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.]
Should Make It
Will Campbell, OG, New York Jets. After making the switch to the offensive line upon entering the NFL, Campbell is working as the second-team left guard for the Jets.
Michael Cox, RB, New York Giants. Cox toted the rock 22 times as a rookie last year after making the team as a seventh-round pick, and the very unfortunate end to the career of David Wilson (repeated neck injuries) gives him a chance to take on a larger role this season.
Kenny Demens, ILB, Arizona. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said last month that Demens will make the team if he continues his level of play, and he cleared a big hurdle last week when Arizona cut Ernie Sims, whom he was competing with for a spot as a second-team inside 'backer in their 3-4 defense.
Brandon Graham, OLB/DE, Philadelphia. If Graham isn't on Philly at the start of the season, he'll almost certainly be on another roster; the issue here is he's been moved to 3/4 outside linebacker, a transition that hasn't been easy. His name is being thrown out there as a possible surprise cut/trade candidate, but he's graded out well recently and will find a home somewhere—it's just a question of whether that home is in Philadelphia.
Tim Jamison, DE, Houston. Jamison is listed as J.J. Watt's backup at SDE on Houston's official depth chart, and at least one local pundit expects him to "rotate in quite a bit" this season.
Mike Martin, DL, Tennessee. Martin hasn't produced as Tennessee hoped after spending a third-round pick on him. He has a chance to make a bigger impact under a new coaching staff, however, and he'll do so at a new position: 3-4 defensive end.
David Molk, C, Philadelphia. Molk seems like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly's offense, and now he looks very likely to earn a roster spot after taking advantage of an injury in front of him on the depth chart; after a strong camp, he should be their #2 center.
Patrick Omameh, OG, Tampa Bay. Omameh got a spot in the starting lineup for Tampa Bay's exhibition opener, but the line didn't perform well, and the coaches are still trying to find the right combination on the interior. He should make the team, though his roster spot could be in danger if the Bucs bring in outside help.
Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville. Denard has seen time at both receiver and running back due to numerous injuries among Jacksonville's skill players, but they want him to focus on RB, where he's competing with former UConn back Jordan Todman and rookie Storm Johnson for
third-string second-string duties behind Toby Gerhart, who's replacing now-Raider Maurice Jones-Drew as the starter. Robinson ran for a touchdown in their first preseason game (GIF'd above), and given his versatility and potential it'd be a huge surprise if the Jaguars let him go.
Stephen Schilling, C/G, Seattle. In his first season on the Seahawks, Schilling is taking first-team reps at center with starter Max Unger out. That's a good sign, as is the fact that he can play three spots along the line.
On The Bubble
Jay Feely, K, Arizona. Feely could be a camp casualty after a down year in 2013; he struggled to record touchbacks on kickoffs and missed three kicks inside 40 yards. He's also owed $1 million, while undrafted free agent Chandler Cantazaro would cost the team less and fill the same role.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, New England. As I covered here after the draft, Gallon has a tough road to a roster spot, and now he's on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While I'd bet he gets a chance elsewhere—the Pats have a lot of options in the slot—it's looking increasingly possible that Gallon won't stick with the team that drafted him in the seventh round.
Jordan Kovacs, S, Miami. Man, it pains me to put Kovacs here, but Miami's depth at safety is decent, and he could be battling for the team's final roster spot. His chances of making the final cut did increase recently due to safety Reshad Jones' four-game suspension for PED use.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants. After recording just nine catches last season for San Francisco, Manningham is back with the team he helped win a Super Bowl just three seasons ago with his incredible sideline grab. The NFL isn't big on sentimentalism, however, and Manningham is right on the cut line; knee injuries have slowed him the last two seasons.
Craig Roh, DE, Carolina. Roh spent all of last season on Carolina's practice squad after going undrafted. He was inactive for the first preseason game with an ankle injury. There's little news on him, but just going based on that, he's got a tough road ahead of him.
Every undrafted free agent. Too many of these to cover individually, but here's the list as it stood after the draft:
DL Jibreel Black, Pittsburgh Steelers
LS Jareth Glanda, New Orleans Saints
OLB Cameron Gordon, New England Patriots
S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Baltimore Ravens
DT Quinton Washington, Oakland Raiders
Former Michigan safety Marvin Robinson, who played his final season of eligibility at Ferris State, earned a training camp invite from the Dallas Cowboys.
Being a UDFA in the NFL means that you'll be on the cut line unless you really outperform expectations; Glanda, as a long snapper, may in fact have the best chance at finding a roster spot somewhere.
Waiting For A Call
David Bass, C, Free Agent. The 32-year-old Baas is a man without a team right now, and his career appears to be winding down. He's one of the most experienced free agent centers out there, however, and a team like the Dolphins or Colts that are in need of help at the position could come calling.
Zoltan Mesko, P, Free Agent. The Steelers cut Mesko after seven games in 2013, as he averaged just 37 net yards per punt. He briefly appeared on Cincinnati's roster, but he's no longer listed there. Punter is a position that sees a lot more in-season movement than others, so hopefully the Space Emperor will get another shot this year.
Jonas Mouton, LB, Free Agent. Mouton missed two of the last three seasons with shoulder and knee injuries, and last month San Diego—which drafted him in the second round in 2011—cut him after he failed a physical. That could spell the end of Mouton's NFL career, unfortunately.