It’s Been a Tough Start to the Year for Miners in the NFL
After week six of the NFL, several Miner players have experienced their share of adversity to start the season. Even though these five UTEP alumni have each proven their worth in the NFL, they've had to deal with their share of hardship during the 2022 season.
Headlining the misfortune for ex-UTEP standouts is Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in their 24-16 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. Needham has been a mainstay in the secondary for Miami since joining the squad as an undrafted free agent. He played 86% of Miami's defensive snaps over the first five games, and took on a starting corner role in place of Byron Jones.
The sad part of this injury is that he is playing on a restricted free agent tender, which means he could be a free agent by the end of the season. Over this past offseason, Needham signed a one-year, $3.9 million contract to return to Miami. Now, he might have played his final snap with the Dolphins.
In Green Bay, Aaron Jones' start to the year falls along with the Packers' subpar 3-3 start, including back-to-back losses to both New York teams. Jones, who has been a staple of the Green Bay offense since being drafted in 2017, hasn't registered 20+ touches in any game and just twice recorded 15+ touches. Knowing that the team likes to use secondary back AJ Dillon, the lack of opportunities from Jones isn't too much of a surprise.
Jones topped 13 carries in two of six games this year, along with an average of 2.8 catches per game, the lowest of his career since 2018. It might be a workload thing, saving Jones for later this year. It might be the Packers trying to see what they have with their younger receivers. It might be the play calling. But for whatever reason, Jones isn't getting near the same opportunities as before.
Upon his signing to the Cardinals after three seasons with the Giants, offensive lineman Will Hernandez has experienced a tough start to the year as well. Arizona is just 2-4 this year and the squad is coming off a 19-9 loss to Seattle, in which the offensive line allowed six sacks.
Continuity on the offensive line has been the biggest issue for the Cardinals. In fact, Hernandez was ejected in the Cardinals-Panthers game for pushing an official. They've dealt with injuries to center Rodney Hudson and most recently to left guard Justin Pugh, who likely suffered a season-ending injury against Seattle.
In Denver, tight end Eric Tomlinson is experiencing a mediocre season with the 2-3 Broncos, who have lost back-to-back games. Tomlinson has appeared in two games this year and has been targeted for a pass only once. He is primarily used as a blocking tight end and has been buried behind tight ends Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck and Albert Okwuegbunam.
Among the UTEP players in the NFL, Jaguars defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris has found success in 2022. The seventh-year NFL pro has started every game this year and has 19 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for losses and 1.0 sack. He's currently on pace for his most productive season, trying to top 2021 when he finished with 37 tackles, 4.0 tackles for losses and 3.0 sacks. Though the Jaguars are 2-4, Robertson-Harris has been a reliable veteran for their defensive front.