Scarlet Knights in NFL training camps

As most NFL camps are starting up this week, it's appropriate to take a few moments and look over where the various Rutgers alumni stand in their hopes to make it through final cuts.

NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys - Their first two roster spots at tight end are set with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. Returnee John Phillips has value as a blocking specialist. That leaves Kevin Brock competing with rookie Scott Sicko, who infamously quit football for a couple days after going unselected in April's draft. One of Brock or Sicko will probably make the team's practice squad.

New York Giants - Shaun O'Hara is entrenched as the team's starting center for the time being. He has a high salary and is getting up there in age, but the Giants are a conservative organization. O'Hara probably has at least two years left as a starter. I see the team replacing Kareem McKenzie at right tackle next year before making any other moves.

The Giants already have four locks to make the roster at receiver in Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden. Derek Hagan is nominally the fifth receiver, but he's more of a gunner on special teams, and provides some height in the red zone. His status is probably tied to how fast Barden develops. NY doesn't really have any established kick returners after losing Domenik Hixon to an injury (along with rookie safety Chad Jones), although they could look to internal candidates.

Tim Brown didn't return all that many kicks in college, and it wasn't really clear why he didn't, since he looked fine in limited action there. Sinorice Moss has already proven that he can't play on special teams (or do much of anything else). The Giants need more speed at WR than just Manningham, and as any Giants fan can attest to, Moss has no place on a competitive NFL roster. Brown has a real chance to make the team then, more than he's being given by anyone writing him because of height. It's still about 50-50 whether or not Tim cracks the final roster or makes the practice squad, but another team could claim him in the latter scenario.

NFC North:

Chicago Bears - The depth chart at QB behind Jay Cutler is very thin. Mike Teel will have to compete with the anonymous Caleb Hanie and late round draft pick Dan LeFevour. It's conceivable that the Bears could still choose to bring in a veteran backup, possible one with experience playing for coordinator Mike Martz.

Kevin Malast's chances at linebacker depend on whether or not the Bears choose to keep six linebackers or seven. Malast is a good fit for coach Lovie Smith's Tampa-2 defense, and the team is relatively high on him as a future reserve. He has a good chance to make their practice squad (where he still has eligibility), if not the roster proper.

Minnesota Vikings - Incumbent fullback Naufahu Tahi hasn't played well and is in the final year of his contract. They'll probably keep Ryan D'Imperio on the practice squad with an eye toward 2011.

NFC South:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jeremy Zuttah is TB's likely starter at left guard. The rebuilding Bucs are extremely thin at defensive end, which bodes well for George Johnson's chances of making the roster as a fourth or fifth end. Last year Derrick Roberson went from a Vikings cut to playing major minutes in nickel and dime packages for Tampa, which can be equally seen as an endorsement of Roberson an indictment of existing franchise personnel.

NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers - OT Anthony Davis looked raw during the team's offseason activities. Even if Davis doesn't miss too many days of training camp in contract negotiations, he'll probably start out as a reserve before taking over at right tackle later in the year. I still believe that his ultimate future is on the left side.

St. Louis Rams - DT Gary Gibson was in line to see major minutes last year, if not start, before going on injured reserve. He's a favorite of the coaching staff and likely to stick around for now.

AFC East:

New England Patriots - As long as Devin McCourty signs on time, he is slight favorite to be the Pats' nickel corner this year behind Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler. The Patriots have invested several draft picks recently on defensive backs, but most of those picks haven't panned out for one reason or another.

New York Jets - LB Jamaal Westerman is a Rex Ryan favorite. Gang Green has assembled its share of pass rushers this year with Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and now Jason Taylor in a situational role, which doesn't leave much margin for error. Fortunately Westy has also seen some snaps inside, and doesn't have to look over his shoulder any more and worry about Vernon Gholston, who was moved to DE in the Jets' 3-4 scheme earlier in the offseason. That was frankly one of the stranger stories of the year, and probably would have received more attention if Gholston wasn't already being written off as a bust.

AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens - Ray Rice broke out in 2009 as a star, and now could vie with Tennessee's Chris Johnson for the distinction of best back in the AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals - Brian Leonard was brilliant last year as a third down receiving/pass blocking specialist. After a strong offseason, he could be in line to see more time with starter Cedric Benson in legal hot water. Clark Harris ioined the roster in October and immediately stabilized the team's long snapping. The Bengals signed a local long snapping specialist to compete with Harris in camp, although Clark's experience and ability to play tight end could give him an edge.

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts - The Colts brought back starting MLB Gary Brackett on a lucrative five year, $33 million extension, but may have also drafted his eventual replacement in second round pick Pat Angerer. While Eric Foster is not officially a starter, he usually plays on critical third downs. In fact, Foster played the second most minutes of any Colt DL last year, and #1 (Raheem Brock) is no longer on their roster. Keep that in mind the next time someone wants to suggest that his status on the roster is in jeopardy.

Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Tiquan Underwood has a strong chance to make the team as a backup after a productive offseason. It's harder to predict the fates of T Kevin Haslam and S Courtney Greene, who haven't received much media coverage. The Jags have struggled with unproductive veterans at safety, so that position should be wide open for the taking.

Tennessee Titans - WR Kenny Britt exceeded expectations as a rookie, although he'll have to shake off a few offseason distractions in camp in order to cement a likely #1 receiver gig. CB Jason McCourty has turned into a real find at OTAs and minicamps, and has a slightly better than even chance of starting.

AFC West:

Denver Broncos: Denver gave Nate Jones decent money to play the nickel and special teams, but they probably wouldn't mind to see their younger players relegate him to the bench.

Oakland Raiders: Owner Al Davis's preoccupation with the 40 yard dash weighs in CB Joey Porter's favor. He'll be one of several corners contending to make the roster.

Unsigned Free Agents/Minor league football:

FB Jack Corcoran - Corcoran had a cup of coffee in Texans minicamp before being waived.

TE L.J. Smith - Smith has struggled with injuries in recent years, and could be nearing the end of the line. The average NFL career actually isn't that long.

OL Mike Fladell - In minicamp with Omaha of the UFL.

OL Pedro Sosa - Possibly maybe in the mix for AFL's Jacksonville Sharks.

OL Darnell Stapleton - He could be a good fit for the UFL as an opportunity to prove himself healthy and showcase for NFL teams. On the Florida Tuskers provisional roster.

OL Cameron Stephenson - The Jags cut him a few weeks back, and Stephenson is on Hartford's provisional roster. He was always seen as more of a project, and the light never quite turned on.

DE Alfred Peterson - On roster for AFL's Iowa Barnstormers.

DT J'Vonne Parker - Stuck around NFL rosters for a surprisingly long time because of his potential and size, although never saw much game action. Parker saw very little game action both at Rutgers in the NFL.

LB Damaso Munoz - Had a tryout with the Chicago Bears, and now on Hartford's provisional roster.

LB Brandon Renkart - No longer with the Colts.

CB Manny Collins - Listed on the Hartford Colonials provisional roster..

S Zaire Kitchen - Had a tryout with the Colonials IIRC.

S Jason Nugent - On roster of CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.

LS Ryan Neill - Cut by the Rams, had a tryout with the Giants several months back.

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