Plenty of high school football players have a dream of playing in the National Football League (NFL). For most, of course, that dream will not come true but for the top-level recruits, picking the right college program can help the dream become reality. For thirty young men who used to play in Autzen Stadium on Saturdays (or, you know, maybe Thursdays. Or Fridays) the dream has become current reality.
Oregon has sent a handful of great players in previous decades to the NFL such as Dan Fouts, Ahmad Rashad, Mel Renfro, LeGarrette Blount and Haloti Ngata among others. For the 2022 Pre-season, Oregon boasts more than 30 former players who are currently on NFL rosters. Some of these players have been around the NFL for years, while others are trying to crack the final roster as Rookies. These players are listed at the bottom of this article.
NFL teams start the pre-season with 90 players on their rosters, which typically include a large number of returning players along with veterans who have been acquired by trade or as free agents in the off-season, players chosen in the recent NFL draft and players signed as undrafted free agent Rookies. Teams also may invite players not currently in the League, who normally have some previous NFL experience, or who have made an impression at another team’s camp in previous years. This is a big number, close to the size of a college roster. Unfortunately, NFL teams must cut their rosters down to just 53 players by the end of this month. This is done in 3 steps, with the first cut - from 90 to 85 players - having taken place on August 16 (costing Austin Faoliu and Brady Breeze their roster spots). The next cut - from 85 to 80 players - takes place today and the final cut, which sees 27 players cut from each team’s roster on August 30 to get down to 53. In addition, 16 players can be assigned to the “Scout Team” or practice squad. These are typically players who have only narrowly missed making the 53-man roster or who fill potential need for position backups.
Key Ducks on NFL Rosters
*Note - At press time, Kayvon Thibodeaux was reported to have sustained a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain in the New York Giants pre-season game last Sunday. The knee injury is expected to keep him out of action for 3-4 weeks. ATQ wishes him a speedy recovery.
It looks like Oregon will have two former quarterbacks starting at that position in the NFL this season. Justin Herbert begins his third year with the Chargers, having started 32 games in his first 2 years. He blew up the Rookie QB record book, setting top marks for throwing touchdowns, most completions and 300-yard games. He also set records in a quarterback’s first two seasons for most passing yards (9,350) and most total touchdowns (77) and he’s the only quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons. The only thing missing has been enough quality from the rest of the Chargers line-up to lead to wins. Herbert is 15 – 17 overall at Los Angeles, but the team improved from 6-9 with him at the helm his first season to 9-8 last year. Herbert will be looking for personal improvement in interceptions – he threw almost one per game in 2021, among the highest rates for starters in the NFL. Otherwise, he ranked among the best in the League statistically and will undoubtedly be a popular high pick for Fantasy Football this season. Herbert has yet to appear in the Chargers pre-season games, as the team has been evaluating Easton Stick and Chase Daniel as potential backups.
Marcus Mariota – Mariota moves back into a starting role this season with the Atlanta Falcons after the team traded long-time starter Matt Ryan. Mariota spent an injury-limited five years with the Tennessee Titans and two more years with the Las Vegas Raiders backing up Derek Carr and being used mostly on “gadget” plays. After signing with Atlanta last Spring, Mariota moved to the top of the Falcons QB depth chart after two days of training camp last month. Like many quarterbacks who are expected starters, Mariota has seen limited action in the Falcons pre-season so far appearing briefly in their win over the Lions earlier this month before starting last night against the Jets. In Monday’s extended duty, Mariota looked pretty sharp, going 6-10 for 132 yards and a touchdown. Earlier against the Lions, Mariota threw only 2 passes, completing both for 18 yards and ran 3 times for 23 yards and a touchdown. This “dual-threat” aspect has been one of Mariota’s strengths during his entire career. In their game against the Jets, the Falcons showed off Mariota’s versatility by using several different formations and moving the pocket frequently. The question for Atlanta is going to be what kind of support they can give to take pressure off Mariota – the Falcons were 31st in rushing last season.
Anthony Brown, Jr. – Brown signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens this spring. In pre-season, he has thrown for 208 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception.
Devon Allen – Allen had not played football since his last game at Oregon in 2016 when he signed a 3-year “undrafted Rookie” contract this spring to play receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles. While at Oregon, Allen was the rare two-sport athlete, also competing in Track and Field for the Ducks. He won indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships in his specialty the 110 Meter Hurdles, and qualified for the 2016 and 2021 Olympic Games where he finished just off the Medal Stand in 5th and 4th respectively. In his first NFL action, Allen caught the first pass thrown his way for a 55-yard touchdown.
Royce Freeman – Freeman was claimed off waivers by the Houston Texans after playing 3 seasons for the Denver Broncos and part of 2021 for the Carolina Panthers. He gained almost 1200 yards during his years in Denver, despite very limited duty in the 2020 season. He leads Texan rushers with 55 yards on 21 carries in the pre-season. He is averaging 2.6 yards per carry and has yet to score a touchdown. Freeman has also caught 5 passes for 42 yards.
Johnny Johnson III – Johnson joins Freeman on the Texans. In pre-season, he has caught 2 passes for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Deommodore Lenoir – Lenoir is starting his second NFL season as a cornerback with the San Francisco 49ers. Thus far in the pre-season Lenoir has made 6 solo tackles and assisted on a 7th.
Terrance Mitchell – Mitchell has been off-and-on in the NFL since being drafted by the Cowboys in 2014. He has played for six different teams and has had two stints with the Cowboys and the Texans. Last spring, Mitchell was signed to play cornerback with the New England Patriots. He has five solo tackles and one assist in pre-season.
Troy Dye – Dye was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, where he plays middle linebacker. Dye has made 9 total tackles, with 7 solo and two assists in pre-season.
Verone McKinley – McKinley signed as a free agent Safety this year with the Miami Dolphins and has been one of the team’s leading tacklers in the pre-season with 7 total tackles, all of them solo.
Ducks in the NFL - August 2022
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