Heading into the new year, we tuned into where former Syracuse football players are making an impact. With the playoffs approaching, here is where the Orange are in the NFL.
Justin Pugh- OG, Arizona Cardinals
In his 10th season in the NFL and his fifth with the Arizona Cardinals, Pugh has become a veteran at offensive guard. Struggling to stay healthy this season, he only played 100% of the snaps in two games, against the Eagles and Rams. In Week 6 against the Seahawks, Pugh suffered a season-ending knee injury. The struggling Cardinals now at 4-10 have been a disappointment, and with his five-year contract up in 2023 and the severity of his knee injury, there are questions surrounding the 32-year old’s future in the NFL.
Kingsley Jonathan- DE, Buffalo Bills
After playing at Syracuse for five seasons from 2017-2021, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan has struggled to stay on a roster during his rookie season. Waived by Buffalo in May, Jonathan was picked up by the Bears where he appeared in only three games and picking up a solo tackle. In the end of November, the rookie was waived by the Bears and picked up again by the Bills where he is now on the practice squad.
Ifeatu Melifonwu- S, Detroit Lions
Taken in the third round of the 2021 draft, Melifonwu played DB for the Orange for three seasons. He played in seven games his rookie season for the Detroit Lions, and got solid playing time down the stretch. In 2022, Melifonwu has matched his season total of seven games played already through Week 15.
Zaire Franklin- LB, Indianapolis Colts
From 2014-17, Franklin played linebacker for the Orange before being drafted in the seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts. Franklin has since spent five seasons with the organization. He’s steadily improved, and has had his best season in 2022, with 141 total tackles (85 solo), and two forced fumbles. Franklin has two seasons left on his contract and will be 28 when entering free agency.
Andre Cisco- S, Jacksonville Jaguars
In his second season with the Jackonsville Jaguars, safety Andre Cisco has emerged as the most dominant former Syracuse player in the NFL. After a season ending surgery in his final year with the Orange, Cisco bounced back with a strong performance with his jump to the league. This year through 13 games played, Cisco has three interceptions for 68 returned yards and a touchdown to go along with 47 solo tackles. Down the stretch, Cisco will be crucial defensively for the Jaguars who at 7-8 are fighting for their division in the AFC Playoffs.
Riley Dixon- PT, Los Angeles Rams
Dixon is 29 in his seventh season in the NFL is playing his first year with the Los Angeles Rams. He finished third in Syracuse history with a career punting average of 42.62 yards. With Los Angeles, the punter has 60 punts with an average of 48.8 yards for 11th best in the league. Dixon has been a consistent asset for a Rams team that has struggled in their Super Bowl reigning season.
Chandler Jones- DE, Las Vegas Raiders
As the most tenured NFL veteran from Syracuse, Chandler Jones is in his 11th season. After six years with the Arizona Cardinals, Jones is currently in his first season with the Las Vegas Raiders. With his debut in Las Vegas this season, Jones has 4.5 sacks with 3 fumbles recovered for 48 yards. In Week 15 Jones famously returned an attempted lateral from Jakobi Meyers with time expired to win the game against his former team, the New England Patriots. He is in his first year of a three year, $51 million deal with the Raiders.
Trill Williams- CB, Miami Dolphins
After five games of his junior year at Syracuse, Trill Williams suffered a season ending injury and declared for the NFL draft. Going undrafted, he was originally claimed by New Orleans before being picked up by the Miami Dolphins. Now in his second season in Miami, Williams has only played in one game in his career because of injury. In a preseason game this season against the Bucanneers, Williams suffered a torn ACL that ended his year. Despite early struggles to start to his career, there were reports Williams looked productive while having a good training camp. He continues to recover in hopes of coming back next season with the Dolphins.
Trishton Jackson- WR, Minnesota Vikings
Catching 12 touchdowns and over 1,000 passing yards during his one season at Syracuse, wide receiver Trishton Jackson went undrafted in 2020 and signed with the Los Angeles Rams. After spending the entire season on the active roster, Jackson did not play a game for the Rams. He was waived after the season and signed with the Minnesota Vikings where he now is on their practice squad.
Alton Robinson- OLB, Seattle Seahawks
Following an impressive junior year at Syracuse where he finished with 10 sacks and 39 tackles, Alton Robinson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In two seasons with the Seahawks, Robinson has 44 total tackles and five sacks including his first on Dak Prescott in September of 2020. In the Seahawks final preseason game of 2022, Robinson sprained his PCL and has been sidelined since the beginning of the campaign. In late November, head coach Pete Carroll said Robinson may be able to come back late this season, although most likely in a reserve role.