Penn State Players in the NFL: Week 1
With 41 alumni currently listed as active players, Penn State is one of the most well-represented universities in the National Football League. However, as the preseason comes to a close and the 2018 NFL season kicks off, NFL teams will be undergoing their final roster cuts in order to reach the 53-man limit. As such, not every one of the 41 active Penn State alumni will get the chance to play for an NFL team this season. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable names and evaluate their preseason performances, as well as their chances of landing on an NFL roster.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants:
The second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft shouldn’t have to worry one bit about whether or not he’ll make the final roster. His only concern should be about whether or not he’ll be at 100 percent in time for the start of the season. Barkley only appeared in the Giants’ first preseason game against the Browns, with an impressive 39-yard run on his very first carry and has since sat on the bench nursing a hamstring injury acquired in practice. Fortunately, Barkley has since returned to practice, and he plans on playing week one against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As one of the most talented players to come out of Penn State in years, Barkley should be one of the top rookies to watch this NFL season.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins:
Mike Gesicki is another Penn State rookie that shouldn’t have to fret about whether his roster spot is safe. Gesicki didn’t turn any heads in the preseason, as his lone reception was a 10-yard haul against the Ravens in week three, but as the Dolphins’ second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, he has an excellent chance of being the starting tight end in week three. Of course, Gesicki’s biggest concern is his blocking ability. The 6’6” Gesicki was merely a pass catcher at Penn State, but Miami is looking to change that, as Gesicki has been working on his blocking technique in training camp. Regardless, if Gesicki is used to his fullest potential, he’s likely to be one of the most exciting rookies to watch in 2018.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos:
While it’s unlikely that Hamilton will be a starting receiver immediately in Denver, it’s a safe assumption to say that he’ll be on the roster come week one. Hamilton had a solid preseason, recording three receptions for 36 yards in three appearances, but his presence should become more notable when the regular season starts. As a speedy receiver with a larger frame and precise route-running abilities, Hamilton has a real chance to be a deep threat in the Broncos’ passing game. Perhaps the most interesting storyline to watch will be how Hamilton compares to Denver’s 2018 second-round pick, Courtland Sutton.
Troy Apke, S, Washington Redskins:
Apke’s place on the Redskins roster is no sure thing, but as a team in need of depth in the secondary, Washington may try to keep him. Apke’s preseason featured a handful of tackles and an interception; not eye-popping, but not terrible either. Coach Jay Gruden has been especially complimentary of his work on special teams, though he thinks there’s room to grow at the safety position. If Apke doesn’t land on the 53-man roster, there’s still a decent chance that Washington will retain him via the practice squad, but as a fourth-round rookie, it may be smart to keep Apke and see how he develops throughout the season.
Marcus Allen, S, Pittsburgh Steelers:
Like Apke, Marcus Allen could find himself on the wrong end of the cuts list depending on whether or not the Steelers are comfortable with their secondary. Allen had a relatively quiet preseason, with his most noteworthy performance coming against the Panthers in week four in which he recorded 10 tackles. A strained abdominal muscle has been to blame for the lack of participation in practice as well as missing the week two game in Green Bay. In the end, Allen’s competition for a spot will be fierce, and it’s really a coin flip on whether or not he makes the final roster.
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Chris Godwin’s rookie season didn’t quite have the same flair that the Buccaneers were hoping for, but with one season of play under his belt, he’s prepared to take the next step. Godwin’s impressive preseason saw 55 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, a sign of good things to come in 2018. There is one main concern, however, and that’s the depth chart. With names like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard on the roster, it’s possible that Godwin will be in heavy competition for targets with his teammates. Despite this fact, Godwin is still a popular pick among analysts to have a breakout season in 2018.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears:
Allen Robinson is a name to keep an eye on throughout the 2018 NFL season. Just three years ago, Robinson was on track to be a star receiver in the NFL, having hauled in 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns for Jacksonville in 2015. Of course, his career hit a snag after he tore his ACL in last season’s opener, and he’s since been dealt to Chicago. Robinson did not see any action in the preseason, so there’s no way to tell if it will be the same Robinson we saw lighting up the field Jacksonville just a few years ago. But with a roster lacking receiving talent and a young quarterback with room to grow, Robinson will have the opportunity to stake his claim as Chicago’s primary receiver.
Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots:
One of the most interesting Penn State alumni is Chris Hogan, notable for his Penn State experience as lacrosse player rather than a football player (though Hogan would play some college ball for Monmouth University). Hogan is now faced with the grandest opportunity of his life. With Danny Amendola now in Miami and Julian Edelman suspended for four games, Hogan becomes New England’s No. 1 receiver. Hogan’s decent preseason included six reception for 35 yards in three appearances, but the best should be yet to come. With Tom Brady throwing him the ball, there’s no reason to believe Hogan won’t have a huge impact on the Patriots’ passing game in 2018.
Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys:
Perhaps the most notable NFL player to come out of Penn State in the past decade is Sean Lee, a mainstay on the Dallas Cowboys defense. After being marred by injury for the first few years of his NFL career, Lee lit the league on fire with his play in 2015 and 2016, earning Pro Bowl nominations both years and All-Pro honors in 2016. Lee’s 2017 season wasn’t as spectacular, thanks to a hamstring injury that caused him to miss five games, but he’s proven that he can still play at a high level in the NFL despite injury problems. If Lee has another injury-free season, we might be able to see again what we saw in 2015 and 2016.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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