It’s disappointing when the Illini lose. This past week, a former Illini was cut from an active NFL roster. Let’s hope the rest of 2020 brings Illinois fans and alums just a little more joy than what we experienced in the last six days.
Once again, much of the drama in this Illini-in-the NFL week surrounded our beloved kicking aficionado Chase McLaughlin.
Jihad Ward, defensive end: Like many of his Ravens teammates, Ward was placed on the Covid-19/Reserve list and did not play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday. Ward is eligible to return when the Ravens play again on Tuesday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
Del’Shawn Phillips, linebacker: Unfortunately for Phillips, he was put on the Injured Reserve list for the second time this season a few weeks ago. Per league rules, that means his season is officially over — he is ineligible to return to the active roster since he’s been placed on IR twice. We wish Phillips the best in his recovery and hope he has plenty of opportunities down the road.
Malik Turner, wide receiver/special teams: Turner and the (awful) Cowboys play on Tuesday night against Jihad Ward and the Ravens. Turner has not played since since Week 4.
On short rest last week, the Texans played their best game of the season against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Houston played the fired up Indianapolis Colts in the early window on Sunday, losing 26-20.
Corey Liuget, defensive tackle: Liuget was on the active roster. He had 1 tackle in the game.
Whitney Mercilus, outside linebacker: Mercilus started but did not record any stats. He’s had a few games this season where he failed to make much of any impact. This was one of those games.
Tavon Wilson, safety/special teams: Wilson was active for Sunday’s game versus division rivals Houston Texans. He tied his 2020 season high with 4 tackles against the Texans.
The Jaguars game versus the Minnesota Vikings was eventful. The Jags lost 27-24 in overtime.
Chase McLaughlin, kicker: Just as he was starting to solidify himself as the Jaguars first choice placekicker, McLaughlin was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list a week ago. This week, he was back in the starting lineup, resuming kicking duties for the Jags. He missed an extra point after his team’s first touchdown in the opening quarter and he missed a 62-yard potential game winner at the end of regulation. The good? He made his second extra point attempt and he hit a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Dawuane Smoot, defensive end: Smoot had 4 tackles including 2 sacks. He continues to be a dominant pass rusher. Even when he does not get a sack or a tackle for loss, he’s highly effective. Here’s a perfect example of a Smoot QB pressure that led to a Jaguars pick-6:
TO THE HOUSE, @TheSchoGoesOn53— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) December 6, 2020
:CBS | #ProBowlVotehttps://t.co/ipBIjeiLwZ pic.twitter.com/MXNG8uR4sS
Kansas City Chiefs:
Nick Allegretti, guard: Allegretti and the Chiefs offense were on primetime on Sunday Night Football when they hosted the Denver Broncos in an AFC West clash. Take pride in this Illini fans: Allegretti blocks for the best quarterback in the universe. He started his sixth straight game, all Kansas City wins.
The Miami Dolphins hosted the lowly Cincinnati Bengals — a team struggling without rookie starting quarterback Joe Burrow. It was the first time the Dolphins had been double-digit favorites in years. The Dolphins won 19-7.
Ted Karras, center: Karras continues to play well and has started every game this season for the Dolphins. With Tua Tagovailoa back, the Dolphins offense looks more dynamic.
Clayton Fejedelem, safety/special teams: Suiting up against his former team, Fej did not record any defensive stats.
Hardy Nickerson, linebacker/special teams: Unfortunately for Nickerson, the Vikings made the decision to cut the former Illini and California Golden Bears linebacker last Tuesday. We hope Nickerson finds a landing spot either for the rest of this season, and if not, in the offseason to begin the 2021 campaign on an active roster.
New Orleans Saints:
Justin Hardee, cornerback/special teams: Dealing with a groin injury, Justin Hardee is on New Orleans’ IR list. He has not played since Nov. 1 against the Chicago Bears in Week 8.
*Just a reminder, Detroit Lions wide receiver Geronimo Allison and New England Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19.