By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
Here’s a look at how the University of Tennessee players (VFLs) in the NFL fared in the first full week of the NFL Preseason. You’ll find their position on the depth chart according to the unofficial depth charts of the teams, game stats and notes on their position battles.
14 of the 36 Vols, that were on rosters at the time, started in Week 1 of the preseason.
After their Week 1 game, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed VFL tight end Ethan Wolf, who was recently released by the Carolina Panthers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after their first preseason game, signed rookie defensive back Micah Abernathy, who spent most of the offseason with the Minnesota Vikings.
After the two new VFL signings above, there are now 38 University of Tennessee players on 22 different teams in the NFL. That doesn’t count the 7 others that were at UT at one point before transferring and finishing their careers at other schools. Five different positions have the most former Vols, 5, in the league right now…P, TE, DB, DL and LB.
Tennessee Volunteers (38)
Atlanta Falcons (L to Dolphins)
Luke Stocker (80) TE (2nd team TE) Started at TE
Matt Simms (9) QB (4th team QB) 8 of 17 for 86 yds, 3 sacks, 3 car 13 yds
*Stocker will be the blocking TE behind and sometimes opposite starter Austin Hooper. Simms was brought-in after QB Kurt Benkert was injured in the Hall of Fame game and has since been placed on the reserve list, which could open-up the opportunity for him to stick, if they keep three QBs.
Baltimore Ravens (W vs. Jaguars)
Morgan Cox (46) LS (starting LS) no stats
*He’s your Ravens long-snapper, as always.
Buffalo Bills (W vs. Colts)
Jason Croom (80) TE (4th team TE) DNP
*A hamstring injury cost Croom valuable practice opportunity to prove his roster worth in the spring. The Bills then brought in 4 new TEs including two draft picks. Now Croom is in a log-jam with 6 other TEs, including Knoxville’s Lee Smith.
Carolina Panthers (W vs. Bears)
Michael Palardy (5) P (starting P/H) 4 punts 41.8 yds per
Rashaan Gaulden (28) DB (2nd team SS) no stats
*Gaulden is working at multiple DB positions trying to earn a starting spot. His versatility assures a roster spot at the very least.
Chicago Bears (L vs. Panthers)
Tyler Bray (9) QB (3rd team QB) 8 of 17 for 85 yds, 3 sacks
Cordarrelle Patterson (84) WR/KR (2nd team WR & starting KR) DNP
*Patterson is a veteran that’s set in the WR rotation and kickoff returns. Bray continues as the #3 QB with no competition behind him. He will likely make the 53 and then often inactive in game days.
Cincinnati Bengals (L vs. Chiefs)
Josh Malone (80) WR (2nd team WR) Started at WR, 2 rec 23 yds
*Malone shouldn’t have a problem remaining on the team. In fact, the door is open for him to possibly start while AJ Green is out injured. The opportunity is there for Malone.
Cleveland Browns (W vs. Redskins)
Britton Colquitt (4) P (starting P/H) 2 punts 47.5 yds per
*The much-hyped and more talented Browns once again have an excellent punter from Punter U.
Dallas Cowboys (L vs 49ers)
Jason Witten (82) TE (starting TE) no stats
*Witten’s spot is obviously not in doubt, even though Blake Jarwin, who the Cowboys really like, got the start at TE in this game. How effective Witten will be in his return is. Doubting him may be silly, however.
Denver Broncos (L vs. Seahawks)
Alexander “AJ” Johnson (45) LB (2nd team ILB) Started at ILB, 4 tackles
Ja’Wuan James (70) OT (starting RT) Started at RT, no stats
*Johnson played quite a bit and will continue to get every opportunity to show he should make the final roster as a reserve LB. James is inked in as the starting RT as a high-priced free agent signee.
Detroit Lions (L vs. Patriots)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) LB (2nd team OLB) Started at OLB, 2 tackles
Justin Coleman (27) DB (starting CB) Started at CB, 1 tackle
*JRM is settled in as a reserve linebacker and special teams contributor. Coleman was signed from the Seahawks after a terrific 2018, so he’ll almost certainly start at either CB or nickel CB.
Houston Texans (L vs. Packers)
Zach Fulton (73) OL (starting RG) Started at RG, no stats
Trevor Daniel (8) P (starting P/H) 1 punt 38 yds
*Fulton will be the starting RG again this season. Daniel has no competition as the punter this season, as he loks to build off of an impressive rookie year.
Jacksonville Jaguars (L vs. Ravens)
Ethan Wolf (46) TE (4th team TE) DNP
*Wolf was signed on Sunday after the Jags’ first preseason game. This is the fourth team Wolf has had an opportunity with. The Titans, Packers and Panthers were the previous three for the now 23 year old.
Kansas City Chiefs (W vs. Bengals)
Dustin Colquitt (2) P (starting P/H) 2 punts 39.3 yds per
Kahlil McKenzie (66) OG (2nd team LG) no stats
*Colquitt does have some camp competition in rookie Jack Fox, so we’ll see how they plays out. Trevor Daniel won the Texans punting job in beating out future hall of famer Shane Lechler last year, so it’s possible. McKenzie is trying to hold-off several newcomers, including two rookies for the back-up guard spot.
Los Angeles Rams (L vs. Raiders)
John Kelly (42) RB (3rd team RB) Started at RB, 3 car 10n yds, 2 rec 2 yds
*It’s a great sign that Kelly first showed-up 3rd on the Rams unofficial depth chart and then got the start with the Rams holding back starter Todd Gurley. There is a lot of competition for the back-up RN spots. With Gurley’s frequent knee injuries, the Rams will likely keep at least 4 RBs. A great preseason is still important for JK.
New England Patriots (W vs. Lions)
Jacob Johnson (47) FB/TE (3rd team TE) Started at FB, 1 rec 5 yds
*As long as FB/HB/TE James Devlin is healthy, I would be surprised if Johnson makes the final cut. Belichick, though, has unique ways of managing his roster, so you never know if the former Vol from Germany can impress enough to stick.
New Orleans Saints (L vs. Vikings)
Alvin Kamara (41) RB (starting RB/2nd team KR) Started at RB, 4 car 11 yds, 2 rec 15 yds
Shy Tuttle (74) DT (4th team DE) 1 tackle
Colton Jumper (51) LB (4th team WLB) no stats
*Kamara just needs to stay healthy this preseason. His current and future fantasy football owners would agree with that. Rookie Shy Tuttle’s best hope is to flash enough to earn a practice squad spot after final cutdowns. Jumper is very much a long shot to make the team.
New York Jets (L vs. Giants)
Kyle Phillips (98) DE (3rd team DE) 2 tackles
Matt Darr (3) P (2nd team P) 2 punts 43.5 yds per
*The other VFL rookie on NFL rosters is Phillips, who is hoping to make the team, perhaps even on the practice squad. He’s competing with 7 other DDs right now, although two of them were also undrafted free agents. Darr is trying unseat returning punter Lachlan Edwards.
Philadelphia Eagles (L vs. Titans)
Derek Barnett (96) DE (starting DE) DNP
Malik Jackson (97) DT (starting DT) Started at DT, no stats
Alex Ellis (48) TE (6th team TE) 1 tackle
*If healthy, Barnett starts alongside VFL Malik Jackson two other former first round picks, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Jackson is looking to bounce-back after a subpar season with the Jaguars. Ellis was signed recenty, but would be a surpise in the final 53 if he makes it.
Pittsburgh Steelers (W vs. Buccaneers)
Ramon Foster (73) OG (starting LG) DNP
Daniel McCullers (93) NT (2nd team NT) Started at NT, 1 tackle
Cameron Sutton (20) DB (2nd team NCB & CB) Started at RCB, 2 tackles
Joshua Dobbs (5) QB (2nd team QB) Started at QB, 5 of 8 for 85 yds, 2 sacks, 2 car 44 yds
*Dobbs had a TD pass and an interception called back due to penalties. Dobbs is battling Mason Rudolph for the back-up QB spot. They have shared 2nd team reps in camp. Both of them should get plenty of time in the preseason to settle that battle. Sutton, similar to Gaulden, is very versatile in that he can play outside CB, nickel CB or safety. McCullers has spent his entire NFL career as the backup NT in Pittsburgh and this year should be no different. Foster is the veteran, rock, leader of the o-line.
San Francisco 49ers (W vs. Cowboys)
Emmanuel Moseley (41) CB (4th team CB) Started at CB, 3 tackles
*Moseley has had a nice camp. He’s also benefitted from injuries ahead of him at the position. He brings special teams value also, so with a strong preseason, expect Moseley to stick with the team with 1 or 2 other former Butch Jones players in Hurd and Helm.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L vs. Steelers)
Micah Abernathy (44) S (3rd team S) DNP
*Was just signed by the Bucs on Sunday as the team continues to look for improved depth in a young, thin secondary. especially at safety. His familiarity of systems from Minnesota to Tampa Bay, could help him acclimate quickly and impress the staff.
Tennessee Titans (W vs. Eagles)
LaTroy Lewis (45) LB (3rd team OLB) 2 tackles
Jordan Williams (40) DE/OLB (4th team OLB) 1 tackle
*Unless Lewis has a great preseason, it may be tough for him to make the final 53. It will be even tougher for the newly signed Jordan Williams. The Titans adding Cameron Wake in the offseason and using a mid-round draft pick on OLB D’Andre Walker makes things more difficult. However, Walker was just placed on the reserve list, so there could still be an opportunity there.
One-Time Vols That Transferred And Finished Elsewhere (7)
Buffalo Bills (W vs. Colts)
Lee Smith TE (85) *Powell HS/Tennessee/Marshall (2nd team TE) no stats
*Smith is excellent blocking TE. He should make the roster in his second go-around with the Bills.
Miami Dolphins (W vs. Falcons)
Preston Williams (82) WR *Tennessee/Colorado State (3rd team WR) 4 rec 97 yds
Dewayne Hendrix (73) DE *Tennessee/Pittsburgh (4th team DE) 1 FF, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH
*How about the games these two one-time Vols rookies had in their NFL debuts with the Dolphins? I think both have a chance to make the final 53. I’d maybe give Williams a slightly higher percentage chance, but both the talent.
Oakland Raiders (W vs. Rams)
Nathan Peterman (2) QB *Tennessee/Pittsburgh (3rd team QB) 9 of 12 for 66 yds 1 TD, 3 car 56 yds
*Peterman’s 50-yard scramble was a popular view on social media Saturday night. Jon Gruden said Peterman is starting to grow on him, but he’s tough for QBs to please. The question is likely to be, with the Raiders having needs at so many other positions, can they afford to keep three QBs? Carr and Glennon are surely your top two.
San Francisco 49ers (W vs. Cowboys)
Jalen Hurd (17) WR *Tennessee/Baylor (2nd team WR) 3 rec 31 yds 2 TDs, 1 tackle
Daniel Helm (43) TE *Tennessee/Duke (5th team TE) no stats
*Rookie Jalen Hurd had a big game in his NFL preseason debut. His first catch was a TD where he caught a pass around the 6-yard line and trucked a Cowboys defender at the one yard line to get to pay dirt for a 20-yard TD. His second TD was a back shoulder pass in one-on-one coverage in the endzone for a 4-yard TD reception. Hurd certainly looks the part. Hurd and fellow SEC WR alum Deebo Samuel have quickly upgraded the WR position in San Fransicso. Rookie Daniel Helm was recently released by the Chargers and immediately scoped-up by the 49ers. Helm could garner a practice squad roster spot if he can impress in the preseason.
Tennessee Titans (W vs. Eagles)
D’Andre Payne (28) CB *Tennessee/Iowa State (5th team CB) no stats
*The rookie undrafted free agent signee has a steep climb to survive the final cut.
Knoxville Area Players That Did Not Play at UT (3)
Dallas Cowboys (L vs. 49ers)
Randall Cobb (18) WR *Alcoa HS/Kentucky (starting WR) Started at WR
Chris Jones (6) P *Carson-Newman (starting P/H) 1 punt 38 yds
*Cobb looks headed towards a starting WR spot in his first year in a Cowboys uniform. Jones has been terrific for Dallas, but he does have camp competition from Kasey Redfern, who averaged 49 yards per punt in the game including a 62-yarder.
Minnesota Vikings (W vs. Saints)
Harrison Smith (22) S *Catholic HS/Notre Dame (starting SS) Started at SS, 1 tackle
*It appears Smith is sliding over to strong safety with the development of Anthony Harris at free safety. The veteran from Knoxville is still one of the best safeties in the NFL.
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