Watson dazzles in second career NFL game

Week two NFL Pro Coug tracker sees Watson excel

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COLE QUINN

University of Southern California wide reciever Drake London (15) catches a pass while Washington State University defensive back Jaylen Watson (0) attempts to tackle him during the second half of a college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Pullman, WA.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

Under the Thursday night lights, Justin Herbert, the former Oregon Duck and current Los Angeles Chargers quarterback, took a snap and sent the ball to his right. As the ball spiraled through the air, Jaylen Watson snagged the ball and sprung down the field with such elated speed that all any Los Angeles Charger could do was watch.

Watson traded his WSU Cougar crimson for Kansas City Chief red and after only two games of regular season professional football has already made a name for himself with his 99-yard pick-six

Watson headlines a rookie class at WSU that has been turning heads in the NFL.

The 2021 WSU football class has experienced the ups and downs of Cougar football that only the best season in program history, followed by three head coaches in three years all during a global pandemic, and concluding with a long overdue Apple Cup victory, can give you. 

Whether these players spent one season on the Palouse or six, they have each emerged from their time at WSU ready for an opportunity to play the game they love at the professional level.

Despite this cascade of turmoil that has rocked Cougar football through its numerous highs and lows, the class of 2021-22 produced nine NFL rookies on rosters during training camp, four of which are on active rosters or practice squads after two weeks of NFL action.

Jaylen Watson – Cornerback – Kansas City Chiefs

Watson’s journey to the NFL, especially being drafted by an NFL team, was an unlikely one. Watson hails from Lucy C. Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia and played college football first at Ventura College in California. 

He signed with USC in 2019 but did not attend school, instead at the invitation of coach Nick Rolovich, he transferred to WSU and played Cougar football in 2020, where he earned an honorable mention in the All-Pac-12 honors.

In 2021, he tallied 31 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and was second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with four fumble recoveries in 12 starts. He was the second and final Coug to be drafted, being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round with the 243rd overall pick. 

Watson was one of two Cougs to participate in the Senior Bowl and three to participate in the NFL Combine. He joins fellow rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie from University of Washington on the Chiefs’ roster.

Watson’s 99-yard pick-six of former Oregon Duck Justin Herbert in his second-ever NFL regular season game is the best way he could have started his NFL career. The former Coug’s pick-six against the former Oregon Duck deserves to be edged into Cougar history.

“The ball just ended up in my chest and I took it home,” Watson said after the game. “It was a surreal feeling, just so grateful and blessed to be in this position, and I didn’t even know what to do when I got in the end zone, that’s why everyone seen me just standing there, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Dickert worked with Watson from the time he got to WSU in 2020 to the time he left in 2021.

“As all the NFL scouts would come around I would say ‘he’s an unpolished diamond, it’s in there, keep polishing, keep working, take a chance on him,’” Dickert said. “Really proud of the way he’s playing.”

 

Abraham Lucas – Offensive Tackle – Seattle Seahawks

Lucas, who wore number 72 as a member of the Cougs, was selected by the Seahawks in the third round with the 72nd overall pick. The Everett native has the unique opportunity to play high school, college and pro football in the great state of Washington.

Lucas played high school football at Everett’s Archbishop Murphy. He spent five years in the trenches at WSU, redshirting in 2017 before never missing a game throughout his next four seasons. Lucas played in all 42 regular season games over the course of the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. He also played in the Alamo Bowl in 2018 and Cheez-it Bowl in 2019. He opted out of the 2021 Sun Bowl in order to prepare for the draft.

In 2021, the return to a semi-normal schedule allowed Lucas to finish out his college career in strong form by not allowing a single sack. In November, under the leadership of then-interim head coach Jake Dickert, the Cougars finally beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup for the first time since 2012 and the first time in Seattle since 2007.

Lucas made the all-Pac-12 team each of the four years he started. Lucas joins a Seahawks offensive line featuring fellow rookie Charles Cross. Being drafted by the Seahawks and playing the same football position are not the only things Lucas and Cross have in common: both were coached by Mike Leach in college, with Leach coaching Cross for the last two years of his college career at Mississippi State and Lucas being coached by Leach for the first three years of his college career at WSU.

Lucas not only won a roster spot but also a starting job for a Seahawks offensive line that desperately needs help at a rather premium position.

River Cracraft-Wide Receiver-Miami Dolphins

Cracraft followed offensive mastermind, Mike McDaniel, from San Francisco to Miami and set himself up for a timely touchdown grab. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa was scrambling and found an open Cracraft in space in the end zone.

Between Watson’s 99-yard pick-six, Cracraft’s touchdown and Lucas’ strong play, former Cougs had a great week in the NFL.