It’s amazing for as long as our COVID spring was, it feels like summer has just flown by. While we won’t have Big Ten Football this fall, and much of the rest of college football seems prepared to plow on COVID related quarantines be damned, one thing is for certain. The NFL is gonna play and they are going to make it as close to business as usual this fall. Somehow the first NFL game of the 2020 season is just a week and a half away. The 32 NFL teams have been grinding through a different preseason camp—one with no preseason games and one with an 80-man roster cap instead of the usual 90-man limit with multiple cut downs to the final 53-man rosters. Despite the changes several former Gophers either have roster spots locked up, are fighting for them in the final few days of camp, or have come out of nowhere to impress and possibly even find themselves starting as a rookie! Here is an update on who is in NFL camps this summer who used to wear the Maroon and Gold.
Maxx Williams— Tight End— Arizona Cardinals
Maxx enters his sixth NFL season and his second in Arizona in the drivers seat for the Cardinals. Coming off his first true fully healthy season where he played all sixteen games for Arizona, caught 15 passes for 202 yards and a TD, Maxx appears to be the potential starter. He is currently listed on the top for the Cardinals depth chart and will look to both block and catch passes from second year stud Kyler Murray. Maxx does appear to be banged up and has missed a couple of days of practice this preseason though.
Kingsbury said TE Maxx Williams has "some soreness, some lingering stuff." Expects him to be ready for the opener: "There are quite a few vets on this team that we know what they’re about, and we want them to be healthy when we play the 49ers. He’s one of those on that plan."— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) August 24, 2020
Eric Murray—Safety—Houston Texans
Eric Murray is on his third team in three years this summer as he signed in the offseason with the Houston Texans. Murray played in Cleveland last year after being traded to the Browns by the Kansas City Chiefs. Murray did’t see a ton of time playing in just nine games last year for the Browns. He has been great this summer in camp for the Texas and may has worked himself into a starting spot in H-town.
Damien Wilson—Linebacker—Kansas City Chiefs
The Champ is here. Damien Wilson returns for his sixth year in the NFL and second with the Kansas City Chiefs coming off of a Super Bowl win with KC a year ago. Wilson is currently listed as the starter for KC in the strong side linebacker spot after his best year as a pro last year where he played in all 16 regular season games and recorded a career high 81 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Wilson signed with Kansas City in the offseason after four years in Dallas. He is listed as a starting linebacker for the Chiefs as they head into Week 1.
De’Vondre Campbell—Linebacker—Arizona Cardinals
Campbell had another career year in 2019 paying for the Atlanta Falcons. He had 129 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles—all career highs. But Cambpell wasn’t wanted back in Atlanta in 2020 so he went across the country and joined fellow former Gopher Maxx Williams with the Arizona Cardinals. Campbell will fight with first round draft pick Isiah Simmons for one of the inside starting linebacker spots for the Cardinals this season.
Blake Cashman—Linebacker—New York Jets
Cashman was off to a great rookie season for the Jets before getting injured in week eight and missing the rest of the season. Cashman had 40 tackles in seven games for the Jets. He has been taking first team reps at linebacker this season and may slip behind Avery Williamson in the base defense, but Cashman looks to play a lot in the Jets nickel set which according to ESPN they are in 70% of the time.
One player who is flashing in camp and will have a huge role in this #Jets defense is 2nd year MLB Blake Cashman— (@NYJets_Media) August 21, 2020
He played a ton last year and showed a lot of potential for a 5th round pick
A great open field tackler, fast & good in coverage pic.twitter.com/55zoIbgVRu
Tramaine Brock—Defensive Back—Jacksonville Jaguars
Brock was initially a free agent but signed three weeks ago with Jacksonville after one of their corners decided to sit out the 2020 season. Brock will be needed veteran leadership for a whooping five rookies in the Jags secondary this summer. He most likely won’t see a ton of playing time, but he should make Jacksonville’s roster.
MarQueis Gray—Tight End-San Francisco 49ers
Gray did not play in 2019 after rehabbing from a torn achilles he suffered with the Miami Dolphins during the 2018 season. Gray wasn’t playing in 2020 either—until Saturday. Gray signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
Gray will wear #88 for the 49ers and will look to earn that third tight end spot and be more of a blocking back/special teams guy behind George Kittle and rookie Chase Harrell. he will have an uphill fight to keep a roster spot with just two weeks to the first game, but don’t put anything past Marqueis.
2020 NFL Rookies
Antonine Winfield Jr—Safety—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winfield Jr has made an immediate impression as a rookie in Tampa. The second round pick is flirting with a potential starting job in the secondary for the Buccaneers. He also has opened eyes returning punts and has a chance to win that job as well.
Antoine Winfield Jr. has been impressing in camp with 2 interceptions in today’s practice. pic.twitter.com/ykKaGOE1Tm— Destiny TB (@TbDestiny) August 30, 2020
4) Antoine Winfield has been a star in camp, making a head-turning play every day at practice. With flexibility to play FS, SS and nickel, Bruce Arians sees him stylistically as he saw Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker in AZ—a movable chess piece.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 25, 2020
Safety being a need, good news.
Tyler Johnson-WR-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unfortunately on the opposite end of things has been the rookie camp of Tyler Johnson. Johnson has been hurt for much of training camp and has not had a chance to make the same big impression that his fellow former Gopher has. We all had hopes of TJ being a stud and earning some potential reps from Tom Brady in camp, but it now appears Johnson will need to work hard to sneak onto the 53-man roster according to one Buccaneers blog. Hopefully Tyler can get healthy and try and make in impact in the last week or so before roster decisions are made.
Kamal Martin—LB—Green Bay Packers
What if I told you in April that the Gopher who was drafted who would make the biggest impact early on his new team and possibly start week 1 as a rookie would be Kamal Martin? Well it’s true. The fifth round pick has done every single thing asked of him for the Packers in camp and looks like he may have a starting spot locked down on the Packers lb corps. Green Bay’s game Week 1? How about back home in Minneapolis against the Vikings. That would be one hell of a story.
Packers rookie LB Kamal Martin competing for starting jobhttps://t.co/UL9OF8qLes— The Packers Wire (@ThePackersWire) August 27, 2020
Packers’ rookie of the summer so far: Kamal Martin. Details of what he’s done in the ESPN daily camp report: https://t.co/Mq50mpoUzv— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 26, 2020
Carter Coughlin-LB-New York Giants
Coughlin was a seventh round pick of the Giants and he is fighting for a roster spot as it gets close to crunch time. Coughlin is currently a third team linebacker but has been making waves as a super hard worker and is improving according to the Giants head coach Joe Judge. Coughlin will be fighting all the way for a roster spot but seems guaranteed for a practice squad spot if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.
Joe Judge said rookie LB Carter Coughlin is definitely a "high-motor guy." Whoever is blocking him knows he is in for a long ride.— Dan Salomone (@NYGsalomone) August 30, 2020
Judge said Carter Coughlin is making a lot of progress--"He's a high motor guy"— The Giant Insider Newspaper & Podcast (@GiantInsider) August 30, 2020
Giants rookie Carter Coughlin self-imposes laps after scrimmage.— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) August 31, 2020
“I just figured I owed it to my team to run some laps... I was just disappointed in a mistake or two that I made and felt like I needed to run laps for it.”
Chris Williamson-Safety—New York Giants
The Giants other Minnesota 7th round pick Chris Williamson is also in a fight for a roster spot. Williamson is currently fourth on the depth chart at safety for the Giants and has a lot of ground to make up to see him name on the 53-man roster. He also has been dealing with some injury issues this summer which have set him back.
#Giants DB coach Jerome Henderson said that rookie Chris Williamson (7th round) has been held back by “some little tweaks” that have kept him out of live work.— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) August 26, 2020
As such, he’s fallen behind but hoping to get him back in swing of things.
Current Free Agents:
Shede has bounced back and forth in and out of the NFL the last few seasons. He spent some time with the Atlanta Falcons last season but was cut over the winter and currently is a free agent.
Greene spent the 2019 season in injured reserve with the Jacksonville Jaguars after getting hurt in the preseason. He was waived by the Jags this past spring and is a current free agent. He had a workout with the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, but was not signed and is still looking for work.
BBC had a great first couple of NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns but has taken a quick decent out of the league. BBC signed with Houston before the 2019 season but was one of the final cuts in the preseason. He was signed briefly by the Colts but also was cut by them and is currently a free agent. He did work out last week for the Chicago Bears and was mentioned as a possibility to return in Cleveland after the Browns need to replace rookie safety Grant Delpit who will miss the season with a torn achilles. As of now he still remains unsigned.
Sherels bounced around a bit in 2019 starting the season with the New Orleans Saints. He lasted a few weeks there before being cut and then was brought back by the Minnesota Vikings. Sherels was cut and then resigned by the Vikings late in the season but did not fair well as a punt returner and did not return for 2020. He is currently a free agent and may be on the way to retirement.
Myrick never has caught on in the league unfortunately. He started the 2019 season in camp with the Atlanta Falcons but was cut before the start of the regular season. He didn’t latch on anywhere else and ended up playing for the DC Defenders in the XFL before going on injured reserve and being released.
Woziniak lasted two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He was on the New Orleans Saints practice squad for the 2018 season before signing with the Vikings in camp for 2019. He was cut by the Vikings and signed with the Falcons for one week before being released. The Saints brought him back in December of 2019 for a week before he was once again cut. He would then be signed to the New York Giants practice squad where he would stay until he announced his retirement in June.