Trojans in NFL excel in the final weeks
Prior to wild-card weekend, 12 former Trojans contended to wear a Super Bowl ring on their finger. From Tampa Bay to San Francisco, let’s take a look at some of the players who may win a championship for their city, as well as a few former USC players whose below average teams left them on the outside looking in.
Ronald Jones II
Following an ankle injury, running back Ronald Jones II was sidelined as he watched his Tampa Bay Buccaneers take control of the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card game. Absent from walk through practice Wednesday, Jones’ status in the Divisional Round matchup against the Los Angeles Rams remains in question.
In his fourth NFL season, Jones saw a decline in statistical production next to quarterback Tom Brady. His inability to pick up opposing pass rushers in the backfield forced Head Coach Bruce Arians to use Jones sparingly, leading to a lack of touches. However, the former Trojan’s Super Bowl hopes remain alive, and, with Brady at the helm, you can’t count the Buccaneers out.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
A fantasy sports crown jewel, Amon-Ra St. Brown was one of the few bright spots for the 3-13 Detroit Lions. Although it took a few weeks to adjust to the pace and style of professional football, fourth round pick St. Brown exploded toward the end of the season, putting up 560 yards and 5 touchdowns over the final six weeks.
The wide receiver became a central focus in opposing team’s gameplans. From learning to break contain and get around high-level cornerbacks, St. Brown has figured out how to be effective on the gridiron. The next step for the former USC star will be learning how to, consistently produce for the Lions for an entire 17-game slate.
Michael Pittman Jr.
Another byproduct of the Clay Helton era, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. put up his first 1000 receiving yard season in his sophomore year — the first Indianapolis Colt to reach the mark since 2018.
The Colts finished with a 9-8 record and showed signs of promise heading into the next season. If the front office can find another weapon to line up opposite Pittman Jr. on the offensive side of the ball, it could unleash the former Trojan and propel him as one of the toughest receivers to guard in the NFL
Pittman Jr. has 128 receptions and just four drops in his career. An efficient, reliable pass-catcher like Pittman Jr. is a quarterback’s best friend. He will look to reach the 1000-yard mark in his third season and launch the Colts into the playoffs.
Rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga has played a role in the San Francisco 49ers defense throughout the year. Hufanga saw action in 15 games this season with 32 tackles and two passes defended.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ tutelage can be huge for a young player such as Hufanga as he tries to make his way into the league.
His strong season was derailed earlier this week, as the safety was limited in practice Tuesday following a knee injury, and his part in Saturday night’s game against the Packers and potential MVP Aaron Rodgers remains questionable.