Penn State Football

Penn State’s top NFL performances by alumni in Week 2 of the season

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) makes a catch for a touchdown past Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Terrance Smith (48) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) makes a catch for a touchdown past Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Terrance Smith (48) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) AP

Penn State football doesn’t stop Saturday — there are plenty of Nittany Lions playing on Sundays and Monday nights, too.

Twenty-four Penn State alumni are currently on active NFL rosters, four are on injured reserve, and another five earned practice roster spots. So, every week at the Centre Daily Times, we’ll highlight some of those players, whether it’s top plays, top performances, or however we can best sum up PSU’s NFL showing.

After Week 2, we’re looking at the top performers, ranked from 1-5. Take a look:

1. TE Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers

It may have been a day to forget for the Steelers, who fell 42-37 to the Kansas City Chiefs. But it was a career day for James.

The 6-foot-7 Penn State alum finished with five catches — on five targets — for a career-high 135 yards and a score. It was the first time in his four-year NFL career where he surpassed 100 yards.

He had better than twice as many receiving yards as Antonio Brown (67), and no one in the game put up better numbers — not JuJu Smith-Schuster (121 yards), not Travis Kelce (109 yards) and not Tyreek Hill (90 yards). James told us before the season that he wouldn’t be No. 2 on the depth chart for long. And, after Sunday’s Week 2 performance, it’s hard to argue.

2. WR Chris Hogan, New England Patriots

After recording just one catch last week for 11 yards, Hogan contributed a bit more to the Patriots’ offense on Sunday. The former Penn State lacrosse player had two touchdowns in New England’s 31-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and three catches for 42 yards.

It was Hogan’s third two-touchdown performance of his career. He found the end zone twice in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The New Jersey native also scored a couple times in last year’s Week 3 win over Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans.

New England acquired former All-Pro wideout Josh Gordon from the Browns on Monday, and Julian Edelman returns from suspension in two weeks. Still, Sunday shows that Hogan will have a role to play in the Pats’ offense moving forward.

3. RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Barkley didn’t break off a dazzling touchdown run like last week. He didn’t even find the end zone. But Penn State’s former all-purpose machine showed he can do more than just run the football.

Barkley hauled in 14 catches for 80 yards in Sunday night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a feat that put him in the company of Marshall Faulk, Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles. In the NFL’s 98-year history, Barkley is one of 10 running backs to record 14 catches or more.

He also set a Giants franchise record and tied the NFL’s single-game rookie mark.

Barkley told reporters that setting a new franchise mark “didn’t matter at all” because New York lost 20-13. And he couldn’t get the running game started with 11 carries for just 28 yards. Still, Barkley showcased his reliability when Odell Beckham Jr. — who caught four of nine targets — was taken out of the equation.

4. K Robbie Gould, San Francisco 49ers

The 14-season veteran just doesn’t miss — and Sunday provided a few more examples of that.

Gould finished a perfect 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts and 3-of-3 on PATs to lift his 49ers to a 30-27 win over the Detroit Lions. The game wasn’t quite as dramatic as the score indicated, but Gould insured there were no doubts.

He made FGs of 45, 42 and 36 yards, respectively. He’s one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, and the 35-year-old just keeps doing it.

5. WR Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears

Unlike former teammate and Buccaneers wideout Chris Godwin, Robinson did not find the end zone in Week 2. But Robinson was the clear No. 1 target in Chicago’s 24-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Robinson caught 10 of 14 targets for 83 yards with a long of 14 yards. Nothing flashy, but consistent from the former Jacksonville Jaguars pass-catcher. Robinson — who disappeared after making a leaping grab last week against Green Bay — didn’t fade this time. Four of his catches came in the second half, and five total accounted for first downs.

Penn State’s single-season receptions leader was a constant for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears — and he proved why Chicago signed him to a lucrative three-year, $42 million deal in the offseason.

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