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Hoos in the NFL: Benkert, Perkins, and Thornhill shine

So many touchdowns.

New York Jets v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Another week of preseason football, another week of strong performances from former Virginia stars. There’s only one more week of preseason action before the official kick-off of the season on September 9, so let’s take a look how some of those Hoos played this weekend.

Former quarterbacks Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins got the start with the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams, respectively. Both played well, and both made the case that they should earn a roster spot this season.

Green Bay drafted Jordan Love (Utah State) with the No. 26 pick in the first round of the 2020 draft, but an injury led to the Packers being extra cautious with Love and the Benkert start. Aaron Rodgers will be the clear starter for the Packers, but Benkert could be in the running for a roster spot. Benkert went 18-for-25 for 151 yards in the Packers’ 23-14 loss to the New York Jets. He had one touchdown — a five yard pass to Jace Sternberger — but did throw one interception in the loss.

The touchdown pass capped off a 19-play, 81-yard drive that spanned over 10 minutes of game time. Benkert went 8-for-10 passing for 65 yards on the drive, ending it with this pass:

Beyond the touchdown, Benkert showed off his mobility and arm strength, connecting with Taylor Malik on this pretty play:

Benkert’s Virginia successor, Bryce Perkins, also got the start this past weekend. Perkins went 26-for-39 in the air for 208 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also added 41 yards on the ground, including this nifty pickup on fourth down with under two minutes remaining:

The Rams would go on to score on that drive, pulling within one of the Raiders before failing to convert the two-point conversion with 15 seconds remaining. That would be the difference in Las Vegas’ 17-16 win, but Perkins showed poise, command of the offense, and that he can be trusted by McVay and the LA coaching staff.

Perkins was pretty happy with his performance, per USA Today’s Rams Wire. “It was pretty solid,” Perkins said after the game. “Love to clean up some of the mistakes I had early on and throughout the game, but Coach did a great job of – coaches and the players really kind of put it on ourselves to kind of look past the mistakes. Mistakes happen and we did a great job of next play mentality and just came up short. But a lot of those early mistakes can prevent that situation from happening. But lots to learn from. A lot of good, lot to learn, lot of bad…not a lot of bad but some things to fix up here and we’ll be in good shape.”

Like Benkert, Perkins may have worked his way into a roster spot as QB3 for Los Angeles. If not, either or both of them could end up picked up by another team instead of being relegated to a practice squad where they currently are.

On the other side of the ball, several Virginia players were active this weekend. Charles Snowden had three tackles (one for a loss) for the Chicago Bears, and Bryce Hall finished with three tackles (all solo) for the New York Jets.

It was Juan Thornhill, however, that had the prettiest defensive play of the week in Kansas City’s 17-10 win over Arizona. With 1st-and-10 at the KC 21-yard line, Arizona’s Colt McCoy looked to AJ Richardson in the end zone. Instead, Thornhill made an athletic dive for the ball to come up with the pick that would end the scoring drive.

Stay tuned for more NFL updates on Virginia players as we get closer to the regular season starting!