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Florida Gators in the NFL: Pass-catchers emerging and emoting through Week 2

Freddie Swain has become part of one of the NFL’s best receiving corps — but Kadarius Toney is still looking for a touch.

Tennessee Titans v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Another dispatch from Shawn Kopelakis, whom I’ve really got to get a byline...

I’ve been a part of the Thursday Night Football crew with NFL Network for a few years now. One of the perks of the job has been getting to see former Gators in person. This year, I’m going to do a weekly update focusing on players I see in that game, or if none are playing, I’ll take a broader view around the game.

I hope to gather some insights from local reporters and the many analysts I work with every week. If something jumps out from other games, I’ll hit on some of those as well.

Our first TNF game of the season was a matchup between the Washington Football Team and the New York Giants, giving me a chance to see Jon Bostic and Kadarius Toney up close.

Bostic is in his eighth season now. After consecutive 100-tackle seasons his first two years in D.C., he was named a team captain this season. Bostic has lots of limitations and has never been an advanced metrics darling, but clearly his teammates respect how he plays the game and manages the defensive calls.

Last week, Bostic had three tackles, including one tackle for loss. However, he saw his snap count cut back significantly, from 68 in the season opener to just 39 on Thursday night. The Giants operated in 11 personnel for most of the game and perhaps that was part of the reason for the decreased role: Bostic makes his mark on run downs and the Giants only handed off to a running back 17 times, as you may know if you are or know someone who played Saquon Barkley in fantasy football.

Bostic’s best moment was a nice tackle in coverage on Devontae Booker for just a two-yard gain. Despite the decreased playing time, Bostic was steady for most of his snaps.

On the other hand, Toney almost quadrupled his snap count from the season opener, going from a measly five to 19. Yet despite the extra plays, Toney was shut out: He didn’t have a single touch or target.

If you saw the NFL Network’s coverage of the game, you may have heard former All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith tout Toney. Smith told me he believes in KT and thinks he needs to be a much bigger part of Jason Garrett’s gameplan. After a slow, injury-plagued training camp and preseason, Toney is still playing catch up learning the Giants’ offense and earning touches.

I’d expect Toney to eventually find a role in this offense, but it is clearly going to take a while. That appears to have frustrated him as evidenced by his cryptic (and since deleted) Instagram post after the game.

Of course, he wasn’t the only Giants receiver upset about the game.

This week’s TNF game is Carolina in Houston to take on the Texans. I’m excited to see Vernon Hargreaves III once again. After flaming out in Tampa, he’s had a bit of a resurgence in Houston. In Week 1, he had a nice pick of Trevor Lawrence, shockingly only his fourth career interception. I’m hoping to see VH3 make some plays on Thursday.

Jeff Driskel also has potential to see the field for the Texans after being called up from the practice squad to serve as the Texans’ backup quarterback behind Davis Mills.

Player of the Week

Freddie Swain had his best game as a pro, totaling 100 yards from scrimmage. The highlight of the day was his 68-yard score against a blown coverage by the Titans.

Swain has locked down the No. 3 receiver role alongside Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf in what is one of the best 1-2-3 combos in the league.

Play of the Week

Swain’s long touchdown could certainly be the choice. Demarcus Robinson’s juggling touchdown grab against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football was brilliant. But I’m going with Dante Fowler Jr.’s strip sack of Tom Brady in the first quarter of the Falcons-Bucs game.

When you get the GOAT like that, you get the play of the week. (And remember: It isn’t the first time for Fowler.)

Here are all of the Week 2 stats (ranked in order of performance) for Gators in the NFL:

The Good

  • Freddie Swain: 5 rec, 95 yds, 1 TD, 1 rush, 5 yds, 41 snaps (76%)
  • Marcus Maye: 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended, 58 snaps (100%)
  • Demarcus Robinson: 3 rec, 46 yds, 1 TD, 30 snaps (59%)
  • Dante Fowler: 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 FF, 45 snaps (71%)
  • Kyle Pitts: 5 rec, 73 yds, 57 snaps (79%)
  • Alex Anzalone: 10 tackles, 65 snaps (100%)
  • Evan McPherson: 1/1 FG, Long 53, 2/2 XP
  • D.J. Humphries: 61 snaps (100%)
  • Janoris Jenkins: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended, 51 snaps (100%)
  • Vernon Hargreaves III: 5 tackles, 59 snaps (97%)
  • Keanu Neal: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 51 snaps (72%)
  • C.J. Henderson: 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 30 snaps (43%)
  • Van Jefferson: 1 rec, 14 yds, 54 snaps (92%)
  • Jon Bostic: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 39 snaps (57%)
  • Jawaan Taylor: 56 snaps (100%)

The Limited

  • Jonathan Bullard: 1 tackle, 1 QB hit, 32 snaps (51%)
  • Tommy Townsend: 3 punts, 45.0 Avg
  • Taven Bryan: 2 tackles, 18 snaps (26%)
  • Marco Wilson: 1 tackle, 15 snaps (25%)
  • Marcell Harris: 1 tackle, 11 snaps (19%)
  • T.J. Slaton: 1 tackle, 6 snaps (11%)
  • Carlos Dunlap: 26 snaps (30%), no stats
  • Kadarius Toney: 19 snaps (28%), 0 touches, 0 targets
  • Max Garcia: 6 special teams snaps, no stats

The Inactive

  • Trent Brown: DNP (calf)
  • Joe Haden: DNP (groin)
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: DNP (knee)
  • Jonathan Greenard: DNP (illness)
  • Lerentee McCray: DNP (hamstring)
  • La’mical Perine: Inactive
  • Kyle Trask: Inactive
  • Fred Johnson: Inactive
  • Stone Forsythe: Inactive