For the most part, NFL training camps have been in session for over a week. Six of Northwestern's seven rookies are on the roster bubble, and there are several veteran players who are also looking to lock down roster spots. At the end of July, we looked at all the former Wildcats on NFL rosters and divided them into "Established Veterans," "Somewhat Established," "Still Fighting," and "The Rookies."
The following players should be safe, according to that model: Zach Strief (T, Saints), Corey Wootton (DT, Lions), Corbin Bryant (DT, Bills), Sherrick McManis (CB, Bears), and rookie Ibraheim Champbell (S, Browns). For the rest, though, they have work to do to nail down a spot. With the first week of preseason games upon us, we take a look at how the alumni are doing so far in training camp.
Mike Kafka (QB, Vikings) - In the first NFL preseason game, Kafka turned in a solid performance, going 7-for-10 for 66 yards and this touchdown. During the game, NBC's announcing crew discussed that Kafka seems to be in line to be the primary backup to Bridgewater, although the Vikings' depth chart says otherwise (although it should be noted that Shaun Hill didn't play and Kafka appeared before Taylor Heinicke, who struggled). With a solid rest of camp, Kafka's roster spot will be all but locked down. Plus:
Mike Kafka has more TD passes than Teddy Bridgewater and Ben Roethlisberger combined in this game. #factsonly
Mike Kafka has more TD passes than Teddy Bridgewater and Ben Roethlisberger combined in this game. #factsonly— Inside NU (@insidenu) August 10, 2015
Rashad Lawrence (WR, Bears) - There hasn't been a lot of news from the former Wildcat out of Bears training camp, and when you're fighting for a roster spot, no news is bad news. There's certainly still time, but ESPN has him on the outside looking in. It could come down to a numbers game for Lawrence.
Brian Peters (LB, Vikings) - Officially listed as a third-stringer on the Vikings' unofficial depth chart, Peters collected two tackles and had a fumble recovery (that was initially ruled as an interception) in the Hall of Fame game. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been pleased by Peters' speed and athleticism. The former Wildcat playmaker still has a ways to go to make the roster, but Sunday night's performance was a good start.
Trevor Siemian (QB, Broncos) - Siemian was healthy-- not on the Physically Unable to Perform List-- to start camp, and that was likely the most important thing for him in his quest to make this year's roster. He is competing with Zac Dysert for the third spot on the depth chart behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. So far, he's winning that competition and has had some impressive days according to beat writer Troy Renck.
#broncos Trevor Siemian looks sharp in 11 on 11
#broncos Trevor Siemian looks sharp in 11 on 11— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 3, 2015
Here's a picture of Siemian in Mile High.
Kyle Prater (WR, Saints) - The oft-injured wideout has had his moments in training camp according to several reports.
Free agent Kyle Prater caught a TD on this one. pic.twitter.com/g6pTeQZp8I
Free agent Kyle Prater caught a TD on this one. pic.twitter.com/g6pTeQZp8I— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) August 6, 2015
Great grabs by Kyle Prater and Seantavius Jones during one on one drills... Kyle Wilson nice PBU
Great grabs by Kyle Prater and Seantavius Jones during one on one drills... Kyle Wilson nice PBU— Sean Fazende (@SeanFazende) August 10, 2015
Saw more of Kyle Prater today than I have at camp. Considering he's 6'5, thought he made a really nice play on a bad throw from Grayson
Saw more of Kyle Prater today than I have at camp. Considering he's 6'5, thought he made a really nice play on a bad throw from Grayson— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 5, 2015
#Saints WR Kyle Prater turns back to make great catch downfield. Second nice play in these drills.
#Saints WR Kyle Prater turns back to make great catch downfield. Second nice play in these drills.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) August 5, 2015
Rookie Kyle Prater keeps impressing me. 6'5, excellent using his size. Beats Dixon on 1 on 1s high pointing ball
Rookie Kyle Prater keeps impressing me. 6'5, excellent using his size. Beats Dixon on 1 on 1s high pointing ball— Saints Nation Blog (@SaintsNationBlg) August 10, 2015
The biggest problem with Prater has been his health, but so far he has been healthy, and if that continues, Prater could play himself into a spot, especially with his height and hands. Looking good, Kyle!
SAINTS #86 KYLE PRATER WR
SAINTS #86 KYLE PRATER WR WHODAT! pic.twitter.com/DeYWpMUFff— Denise (@Denzle1970) August 4, 2015
Brandon Vitabile (C, Colts) - The Colts are thin at center. Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison are the two guys competing for the starting spot, but colts.com writer Kevin Bowen recently predicted that Vitabile would also make the team behind those two in his Wednesday Mailbag series. There hasn't been a ton of news about Vitabile out of camp, but then again it can be tough to assess linemen in practices, when much of their work deals with individual skills, like hand placement and footwork.
Jimmy Hall (S, Raiders) - The biggest news from Raiders camp regarding Jimmy Hall is that he's been playing safety. Fellow SB Nation blog Silver and Black Pride had this to say about the former Wildcat:
This 6-1, 230-pound undrafted rookie has shown up well in run support. He does well finding the ball, shedding blocks, and makes solid tackles. All qualities which you'd expect from a former outside linebacker. Currently he is running with the third team while Larry Asante and Brandian Ross get the second team work. If he can show some potential in coverage and continue his a strong safety, he is a prime practice squad candidate to stash while he develops.
That seems to be an accurate prediction, as Hall is still raw in his playing style. Still, you can't teach athleticism, and he has plenty of that.
Chi-Chi Ariguzo (LB, Chargers) - The ultra-productive yet under-athletic (for NFL standards) Ariguzo faces a major uphill battle in San Diego. Still, however, he has shown marked improvement over the course of training camp thus far according to SDBoltReport.com. Here's an excerpt from Trenton Villanueva's piece:
Ariguzo looked like Swiss cheese in coverage when camp first opened, allowing easy completions to TE David Paulson and WR Titus Davis while working with the third-team offense. To be fair to Ariguzo, it's really no surprise a rookie struggled on the first day of camp.
What is surprising is how much Ariguzo has improved over the last 10 days, and how many impact plays the former Northwestern standout has delivered. Last Wednesday, Ariguzo demonstrated dramatically improved coverage skills during 11-on-11s with a huge interception in the middle of the end zone.
On Saturday, "ILB Chi Chi Ariguzo showed great instincts to knock down a pass in coverage" according to chargers.com writer Ricky Henne. Ariguzo also made a nice play early in camp, as Bolts From The Blue writer Garrett Sisti tweeted:
First time I get to call out ILB Chi Chi Ariguzo's name, he meets Brown at the LOS
First time I get to call out ILB Chi Chi Ariguzo's name, he meets Brown at the LOS— Garrett Sisti (@GarrettSisti) August 1, 2015
It'll be interesting to see how much time Ariguzo gets in the preseason, given the Bolts have some young starters in place and drafted Denzel Perryman in the second round.
Tony Jones (WR, Redskins) - In what was always going to be a major uphill battle to make the team, Jones hasn't done a lot to prove he deserves a spot, although he did have a pretty cool story written on him shortly before camp opened. Jones is listed as the second-to-last wide receiver on the Redskins' first depth chart.