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Florida Gators in the NFL: Give Joe Haden his flowers — he’s an all-time great

One of the all-time Gator greats recently announced his retirement. More honors may be due.

Arkansas v Florida

Joe Haden worked out all offseason and appeared to be waiting on the exact right fit before signing a new contract. Haden is good friends with Stefon Diggs and Von Miller, and both were trying to convince him to come to Buffalo.

But last week, Haden decided to call it quits at the age of 33 and after 12 seasons in the National Football League, picking some Tupac to soundtrack a video announcing his retirement.

I’m not sure people realize just what an incredible athlete he was and what a great career he had. In fact, Haden might be the greatest defensive back in Gators history when looking at his entire career in Gainesville and the NFL.

His Florida career, in bullet points:

  • 218 tackles, 8 INT, 34 PD, 3.5 sacks, 9 TFL
  • 2009 Unanimous All-American
  • 2009 First-Team All-SEC
  • 2008 BCS National Champion
  • 2008 Second-Team All-SEC

And then what he did on Sundays:

  • 615 tackles, 29 INT, 155 PD, 7 FF, 6 FR, 3.0 sacks, 2 TD
  • 2013 Second-Team All-Pro
  • Three-time Pro Bowl selection (2013, 2014, 2019)

Haden was a star quarterback in high school in Maryland and wanted to play offense in college. When Urban Meyer signed him in 2007 — coming off Florida’s national title in 2006 — the path to early playing time was blocked at QB by some guy named Tim and in the slot by another guy named Percy. Haden wanted to get on the field and agreed to move to cornerback.

There, he just became the first true freshman to start at cornerback in the season opener in Florida history. He started 12 games in 2007 and was named a Freshman All-American.

His sophomore season was the breakout campaign that launched him toward superstardom. And Haden saved his best for the biggest games. In the SEC Championship Game, Haden had an interception and led Florida in tackles. And in the BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma — one every Gator who was alive remembers for Major Wright’s crushing sideline blow early in that game and Ahmad Black’s fingertip interception — it was once again Haden’s steadiness that led the way, as he piled up a team-high 10 tackles and two passes defended.

In part because Haden left for the NFL after his junior campaign and in part because teams didn’t want to throw in his direction, you won’t find Haden among the Gators all-time interceptions leaders, either for a career or a single-season — Fred Weary’s 15 career picks and Keiwan Ratliff’s nine in 2003 top the UF record books, and Haden’s eight in his career obviously pale in comparsion.

Haden’s 29 NFL interceptions are the third most by a Florida player in the NFL, though — Reggie Nelson (38) and Benny Parrish (31) are first and second. Nelson and Parrish went to two Pro Bowls, one behind Haden’s three.

When you combine Haden’s collegiate and professional numbers and achievements, he’s not just one of the best defensive backs in Gators history: He’s an all-time legend in the sport. Cheers on the career and enjoy retirement, Joe!

Week 3 Notables

Jawaan Taylor continues to have an excellent 2022 season. Against the Chargers’ dynamic duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, Taylor once again didn’t allow a single pressure on Trevor Lawrence.

Taylor’s father passed away in January and he has dedicated this season to him.

Eddy Pineiro’s streak continues. After three more field goals on Sunday, he’s hit 26 in a row. He’s also perfect on extra points so far this season.

Van Jefferson had a procedure on his knee a couple weeks before the start of the season. The assumption was he’d be back in time for the opener, but after missing the first two games of the season, he was finally placed on IR this past weekend. He’s out at least through Week 4 and potentially longer. It was the second surgery on the knee and there are no guarantees he’s healthy anytime soon.

Tommy Townsend is a perfect two for two as a passer in the NFL on fake punts. Fake field goals, on the other hand, might not be his thing — especially when the call is for him to roll left and have to turn his shoulders back around to make the throw.

He’s also got jokes — and advice, I guess? — for Super Bowl LVII halftime performer Rihanna.

Quincy Wilson is back in the NFL. The Steelers signed him to their practice squad last week.

Player of the Week

The Dameon Pierce bandwagon is back roaring through the streets. The rookie scored the first of many NFL touchdowns to come on Sunday, capping a Texans drive that he powered.

Now that he’s getting the vast majority of the carries and scoring touchdowns, I’m looking for him to get more involved in the Texans’ passing game. We saw it in Gainesville and know he can do a lot more of this.

One thing to keep an eye on, especially if Pierce is on your fantasy team: He put the ball on the turf twice against Chicago. The Texans recovered both, but that can’t happen going forward if he wants his role to continue to expand.

Play of the Week

Carlos Dunlap continues to play at a high level. His chase down of Matt Ryan for the 98th sack of his storied career resulted in a huge turnover.

It was Dunlap’s second sack of the season. Going back to last year, he has 10 sacks in his last nine games. He’s seemingly going to make a strong push for his first double-digit sack season since 2015 — despite playing less than 40 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps!

Here are all of the Week 3 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB

Week 3: 20 rush, 80 yards, 1 TD, 2 rec, 21 yards, 35 snaps (59%)

  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB

Week 3: 1 sack, 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits, 71 snaps (99%)

  • Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE

Week 3: 1 sack, 4 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QB hit, 31 snaps (44%)

  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE

Week 3: 0.5 sack, 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 36 snaps (57%)

  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT

Week 3: 76 snaps (100%)

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT

Week 3: 66 snaps (100%)

  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S

Week 3: 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 77 snaps (100%)

  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT

Week 3: 83 snaps (100%)

  • Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB

Week 3: 4 tackles, 43 snaps (100%)

  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE

Week 3: 5 rec, 8 targets, 87 yards, 38 snaps (67%)

  • Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT

Week 3: 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 34 snaps (44%)

  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB

Week 3: 6 tackles, 54 snaps (78%)

  • Eddy Pineiro, NYJ, K

Week 3: 3/3 FG, Long 48, 1/1 XP

  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB

Week 3: 1 tackle, 48 snaps (100%)

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P

Week 3: 3 punts, 56.7 avg, 0/1 passing

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K

Week 3: 2/3 FG, Long 43, 3/3 XP

  • Taven Bryan, CLE, DT

Week 3: 2 tackles, 31 snaps (53%), 3 ST snaps (11%)

The Limited

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB

Week 3: 1 tackle, 1 TFL, 26 snaps (36%)

  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR

Week 3: 3 rec, 27 yards, 1 KR, 31.0 avg, 3 PR, 14.3 avg, 6 OFF snaps (12%), 13 ST snaps (52%)

  • Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB/S

Week 3: 3 tackles, 15 DEF snaps (22%), 16 ST snaps (62%)

  • Zach Carter, CIN, DT

Week 3: 2 tackles, 27 DEF snaps (35%), 4 ST snaps (15%)

  • Keanu Neal, TB, S

Week 3: 2 tackles, 1 snaps (2%), 19 ST snaps (76%)

  • Jon Bostic, WAS, LB

Week 3: 1 tackle, 6 DEF snaps (9%), 24 ST snaps (92%)

  • Demarcus Robinson, KC, WR

Week 3: no stats, 22 snaps (37%)

  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT

Week 3: no stats, 13 snaps (20%), 4 ST snaps (16%)

  • Max Garcia, ARI, G

Week 3: 11 OFF snaps (13%), 4 ST snaps (16%)

  • Teez Tabor, ATL, S

Week 3: 13 ST snaps (52%)

  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T

Week 3: 5 ST snaps (20%)

  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE: Inactive

Week 3: 1 OFF snaps (2%), 2 ST snaps (8%)

  • Fred Johnson, TB, G/T

Week 3: 2 ST snaps (8%)

The Inactive

  • Marcus Maye, NO, S: Inactive (Ribs)
  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR: Placed on Injured Reserve (Knee)
  • Kadarius Toney, NYG, WR: Inactive (Hamstring)
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR: Inactive
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive

The Practice Squad

  • Freddie Swain, MIA, WR
  • Malik Davis, DAL, RB
  • Jarrad Davis, DET, LB
  • Jeff Driskel, QB, HOU
  • Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
  • David Sharpe, BAL, T
  • Jabari Zuniga, SEA, DE
  • Quincy Wilson, PIT, DB