Irish In The Pros: NFL Preseason, MLB Updates

August 29, 2017 Corey Bodden, Staff Writer

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Former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer has been named the week one starter for the Cleveland Browns.
Associated Press

Over the past several weeks former Notre Dame players have been returning to the field gearing up for the NFL regular season participating in the preseason.

Several Irish players have been fighting for jobs and trying to secure their place on a roster which includes former quarterback DeShone Kizer earning the starting job for the Cleveland Browns. Several teams still have one more preseason game remaining leaving one last chance for players to impress and earn a roster spot on their respective teams.

Here is a look at how those players are faring as the NFL regular season begins on Thursday, September 7. Also included is how former Irish baseball players are faring as MLB playoff races heat up with just a few weeks of action left.

NFL UPDATES (OFFENSE)

• George Atkinson (2011-13), RB, Oakland Raiders: Was waived by the Browns July 29 and claimed by the Raiders … Will likely have to be a standout special teamer to earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Atkinson has registered four rushes for 21 yards and one catch for seven in his first two games with the Raiders.

• Chris Brown (2012-15), WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Fighting for a roster spot with the Bengals … Has hauled in one pass for minus-four yards in Cincinnati’s first three preseason games.

• Tyler Eifert (2009-12), TE, Cincinnati Bengals: Arrived at training camp healthy, after injuries limited him to eight games a year ago … Aims to play 16 games for the first time in his career and re-establish himself on one of the league’s top tight ends … Caught one pass for four yards in the Bengals’ first three preseason contests.

• Anthony Fasano (2002-05), TE, Miami Dolphins: Signed on for his second tour of duty with the Dolphins and will split playing time with Julius Thomas … Did not catch a pass in the Dolphins’ first three preseason contests.

• Michael Floyd (2008-11), WR, Minnesota Vikings: Suspended for the first four games of 2017 by the NFL due to his DUI arrest in December and subsequent 24-day jail stint, but was a standout during training camp and is playing his way into the team’s plans … Notched five receptions for 46 yards in Minnesota’s first three preseason games.

• Will Fuller (2013-15), WR, Houston Texans: Began the year as Houston’s No. 2 receiver … Showed improvement early in training camp, but suffered a broken collarbone Aug. 2 that is expected to sideline him until late October or early November.

• J.J. Jansen (2004-07), LS , Carolina Panthers: Will once again handle all the team’s long snapping duties in 2017.

• Jarron Jones (2012-16), OT, New York Giants: The undrafted free agent was moved to offensive tackle during offseason training activities and is likely destined for the team’s practice squad. Reportedly played 18 snaps as the third-string left tackle in the Giants’ preseason opener.

• TJ Jones (2010-13), WR, Detroit Lions: Added muscle during the offseason and impressed early in training camp, but will need to continue to perform to earn a roster spot … Caught two passes for 33 yards in Detroit’s first three preseason games.

• DeShone Kizer (2014-16), QB, Cleveland Browns: The second-round draft pick was competing for the starting job in Cleveland, with veteran Brock Osweiler serving as his toughest competition, but has since been named the starter. Completed 11 of 18 passes for 184 yards and connected on a game-winning 45-yard touchdown throw in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ preseason opener … Also ran three times for 12 yards. Has went 14 of 31 for 167 yards and an interception in the previous two contests. Also rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

• Ben Koyack (2011-14), TE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Vying for the starting tight end job, but regardless of whether or not he earns it he figures to be a lot more involved in the team’s passing attack this year … Caught three passes for 44 yards in Jacksonville’s first three preseason games.

• Nick Martin (2011-15), OL, Houston Texans: Missed all of last season due to an ankle injury, but didn’t waste any time reasserting himself in 2017 … Was named the Texans’ starting center prior to their first preseason contest and was expected to maintain that role all year.

• Zack Martin (2009-13), OL, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys were working on signing the All-Pro guard to a lucrative long-term extension during training camp … He is expected to become the highest-paid guard in the league, with an annual salary exceeding $12 million and anywhere between $30-40 million guaranteed … Started the last three games of Dallas’ preseason games.

• Troy Niklas (2011-13), TE, Arizona Cardinals: Trying to fulfill his potential after injuries limited him to 26 games and eight catches his first three seasons … Has impressed in training camp, but needs to stay healthy to carve out a role … Caught four passes for 45 yards and one score in Arizona’s four preseason contests.

• C.J. Prosise (2012-15), RB , Seattle Seahawks: Projected to handle a large portion of the Seahawks’ third-down backfield duties … Had one rush for three yards and one reception for eight yards in the Seahawks’ preseason opener, but missed their next two exhibition games due to injury.

• Theo Riddick (2009-12), RB, Detroit Lions: Still recovering from offseason wrist surgery, but is expected to form a one-two punch with fellow running back Ameer Abdullah … Did not play in either of Detroit’s first two preseason contests, but recorded one carry for zero yards in the third.

• Kyle Rudolph (2008-10), TE, Minnesota Vikings: Entrenched as Minnesota’s starting tight end following his best season as a pro (83 catches for 840 yards and 10 touchdowns) … Did not catch a pass in the Vikings’ first three preseason games.

• Ronnie Stanley (2012-15), OT, Baltimore Ravens: Locked in as the Ravens’ starting left tackle … Missed the team’s last two preseason contests with an undisclosed injury after starting the opener.

• John Sullivan (2003-07), C, Los Angeles Rams: Was the frontrunner to be the Rams’ starting center, but must fend off a couple of younger players to secure the job … Started each of the team’s first three preseason games.

• Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, Detroit Lions: Will serve as Detroit’s No. 1 receiver for the second straight year … Figures to get more work in the slot this season, a position where he has flourished in the past … Pulled down seven receptions for 96 yards in the Lions’ first three preseason contests.

• Sam Young (2006-09), OT, Miami Dolphins: Entered training camp as Miami’s No. 3 tackle, swinging between the right and left sides as needed … Started at right tackle in the Dolphins’ first two preseason games while playing in the third.

NFL UPDATES (DEFENSE)

• Robert Blanton (2008-11), DB, Dallas Cowboys: Expected to compete for the starting strong safety job, but will have to fend off some talented young players … Recorded six tackles in the Cowboys’ preseason contests.

• Sheldon Day (2012-15), DL, Jacksonville Jaguars: Looking to land a spot in Jacksonville’s defensive line rotation … Registered seven tackles and one sack in the Jags’ first three preseason games.

• Matthias Farley (2011-15), DB, Indianapolis Colts: Had a strong offseason and had a chance to earn a starting spot at safety heading into the second week of training camp … Made eight stops (seven solo), one sack and forced one fumble in the Indianapolis’ first three preseason games.

• Kapron Lewis-Moore (2008-12), DE, Chicago Bears: Signed with the Bears in January and is battling for a roster spot … Made one tackle in Chicago’s first three preseason contests.

• Cole Luke (2013-16), CB, Carolina Panthers: The undrafted free agent is doing his best to earn a roster spot during training camp … Due in part to some injuries in Carolina’s secondary, he has taken some reps as the team’s No. 1 nickel corner … Notched eight tackles (three solo) in the Panthers’ first three preseason games.

• Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DE, New York Giants: Has established himself as one of the Giants’ more promising young players … Will open the season as a backup, but will be an important part of the defensive end rotation … Recorded one tackle in first three preseason games.

• James Onwualu (2013-16), LB, Los Angeles Chargers: The undrafted free agent is trying to earn a roster spot as a backup linebacker and special teamer … Made seven tackles in the Chargers’ first three preseason contests.

• Cody Riggs (2014), CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Attempting to earn a roster spot with the Buccaneers … Was lining up with the third-team defense early in training camp … Recorded two tackles in Tampa Bay’s first three preseason games.

• Isaac Rochell (2013-16), DT, Los Angeles Chargers: Battling for a roster spot with the Chargers after being drafted in the seventh round … Registered nine tackles, including half a sack, in Los Angeles’ first three preseason contests.

• KeiVarae Russell (2012-15), CB, Cincinnati Bengals: Making the bid for a spot on the Bengals’ 53-man roster with a strong summer … Made 12 stops (ten solo) and defended one pass in Cincinnati’s first three preseason contests.

• Harrison Smith (2007-11), S, Minnesota Vikings: Remains a fixture in the Vikings’ secondary after making his second Pro Bowl appearance last season … Notched three tackles (all solo) in the Vikings’ first three preseason games.

• Jaylon Smith (2013-15), LB, Dallas Cowboys: Continues progressing in his recovery from a devastating knee injury in January 2016 … Has shown improvement on the practice field and even taken some reps with the first-team defense … Made his Cowboys debut in their preseason game versus Indianapolis Aug. 19, seeing action on 12 plays and making one tackle. Made three tackles in his second preseason contest against the Raiders.

• Manti Te’o (2009-12), LB, New Orleans Saints: Worked primarily as the starting middle linebacker early in training camp, though he comes off the field in passing situations … Not a lock to make the roster, but was on track with his performance to date … Made a pair of tackles in the Saints’ preseason opener, and then racked up nine stops (seven solo) and one sack against his former team, the Chargers, in his second exhibition outing. Added four tackles in most recent game.

• Stephon Tuitt (2011-13), DE, Pittsburgh Steelers: Regarded as one of the league’s top young 3-4 defensive ends … The Steelers were attempting to lock him up with a contract extension before the start of the regular season … Made four tackles including one for loss in Pittsburgh’s first three preseason games.

• Ishaq Williams (2011-14), DE , New York Giants: Currently on the Giants’ injured reserve list while rehabbing from a May 4 knee surgery … If he progresses enough he could be activated during training camp to compete for a roster spot.

MLB UPDATES

• John Axford (Played at Notre Dame from 2002-05), RHP, Free Agent: Was released by the Oakland A’s Aug. 1, and had yet to hook on with another team … Struggled in 22 relief appearances, notching a 0-1 record and 6.43 ERA … Recorded 21 strikeouts in 21 innings, but also allowed 44 base runners (27 hits and 17 walks).

• Trey Mancini (2011-13), 1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles: Seem action in 116 of the Orioles’ first 131 contests … Hitting .297 with 54 runs scored, 22 home runs and 70 RBIs.

• David Phelps (2006-08), RHP, Seattle Mariners: Was traded to the Mariners July 20, with three prospects going to the Miami Marlins … Has made nine relief appearances for the Marlins, recording a 2-1 mark, three holds and a 3.24 ERA … For the season, had made 53 relief appearances while registering a 4-5 record with 21 holds, 62 strikeouts and a 3.42 ERA in 55.1 innings.

• A.J. Pollock (2007-10), OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Has played in 84 of the Diamondbacks’ first 131 games … Hitting .263 with 53 runs scored, seven homers, 24 RBI and 17 stolen bases.

• Jeff Samardzija (2003-06), RHP, San Francisco Giants: Currently holds an 9-12 record with a 4.43 ERA in his first 26 starts of the season … Whiffed 175 batters in 176.2 innings of work. Has made 17 quality starts.

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