As we pass the 4th of July, some of us start thinking about the next most exciting part of the summer: the beginning of NFL training camp! [Ed note: Just go with it.] Heading into the 2012 NFL season, there are 41 former Nittany Lions on NFL rosters, most still trying to make their mark in the league. So let's take a virtual road trip to check in on how some recent Nittany Lion alums are doing in their respective pro careers as they fight to keep a spot on the team, make the rotation, or even earn a starting nod.
Philadelphia: TE Brett Brackett: Brett was originally signed by the Miami Dolphinsas an undrafted free agent, and spent the first part of the season on their practice squad. But last November, Philly claimed Brett off of the Dolphin practice squad. While not appearing in any games, Brett was signed to the roster this offseason and was given a bonus to do so. It should be noted that such a bonus for a practice squad player is generally uncommon and may indicate that the Eagles expect Brett to make an impact at Lehigh this summer. To that end, when the Eagles descend on
Seattle: WR Deon Butler: Deon was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 3rdround of the 2009 NFL Draft, and in his first couple years, appeared to be a solid depth receiver, even starting 8 games in his sophomore campaign. But in week 14 of the that season, Deon broke his leg, and remained inactive for a full year--and when he played, he didn't make much of an impact, hauling in just 6 passes in the 5 games he played last season. But with the full offseason to get back to 100%,
Dallas: LB Dan Connor: Dan is locked in what might be the most intriguing battle in the entire NFL. Connor was signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after four productive years in Carolina, after the Panthers selected him in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. However, the Cowboys drafted Bruce Carterin the 2nd round two years ago, expecting him to play inside next to Sean Lee. With Connor still recovering from off-season surgery on his labrum, he's facing an uphill battle to make it an all-Penn State ILB corps in Dallas.
St Louis: LB Josh Hull: After spending his first two years as a back up with the St. Louis Rams, Josh enters his most important training camp as a pro. Depending on how it goes, he could head into the fall as a starter, or looking for a job. With Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis entrenched as starters, an opportunity exists for Josh to seize the open LB spot, but after amassing just three tackles in his first two pro seasons, Josh will have to impress new coach Jeff Fisher to even make the active roster.
Indianapolis: CB Justin King: Justin was recently signed as a free agent by the Indianapolis Colts, after spending the first four years of his career with the St. Louis Rams. He joins a crowded backfield in Indy, which is attempting to stabilize a suspect defensive backfield. King started 19 games as a Ram, so he's expected to, at the least, provide depth as a nickel or dimeback.
Cleveland: WR Jordan Norwood: Jordan is coming off of a solid if unspectacular breakout season in 2011; the Brownssnatched Norwood off the Eagles' practice squad and plugged him right into the starting lineup, and he responded by catching 23 passes for 268 yards and 1 touchdown in the 14 games. He enters this year with a chance to keep that starting position, but he's in a tight, 3-way battlefor the slot receiver nod with Travis Benjaminand Josh Cribbs.
Miami: DL Jared Odrick: Coming off a six sack season for the Dolphins, Jared enters camp seeking to hold on to a starting position on the defensive line, as Miami changes its defense from the 3-4 style he was drafted to fit into.
Indianapolis: DL Ollie Ogbu: The former captain will battle for a roster spot with the Colts this summer, after spending last season on the practice squad. It will be interesting to see how the Colts’ new regime will use Ogbu, considering his skill set is probably best suited for the Tampa-2 defensive scheme.
NY Giants: OL Rich Ohrnberger: After spending his first two seasons with the New England Patriots, Ohrnberger found himself on injured reserve for the duration of the 2011 campaign after sustaining a concussion against the Giants in the final preseason game. At the end of the year, Rich was released by the Hoodie, but was recently invited to rookie minicamp with the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Cleveland: DL Scott Paxson: With DT Phil Taylor expected to miss the majority of the 2012 season, Scott is poised to compete for a starting spotalong the Browns’ defensive line. Reports are that Scott has been taking the 1st team reps throughout minicamps--he played in all 16 games last year, but only in the back end of the rotation.
Washington: RB Evan Royster:Following an unexpectedly strong performance in his audition at the end of last season, Royster is expected to assume the starting running back job with the Redskins. With Mike Shanahan starting a rookie quarterback (RGIII), he’ll likely rely on Royster, as the leader of a deep stable of backs, to carry the offensive load this season.
Pittsburgh: WR/KR Derrick Williams: The Steelers picked Derrick up this off-season after he was cut by the Detroit Lions following two uninspiring years. Though Pittsburgh's looking at him mainly as a return specialist, Derrick is locked in a battle for the 5th wide receiver position with rookies Toney Clemonsand Marquis Maze.
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