Aggies in the NFL: Season Wrap-Up

Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Jets

The season isn’t over yet, as we are still waiting on a certain big game that Justin Timberlake is performing at.

However, for former Utah State Aggies, that last domino fell when the Carolina Panthers lost to the New Orleans Saints, eliminating center Tyler Larsen’s team as the only playoff team with an (albeit injury-hampered) Aggie. Consequently, the season recap comes early this year. No Super Bowl rings for Logan-ites.

Summarily, the Aggies did some cool things in the 2017-18 season: four touchdowns, five forced turnovers, all with just 13 active players in the league (For comparison, the Utah Utes have 28.). Yet, football is tough, and of those 13 players, four had season-ending injuries, while five others dealt with injuries of lesser severity.

As we look back on the NFL regular season, we give credit to the best Aggies of the season, the best USU moments, and with a cringe, give you the top 3 moments to forget.

TOP PERFORMERS

  • Bobby Wagner (Seattle Seahawks)

No two ways about it, Bobby-boy had another great season despite a disappointing season for Seattle. Wagner’s 2017 campaign put him in consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, ranking seventh overall for linebackers, statistically speaking, and being a highlight reel through the early season before being hampered by a hamstring injury.

Wagner made an impression early when, in Week 2, he pulled down an interception from San Francisco’s Trent Taylor, conveying the defensive temperament of a rabid wolf who ate steroids for a midnight snack.

Bobby Wagner rips ball away from Trent Taylor, gets interception

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Two weeks later, Wagner scored a touchdown off a fumble against the Indianapolis Colts. He also notched a safety in Week 9. It was easy to see that the sixth-year linebacker was going downhill after that with that pesky hamstring, nevertheless, he finished the season, starting all 16 games for the second consecutive year.

  • Kyler Fackrell (Green Bay Packers)

All it takes to get on the defensive stat sheet is to be the body that tackles another body at least once. Oftentimes, that’s all that Fackrell had on paper was a tackle or three—his game high of the season was five—but the impact he made was substantial with little involvement.  

Averaging less than two tackles per game, Fackrell notched three sacks, third among second-year linebackers, and had a plethora of stuffs and third-down stops, the majority of them in Green Bay territory when they needed them most.

Fackrell’s moment to shine came in Week 1 when he recovered a game-clinching fumble against Seattle.

Mike Daniels strip sacks Russell Wilson, Packers recover

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Fackrell showed that quality is more important than quantity.

  • Zach Vigil (Washington Redskins)

Week 12 saw Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil go down with a neck injury right about the same time that older brother Zach found his way back onto the field. After spending the preseason with the ‘Skins, Zach landed with the Buffalo Bills practice squad for 10 weeks.

You know that spicy time when you and your ex-girlfriend hook up again? That’s Zach and the Redskins.

After Washington took him back, he slowly blossomed onto the field and became a mainstay in the Redskins’ defense, beating his season-high in tackles six out of seven games in which he was active.

Zach ended the season with 58 tackles, roughly eight per game, which was eighth among third-year linebackers. He recovered a big fumble in Week 16 against the Denver Broncos.

Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler fumbles after extending play, Washington Redskins recover

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TOP 3 MOMENTS TO REMEMBER

  • Nevin Lawson’s Defensive Touchdown

This diamond of a play in Week 10 had three parts to it, just like my reaction to it had three parts.

Oh. My. Lord.

Can’t-Miss Play: Detroit Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson delivers massive hit, scoops fumble, returns it for TD

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Part one, the hit. Lawson comes out of the open field and hit-sticks Cleveland Browns receiver Seth DeValve. The hit was enough to issue the message, “Hi, I’m Nevin, and I’m an NFL-caliber defender.” It was only the start

Part two, the strip. After not quite bringing DeValve to the ground, Lawson keeps his claws out and rips the ball out of the cradle. Seeing the ball come out, Lawson keels back, falls to his knees, and jumps at the ball, snatching it up, and gets back on his feet.

Part three, the return. As Lawson is getting back up, Cleveland’s offense closes in to clean up their mess. The fourth-year safety finds his feet, rolls out of a tackle (we have enough USU running backs in the league, Nevin), and burns up the sideline for the score, carrying the ball like it was an overcooked potato just out of the oven.

The score was a career first for Lawson and his first forced turnover.

  • Hunter Sharp Gets His First TD

This one took all season.

In Week 1, Hunter Sharp, an undrafted wide receiver, was taking reps on the Denver Broncos practice squad. In Week 17, Sharp was in New York, and this happened.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning slings pass between defenders to wide receiver Hunter Sharp for 16-yard TD

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Sharp caught his first touchdown as the NFL season came to a wrap, and it came off the arm of a Manning. It was a great moment for USU fans here and underdogs everywhere.

  • Bobby Wagner Scores a Defensive Touchdown

Stop the presses! Bobby Wagner is a playmaking defender.

Seriously, Wagner had himself a day in the aforementioned Week 4 game against Indianapolis.

Can’t-Miss Play: Bobby Wagner muscles through everyone to score TD on fumble recovery

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This one almost wouldn’t have counted, but the officials luckily could see that the ball was out of quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s hand as he cocked it back. Once the ball hit the ground, Wagner scooped it up and channeled the force of his old high-school-runningback ways, rumbling to the endzone.

MOMENTS TO FORGET

  • Devante Mays Flounders in First Game

Devante Mays entered his first season as a seventh-round draft pick with expectations to push for a spot in training camp with two other rookie backs. It didn’t really happen, as Mays quickly floundered on the depth chart.

Nevertheless, Mays got his moment in Week 11 during a shutout against the Baltimore Ravens, and he quickly made us wish it never happened.

Mays got a grand total of three carries the whole game and fumbled two of them, losing one. After he fumbled his first NFL carry, coaches understandably didn’t give him another shot until the game was all but over. When he finally got back out in the fourth quarter, his second carry went for negative yardage. His third carry was another fumble, but this one bounced upfield three yards before being recovered by the Packers.

Mays didn’t see the field again until Week 17, when a notched a single carry for two yards, ending the season with a single yard on four carries and cementing the fact that his rookie yardage total would be outdone by his own fumble.

  • The End of an Iron Man Streak

The 2017 season for the Oakland Raiders was disappointing with a capital “D” in block lettering, 72-point font, and an overpowering smell emanating from its rear end. You get the picture.

Nothing could have embodied the Raiders this year more than seeing veteran left tackle Donald Penn go down. Penn, a 12-year player and the only active Utah State player from the pre-Gary Anderson era, suffered an ankle injury in Week 14 that put him out for the season and requiring surgery. This ended a 170-game starting streak dating back to 2008, when most of USU’s current freshman class was in the fourth grade.

Penn’s streak was the third-longest in football behind only Philip Rivers and Jason Witten, and with the lineman already past the decade mark of his career, it’s virtually impossible for him to climb the ladder again.

  • An Early Ending

As previously referenced, the NFL season isn’t over yet, but the denouement of the Aggies’ 2017 came early. That this recap is already being read (a fair bit late, mind you) is enough to put the message across.

The last Aggie standing fell in the Wild Card round of the postseason when offensive lineman Tyler Larsen played a mere five special teams snaps in the Panthers’ loss to the Saints. To pour salt on the would this week, former BYU Cougar Kyle Van Noy and former Ute Eric Rowe are both headed to the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. History dictates that it will take a miracle to keep them from winning it.

Frankly, a lot of the blame for the virtually Aggie-less postseason falls on uncontrollable circumstances. Mays, Fackrell, and corner Marwin Evans arguably would have been there were it not for the season-ending injury of a certain Aaron Rodgers.

Even Wagner and the perennially contending Seahawks missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. It wasn’t hard to see the Legion of Boon wearing out by the end of the season.

Next year certainly should be better. Assumedly, departing senior cornerback Jalen Davis will be in the league, and added improvement on everyone’s game will make for an improved 2018.


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