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Tigers in the NFL: Weeks 15 & 16

Katie Bradham
Former Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry has had early success in his rookie season with the Washington Commanders, especially in recent weeks.

With the NFL season in the homestretch, former Tigers have been making their mark as postseason play looms. Let’s take a look at a few standout alumni below:

Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver — Cincinnati Bengals

Higgins has proven himself to be an elite receiver in both his college and professional careers, and he has continued to show his skills with dominant performances despite having backup quarterback Jake Browning throwing him the ball.

In the Bengals’ week 15 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, Higgins recorded four receptions for 64 yards and two crucial touchdowns that helped lead them to a 27-24 victory. A week later, he racked up five receptions for 140 yards and another touchdown in their 34-11 loss to division-rival Pittsburgh.

Now at 8-7, the Bengals will face the Chiefs and Browns in the next two weeks with playoff hopes on the line.

Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle — Miami Dolphins

Miami has been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL this season, with a top-three offense in both passing and rushing. The Dolphins’ defense has been great as well, as it sits second in sacks and fifth-best against the run. One of the key facets to these results has been Wilkins, as he’s having his best season yet with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Wilkins has continued to put up excellent numbers for the Dolphins. He had three tackles, a tackle for loss, half a sack and a pass deflection in the team’s blowout win over the Jets in Week 15. Additionally, in Week 16, he tallied up four tackles and a quarterback hit against an elite Cowboys offense, which Miami defeated 22-20. His impact isn’t all stats, however; his pressure on the line and his ability to rip apart plays is where he shines.

Wilkins and the Dolphins have clinched the playoffs at 11-4 and next face the No. 1 seeded Ravens, as well as the Buffalo Bills, in hopes of stealing the No. 1 spot for themselves.

K.J. Henry, Defensive End — Washington Commanders

The Commanders drafted Henry with the 137th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and while his rookie campaign has been quiet, he had his best game against the Rams in Week 15.

In Washington’s 28-20 loss, Henry secured a season-high five tackles with a tackle for loss, adding to his total of 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks on the year. The Commanders’ defense has incredible young talent and promise, and Henry could put those numbers up weekly.

Now eliminated from postseason competition, the 4-10 Commanders face the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, two of the best teams in the league, for their final games of the season.

Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker — New York Giants

The Giants have had a rough season, but they have had some stars shine on both sides of the ball regardless. Defensively, Simmons has been a standout performer and a constant pest to any offense that he faces. With 43 tackles and three pass deflections, his impact goes beyond stats.

Simmons did little in their week 15 loss to the Saints, with only three tackles. Against the Eagles in week 16, he had four tackles, a pass deflection, and an incredible play on special teams. As Philadelphia returner and running back Boston Scott caught a kick return, Simmons pushed another opposing player into Scott, forcing a fumble, which Simmons recovered. This set up the Giants to score an easy touchdown in Philadelphia’s red zone. They narrowly lost to the Eagles 33-25, but Simmons’ impact was still massive in making it a close match.

The 5-10 Giants, who are also eliminated from the playoffs, will go home to face the Los Angeles Rams and the Eagles once more in the coming weeks.

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Katie Bradham
Katie Bradham, Senior Videographer
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