Behind the purple and gold mask he has to wear at practice, Ed Orgeron the LSU football coach has to be wishing he had some of the 14 former Tigers selected in the NFL draft back for this 2020 season.
But Ed Orgeron the LSU recruiting magnate could look to the future and be pleased at that number and what former Tigers across the map accomplished during Week 1 of the NFL season. And what it means for recruiting.
Basically, the whole thing has been one big advertisement for LSU football: “Come to LSU, eat well, get drafted high.”
Forty-three former Tigers were on opening-day active NFL rosters, and many of them opened with banner efforts, though the biggest name, Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow, refused to grade himself on the curve.
“At the end of the day, I made too many mistakes for us to win the game, and we didn’t make enough plays,” Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, said ruefully after an all-too-Bengals-like 16-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He gave himself a “D” for his efforts.
Burrow did make his mistakes, mostly in the Trying To Make Too Much Happen Dept. The biggest error was an ill-advised shovel pass that Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram intercepted, snuffing out a scoring opportunity for the Bengals that could have at least resulted in a field goal.
Members of NFL teams (as of Sept. 8) who played for LSU. Practice squad, injured reserve and other reserve lists are included:
One drive later Burrow was back, the pinpoint passing he showed at LSU marching the Bengals downfield for an apparent go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green on a beautifully thrown touch pass to the right-side boundary. But the receiver was flagged for clear offensive pass interference, wiping out the score and forcing Cincinnati to try a 31-yard field goal to force overtime with :07 left.
Unfortunately for a disbelieving Burrow, Randy Bullock’s kick was wide right, his first miss in his past 25 field goal attempts (it was easy to be cynical about him grabbing his leg in pain after he apparently grabbed his own throat). It was Burrow’s first loss since that epic and controversial seven-overtime defeat in November 2018 at Texas A&M.
But it wasn’t a total loss for Ohio Joe. He definitely had his moments, going 23 of 36 for 193 yards and rushing eight times for 46 yards with a 23-yard touchdown run. And again, he looked like a savvy veteran on that last drive.
It took just more than 12 minutes for Joe Burrow to record his first career NFL touchdown.
So who was the biggest LSU star of Week 1? You would be hard-pressed to pick anyone but Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He had a brilliant coming out party in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-20 Thursday night victory over the Houston Texans. CEH rushed 25 times for 138 yards, including a nifty 27-yard against-the-grain cutback touchdown run. Now if only the announcers could get his last name right (The “H” in “Helaire” is silent, folks).
“I’m so impressed with the young man,” said Tyrann Mathieu, Chiefs safety and fellow former Tiger (Young man? You’re 28, Tyrann). “Obviously, I’m a huge LSU guy. I bleed purple and gold. I’ve seen him stick his foot in the ground like that many a time. I’ve seen him bounce off plenty of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State guys. He’s a great guy for us. I think he’s going to continue to add to this offense and give us that spark that we need.”
Mathieu was also exceptional for the Chiefs, leading the reigning Super Bowl champions with eight tackles. Another former Tiger tailback, Darrel Williams, chipped in with seven carries for 23 yards.
Apologies to Mathieu, but two other former Tigers were even more impressive with their new teams.
Jamal Adams, after a noisy offseason which finally got him a trade off of that floating derelict known as the New York Jets, led the Seattle Seahawks with 12 tackles in a 38-25 win at Atlanta, including a sack and 2½ tackles for loss. And rookie Baltimore linebacker Patrick Queen channeled his inner Ray Lewis with a team-high eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the Ravens’ 38-6 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns.
“I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed about making plays,” said Queen, sporting a Ray Lewis T-shirt in the postgame presser. He spoke specifically about sacking Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
“I actually dreamed about that same play that I made the tackle on, so it’s crazy how things work when you pray about it,” he said. “But I can’t ask for a better first game.”
Other noteworthy LSU player performances from Week 1:
Notes on a golf scorecard while hoping that if my power gets knocked out by Hurricane Sally it gets restored before the U.S. Open begins Thursday …
• LB Kwon Alexander, San Francisco: nine tackles, including one for loss, in a 24-20 loss to Arizona.
• WR Russell Gage, Atlanta: Tied for the team lead with nine catches for 114 yards, though the Falcons fell to Seattle (with starting center Ethan Pocic from LSU) 38-25.
• LB Deion Jones, Atlanta: Led the Falcons with nine tackles, one for loss.
• WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota: The Vikings’ No. 1 draft pick had catches for 26 yards in a 43-34 loss to Green Bay.
• LB Jacob Phillips, Cleveland: Got the start in his rookie debut and made two tackles.
• WR DJ Chark, Jacksonville: Caught three passes for 25 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown, in a 27-20 win over Indianapolis.
• LB Devin White, Tampa Bay: Tied for the team lead with 11 tackles in the Buccaneers’ 34-23 loss to the Saints.
• RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay: A quiet debut in a Bucs uniform with five carries for 5 yards.
A couple of more Tigers were slated to make their pro debuts against each other Monday night. Lloyd Cushenberry was slated to start at center for the Denver Broncos against the Tennessee Titans, while on the other side Kristian Fulton had a good chance to start at nickel.