Getting close to the final 53-man roster cuts, we track the USC Trojans trying to make NFL rosters as undrafted free agents and those who were drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. USC has had more Trojans on NFL rosters than any other school, but how will the 2014 draft class far?.
To start this year’s training camp, there were 55 former Trojans on NFL team rosters. Here is a look at the 11 rookies who made it on NFL rosters and how they have fared this preseason as rosters were cut down to 75 on Tuesday.
*Marqise Lee, WR
Marqise Lee has hardly had the smooth transition most expected into the NFL. After falling to the second round of the NFL Draft, Lee was not targeted at all in the Jacksonville Jaguars' first preseason game.
The highly-decorated USC product received harsh criticism from Jaguar’s head coach, Gus Bradley, after the disappointing debut performance. In true Lee fashion, the rookie receiver came back the next Thursday night against the Bears and recorded his first NFL touchdown.
Not to mention, Lee was targeted four times for 27 yards. His fellow former USC teammates took to Twitter when he scored:
Cody Kessler✝ (@CodyKessler6) August 15, 2014
First touchdown many more to come brotha @TeamLee1— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard) August 15, 2014
Lee found himself, yet again, in trouble during Friday’s preseason game vs. the Detroit Lions. Lee and Lions' cornerback Rashean Mathis got tied up after a play, which resulted in Lee spewing some not-so-nice words. The Jaguars were penalized 15 yards and Lee was handed down the first abusive language penalty.
At USC, Marqise Lee earned a laundry list of accolades, which can be condensed into the following: he owns or shares 22 USC records (5 are Pac-12 records and 1 is an NCAA mark). He has 191 catches for 2,864 yards (15.0 avg.) with 25 TDs in his career according to USCTrojans.com.
Once he gets over the rookie woes, Lee will undoubtedly have a similar career in the NFL.
*Demetrius Wright, S
Undrafted rookie safety, Demetrius Wright was the second Trojan to sign a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. He emerged with a star-studded senior season at USC. The strides he made during his final season as a Trojan did not carry over to his attempt at an NFL career.
Dolphins waived Steven Baker, Demetrius Wright, and waived injured John Potter.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) August 25, 2014
NEW YORK GIANTS
*Xavier Grimble, TE
Rookie tight end Xavier Grimble was released from the New York Giants on Tuesday. As a result of a hamstring injury, he did not play in a preseason game. His inability to show his game-time abilities hurt Grimble’s chances of making the 53-man roster.
In Xavier Grimble’s defense, he has always been one to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. While at USC under then head coach Lane Kiffin, the tight end position was overshadowed by the star lineup of receivers. Despite this, Grimble will have to get healthy in hopes of continuing to pursue the NFL.
*Devon Kennard, LB
Devon Kennard has never been a glitz and glam type of player, especially moving all around while at USC from defensive end to strong-side linebacker, middle linebacker and even outside linebacker. He is just the type of player any team wants, adaptable.
Kennard was drafted by the New York Giants in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has had some standout moments throughout the preseason that has surely impressed his coaches and teammates alike including this must-see hard hit during practice.
Kennard took the majority of reps with the first team during his second day of practice to give an idea of just how well Kennard has been performing. Perhaps, Kennard’s poise is influenced by his father who played in the NFL for 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Saints and Cowboys.
The odds seem to be on Devon Kennard’s side with the Giant’s starting middle linebacker Jon Beason out and Jameel McClain, the backup middle linebacker, sidelined by a foot injury. That shoots Kennard up to the top of the depth chart. It will be an exciting opportunity for Kennard this season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
*George Uko, DT
Sometimes no news is good news and up until Tuesday, it seemed that there was little news surrounding rookie George Uko other than the fact that he was still a New Orleans Saint. Uko was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Saints. He had been getting limited reps in the Saints' preseason games and was released on Tuesday. At USC, he recorded 49 tackles including 10.5 for tackles of loss (with 6.5 sacks).
*Kevin Graf, T
Undrafted free agent Kevin Graf has to jump through hoops to make it on to the Philadelphia Eagles roster this year, especially if Chip Kelly, head coach of the Eagles, makes up his roster the same way he did last year.
In 2013, Kelly had eight offensive linemen on his roster, which is two fewer than most teams. With a mediocre preseason tryout between practice and games, Graf likely will not make the 53-man roster after he has had challenges in pass protection, but he did make the 75-man cut this week.
At USC, Kevin Graf was a three-year starter at offensive tackle following in the footsteps of his father and brother who both played for the Trojans.
*Dion Bailey, S
Safety Dion Bailey has had a tough transition to the NFL after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks, but then suffered a severe ankle sprain in a mock intrasquad scrimmage. Shortly after, the rookie safety was waived and replaced by cornerback Trey Wolfe out of Fort Valley State.
Bailey cleared waivers and was added to the Seahawks’ Injured Reserve list. As a freshman at USC, Bailey was named the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and made All-Pac-12 second team. He started at both the safety and linebacker position while in college.
*John Martinez, G
At the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft, like many of his USC counterparts, John Martinez went as an undrafted free agent. He was then contacted by former USC and now Seahawks offensive line coach Pat Ruel, who offered him a free agent deal.
From there, Martinez was invited to the Seahawks' rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis. It is unclear whether or not he moved on to participate in camp, but nonetheless Martinez is now playing arena football for the Portland Thunder along with former USC teammate Abe Markowitz.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
*Kevin Greene, TE
The San Francisco 49ers announced Monday that they waived Greene after signing him to a three-year deal a little over a week after the 2014 NFL Draft. The 49ers brought Greene on as a tight end, which he played sparingly as a senior at USC. As a result of his extreme athleticism, Greene was moved a lot during his tenure at USC. He came in as a linebacker then moved to defensive end and spent three years there until he ultimately ended at USC as a tight end. Since Greene only played one year at the tight end position, there was not much film team scouts could reference.
The 49ers, however, are pretty deep when it comes to the tight end position with Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald set as the No. 1 and No. 2. That leaves the No. 3 spot up for grabs, but there were quite a few other players gunning for the roster spot including Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier and Asante Cleveland - who was also an undrafted free agent the 49ers picked up.
In the preseason, Kevin Greene got some game action including a completed pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson against the San Diego Chargers. Greene is native to Oakland and went to high school in San Francisco at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep.
*Marcus Martin, C
Ever since Marcus Martin moved to center before his junior year at USC, he has been commanding attention with his on-the-field play. His preseason performance as the backup center for the 49ers has been no different until he suffered an injury Sunday in the game against San Diego.
The rookie was carted off the field and recent reports reveal Martin has a dislocated knee and will be sidelined eight weeks by the injury according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch.
Source: #49ers rookie C Marcus Martin is expected to be sidelined eight weeks (kneecap).— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 25, 2014
Martin was on the Active/Non-Football Injury List to start camp as he recovered from the knee injury he sustained at the end of the 2013-14 USC season. Once the rookie was activated, he immediately began making an impact. Following the second preseason game against the Denver Broncos, head coach Jim Harbaugh had encouraging words of Martin’s progress:
"Marcus Martin had a very good game, a very physical game," Harbaugh told 49ers.com.
Before he sustained this most recent knee injury, the third round NFL draft pick had played 57-pass rush snaps. Once he returns to full health, the 49ers have a backup center who has proven he will have a bright future.
Martin tweeted out to fans yesterday:
*Silas Redd, RB
Silas Redd went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, but was immediately picked up by the Washington Redskins. This preseason he has been fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster as the third string running back behind Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr.
The competition is now down to Redd and sixth-round pick, Lache Seastrunk. Silas Redd is known as a traditional power back whose strength and physicality allows him to run through up the middle at will and gain that extra yardage behind a guard.
In his preseason performances, Redd has impressed Washington head coach Jay Gruden.
"Redd between the tackles – he’s a good power runner. He’s got great vision. He’s shown that in practice so far, and we wanted to see him carry it over to the game – and it did today," Gruden told the Washington Times following the Redskins' second preseason game against the New England Patriots.
In that game, Redd carried the ball nine times for 45 yards. The 5’10" 200-pound back is focused on demonstrating his ability to block. Saturday’s preseason game against the Ravens gave Redd an opportunity to prove he can be a valuable asset to the Redskins' special teams unit as well.
During his college career, split between Penn State and USC, Redd showed he has the potential to be a solid addition to any NFL roster. A knee injury, however, in his senior year at USC presented an unforeseen bump in the road for Redd. He has run for a total of 2,583 yards on 488 carries with 18 touchdowns.
As the NFL roster cuts begin, it remains to be seen whether or not Redd’s hard work in the preseason is enough to help him make the final 53-man roster.
Trojan Quick Hits
- Matt Cassel named Minnesota Vikings starting QB
- Matt Barkley to start in Philadelphia Eagles final preseason game
- Seahawks waive former Trojan CB Terrell Thomas
- Jaguars waive former USC RB Allen Bradford (who is now playing LB)