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Tonight's The Night: Hokies To Watch During NFL Preseason

For fans hungry to watch their favorite pro football team, the preseason begins tonight for most of the NFL, and when the games begin, Virginia Tech will be well represented.

Currently, there are 25 former Virginia Tech players on NFL rosters. This year, there will be a few more guys playing significant roles than there have been recently – especially given the program’s impressive representation in the 2021 NFL Draft.

From VT To WFT

The Washington Football Team has rostered a few Hokies for the past few seasons, and although the faces have slightly changed, the WFT will still have more than its share of Virginia Tech players. Kendall Fuller remains one of their starting cornerbacks, while Logan Thomas (who recently received a three-year, $24 million extension with the team) is their top tight end (No. 82 at right).

Tim Settle will be one of their second-team defensive tackles for the third consecutive season, and Justus Reed (an undrafted rookie) has joined him this offseason as a reserve defensive lineman.

Cornerback/part-time kick returner Greg Stroman is also on Washington’s roster for the fourth year, but he is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Ed, Edd, And Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds will serve as the Buffalo Bills’ starting middle linebacker for the fourth straight season. He had the fifth-year option of his contract picked up a few months ago, and he’ll likely receive an extension in the near future.

Terrell Edmunds will once again be the top strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he’ll have a bit more to prove, since his fifth-year option was declined and he’ll enter free agency after this season.

Trey Edmunds, who has been in Pittsburgh’s organization since 2018, will open the preseason as the Steelers’ No. 2 fullback (behind Derek Watt). Much of his NFL career has been spent on the practice squad, and that may be where he’s destined to return.

Houston, We Have Some Hokies

Longtime veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor hasn’t gotten onto the field much since leading the Bills to the playoffs in 2017 – the first time Buffalo had gotten there since 1999. Now, he’s likely a starter once again, although the status of Houston’s top quarterback (Deshaun Watson) is extremely uncertain due to legal concerns.

Much more under the radar, the Texans also signed undrafted rookie Damon Hazelton to their roster. The former starting wideout for the Hokies finished his collegiate career at Missouri, and he’s looking to begin his next chapter in Houston.

Other DBs Across The League

Eighth-year veteran Kyle Fuller signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason, where he’ll likely be their No. 1 cornerback this season. Chuck Clark is slated as the Ravens’ starting strong safety, and Brandon Facyson has a secure backup role at cornerback for the Chargers.

Then there are the rookies. Caleb Farley was selected at No. 22 overall this year, and he was recently removed from the Titans’ PUP list – meaning he can participate in practices and preseason games. For now, Farley is listed as a backup cornerback, but he will ascend up the depth chart rapidly.

Divine Deablo, a third-round selection by the Raiders, can also be included in this category – although Las Vegas is transitioning him from safety to weak-side linebacker. Considering how new he is to the position, Deablo is buried down the depth chart, but he has roster security and could help himself by contributing on special teams – something he is used to doing, dating back to his early years with the Hokies.

The Big Boys Up Front

Duane Brown (Seahawks) is entering his 14th consecutive season as a starting left tackle in the NFL, and Wyatt Teller (one of Pro Football Focus’ top-rated linemen last year) will remain the starting right guard for the Cleveland Browns.

After being selected No. 23 overall in the most recent NFL Draft, Christian Darrisaw has a chance to join Brown and Teller amongst the ranks of starting linemen. The top job at neither left nor right tackle will be handed to him automatically, as the Minnesota Vikings have veteran bodies who could fill each spot, but Darrisaw will likely win one of the two spots rather quickly.

Closer to the roster edges, Yosh Nijman is considered the second string left tackle for the Packers. The 2019 graduate from Virginia Tech is also less experienced than Green Bay’s backup right tackle, so Nijman’s job isn’t necessarily secure. He spent most of last season on their practice squad.

Rundown Of The Rest

Joey Slye is entering his second season as the kicker of the Carolina Panthers. They don’t have another player at the position on their roster, which suggests that they fully intend to rely upon one of the stronger-legged kickers again this year.

Speaking of kickers, Brian Johnson opens the preseason as a backup at the position with the Chicago Bears. Running back Khalil Herbert was also drafted by the Bears this offseason. Herbert seems to be the more likely player to make the regular season roster, especially since he’s given a chance to win their kick returner job.

After a brief pit-stop in New England, fourth-year wide receiver Isaiah Ford is back with the Miami Dolphins. There’s a lot of inexperience at the position, so although Ford has an uphill battle in front of him, he’ll have an opportunity to make Miami’s roster.

Rookie undrafted free agent Jarrod Hewitt latched on with the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll likely see considerable action in the second half of games this preseason.

The fate of tight end Dalton Keene is bleaker. After being selected in the third round last year, Keene played sparingly as a rookie and was recently placed on Injured Reserve (IR) after undergoing knee surgery. He’ll look to get his career back on the right foot in 2022.

Lastly, Bruce Arians returns as the head coach of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cody Grimm is back on his coaching staff as an assistant on defense and special teams, as is former Hokie linebacker Nick Rapone. With every starter from their Super Bowl roster returning in 2021, Arians and Grimm will be well positioned to defend their seat at the throne.

Get Ready For Kickoff

There will be one less preseason game this season, which means players on the roster bubble will have to play better sooner for their NFL careers to continue.

Aside from the Steelers duo, everyone else will start their preseason play tonight. For various reasons, many of them will have a lot to prove – whether it be in order to earn a starting job or to make a roster.

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Friday, 12 August 2022

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