in Week 14 as he’s still in concussion protocol after being sidelined during last week’s game against Houston.
So far this season though, Ward has recorded 48 total tackles, 11 pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal attempt. Not bad for a rookie.
Denzel Ward is the highest graded rookie cornerback in the NFL through 13 weeks. pic.twitter.com/ouMPGA88K4— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 6, 2018
Darron Lee suspended 4 games
Jets linebacker Darron Lee has played his last regular season game of the 2018 NFL season after being suspended by the league for four games for violating the substance-abuse policy.
“The suspension is effective immediately, meaning Lee’s season is over. It will cost him $325,000 in game checks. Lee is eligible to return to the roster on Dec. 31, the day after their final game.”
— Rich Cimini, ESPN
Lee finished his third season with 74 tackles and three interceptions, one returned for a TD, and five passes defended. The Jets are 4-9 after Week 14 and won’t be making a playoff run, so Lee will not see the field again before spring training.
Another NFL record goes to a Buckeye
Oh, nothing to see here, just Michael Thomas breaking ANOTHER NFL record. With his 11 catches for 98 years in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers, the Buckeye wideout has now caught more passes (298) in his first three seasons than any other player in league history.
.@Cantguardmike has caught more passes in his first three seasons than any player in @NFL history #GoSaints pic.twitter.com/oRLpQwNwrQ— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 9, 2018
Things should be getting very interesting for Thomas too, as he’s still got three regular season games left to finish the year with several career bests. He’s just three receptions away from topping his 104 from last season, and only 27 yards award from topping his career-high 1,245 yards in 2017.
The Buckeye receiver is still getting better — and that has got to terrify defenses throughout the NFL.
Thomas’ other Buckeye teammates on defense contributed to the 28-14 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday, including Eli Apple with three tackles and two passes defended, Vonn Bell with four total tackles, and Kurt Coleman with three tackles. Second-year cornerback Marshon Lattimore led the day though, with five total tackles, two pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble against the Bucs.
With that win, the Saints are officially heading to the playoffs as the NFC South Champions.
Dallas Cowboys, 29 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 23 (OT)
This wasn’t a particularly exciting game for either side. Both offenses had issues at quarterback and with turnovers, but ultimately the Cowboys came away with the win late in overtime — after draining the entire clock. Despite a somewhat “meh” game, former Ohio State players had pretty good days in Week 14.
For the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott led the way — as he always does — with 28 carries for 113 yards and an additional 79 yards on 12 receptions. He didn’t get into the endzone, but did manage to top 1,700 yards of total offense thus far this season.
Later in the game, Elliott lowered his head into a tackle and not only drew a 15-yard penalty, but also had to come out of the game to go through concussion protocol. He was able to return to the field just a few plays later, and in his stead, Buckeye rusher Rod Smith took his carries. Smith finished the day with four carries for 27 yards and two receptions for 16 yards.
Second-year Buckeye Noah Brown didn’t get many snaps on offense but has seen time on special teams.
For the Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins recorded an impressive 11 total tackles and was responsible for a big tackle and forced fumble on the opening kick off that would have shifted the momentum heading into the matchup. Instead, the refs messed up the call and didn’t award Philadelphia with a fumble recovery and the team went on to lose. (They lost for a lot more reasons than just this missed call, but it was bad.)
With the Eagles offense not doing much on Sunday afternoon, punter Cameron Johnston had plenty of work, recording six punts for 276 yards and a 56-yard long on the day.
Los Angeles Chargers, 26 vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 21
It was yet another ugly loss for the Bengals on Sunday despite playing perhaps one of their most well-rounded games of the season. Still, they couldn’t hold off the Chargers.
For L.A. defensive end Joey Bosa had six total tackles on the day and one sack, and for the Begnals, DE Sam Hubbard didn’t record much in his 26 snaps on defense.
Sam and Joey# Rushmen forever pic.twitter.com/GNV5radrkW— Larry A. Johnson (@R2X_Rushmen1) December 10, 2018
Billy Price has also been struggling a bit for the Bengals since returning from a foot injury that kept him out earlier in the season. According to Cincy Jungle, PFF graded him pretty low among first round draft picks from 2018, but the rankings did come out after a particularly tough performance against the Broncos in Week 13.
Play of the Week
The second-year cornerback had a slow intro into the NFL after missing most of his rookie season to injury, but Gareon Conley is back in 2018 and continues to earn more playing time — despite a dip mid-season with some additions to the roster.
In Week 14, Conley had four total tackles against the Steelers, but he also had two passes defended, including a very impressive and much needed breakup against Antonio Brown.
Also, Gareon Conley is a star. pic.twitter.com/G8zapZteh1— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 10, 2018