NFL Preseason: Casey Matthews and 10 Late-Round Picks Who Are Making Waves
Week one of the 2011 NFL preseason is in the books and some late-round draft picks took advantage of their chance and impressed coaches, experts and fans.
At the top of this list of players is Philadelphia Eagles’ fourth-round draft pick Casey Matthews.
The middle linebacker out of Oregon was able to leave a lasting impression on Eagles’ defensive coordinator Julio Castillo in the preseason opener.
Castillo said after the team’s 13-6 win against the Baltimore Ravens that Matthews did “an excellent job running the defense with the substitutions”.
The former Duck, who comes from a family of NFL players—brother, father, grandfather and uncle all played or play professional football—has still a lot to learn and improve, but with performances like the one on Sunday he has a shot at starting in the season opener against St. Louis.
Jeff Maehl, WR (Houston Texans, Undrafted)
Jeff Maehl during the Texans training camp
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Another former Duck made his professional debut.
He did not do anything special and had just one catch for five yards, but after watching him play for more than two years at Autzen Stadium, I’m confident that Maehl will become the next Jordan Shipley.
Maehl, who set numerous records during his college years, was unable to convince scouts of his talent. His performance at the NFL scouting combine was impressive, the only exception his 40-yard dash time.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub received an undersized target with great hands. Mark my words: Maehl will silence his critiques again.
Mark Herzlich, LB (New York Giants, Undrafted)
The incredible story of Mark Herzlich has added a new chapter. After defeating bone cancer and returning to Boston College for his senior season, the New York Giants signed Herzlich as an undrafted free agent.
According to ESPN, Herzlich had two tackles and a forced fumble in the team’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Herzlich sees his biggest chance of making the team is with the special teams unit.
“I’m a very physical player, I need to be able to run down the field on kickoff and bust some people’s heads open and same thing on punt return." He said. "That is my goal right now, if I can make it on special teams, then I can make the team and that is all I am looking for right now.”
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (Atlanta Falcons, No. 145)
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The Falcons fifth round pick did not see any action until the second half of the preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins.
He had five carries for 16 yards and showed why he was one of the best running backs in the Pac-10 with Oregon State.
The 5’6” Rodgers can advance the ball against any defense with his pounding running style. He also will be able to provide starting RB Michael Turner with some rest.
Kendall Hunter, RB (San Francisco 49ers, No. 115)
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There has not been much positive news out of San Francisco these days.
One exception to this is the performance of 49ers’ fourth-round pick Kendall Hunter. The running back out of Oklahoma State had a nice 13-yard gain along the left corner, and was able to show his tremendous speed from scrimmage.
He also did a decent job in pass protection during an otherwise devastating preseason loss against the New Orleans Saints. Hunter finished the game with a total of seven carries for a total of 29 yards.
Alex Henery, K (Philadelphia Eagles, No. 120)
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So-called kicking wunderkind Alex Henery finds himself in one of the toughest NFL cities with probably the most unforgiving fans and huge shoes to fill.
Not the ideal place for a rookie, who has the task to kick game-deciding field goals for a team with championship aspirations.
Henery has to replace David Akers, one of the best place kickers in the game who left Philadelphia after 11 years to sign with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.
In the preseason opener against the Ravens, Henery was a perfect 2 for 2, his longest from 35 yards away.
During his college career at Nebraska, he set an NCAA record by making 89.5% of his attempted field goals.
Roy Helu, RB (Washington Redskins, No. 105)
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What’s going on in the nations' capital?
The Washington Redskins used their fourth round pick on Nebraska running back Roy Helu. In the team's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Helu ran for a total or 28 yards on eight carries.
The former Cornhusker ran for over a 1,000 yards in each of his last two college seasons, and delivered a solid performance in the Redskins 16-7 victory.
The battle for the starting running back position is wide open in D.C. with Tim Hightower as the current favorite.
Jeremy Kerley, WR (New York Jets, No. 153)
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Once the favorite target of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, the Jets’ fifth-round draft pick has to become a trusted receiver for Mark Sanchez’s throws.
In his first preseason game, Kerley caught three balls for 20 yards.
Kerley is not only a tremendous wide receiver, he is a triple threat. He is a wide receiver, a punt returner and a kick returner. Jets fans will have a lot of fun watching this young man play.
Due to the Plaxico Burress ankle injury, Kerley will become an important offensive target right from the beginning.
Greg Salas, WR (St. Louis Rams, No. 112)
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With their fourth-round draft pick, the St. Louis Rams selected Greg Salas out of Hawaii. The rookie wide receiver is a strong and physical player with good hands and work ethic.
Salas was sidelined because of a hamstring injury and could not play in the Rams’ preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite the fact that he was not able to play, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford should be glad to have a target like Salas for the upcoming season.
Sam Acho, DE (Arizona Cardinals, No. 103)
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After an outstanding senior year at Texas, linebacker Sam Acho finds himself now as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals selected the 22 -year-old with their fourth-round pick.
In his first appearance for his new team, Acho seemed confident but was not able to make any big plays.
In the win against the Raiders, he was able to create pressure on the opponent's QB and showed up on the stat sheet for roughing the passer.
Overall just a solid performance.
Ricky Elmore, OLB (Green Bay Packers, No. 197)
Green Bay began its title-defense campaign with a loss to Cleveland in its preseason opener.
The Packers’ sixth-round draft pick Ricky Elmore looked lost on the field during the Packers 27-17 loss against the Browns. The linebacker out of Arizona has to get used to his role on the team.
Nevertheless, I’m convinced that Elmore has the same potential as a Casey Matthews having followed both of them closely in the Pac-10.
Maybe it is just wishful thinking.