spoiler alert: i linked this
The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.
Locks To Make It
Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.
Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.
Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.
Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.
Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.
Junior Hemingway, WR, Kansas City. Even though Hemingway missed a good deal of training camp with a hamstring injury, he came right back and was a prime target for QB Alex Smith out of the slot. This very thorough rundown of the Chiefs' roster situation has Hemingway safely on the team—in fact, he should start in the slot—and that doesn't look likely to change.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.
Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago. Even though the Bears have shuffled their safeties around, Mundy has seen the most action on the first team of anyone, and he can play both free and strong safety in their system. He started the preseason strong, picking off a pass in the opener.
Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.
Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the list.]
"...he has no idea Charles Woodson can jump 15 feet in the air." — actual call, not really hyperbole.
When I posted the above GIF on Twitter today, someone pointed out that the icing on the cake was Dhani Jones (#55) body-slamming the MSU receiver on the sideline. I've watched that play literally hundreds of times since it first happened (gulp) 16 years ago; this is the first time I've ever noticed Dhani's hit. Watching a purportedly-mortal human take flight can be distracting.
[Hit THE JUMP for Braylonfest.gif, Desmond Howard doing Desmond Howard things, Manningham FTW, and more.]
Six seconds left in a tie game, no timeouts remaining, and Anthony Carter runs an in-cutting route 20 yards short of the end zone for the game-winning catch-and-run. This is something that only Anthony Carter could do, and even then only in 1979 against a team coached by Lee Corso, because how do you let that happen?
[Hit THE JUMP for another play from that game that could only happen a long time ago, plus a few more GIFs from Indiana games past.]
When we last met, Jeremy Gallon had rocket boots...
...and Devin Gardner made that "run around forever until somebody gets open" thing work out pretty, pretty well:
Also, Jake Ryan single-handedly destroyed a reverse. Get well soon, please.
[For a veritable stampede of GIFs from Minnesota games past, hit THE JUMP.]
Omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod omigod—YOU GUYS!
We got a recruit. Like a GOOD recruit. Like the best recruit we've ever got, in the if-he-stays-ranked-as-high-as-he-is-in-May kind of way.
How do we feel about this? Happy right? Extraordinarily happy? Off the roof happy? Roses in our teeth happy? Really really really happy?
Like, the scouting reports are nudging you toward "2016 Heisman!!!" happiness. But then the Buckeyes in your life are reminding you that it's an aggregate science, not an exact one—and oh yeah in ur cass, stealin ur non-smurf dude. And your Sparty co-workers and family members are all reminding you that recruiting ratings don't matter nearly as much as how good your school is at developing players (and exciting new types of dirt). And your brain is like "there's only ever been between four and zero humans in the last 70 years as good at cornerback as HIM."
Stupid Buckeyes. Stupid Spartans. Stupid brain. #yalljustjealous #iknowitsenvyshutupimtryingtohashtaginhere
Alas, you're a Michigan fan, meaning even in moments like these you can never shut these people up. So let's try to come up with a reasonable level of expectation by peering into the careers of the few other consensus 5-star corners in the history of recruiting databases.
Class: 2002. School: Texas. Ht/Wt: 5'10/190. Rankings: #3 CB (after Leon Washington & Devin Hester) to Rivals, #3 CB (Hester, A.J. Davis) to Scout.
Other Suitors: Texas A&M, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan State.
Scouting Report: Speed in buckets; one of the fastest-ever high school players in the country. Also a great running back and accomplished track star. Academic and behavioral red flags: has 'em.
College Career: Started immediately at nickel back and kickoff returner. Was caught with pot with a big group of teammate but the case was dismissed. Academic problems forced him to sit out his sophomore year and finally get dismissed from the team, transferring first to a junior college and then signing a letter of intent to play for Oregon State. However he couldn't get academically eligible there either so he stayed at his JC in '05 then went pro.
Pro Career: Signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in '06, released in preseason. Appeared on NFL Europe teams and most recently signed with an IFL team in 2010.
Applicability to Jabrill: Track star and standout running back in high school. McCullough's best 100-meter was a 10.32 (versus Jabrill's 10.83) and Edorian's 21.0 in the 200 meters would easily be the record in New Jersey, where Peppers came close with a 21.37. Peppers is fast but probably not Edorian McCullough fast. Edorian was a pure cover corner and sized like one—his Scout report said he was 5'9, though he appeared on Rivals and on the Texas roster as 5'11. Had a 30" vertical, which is just okay. The academic problems that sank him are the opposite for Jabrill, who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon and has a 3.9 GPA. Notably, nobody called McCullough "aggressive"—he was an okay high school tackler rated highly for his Deion-like skills.
[Hit the jump for the others]
[Note on these posts: Yes, gifs are very bandwith-heavy, which is why we put all but one below the jump. There's not really a way around this that doesn't involve people having to click through to a new page for every gif, which isn't exactly ideal. If your page is lagging severely, try hitting 'escape' on your keyboard (unless you have Chrome, in which case you're SOL), which will stop the animation, then you can right-click and hit 'view image' to open each gif individually.]
We're expanding the MGoGifs beyond recapping each game; starting this week, we'll be taking a look ahead with gifs of great (or at least gif-tacular) moments from past games against Michigan's upcoming opponent. So, today's One Frame At A Time features Northwestern gifs of yore, and there's only one place to begin—Jason Avant's absurd one-handed catch in 2003's 41-10 victory.
First, however, I just want to thank everyone who sent in suggestions on Twitter, and also express my eternal gratitude to WolverineHistorian, whose videos provided the source material for most of these. The man is a treasure. And now, here's Avant:
[When you've finished watching that on a loop for, oh, 20 minutes, hit THE JUMP for the rest of the gifs.]