We’ll keep track of their progress each week leading up to the new season.
The NFL preseason doesn’t mean much if you’re an established starter. At best, it’s a chance to run through a handful of series and break up the monotony of training camp. At worst, it’s a few hours roaming the sidelines in front of a disinterested crowd while zoning in and out of some AAF-caliber football.
But if you’re battling for a spot on the roster, these games could be the difference between earning your jersey and being unemployed come September. Unproven players and longtime veterans looking for one more shot will use exhibition experiences to convince coaches they belong on the team. While stars are going through the motions, they’ll be the guys tearing up the field as though it were January.
This leaves a major opportunity for young players and journeymen to add a little extra name value in NFL circles. In years past, players like Raheem Mostert and Jacoby Brissett have turned garbage time’s garbage time into the resume fodder that kept them on full-time rosters. Who will we have our eyes on as the 2019 preseason kicks into full swing?
We’ve got a few names in mind, and we’ll be tracking their progress through the four weeks of preseason, so be sure to check back for updates.
Center isn’t the sexiest position in football. You know what else isn’t sexy? Butt sweat. And apparently that’s two strikes against Bradbury.
Kirk Cousins was all loose lips when he told reporters about his rookie center’s “posterior sweating.”
“He says it’s not a problem on gamedays, so the moment of truth: Friday night,” Cousins said playfully before the Vikings’ preseason opener. “That’s a big thing I’m going to take away from Friday night is how tough was it to grip the ball after he snaps it to me?”
Cousins was just having a little fun and really, there is no shame in normal bodily functions like perspiration, no matter where it comes from. Still, all eyes will be on those exchanges under center in Minnesota this preseason, because the last thing Cousins needs is another obstacle to fixing his fumbling issues.
Danny Etling, QB??????, New England Patriots
Etling showed up to the first day of Patriots training camp wearing a white jersey instead of his typical non-contact quarterback red jersey.
The 2018 seventh-round pick spent his first NFL season as the Patriots’ third-string quarterback. But he has been alternating between wide receiver and quarterback drills in camp as he fell to fourth string, behind Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and rookie fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham.
Etling has also made some appearances on special team drills, lending to the idea Bill Belichick could use him in a Taysom Hill-type role rather than a straight quarterback-to-receiver like Julian Edelman. The problem is Etling doesn’t have the same athleticism that those guys do. It’s a long shot that Etling makes the final 53-man roster, but we still want to see how Belichick uses this August.
And no matter what happens to Etling, he’ll always have this 86-yard touchdown run from last preseason.
Baltimore used the 2019 draft to add speed on offense. Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown was the headliner of the Ravens’ draft class, but their most intriguing rookie might be Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill.
Hill was one of the stars of the NFL Combine. He posted results in the 90th percentile for the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump. He won’t be taking over Mark Ingram’s role as the starting running back, but he has the potential to create explosive plays every time he touches the ball.
One game into preseason, he’s already shown why the thought of him in the backfield with Lamar Jackson is so exciting:
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) August 9, 2019
Hill can carve out a role for himself in the revamped Ravens offense with a strong showing in the preseason. He’s certainly talented enough to do that and he’s off to a good start.
The Packers didn’t do much to upgrade their receiving corps for Aaron Rodgers, and that’s an endorsement for youngsters like Equanimeous St. Brown, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and J’Mon Moore. But there’s also a 27-year-old Wisconsin-Whitewater grad with what may be his last shot to make an NFL roster.
Kumerow, a former Division III Offensive Player of the Year, bounced around the league before returning to the Badger State. He emerged late in the year to provide a useful third or fourth option for Rodgers, finishing with eight catches and a 72.7 percent catch rate, gaining 103 yards and adding a touchdown in the process.
He still faces tough competition at receiver. Davante Adams is a sturdy WR1, and Geronimo Allison is healthy again after missing 11 games due to injury last season. St. Brown, Valdes-Scantling, and Moore are all jockeying for depth chart position. So are 2016 draftee Trevor Davis and last year’s late signee Allen Lazard.
Making plays like he did in the Packers’ preseason opener is going to be his only chance at standing out in that crowded field.
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 9, 2019
Kumerow whas a great opportunity in Green Bay — but he’ll need to continue to make plays like that to stay on the roster.
The Eagles might have found a steal in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Maddox was pushed into the lineup after the several injuries at cornerback last season, and he performed admirably.
According to Pro Football Focus, Maddox wasn’t just good for a rookie; he was one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league.
Maddox played a big role in the Eagles upsetting the Rams on the road last year as they surged toward the playoffs. Maddox played 100 percent of the snaps, recording three tackles and defending two passes — one of which was an interception.
Philadelphia already has one of the most stacked rosters in the league. If Maddox can maintain his level play from a year ago, the Eagles could be one of the most complete teams we’ve seen in a while.
Who doesn’t want to see the No. 1 pick in the draft in his first NFL action?
He’s a dynamic, unique talent who will try to overcome his height deficiency (he’s 5’10) to turn around the offensively inept Cardinals. Helping him to try to achieve that goal is first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose offensive system that will presumably be about the closest an NFL team has ever been to a college-style spread offense.
Oddsmakers have set the over/under for wins for the Cardinals at just 5.5 in 2019. So far, Murray’s getting rave reviews, and his performance in the preseason so far is giving Arizona fans reason to expect at least six wins.
Murray opened the preseason with six completions on six passes against the Chargers. He only played one series and didn’t throw a pass more than 10 yards, but hey, it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about a 100 percent night.
Ed Oliver, DT, Buffalo Bills
The Bills already had one of the league’s better secondaries and now they have a potentially dominant defensive tackle to play in front of them.
At his pro day, Oliver ran a 4.73-second 40-yard dash and had other workout results that were more in line with skill position players rather than defensive linemen. The first-round pick’s athleticism should be on full display against the bevy of backups that he’ll see during the preseason.
Hopefully, Oliver is able to replicate this training camp moment in a preseason game.
Ed Oliver just burst into the backfield so quickly three offensive linemen all went to the ground. Unreal. https://t.co/OxfXOBkzMc
— Mark Ludwiczak (@marklud12) August 1, 2019
So far, he hasn’t had a preseason play that deserves a spot on highlight reels. His August debut was a tough matchup against the Colts’ All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. While he was stoned on some plays, he also showed the strength and speed combination that makes him dangerous.
— Buffalo Fanatics (@BuFFanatics) August 8, 2019
Oliver will quickly get a chance to prove that he can replace the recently retired Kyle Williams as the heart and soul of the Buffalo defense. Oliver was completely dominant in college — now it’s time to see how skill translates to the NFL.
All-Pros Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard headlined the Colts’ 2018 draft class, but there’s another member poised for a breakout season.
Turay had four sacks in 14 games last season, which is pretty solid production for a second-round rookie. According to Sports Info Solutions, Turay ranked 12th out in pressure rate among the 114 defensive ends and linebackers with at least 200 pass rush snaps in 2018.
While he has a slender build at 6’5, 248 pounds, he’s a ridiculous athlete who can turn the corner like a skill player, like he did on this sack against the Eagles.
Turay developing would help the Colts’ defense take the next step as they try to get back to the playoffs this season. We’ll get a good idea of his progress during this preseason, although his debut was nothing to write home about.
Quinnen Williams, DL, New York Jets
Williams was one of the best — if not THE best — defensive players in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Jets picked him at No. 3 overall.
In 2018, Williams won the John Outland Trophy that goes to the top interior lineman in college football, but he can ideally play anywhere along the defensive line. At 6’3 and 303 pounds with a good mix of speed and athleticism, he’s almost impossible to block.
Williams is currently listed behind Steve McLendon at nose tackle on the Jets’ depth chart, but head coach Adam Gase said Williams’ “football IQ” along with his ability will make him an immediate contributor to the Jets’ defense.
Plus, we just love him:
Javon Wims, WR, Chicago Bears
Last season, the Bears drafted Wims in the seventh round. With a roster already filled with playmakers like Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel, the chances of him making the roster seemed slim. Then he impressed during the 2018 preseason and stuck around.
Wims didn’t play a whole lot during the regular season, but he made an impact in the Bears’ Week 17 win against the Vikings. He had four catches in the game, including two on third down on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Just like last year, the competition is stiff. Cordarrelle Patterson and Riley Ridley join an already deep group. But Wims is still hanging around in terms of a roster spot, and another productive preseason could help him crack the rotation.