Among the 40 active USC graduates now in the NFL, according to ESPN, 14 managed to make it to the playoffs representing eight different teams.
As of this past weekend’s action, only two remain in the chase for the Lombardi Trophy: defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, both members of the Tennessee Titans.
Facing the tall task of stopping the Baltimore Ravens’ presumptive league MVP Lamar Jackson and the highest scoring offense in the NFL, Adoree Jackson and Casey marched into Baltimore with a hot Tennessee Titans squad fresh off a win over the New England Patriots in Foxborough.
Against New England, Casey helped to keep quarterback Tom Brady uncomfortable while Adoree’ Jackson had the task of manning up against former Arizona State alumnus and standout receiver N’Keal Harry. Formerly a threat to the Trojans, Harry was kept in check by Adoree’ Jackson, as he logged just two catches for 27 yards on seven targets while Adoree’ Jackson picked up two deflections.
Adoree’ Jackson was brilliant once again against the Ravens, compiling three deflections against speedy receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and a host of talented tight ends. Still, Casey served as the real game changer, logging two sacks, two tackles for a loss and picking up an important strip sack of Lamar Jackson that set up a touchdown to put the game firmly out of reach.
Casey, Adoree’ Jackson and the Titans will travel to Kansas City to take on 2018 NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs Sunday.
On the NFC side, defensive lineman Rasheem Green and the Seattle Seahawks gave Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers a battle until the final moments of their matchup at Lambeau Field Sunday. After a solid performance against a banged-up Philadelphia Eagles team in the Wild Card round — where Green picked up two tackles and a sack en route to a 17-9 win — Seattle fell to the Packers 28-23, in large part due to a controversial first down ruling on Green Bay’s final possession.
Green ended the regular season leading the Seahawks with four sacks — more than elite teammates like Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
On the losing side of the Seahawks-Eagles matchup, former Trojan wide receiver Deontay Burnett played sparingly but logged a 5-yard reception on his only target. A standout Trojan, Burnett was signed late in the season to help replenish the Eagles’ depleted receiving corps — including injured Trojan alumnus Nelson Agholor — and made several key plays down the stretch as they locked up the NFC East title.
Lastly, the Minnesota Vikings fell to the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara 27-10 despite great contributions from defensive end Everson Griffen throughout their postseason run. In a massive overtime upset victory against the Super Bowl contending New Orleans Saints, Griffen racked up 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits for Minnesota. Throughout the regular season, Griffen finished in the top 20 in the NFC in sacks and only ranked behind Danielle Hunter for the top spot on the Vikings.
But on Saturday, Griffen was held in check by a powerful 49ers offensive line and will have to regroup and prepare for the 2020 season.
With the draft coming in late April and plenty of talented Trojans such as receiver Michael Pittman Jr., defensive lineman Christian Rector and offensive tackle Austin Jackson set to turn professional, the list of Trojan playoff performers is only bound to grow.