8 NFL Players Who Never Got a Fair Shot
Every season, there are guys who are good football players that end up not having an opportunity to show what they can do in the NFL.
This can be for a variety of reasons like injuries, poor scheme fit or a loaded depth chart, but no matter the reason, they eventually find themselves on the outside looking in without having ever come close to reaching their potential.
Here are eight recent examples of guys who probably could still be playing in the NFL if it was just about their ability as football players, but they have had other stuff get in the way.
Quarterback Josh Johnson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. At the time, the Bucs already had an entrenched starting quarterback in Jeff Garcia, and Johnson was thought to be a long-term project.
That year, the Bucs let Johnson start the third game and three subsequent games, but it was obvious that all they were doing was trying to buy some time to get Freeman ready to start the rest of the season.
After his fourth start, which was also his fourth loss, of the season in 2009, Johnson didn't have another start until last year.
In fairness, Johnson didn't exactly set the world on fire when he did get a chance to play for the Bucs. Still, you could see that he had more than enough skill to play in the NFL but just needed more reps and a little more seasoning.
Unfortunately, this year Johnson decided to sign with the San Francisco 49ers, and they were already pretty well set with their top two quarterbacks. After not being given much of a chance to show what he could do in the preseason, he was cut and is now playing in the UFL for the Sacramento Mountain Lions.
I happened to catch his game last week, and you could tell he was head and shoulders better than most of the guys he was playing with. It would be nice to see him get another legitimate shot to make it in the NFL, but I'm not sure if that opportunity will come knocking, and that's a shame.
When wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Bears in 2009 out of the University of Oklahoma, I was sure he would make an instant impact. Here was a guy who was physically gifted and very productive in college, going to a team in need of offensive weapons.
Surprisingly, however, the Bears decided to cut Iglesias after only one year, and he hasn't played in a regular-season game since.
This one is truly a mystery to me, as I don't think Iglesias forgot how to play football after he left college, but he can't seem to stick with any team.
The Bears may have been rash in cutting him before they gave him a chance to develop, which is afforded most third-round picks, and now he is stuck in limbo because at this point in his career, teams are expecting a finished product.
In 2008, I was watching the Buffalo Bills play in the preseason. There was this running back that I had never heard of named Xavier Omon who impressed me with how hard he ran the ball. I decided to look into his background, and it turns out he was the first running back in NCAA history to rush for over 1,500 yards in four different seasons.
With an accomplishment like that in addition to the skill set he possessed, I had every reason to believe that even though Omon was from a small school, he would stick in the NFL barring serious injury.
Unfortunately for him, however, he could never rise up the Bills' depth chart enough to ever really show what he could do during the regular season. After two years, they moved on, and Omon has bounced around since then.
Most recently, he was with the Denver Broncos this year in training camp and once again was impressive but still was released in spite of that fact. He was yet again at the bottom of a depth chart and unable to climb high enough to stay.
If Omon were ever to have the opportunity to play for a team that had a true wide-open competition at running back, I have no doubt he would have a job. That's just not how it works for most teams, and that's why he doesn't have one right now.
Tight end Cornelius Ingram tore his ACL in college at Florida and missed his entire senior season. He was so impressive in previous years, however, that the Philadelphia Eagles still selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft.
Ingram was supposed to give the Eagles a dynamic weapon in the passing game, but unfortunately he tore his ACL in the same knee again in training camp, causing him to miss his rookie year. He was never the same player after that.
Most recently, Ingram was with the Denver Broncos, but now he is out of the NFL after three seasons without a single recorded statistic to his name. That's the terrible thing about some injuries; they can ruin guys' careers before they even get started.
Now the few people that even remember Ingram's time in the NFL will always have to wonder about what could have been.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to their practice squad shortly thereafter and were high on him heading into training camp in 2011. Unfortunately, Wilson then tore his Achilles during camp and had to go on injured reserve.
Wilson bounced back this preseason and looked to be pushing for a spot on the roster, but the Bucs released him during the final cuts.
Now a guy who was good enough to be drafted in the fourth round just two years ago can't get a team to give him a shot.
The Carolina Panthers selected defensive end Eric Norwood in the fourth round of the 2010 draft after an outstanding college career at South Carolina. He was a bit undersized to play defensive end in the NFL, but the Panthers chose to try him there anyway.
In two years, he only notched one sack before the Panthers decided they had seen enough and waived him during training camp this year.
I believe that the Panthers made a mistake by not at least giving him a shot to play outside linebacker. Yes, it would have been something new for him, but Norwood might have been able to excel there where he had failed with his hand on the ground.
At the very least, he could have given the Panthers some pass-rush options at linebacker when they decide to blitz on third down.
Unfortunately, he also had to have surgery on his knee four times in his career before the 2010 draft, including one time after practicing at the Senior Bowl that year.
He went undrafted but was signed by the St. Louis Rams as a rookie free agent and actually started two games that year. But he had to have another surgery on the knee in October of that season, and it seemed apparent that he would have to deal with it for the rest of his career.
This year, after another training camp with his leg giving him problems, the Rams decided to cut Alexander before the regular season started.
It seems such a travesty considering the fact that after all that the guy still found a way to catch 46 passes for 737 yards and three touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Now Alexander's career may well be over due to those leg injuries, just when it was about to get started.
He didn't start but played in all 16 games his rookie season and made 19 total tackles that year.
Then the next year, McKillop unfortunately tore his ACL in training camp, and that sent his career on a downward arc.
In 2011, even though he made a remarkable comeback, he was one of the final cuts just prior to the regular season. This season, McKillop tried to catch on with the Buffalo Bills but suffered the same fate at the end of camp.
Sometimes we get suckered into thinking an ACL tear is no big deal because so many guys come off surgery these days and never miss a beat. McKillop's case is a reminder, however, that those injuries can still ruin your career.
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