Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (NCAA): The sophomore cornerback and kick returner scored on a 69-yard punt return, had another punt return for 60 yards, and recovered a fumble in the Cardinals’ 63-20 rout of (then) 2nd-ranked Florida State on Saturday. QB Lamar Jackson received and will continue to receive almost all of the attention for (now) 3rd-ranked Louisville, but Alexander is one of the so-far unsung weapons who have this team looking like arguably the best in the country.
Casey Hayward, CB, Chargers (NFL): Hayward is my MVDB this week because my fantasy football opponent had Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and WR Allen Robinson, and Hayward picked Bortles off twice while helping limit Robinson to just three catches in San Diego’s 38-14 victory on Sunday. Hayward also had four tackles and two pass breakups.
Juwuan Briscoe, CB, Georgia (NCAA): After the Bulldogs took a 28-27 lead with about a minute and a half left in Saturday’s game at Missouri, the defense needed to make one last stand. Mizzou got the ball to midfield before UGA junior safety Dominick Sanders poked the ball away from Tigers receiver J’Mon Moore, and Briscoe fell on the fumble to preserve the victory for Georgia. Briscoe, a sophomore, finished the game with two fumble recoveries, an interception and three tackles.
Arizona Cardinals (NFL): One week after Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston threw four touchdown passes against the Falcons, he threw four interceptions against the Cardinals on Sunday. Cornerback Marcus Cooper had two of those picks, and he took one of them back 60 yards for a touchdown; cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety D.J. Swearinger had the other INTs; safety Tony Jefferson had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery; and safety Tyvon Branch added 10 tackles. Cooper, who is (was?) in a battle with rookie Brandon Williams for the starting cornerback job opposite the All-Pro Peterson, also had seven tackles and three pass breakups in Arizona’s 40-7 victory.
Ryan Pulley, CB, Arkansas (NCAA): The Razorbacks’ defense was dominant in Saturday’s 42-3 rout of Texas State, allowing just 105 total yards (22 rushing) and eight first downs. Pulley, a sophomore, was Arkansas’ biggest standout in the secondary, recording three tackles and getting a 25-yard pick-six in the second quarter.
Mark Barron, SS/LB, Rams (NFL): Barron is one of the O.G.’s of the NFL’s recent trend of safety/linebacker hybrids, and his all-over-the-field versatility was crucial in helping the Rams get a victory in their regular-season return to Los Angeles on Sunday. Barron had a team-high 11 tackles in L.A.’s 9-3 win over the Seahawks. With defensive playmaking expert LeBron James watching in the crowd, Barron also knocked down one of QB Russell Wilson’s passes with his head, and he helped force RB Christine Michael to fumble away a game-clinching turnover in the fourth quarter. The Rams’ defense held Seattle to just 64 rushing yards, a 4-for-13 conversion rate on third down, and kept them out of the end zone in the NFL’s best overall defensive performance of the week.