Football is back! NFL pre-season football that is, and after the first slate of pre-season games, a handful of former Terps are already off to a good start. Check out who is doing what and what the future may hold for these former College Park standouts.
Jon Condo, LS, Oakland Raiders
Last week's stats: None
Condo is considered one of the best long snappers in the league as he enters his 9th season with the Oakland Raiders. In his career, he has made two pro bowls and has recovered three fumbles on special teams. Check out this article on his career, on and off the field, courtesy of the Raiders' official team website.
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, OLB, Tennesee Titans
Last week's stats: None
Titans3: DGreen-Beckham has had some drops. Looks rusty after 2014 off … Camp surprise: UDFA Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (Md.) natural OLB in 3-4.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) August 6, 2015
Titans3: DGreen-Beckham has had some drops. Looks rusty after 2014 off … Camp surprise: UDFA Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (Md.) natural OLB in 3-4.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) August 6, 2015
Cudjoe-Virgil went undrafted in this year's draft but was signed by the Tennessee Titans and has since made a solid impression in training camp. Despite not playing in the Titans first pre-season game, he has been performing well so far.
"Cudjoe-Virgil has impressed me both with his physical style of play, and his coverage downfield. Behind starting outside linebackers Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, Cudjoe-Virgil has a chance to make the team. He’s in a competition with players like J.R. Tavai and Jonathan Massaquoi, among others. There are spots to be had for sure."
The bad news for Cudjoe-Virgil is that according to head coach Ken Wisenhunt, he hurt his hamstring recently and will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury. This is tough timing as he has yet to make the team.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Last week's stats: DNP (Coach's Decision)
Davis has cemented himself as one of the best tight ends of the last decade after being drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 2006 draft. However, he had a dismal year last year, at least by his standards, catching 26 passes for two touchdowns a year after catching 13. There are even rumblings about him being cut this pre-season. Davis did not play in the 49ers first pre-season game as they currently have eight tight ends on their roster, and wanted to use the game to see some of the unproven players in action.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Last week's stats: two catches, 26 yards (15 yard long), three punt returns, 55 yards (37 yard long)
Stefon Diggs 60+ yard punt return pic.twitter.com/thbRUICl2G— #D1_FOOTBALL® (@D1_FOOTBALL) August 10, 2015
The Minnesota Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the league's first preseason game of the new football year. This matters because former Terp, Stefon Diggs made his NFL debut, and did so in fashion via a 60 yard punt return that he nearly took to the house. After replay, it showed he stepped out of bounds near the end zone and the Vikings settled for a rushing touchdown.
Diggs was asked about his performance in the Hall of Fame game and had this to say:
"I made some mistakes that you might not have been able to see. I just want to get better all around and contribute more."
His teammate and fellow receiver, Jarius Wright apparently had a vested interest in the return:
"I kind of laughed because the first time he went out there, I’m telling everybody on the sideline that he’s about to [score]. Then he goes out there and fair catches it. Then it was like, ‘You got to go get one now because you made me look bad in front of everybody.’ "
In the Vikings second pre-season game last weekend against the Buccaneers, Diggs followed up his first appearance with another solid showing. He had two catches for 26 yards, with a long of 15 yards. He was targeted five times which was most among any Vikings receiver and had three punt returns good for 55 yards (longest was 37 yards).
Diggs has gone from simply trying to make the team to trying to cement his status as a potential starter on the team, either as a slot receiver and/or as a punt returner.
Cole Farrand, LB, New York Giants
Last week's stats: Two tackles (one solo)
Farrand is fighting to make the Giants roster after going undrafted back in May. He managed two tackles during the Giants pre-season loss to Cincinnati. He is currently listed as the Giants third-string weak side linebacker and will most likely end up cut or on the practice squad. Check out what Big Blue View had to say about Farrand and his prospects of making the team.
Moise Fokou, LB, Cleveland Browns
Last week's stats: DNP (recent acquisition)
Fokou was just signed by the Browns a week ago and did not play in their first pre-season game. He comes to the Browns after spending 7 years in the league scattered with the Eagles, Colts, Titans, and Saints. He came to College Park after transferring from Frostburg State and has the most sacks by a Maryland linebacker since Shawne Merriman in 2004. Fokou is listed as Cleveland's number four MIKE linebacker.
AJ Francis, DT, Miami Dolphins
Last week's stats: None
Francis is a defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins who has recently earned attention off the field by being an Uber driver in the off-season is trying to make the Dolphins roster as he enters his 3rd season in the league. He has yet to play a down in the NFL however, so far being a practice squad player only. However in the Dolphins first pre-season game against the Bears, Francis was seen on the line with the first team along with the likes of Ndamukong Suh.
Here's the reason why I didn't see AJ Francis with the 2nd team. He lined up with the first team, next to Ndamukong Suh.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 16, 2015
Francis needs to impress in order to make the Dolphins active roster, but if he is playing with the first team, the coaches must be seeing something they like.
Erin Henderson, LB, New York Jets
Last week's stats: Four tackles (four solo)
Henderson had a solid pre-season game despite the Jets getting blown out in a 23-3 loss against the Lions. The bad news for Henderson is that he sprained his MCL during the loss and an MRI confirmed it is a grade-2 sprain. The injury will keep Henderson on the sideline for a week, meaning he'll be back for the Jets third pre-season game. He was signed to a non-guaranteed contract this off-season after a tumultuous last year with the Vikings. Henderson is competing for a roster spot and is listed as the second string left inside linebacker on the Jets depth chart.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week's stats: three catches, 30 yards (11 yard long)
Heyward-Bey was once a top-10 pick and had a ton of potential as a receiver in the NFL. Now he is fighting for a roster spot as he enters his second year in Pittsburgh. He is attempting to make the Steelers' roster as a special team player as well as the team's number four receiver. He caught only three passes last season, his lowest since his rookie year in Oakland. He did however catch three passes in the first pre-season game this year for the Steelers.
Shaun Hill, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Last week's stats: 8-9 passing, 184 yards, two touchdowns, 11.6 yards per attempt, 154.4 passer rating
Hill broke into the NFL as a third string quarterback with the Vikings back in 2002, and only appeared in one game during his first tenure with the team - a kneel down in 2005. He has spent his NFL career as a serviceable journeyman who has started for multiple teams after starting quarterbacks have gone down due to injury. He comes back to the Vikings this year and had a good outing during the first pre-season game. He went 8-9 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He was excited to get back on the field in Minnesota, via TwinCities.com:
"It was great to be in front of the Vikings fans again, wearing that purple. It was fun."
D'Qwell Jackson, LB, Indianapolis Colts
Last week's stats: one tackle
Jackson was a 2nd round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. He spent last season with the Colts and was named to the Pro Bowl team for the first time in his NFL career. He also was apparently the reason for the start of the "Deflate Gate" case, and had an incident involving a pizza delivery man during the winter. In the Colts first pre-season game, Jackson tallied just one tackle. He is listed as one of the two starting inside linebackers.
Darius Kilgo, NT, Denver Broncos
Last week's stats: four tackles (two solo), one sack
Kilgo was selected in the 6th round by the Denver Broncos and has a great opportunity to not only make the roster, but to potentially become a starter at nose tackle. He comes into an ideal situation in Denver as defensive coordinator Wade Phillips runs a 3-4 defense, however the Broncos do not boast a single true nose tackle on the team, a spot Kilgo could take over. However the rookie knows he has to learn all positions on the line, not just nose tackle. Check out what he had to say to reporters about learning the line and making the roster.
In the Broncos first pre-season game against the Seahawks, Kilgo tallied four tackles (two solo) and the one sack you can see above.
Deon Long, WR, Tennessee Titans
Last week's stats: None
In WR vs DB blocking drill, Deon Long and Cody Riggs set off first camp fight. #Titans DGB and Searcy heated snap before.— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) August 4, 2015
Long was an undrafted free agent that the Titans signed after the draft. He was involved in one of the Titans' first training camp fights, something that Long downplayed by saying "it was just a friendly fight." The former Maryland receiver can't be seen on the stat sheet from the Titans first pre-season game but is trying to make the roster any way he can, even mixing in at kick returner during training camp. He is listed under the "other" string for the second receiver spot and will have a tough time making the active roster.
Dexter McDougle, CB, New York Jets
Last week's stats: One tackle (one solo), one pass defensed
McDougle was a third round pick by the Jets in 2013 but missed all of last year with a torn ACL suffered in training camp. He was thought to have a good chance to be the number two cornerback last season for the Jets and is hoping to work his way back to that this season. He apparently is making a strong case for that in camp.
Though it was a dreadful throw by Bryce Petty, Dexter McDougle made a nice dive to pick off the ball. Strong play. #Jets— Darryl Slater (@DarrylSlater) July 30, 2015
Nick Novak, K, San Diego Chargers
Last week's stats: 1/1 FG (52 yards), 1/1 XP
Novak has cemented himself as one of the top kickers in the NFL over the last couple years. He has been the Chargers kicker since taking over in 2011 and holds the franchise's record for 34 straight successful field goals. He faces competition this pre-season from undrafted rookie Josh Lambo (Texas A&M) but Novak should retain the position. In San Diego's first pre-season game against Dallas, Novak buried a 52 yarder in the 4th quarter to add on to the Chargers 14-7 lead.
Matt Robinson, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars (Reserve)
Last week's stats: DNP (Released)
Robinson went undrafted in this year's draft but was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars afterwards. He was competing for a spot on the roster as an OTTO linebacker (a linebacker who could rush off the edge or drop back into coverage). Robinson unfortunately injured his hamstring and was subsequently released by the Jaguars. If he passes through waivers, the Jaguars would retain his rights and most likely put him on the IR. However it does not look likely that Robinson will make the active roster.
Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Last week's stats: None
Smith is teammates with former Terp Vernon Davis and has also had quite the career in the NFL. He spent the first part of his career playing in Baltimore, just up the road from College Park before signing with San Fran as a free agent in March of 2015. He played in the first pre-season game but was targeted only once. He, along with former Raven teammate Anquan Boldin will make for quite the receiver tandem for 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick
Randy Starks, DL, Cleveland Browns
Last week's stats: DNP (Coach's decision-rest)
Starks was signed by the Browns in March of this off-season coming to Cleveland from Miami. The former 3rd round pick is an 11 year veteran, two time pro bowler (2010, 2012) and should be a key acquisition for the Browns. He has been injured for part of training camp and is just now getting back healthy. He did not participate in the Browns first pre-season game but is currently listed as the starting right end in the Browns' 3-4 defense.
Joe Vellano, DT, New England Patriots
Last week's stats: None
Vellano has been on the Patriots roster for the last two seasons and has seen a decent amount of playing time. The Pats called up the former Maryland defensive tackle last season for the AFC Championship game after spending the majority of the season on the practice squad. With the addition of Malcolm Brown via the 32nd pick in the draft by the Patriots, it will be tough for Vellano to see much playing time this year. He is currently listed as the third defensive tackle on the Pats unofficial depth chart and did not record a tackle in their first pre-season game of the year.