The Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals kicked off preseason football this past Thursday at the Hall of Fame game. In that game alone we had an opportunity to see some former Hokies play at the professional level, not to mention former Virginia Tech QB and coach, Bruce Arians! During the 20-18 Dallas victory Woody Baron and Jonathan McLaughlin both made their NFL debuts!
The Hall of Fame game is in the past, but the first week of preseason starts this Wednesday. Let’s look at the games where we may get to see some Hokies, both veterans and rookies, play at the NFL level.
Houston Texans vs Carolina Panthers
Wednesday, August 9, 730PM Eastern
Veteran offensive lineman Duane Brown’s participation in the first game of the preseason is unlikely. Brown has been involved in an offseason contract dispute. He skipped the entirety of off season events and was placed on the Did Not Report list, which carries a $40,000 a day fine. It is expected that the dispute will be remedied by the regular season, but an appearance by Brown in preseason week one would be surprising.
Atlanta Falcons vs Miami Dolphins
Thursday, August 10, 700PM Eastern
Although they didn’t take him until the seventh round, Isaiah Ford was described, by Draft Wire, as the biggest steal at the WR position. Luke Easterling pronounced his draft stock drop as such, “A classic case of workout numbers overshadowing on-field ability to a disappointing extreme, Ford’s disappointing combine performance sent him from mid-round and potential Day 2 consideration to nearly falling out of the draft completely.” Unfortunately, Ford suffered an injury during training camp that required surgery this past Wednesday. The recovery timeline has yet to be determined. Although he is currently listed as questionable, it seems unlikely that we will have an opportunity to see Ford in pads this week.
Minnesota Vikings vs Buffalo Bills
Thursday, August 10, 700PM Eastern
This matchup is a veritable smorgasbord of former Virginia Tech Hokies. Tyrod Taylor is entering his third season as the Bills starting QB. Taylor has been plagued with inconsistent play during training camp, but that can be attributed to the fact that he is now working under his third offensive coordinator in the same amount of years. This is a crucial year for Tyrod. Buffalo is obligated to him through this season, but in March 2018 they have the option to commit to the former Hokie signal caller to the tune of a $6 million roster bonus and an $18 million cap hit. On the other hand, they can release him and save $14 million in cap room. If the Bills are going to make that sort of financial commitment they are going to want to see Tyrod at his best throughout the season.
Another former Hokie QB superstar joins Tyrod Taylor on the offense, but not as a passer. This past November the Buffalo Bills signed Logan Thomas as a TE. Buffalo seems set on Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary as their top two TEs, but they will likely want to keep three on the roster. The 6’6”, 250 lbs. former QB will need to transition quickly to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The third Fighting Gobbler that finds himself playing for the Bills is on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle, Nigel Williams, was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent. The 6’2”, 297 lbs. Richmond native will likely be fighting for a position on the practice squad.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted former Hokie TE, Bucky Hodges, in the sixth round. Hodges was much more a receiver than a blocker while in college, a skillset that is more-or-less required at the professional level. It seems as if the Vikings are committed to developing Hodges for the NFL level and a potential downfield threat at the position. They didn’t sign veteran TE Jared Cook and signed Bucky to a four-year, $2.55 million contract. I would expect to see quite a bit of Bucky throughout the preseason.
Antone Exum Jr. ended the season on the injured reserve list when he suffered a rib and should injury against the Seattle Seahawks. Over the last two years Exum has played in 27 games, primarily on the special teams unit, but also saw time as the backup safety. Although he played the safety position in previous seasons he’s been taking snaps at CB during training camp.
Washington Redskins vs Baltimore Ravens
Thursday, August 10, 730PM Eastern
DeAngelo Hall, recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season, is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and will not be playing on Thursday. Although still convalescing he seems to be progressing nicely.
DeAngelo Hall is recovering nicely from his ACL injury— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 1, 2017
(via dhall23/IG) pic.twitter.com/SjNTzNfCX1
Kendall Fuller enters his second year with the team. He and several other young defensive players look to establish the Washington defense with an influx of young talent.
This past week Fuller and Hall took a moment to spend some time with a couple young Hokie fans.
Former Denver Bronco’s sixth round pick, Vinston Painter, has bounced around the NFL over the last three years. The Hokie offensive lineman was signed by the ‘Skins in 2016 where he spent time on both the active and practice squads. The Washington O-line roster is all but set in concrete, and it is unlikely that Painter would have a shot to crack the lineup. Instead we can expect him to be competing as a back-up or on the practice squad.
Ryan Malleck found time on the rosters of the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers before being claimed by the Baltimore Ravens after a Dennis Pita injury. Ryan showed promise before an injury during his time with the Giants. With injuries to Pita, and recently Crocket Gillmore, Malleck may be able to find a spot on the active roster as the Ravens struggle with depth at the TE position.
Baltimore selected safety Chuck Clark in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Barring some incredible play or injuries to the secondary expect Clark to be battling for a place on special teams.
New Orleans Saints vs Cleveland Browns
Thursday, August 10, 800PM Eastern
Corey Fuller was signed by the Saints from the Lions’ practice squad. The Saints have quite a bit of depth at WR, but Fuller has been impressing in training camp. If he doesn’t make the WR corps his speed could translate to a job on special teams. Fuller did not practice this past Saturday, for an undisclosed reason, and is listed as questionable.
Daryl Tapp is entering his 12th season in the NFL and ESPN currently has Tapp making the cut on their 53-man roster predictions.
Denver Broncos vs Chicago Bears
Thursday, August 10, 800PM Eastern
Kyle Fuller spent last season on Injury Reserve (IR) and currently the former first round pick is likely trade bait. If a suitable trade cannot be engineered there is speculation that Fuller will be released to free agency. Should the Bears decide to retain Fuller he will be able to compete for a place on the active roster, if not a starting position.
Ken Ekanem’s name was not called out during the 2017 NFL Draft, but the Denver Broncos were quick to pick him up as an undrafted rookie free agent. Ekanem played on the defensive line for Virginia Tech, but will be making the transition to LB at the professional level. There is a tremendous amount of talent in the LB corps and it seems unlikely that Ekanem will find a place on the active roster. A spot on the practice squad should be his goal.
San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs
Friday, August 11, 900PM Eastern
Dadi Nicolas enters his sophomore NFL season with questions swirling around his future. Nicolas suffered a ruptured patellar tendon last year. Most of the time he spent on the field was with special teams and occasionally backing up the LB corps. The road ahead for Nicolas will be difficult if he is not healthy during preseason to compete for a roster spot. Unfortunately, as it stands now, Nicolas is listed as out for the first matchup of the preseason.
Dallas Cowboys vs Los Angeles Rams
Saturday, August 12, 900PM Eastern
Woody Baron already made his NFL debut during the Hall of Fame game where the DE had one tackle and an assist. Woody is another Hokie undrafted rookie free agent who will be working to make the practice squad.
Sam Rogers was the only fullback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he is already turning heads at the Rams’ training camp. His hard work has been noticed by many, and it was observed that he is consistently the first player out on the field. Although a rookie Rogers is likely to start at the FB position.
Oakland Raiders vs Arizona Cardinals
Saturday, August 12, 1000PM Eastern
Like Woody Baron, offensive lineman Jonathan McLaughlin made his debut during the HoF Game. While McLaughlin started 49 games at Virginia Tech he is another Hokie that went undrafted. He was picked up as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals. As with all undrafted free agents an active roster spot is an exception and with no real home for him on special teams he will likely be pursuing a place on the practice squad. The Cardinals are coached by former VT QB and graduate assistant coach, Bruce Arians. Coach Arians will be looking to improve on a disappointing 2016 season that saw the Cards go 7-8-1 and miss the playoffs.
Detroit Lions vs Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, August 13, 130PM Eastern
Nick Becton has bounced around the NFL since entering in 2013 as an undrafted free agent. Becton recently signed with Detroit after Tony Hills was placed on the reserve/retired list. He will be fighting for a spot on the active roster to add depth.
Seattle Seahawks vs Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday, August 13, 800PM Eastern
Kam Chancellor just inked a three year, $36 million contract extension that shows the Seahawks are dedicated to rebuilding their defense around players in the secondary. Chancellor will most certainly be a starter and continue to be one of the premier DBs in the NFL.
Best of luck to all the Hokies in the pursuit or maintaining of their professional dreams!