Football fans across the globe were likely overjoyed for the return of the NFL for its first week of the 2021 season, which kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 9. With yet another NFL season officially underway, plenty of opportunity arises for Pack Pros to continue to establish themselves as some of the best in the league. Despite one of NC State’s most notable products, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, being listed as inactive this week, there was plenty of action to go around for the former members of the red-and-white.
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson finds himself as the top performer for NFL Pack Pros yet again, something that football fans have grown accustomed to over the course of his career. Wilson is a certified stud, coming off of what is arguably his best individual performance in a season to date. Last year, Wilson accumulated 4,212 yards on a 68.8% completion rate with 40 touchdowns in what was a remarkable performance from the 10-year veteran.
There weren’t many concerns regarding Wilson’s ability on the field coming into this year, with the NC State product proving year in and year out that he is a generational talent. In his first outing of the season, Wilson posted 254 yards on an extremely accurate 78.3% completion rate with four touchdown passes. Efficiency was the name of the game for the Seahawks this past weekend against the Colts, where Wilson was only called on to pass 23 times in a game where Indianapolis was simply outclassed by Seattle’s offense.
The slogan “Let Russ Cook'' has been gaining popularity amongst Seattle’s faithful, with the quarterback posting MVP caliber numbers for consecutive seasons. Concerns regarding head coach Pete Carrol’s offensive schemes have been on display in recent years, with the Seahawks constantly focused on establishing a ground-and-pound presence despite having one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history. If week one was any indication of what’s to come, it seems as if Wilson is primed for a big year under newly-hired offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
Nyheim Hines, running back, Indianapolis Colts
Former Wolfpack standout Nyheim Hines returns to the Colts for his fourth year with the team, and despite suffering a 28-16 loss in week one at the hands of Wilson’s Seahawks, Hines saw an expanded role in the Indianapolis offense. Days after signing a three-year extension to his contract worth $18.6 million, with $12 million guaranteed, Hines exploded for 82 yards of total offense while serving as Jonathon Taylor’s backup.
Taylor seemed to have this backfield on lock following his performances to end last season, but with the extension to Hines’ contract, it is clear that the Colts have big plans for the former member of the Pack. Hines’ largest contribution to this offense comes in the form of his pass-catching ability, which he made clear with his six receptions for 48 yards on Sunday, Sept. 12. Hines also saw nine carries in the matchup against Seattle, which was more than many expected for the swiss-army knife of the Colts’ offense.
It is clear that Hines has been upgraded to the second-string running back for Indianapolis over Marlon Mack, who was expected to challenge Hines’ ability to see the field with the return from his injury that kept him sidelined last season. Things are looking up for Hines this year, who will have plenty of opportunities to succeed as a pass-catching back while the first-year member of the Colts, Carson Wentz, continues to learn the offense.
Jakobi Meyers, wide receiver, New England Patriots
Starting receiver for the New England Patriots, Jakobi Meyers, got off to an ideal start with newly minted starter Mac Jones on Sunday, Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins. Despite dropping the first game of the season in 17-16 fashion, Meyers was able to establish a connection with Jones that will serve him and the team well as the year progresses.
Reeling in six of his nine targets for 44 yards, Meyers’ numbers don’t exactly jump off of the page. Regardless, nine targets is great volume for the third-year wideout, who is looking to finally break out as a true WR1 in the NFL. The majority of his potential to do so will be in the hands of his first-year quarterback, but that shouldn’t cause too much distress with Jones looking poised in the pocket in his first regular-season game as a professional.
Germaine Pratt, linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
In his third year as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, Germaine Pratt is looking as ready as ever to help elevate this lackluster defense to the next level. It’s a tall task, and one that one man could certainly not be called on to do alone, but his performance on Sunday, Sept. 12 against the Vikings made it clear that this Bengals team is different from those of years past.
In a 27-24 overtime victory, Pratt accumulated eight total tackles, six solo and two assisted, as well as forcing and recovering a fumble. The force and recovery were both career firsts for Pratt, who has established himself as a core component to this Bengals defense. He and his team will have the opportunity to build off of this performance in week two against a Chicago Bears offense that got shut down by Los Angeles’ star-studded defense.
Jessie Bates makes first contact, but Germaine Pratt with the play of the game on defense to force the fumble on Dalvin Cook. He recovered it too! pic.twitter.com/vLBuxYgVjC— Mike (Sans) (@bengals_sans) September 13, 2021
B.J. Hill, defensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals
B.J. Hill is another member of this new-look Bengals defense with NC State roots. Acquired from the New York Giants in the offseason, Hill is looking to find a long-term spot within this Cincinnati organization. He got off to a great start in the previously mentioned game against the Vikings, where he accumulated three solo tackles and two sacks. It’s hard to find great pass rushers in today’s NFL, with quarterback protection getting more advanced with each year, but if this performance from Hill is a sign of what the future has to offer, he could be a key contributor to the Bengals’ defense this year.
A.J. Cole III, punter, Las Vegas Raiders
Former member of the Wolfpack A.J. Cole’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens in Monday Night Football was too good to not mention in this article. Called on to punt six times in the game, Cole averaged an impressive 52.7 yards per punt with 67 yards being his longest. Cole also managed to pin the Ravens inside of their own 20-yard line twice on the night, setting the Raiders defense up with great opportunities to get the ball back to the offense in positive field position.
Cole and other Pack Pros continue to make a huge impact across the game on both sides of the ball, and are shaping up to have a dominant season in the NFL.