Is it football season yet? The answer, unfortunately, is no. However, NFL training camps are beginning this week, and many Northwestern Wildcats will be vying for a roster spot. By July 29th, every NFL team will have started training camp, and all former Wildcats will be in action (rookies have all reported).
In recent years, Northwestern always has a solid group of players in the NFL. Although Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t produce too many star players, there are still a few ex-Wildcats who could make a big impact in the 2017-18 season. Trevor Siemian will look to lock down his spot as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos and fend off Paxton Lynch. Anthony Walker Jr. will hope to gain a role in his rookie year with the Indianapolis Colts. Zach Strief is...well, he seems to always be good, so there’s not many questions there. Also, Ifeadi Odenigbo cut his foot on a swimming pool gate and was hampered at the start of training camp. Wait, what?
Without further ado, here's where Northwestern's NFL contingent stands:
Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver Broncos - It’s amazing to think of Trevor Siemian as an established NFL veteran, but the former seventh-round pick is entering his third season in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. Obviously, earning his job as Denver’s starting quarterback and starting 14 games last season was a huge success for Siemian, but he’ll need to defend his spot from Paxton Lynch, the Broncos’ first-round choice from 2016. Right now, Siemian is the favorite to win the job, and his decent numbers from last season back up the fact that he’s a pretty good NFL quarterback. He’s not prime Peyton Manning, but hopefully we’ll have another year of Trevor-mania to follow.
Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Indianapolis Colts - Given that the Colts’ linebacker situation has been woeful for the last half-decade, Walker may not have to “fight” for a spot on the roster. However, nothing has been guaranteed, and although Walker passed through OTAs without any problems, there have been plenty of fifth-round picks who don’t make it through their first training camp. Walker will be competing against a bunch of guys you’ve likely never heard of. Sean Spence will probably get a starting role because...veterans, but according to the Indianapolis Star, Walker is very much in the running for the other starting spot (the “Will” position). Just let him play, Indianapolis, remember when y’all got torn to shreds by Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount in the playoffs?
Austin Carr, WR, New England Patriots - Oh, did you think the “next Julian Edelman,” stuff was hot air?
This grab by Austin Carr might have been the catch of the day. UDFA was the Big Ten receiver of the year last season. pic.twitter.com/Llevs4p2FK— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) July 27, 2017
According to Stephen Hewitt of the Boston Herald, “The catch seemingly won the drill for the offense, as the defense immediately went down and did push-ups. Carr spun the ball on the ground as a fired up Josh McDaniels ran over to the end zone.”
Well, he’s certainly having a good start to training camp. If Carr actually does become productive with the Pats, you might as well just tape his face to the definition of “bittersweet” in my dictionary for the rest of time.
It’s just one catch, and Carr will definitely have to fight for a roster spot with the Patriots, but even if that doesn’t happen, I could easily see another wide-receiver thin team getting him into a game at some point. Perhaps...the Chicago Bears?
Zach Strief, T, New Orleans - Strief enters his twelfth season in the NFL with his job as the starting right tackle on the Saints locked down once again. He’s been a stalwart of the offensive line and one of the best linemen in football for years now. Age hasn’t slowed him down at all, as he posted another great season in 2016 and continues to play well. The Saints have been trying to line up Strief’s heir at right tackle for years, but an injury to Terron Armstead leaves Strief as one of the few veterans on the Saints’ offensive line. He’ll be back. If this keeps up, he may become Northwestern’s best NFL product since Otto Graham.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Minnesota Vikings - Odenigbo is competing to make the Vikings’ roster, etc, etc. But what the heck happened to him at the hotel pool? Apparently, Odenigbo sustained a deep cut on his foot after it got caught on a loose piece of metal at the Vikings’ hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
WARNING: Gross description, from Pro Football Talk:
“The gate closed on me, and it had some chipped metal and it went right into my heel, so that was my Achilles’ heel,’’ Odenigbo said, via the Pioneer Press. “It was a freak accident. When I was going (through the gate), it just nicked my heel and blood was gushing everywhere. It was a big, deep cut. There was too much skin ripped off for me to have stitches. It was pretty gross...It was like a fishing rod went into my skin and you yanked the skin out.”
Ouch, hopefully this freak accident doesn’t hamper his ability to make the team, although it’s hard to see how it won’t. Sigh, another freak accident for a Northwestern draftee.
Dan Vitale, FB, Cleveland Browns - Vitale has bounced around since he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He got cut, got claimed by the Bills, failed a medical examination, and then got signed by the Browns from the Bucs’ practice squad. He’s back with Cleveland for training camp, but it didn’t start well:
#Browns FB Dan Vitale carted into locker room after suffering a leg issue on a catch— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) July 27, 2017
However, things should be okay for tomorrow. Drink some Gatorade, Danny!
#Browns WR's Kenny Britt & James Wright, and FB Dan Vitale are all expected to return to practice tomorrow. Heat related injuries.— Browns Chalk Talk (@BrownsChalkTalk) July 27, 2017
Hopefully, Vitale can find a spot with Cleveland and stick around in 2017.
Dean Lowry, DE, Green Bay Packers - Lowry essentially had a “redshirt” year with the Green Bay Packers last season. He recorded just 8 tackles and rarely saw the field for a Packers team that made the NFC Championship Game. Early depth charts have Lowry as the backup defensive end, which is a good sign that the Packers are finally going to start using him.
Ibraheim Campbell, S, Cleveland Browns - The Cleveland Browns may be in the midst of the biggest teardown project in NFL history, but they still need players. Campbell, a third-year pro, should be back at safety for the Browns next season. He didn’t have the best year in 2016, but he has the talent to stick around for any NFL team. And besides, what replacements do the Browns have? The main offseason story for Campbell says he’s an avid user of the NFL’s WHOOP wearable device.
Brian Peters, LB, Houston Texans - Peters said in 2016 that he took the “back door” to the NFL after not getting drafted or signing a free agent deal after 2011. Now entering his third year in the NFL, he’s established himself as a special teamer and a very sparingly-used linebacker.
Corbin Bryant, DT, New York Giants - After four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Bryant signed a deal with the New York Giants in the offseason. Bryant was injured and ineffective in 2016, and he will have to compete for a roster spot. Luckily, the Giants have very few good defensive tackles (trust me, I’m a Giants fan), and Bryant will certainly have a shot at making it.
Sherrick McManis, CB, Chicago Bears - The Bears’ special teams ace is back for the final year of his contract. Barring something unforeseen, he’s not getting cut.
Joe Jones, LB, Dallas Cowboys - Jones signed as an UDFA with the Cowboys and has been at camp for over a week now. Again, hopefully Jones can find a spot with an NFL team, whether it be the Cowboys or another squad, before 2017 starts.