The Seattle Seahawks’ season might be over, but there is still more football ahead. There are the conference championships and the Super Bowl left to be played.
While I was looking at the teams remaining I noticed a trend of players from PNW colleges on the rosters, especially the LA Rams. So, this article is just a viewing guide to these players for the weekend. Have fun cheering on someone from your alma mater in one of these big games. All schools and positions are taken directly from the team websites.
New England Patriots
Patrick Chung- University of Oregon, S
Chung has been one of the most consistent performers at the safety position for years. He has only had two seasons without an interception in his nine-year career, and his weakness is pass coverage. In the run game he is much more comfortable and has racked up more than 700 tackles with the Patriots and his one year with the Philadelphia Eagles. Chung is likely to start and play most of the game.
Danny Shelton- University of Washington, DT
Shelton is a mammoth of a man, standing 6’2” and 345 pounds. New England uses Shelton as part of its defensive line rotation (mainly as a run-stuffer), so he won’t start but he will play a few snaps per drive. This is his first year with the Patriots after coming over from the Cleveland Browns in a trade. At Washington he was more than a run stopper; he showed great hands and quickness when attacking the pocket and he could come down with a sack in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Steven Nelson- Oregon State, DB
The Chiefs have a good tackling corner in Nelson; he is good at sniffing out ball carries and taking them down. In his four years with Kansas City, he has eight tackles for loss, showing his knack for big plays. He is not a liability in pass coverage, but he has just started to get comfortable with the ball in the air and he got his first four interceptions this year.
Orlando Scandrick- Boise State, DB
This is Scandrick’s first year with the Chiefs and he has appeared in almost every game so far. Scandrick might be remembered for being a part of the 2007 Boise State team that beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. He spent his first nine years in Dallas and only played in three full seasons, but he was a sure tackler and a scrappy defender. Scandrick is good on the blitz and has a sack in seven of his ten seasons as a pro.
Los Angeles Rams
Brandin Cooks- Oregon State, WR
Cooks is one of the most reliable threats in the NFL right now. He might not show up on a game to game basis, but over the course of a season he will produce 1,000-plus yards. Cooks has four straight 1,000-yard seasons, and this is his third team in three years. He can produce wherever you put him. Cooks has tremendous speed, good hands and is good at setting up defenders with his routes. I think he could be a big difference maker if he can score a touchdown; he only managed three receiving scores all year until he caught two in Week 16.
Samson Ebukam- Eastern Washington, OLB
Ebukam is a steady performer for the Rams. He plays just under 70 percent of the defensive snaps and gets about three tackles a game. He really made his mark against the Chiefs earlier this year returning both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns in that game. Ebukam is someone the Rams feel comfortable putting in several positions on defense and he can hold his own. His game is more about helping the team than getting stats.
Johnny Hekker- Oregon State, P
Hekker is one of the best punters in the NFL. In his seven-season career he has been All-Pro four times. Hekker averages 47 yards per boot for his career, and he can use his arm too. He has attempted 19 passes in his career, so you always need to watch for a fake when he is on the field.
Troy Hill- Oregon, CB
Hill stepped into a larger role this year with the injuries to the Rams corners. He played more than 40 percent of the defensive snaps this year for L.A. and snagged the first two picks of his career. With Aqib Talib’s return, Hill likely returns to his fourth cornerback role and will be on special teams and relieving the starters.
Corey Littleton- Washington, ILB
Littleton was on the field for the Rams more than any other defender in 2018. And in almost 1,000 snaps he got 125 tackles, which led the team. Littleton is a speed defender who needs space to operate; having Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald eating up blocks in front of him really allows him to run to the ball. Littleton can rush the passer too; he got four sacks this year setting a career high for himself.
Sean Mannion- Oregon State, QB
Mannion will only see action if Jared Goff goes down or the game gets absolutely out of hand. So, look for him on the sideline helping the offensive coordinator and Goff look for holes in the defense. If he does get in, he will be trying to pass for his first NFL touchdown.
Johnny Mundt- Oregon, TE
Mundt is mainly a special-teams player and only saw the field for 40 offensive snaps in 2018; more than half of those were in one game, too. Mundt will be working in the trenches and probably won’t even get a tackle in this game.
Marcus Peters- Washington, CB
Peters is one of the most instinctive defensive backs in the NFL right now. In his first three years with the Chiefs he was always around the ball forcing fumbles and grabbing picks all over the place. This year he has been exposed a little bit; he is very aggressive and can be beat with double moves. But, he is still a danger to turn the game around with one of his instinctive plays. Peters has forced 27 turnovers in four years so far. Look for him to come up big, especially if the Rams defensive line can pressure Drew Brees into a mistake or two.
New Orleans Saints
Josh Hill- Idaho State, TE
I think Hill could be the X-factor in this NFC Championship. He only has two seasons with more than one receiving touchdown, and those were several years ago. But he is sneaky consistent, and I think he will be the first receiver to get lost in the shuffle because he is not as big a threat as the rest of the Saints aerial unit. Hill will score a touchdown or have a long reception on a third- or fourth-and-short that will be a huge momentum swing in this game.
Max Unger- Oregon, C
This is Unger’s fourth year with New Orleans and the chemistry he shows with Drew Brees is spectacular, they get plays called very efficiently because they can work independently as well as together. Unger plays with his head as much as he plays with his strength; his use of leverage is as useful as his bench press. He is a leader and won’t be rattled by anything Los Angeles throws at him.
Dwayne Washington- Washington, RB
Washington will be utilized pretty much exclusively on special teams. He can carry the ball if needed but Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara will be the main threats out of the backfield. Washington has good speed and can make an impact on special teams. Whether it is on coverage units or return units, he has shown he is smart enough to make plays without the ball.