As NFL training camps start getting under way around the country, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at each Rutgers alumnus trying to crack a roster this fall.
RB Ray Rice
A second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 draft, each story about him seems to parrot the same meme. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, late of San Diego, likes to platoon running backs. Rice is expected to be the Michael Turner to Willis McGahee's LaDainian Tomlinson. Another frequent comparison is Maurice-Jones Drew of the Jaguars, who, uncoincidentally, spells starter Fred Taylor. These are very favorable comparisons that portend a major role for Rice this fall.
A quick numbers comparison
2007 - Tomlinson 315 ATT/1474 yards, Turner 71 ATT/316 yards - Taylor 223 ATT/1202 yards, Jones-Drew 167 ATT, 768 yards
2006 - Tomlinson 348 ATT/1815 yards, Turner 80 ATT/502 yards - Taylor 231 ATT/1146 yards, Jones-Drew 166 ATT, 941 yards
2005 - Tomlinson 339 ATT/1462 yards, Turner 57 ATT/335 yards
Perhaps some happy medium between San Diego's clear preference for Turner and Rice's obvious physical comparison to Jones-Drew can be reached. McGahee's pedestrian 4.1 YPC last year left something to be deserved, and looking at his game log, he did appear to tire down the stretch, which is one area where the ultra-durable Rice can definitely help.
That's not the only place where Rice can contribute.
I haven't seen rookie running back Ray Rice return a punt in live action yet, but I already feel just as comfortable with him handling the ball as I did last year with receiver Yamon Figurs.
FB Brian Leonard
A second round pick in 2007, Leonard is currently in line to start at fullback for the Rams. Steven Jackson holding out might increase his camp reps.
TE Clark Harris
A seventh round pick by the Packers in 2007. Cut by the Lions in May. Currently looking for a team and subject of nefarious internet rumors.
TE L.J. Smith
2007 was a tumultuous season for LJ, as he fought through injuries (missing six games) and squabbled with the Eagles over a contract extension. Smith was franchised prior to the 2008 season, and looks to bounce back to his previous status as one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL.
OT Pedro Sosa
May or may not have signed with the Dolphins on Tuesday pending a physical. Behind only Jake Long and Vernon Carey at tackle, Miami would seemingly be an ideal situation where Sosa would have a great chance to make a roster. Yesterday had some more bad news.
Ireland also said Tuesday's workout of Rutgers offensive tackle Pedro Sosa likely won't result in him being signed. Ireland said Sosa needs more time to recover from his injury.
OG Jeremy Zuttah
Tampa Bay thought highly enough of him to draft him in the third round last April. What's disheartening though is that Tampa also saw fit to spend first-day picks in 2006 (Davin Joseph) and 2007 (Aaron Sears) on interior linemen, in addition to signing free agent center Jeff Faine during the recent offseason. Either Tampa bay is committed to building high-quality OL depth, or one of these players may eventually shift outside to tackle. It does not look likely that Zuttah will see much playing time initially however.
OG Cameron Stephenson
A fifth round pick in the 2007 draft of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Recently cut by the Green Bay Packers. Rumored to be heading to camp with the Eagles.
C Darnell Stapleton
Stapleton made the Steelers as an undrafted FA in 2007, beating out his drafted teammate Stephenson. Starting out at guard, Darnell was recently shifted back to his more-natural center position. With Justin Hartwig, Kendall Simmons, and Chris Kemo'eatu likely starting inside for Pittsburgh, Stapleton will be fighting 2007 Free Agent bust Sean Mahan for the primary backup spot at center and guard.
C Shaun O'Hara
Shaun is the starting center for the Super Bowl Champion (awww yeah) New York Football Giants. He signed a multi-year extension before the 2007 season and is considered one of the top centers in the NFL as well as a vital leader of the Giants.
DE Ryan Neill
Neill has not seen many opportunities on the playing field with the Bills. However, in 2007 he was established as the team's primary long-snapper.
DT Eric Foster
Foster was not selected in the 2008 NFL Draft, however his signing with the Indianapolis Colts was considered to be quite fortunate, as his skillset seems to be an excellent fit with coach Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defensive scheme. Back in minicamp, Pro Football Weekly reported that Foster was impressing.
It seems almost humorous that a team as stacked as the Colts would heap such praise on an undrafted rookie, but team sources tell us the Colts are genuinely excited about what DT Eric Foster brings to the table. A third-team Associated Press All-American in 2006, the Rutgers product had a stellar collegiate career, but his small size (6-1, 273 pounds) scared off teams from drafting him. Quick, undersized tackles have a long history of thriving in coach Tony Dungy’s defense, which is predicated upon getting a strong pass rush from the front four, and Foster has a chance to be the next in line.
Foster will likely battle Raheem Brock, Quinn Pitcock, Ed Johnson, Darrell Reid, and Keyunta Dawson for a spot in Indy's defensive rotation.
DT Gary Gibson
Gibson surprisingly made the Carolina Panthers in 2007. He likely has an uphill battle to remain on the roster.
DT J'Vonne Parker
A talented physical project who has bounced around the league for the past few years, Parker hooked up with the Ravens in 2007 and will enter camp with them this season.
LB Gary Brackett
Brackett is the defensive counterpart to Shaun O'Hara, another undrafted free agent, who, solely through hard work and dedication, has willed himself into becoming one of the best players in the NFL. He is expected to remain the starting MLB for the Colts into the near future.
CB Joey Porter
Porter spent 2007 on the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints, and is currently at camp with the Green Bay Packers. He is one of several players competing for several roster spots as a backup cornerback.
CB Nate Jones
Jones left the Dallas Cowboys following the 2007 season, joining Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano on the Miami Dolphins with a two year contract. He is likely to compete for time in both nickel packages and on special teams.
CB Derrick Roberson
Roberson spent 2007 on the practice squad of the Houston Texans, and is currently attending their training camp.
S Ron Girault
Girault is currently attending camp with the Kansas City Chiefs.