Here is a look at how four former Auburn athletes, including three rookies, are getting along a third of the way into the 2018 season.
Braden Smith, OG, Indianapolis Colts
Former first team All-American Braden Smith has made an outstanding debut starting off his rookie year with the Indianapolis Colts. Smith was picked 37th overall in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft, and after a long college career as an offensive guard, Smith started weeks five and six with Indianapolis at right tackle.
After seeing only 10 snaps in the first four games, Smith stepped up to fill in for starting right tackle Denzelle Good, who was out dealing with the death of his brother. The former Tiger didn’t fall under pressure against the New England Patriots and “exceeded expectations,” said head coach Frank Reich.
Smith has seen every snap since entering a starting position, including last week when the No. 10 offensive line denied the New York Jets’ defense, allowing no sacks on quarterback Andrew Luck.
A rough start of 1-5 to close the first third of the season has called for major adjustments for the Colts’ offense. Though Good will be taking back his place at right tackle, Smith has earned a starting position and is listed in the week seven unofficial depth chart as starting right guard as the team goes on to play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
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Star running back Kerryon Johnson joined the pros following his junior year and an outstanding career at Auburn. Having won SEC Offensive Player of the Year and finishing ninth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2017, Johnson was the 11th pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Johnson hit the ground running after joining the Detroit Lions and has seen full action in every game so far this season. The running back had a big game in week three against the Patriots. With 16 carries and 101 yards, the former Tiger became the first Lions running back to run for over 100 yards since 2013. Though Detroit fell to the Dallas Cowboys 24-26, Johnson celebrated again in week four as he scored the first touchdown of his professional career.
Despite being pulled out at the beginning of the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury, Johnson logged 70 yards, 12 carries and two receptions in the week five game against Green Bay. Johnson used the following bye week to recover and was able to fully participate this Wednesday at practice.
The rookie will be back starting this Sunday as the Lions travel to take on the Dolphins in Miami.
Carlton Davis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carlton Davis was the only Auburn defensive player to be drafted in 2018. The cornerback was picked up in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Davis has played in four games this season and has had 16 combined tackles for the Bucs’ defense so far.
The rookie was taken out of the game during week four against Chicago because of a groin injury. Davis rested week five but was still unable to return to practice the next Monday following the team’s bye week.
The injury was deemed serious when Davis also started experiencing issues with his back, keeping him out against the tough loss to the Atlanta Falcons in week six. Davis had a limited practice earlier this week and was back to full participation on Thursday. He is expected to gear up and play against the Browns this Sunday at home.
Josh Bynes, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Josh Bynes has advanced to a starting position this year for the first time in his eight-season career in the NFL.
“He’s just smart,” head coach Steve Wilks said about his new starting middle linebacker.
Bynes has shown out on the field and has been named seventh best linebacker in the league by Pro Football Focus. Bynes has been one of Arizona’s most consistent players this season and has made sure to defend his stating position.
Bynes has 56 combined tackles this season, but his excellence doesn’t end on the field. The former Auburn athlete has been named co-leader of the team and will lead the Cardinals into their game next Sunday as they face San Francisco at home.
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