It was a big day on defense for former South Carolina stars in the NFL in Week 1, as 16 Gamecocks got their first taste of the 2018 season on Sunday.
Of those 16, nine were on the defensive side of the ball, and they had some of the most productive outings of the group, as Stephon Gilmore led a resurgent Patriots secondary, Jadeveon Clowney returned for the Houston Texans and D.J. Swearinger helped to lock down his former team, while honoring an NFL great.
Swearinger is now a safety with the Washington Redskins, but played for the Arizona Cardinals for 20 games before departing for Washington as a free agent.
On Sunday, Swearinger reminded the Cardinals of what they were missing by recording five tackles, all solo, and breaking up a pass. He led a Redskins secondary that held Arizona to just 153 yards passing, the fourth fewest on the day, and no touchdowns.
On social media, Swearinger’s performance earned him rave reviews, as did his facemask, which was taped to resemble the trademark style of former Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was killed by a gunman in his home in 2007. This is not the first time Swearinger has used his facemask to honor Taylor, whom he has cited as an NFL hero of his, and he has brought back the tribute throughout this preseason and into the regular season.
Some of the top former USC players on offense — Alshon Jeffery and Hayden Hurst — were sidelined by injury to start the season.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NFL
A.J. Cann, OT, Jacksonville Jaguars — Started in the Jags’ opening win. The offensive line as a whole had one sack allowed, four QB hits allowed and 137 rushing yards.
Bruce Ellington, WR, Houston Texans — Caught four passes on eight targets for 37 yards and a touchdown after catching just two all of last season.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Carolina Panthers — Had two tackles, both solo, and recovered a fumble late to seal the Panthers’ win over the Cowboys.
Corey Robinson, OT, Carolina Panthers — Played but did not start for his new team after being traded recently. The Panthers’ offensive line surrendered three sacks and four quarterback hits.
D.J. Swearinger, S, Washington Redskins — Made five tackles, all solo, and defended one pass.
Damiere Byrd, WR, Carolina Panthers — Recorded no offensive statistics but returned three punts for 47 total yards, including a long of 30.
Darian Stewart, S, Denver Broncos — Collected three tackles and half a sack alongside first-round draft pick Bradley Chubb.
Isaiah Johnson, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Played but recorded no statistics
Jadeveon Clowney, LB, Houston Texans — Made two tackles, one solo
Johnathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans — Recorded seven tackles, five of them solo, and broke up one pass.
Melvin Ingram, LB, Los Angeles Chargers — Only had one tackle but god three hits on the quarterback.
Patrick DiMarco, FB, Buffalo Bills — Did not record any offensive statistics, but the newly-minted captain did collect a tackle
Ryan Succop, K, Tennessee Titans — Two-for-two on field goals, with a long of 53 yards, and perfect on extra points.
Skai Moore, LB, Indianapolis Colts — Started in the first game of his rookie NFL season and made two tackles, both solo.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots — Led the defense with eight tackles, seven of them solo, and broke up two passes, including an interception
Brandon Shell, OT, New York Jets — Started and allowed two sacks on just two QB hits, while the running game produced 169 yards.
Pharoh Cooper, WR, Los Angeles Rams — Will play Monday at 10:20 p.m.
Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders — Will play Monday at 10:20 p.m.
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Did not play (coach’s decision)
Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens — Did not play (injury)
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles — Did not play (injury)
Taylor Stallworth, DT, New Orleans Saints — Did not play (coach’s decision)
David Williams, RB, Denver Broncos — Practice squad
Brandon Wilds, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars — Practice squad