Just because they no longer play at Wisconsin doesn't mean that they aren't still Badgers. With that in mind, here's a look a how the Badgers of the NFL did in Week 1.
RB Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
When you hold the NCAA record for most career touchdowns, chances are that when you are on the field, you're not there to pass protect. That's the challenge Montee Ball is currently facing in his first year in the NFL and perhaps the biggest reason why the Broncos are leaning towards using a running back by committee this season.
In Thursday night's game against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Ball carried the ball just eight times for 24 yards and caught zero passes out of the backfield. To be fair to Ball, the Broncos didn't do much ground work against the Ravens as Peyton Manning decided to have himself a field day by throwing for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns in the 49-27 rout.
Perhaps Manning's arm will be sore next week as the Broncos travel to New Jersey to take on the Giants, but regardless Ball needs to work on his pass protection if he wants to take over the starting role in Denver.
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
In a game where offense was hard to come by, Russell Wilson provided the Seahawks with just enough to get them the victory in Carolina against the Panthers. Wilson was 25-of-33 for 320 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions and totaled seven yards on five rushing attempts -- with all seven yards coming on one run.
Wilson's 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse brought the Seahawks back from a 7-6 deficit to give them their first victory of the season. The fact that Wilson struggled mightily yet still managed to put up more than respectable box score numbers shows just how good the 5-foot-11 third-round pick is.
Up next for Wilson and the Seahawks is their home-opener against Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers. While the defensive competition is great than that of Week 1, expect Wilson to rise to the occasion and go toe-to-toe with Kaepernick in a battle of two of the brightest stars the NFL has to offer at the quarterback position.
DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Watt is coming off of one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history where he recorded 81 combined tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 deflections, and four forced fumbles. The Pewaukee, Wis. native took home the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year honors as a reward for all of his hard work.
In the season opener against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football, Watt picked up right where he left off by racking up three tackles, one pass deflection, and one tackle for a loss.
The Texans found themselves down 28-7 with 10:42 left in the third quarter but the defense flexed its muscles as Watt's crew did not allow the Chargers in the red zone for the rest of the game, allowing the offense to score 24 unanswered points en route to a 31-28 victory.
Watt faced double teams all night from the San Diego offensive line and he should expect nothing less for the remaining 15 games of the regular season. Houston hosts Tennessee next week where Watt will look to shutdown Chris Johnson and the 1-0 Titans.
Other notes from Badgers in the NFL
- 2013 first-round pick C Travis Frederick and the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Frederick and Romo only had one bad snap exchange on the night, and after a rough first half of blocking for the 6-foot-3, 317-pound rookie where the Giants often times put two defensive linemen on the ball in order to confuse and unsettle him, Frederick bounced back to look the center that Badgers fans have seen him be over the years.
- 2008 sixth-round pick DT Nick Hayden shined for the Cowboys on Sunday night. Hayden recorded three tackles and forced a fumble in his first start for Dallas. Hayden is filling in for injured DT Jay Ratliff, and with Ratliff expected out until at least Week 6, Hayden should see plenty of playing time after his stellar performance.
- 2012 fourth-round pick WR Nick Toon and the New Orleans Saints suffered the lone loss of the night for the Badgers touched on here. Toon did not see the field much and did not record a reception, much less a target.