Each week, PittsburghSportsNow.com will check in on former Pitt Panthers currently in the NFL and highlight those competing for roster spots. This week we take a closer look at Tyler Boyd, Dion Lewis, and highlight several players who might be impacted by the league’s final round of cuts.
Second year Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has been turning heads in training camp. His preseason play is the continuation of a strong second half last season after star wideout AJ Green went down for an extended period of time.
Boyd quietly caught 54 passes as a rookie, totaling 600 yards and one touchdown. His best game, arguably, came in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he hauled in six receptions on eight targets. His 78 yards were one shy of his season-high.
Boyd entered training camp as the Bengals No. 3 wideout, and primarily, the team’s top slot receiver. It was believed he could push veteran Brandon LaFell to line up opposite of Green, but it appears the coaching staff prefers Boyd in the slot, as Jay Morrison, who covers Cincinnati for Cox Media Group, says.
“I think they keep him in the slot,” Morrison said. “It seems like he’s always an option—he finds the soft spots in the zones.”
Boyd averaged more than 11 yards per catch in the slot last year and committed just two dropped passes.
Local media has speculated whether the Clairton native could leapfrog Lafell on the depth chart, and Morrison indicated it might not matter because the Bengals frequently use three wide receiver sets. He anticipates Boyd being a big part of the team’s offensive scheme this season due to his reliability as a receiver.
“He has got good hands,” Morrison said. “Rookies tend to think more than they react, and that can lead to a lack of focus and drops. That never happened with Tyler.”
“He knows the offense better, they trust him, and expect him to be a bigger part of it.”
In three preseason games, the Pitt Panther has recorded four receptions for 65 yards, and his 16.3 yards per catch is tops among all Bengals pass catchers.
Morrison added Boyd’s locker is right next to Andy Dalton’s, and he has a great rapport with the quarterback.
Also of note, rookie receiver John Ross suffered an apparent knee injury in the team’s final preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts and could potentially miss extended time, further cementing Boyd’s status in the passing game.
#Bengals WR John Ross suffered a knee sprain that knocked him out of the game last night, source said. But opener could be in doubt.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 1, 2017
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis is one of many veterans around the league who might have to sweat through the final rounds of cuts. Depending on your source, Lewis is a lock to make the team or on the roster bubble.
— Sporting News NFL (@sn_nfl) August 31, 2017
Those around the industry have also speculated the Patriots might trade Lewis but are not inclined to do so.
— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) September 1, 2017
The Albany, New York, native missed the first 10 games of the season last year while coming back from an ACL tear, but averaged nearly 16 touches in the team’s final three games.
Lewis is due only $1.4 million on the final year of his contract, a bargain for a player of his caliber, but the Patriots have a crowded backfield with Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkehead, Super Bowl star James White, and coaching staff favorite Brandon Bolden.
Lewis is a versatile running back and also a key contributor on special teams, which should solidify his case for making the team. The Pitt Panther is the leading candidate to return kicks and fielded a punt in the team’s final preseason game against the New York Giants, suggesting Bill Belichick might be considering Lewis for that role after Cyrus Jones suffered a possible season-ending injury.
In addition, Julian Edelman’s injury could mean more opportunities for the sixth-year player. Expect Lewis to make the roster.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Dontez Ford caught his second touchdown of the preseason Thursday against the Buffalo Bills, but is expected to be one of the team’s final cuts.
A final Detroit Lions initial 53-man roster projection goes deep in the secondary https://t.co/0BF2DNsCWf
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) September 1, 2017
However, it seems likely Ford could end up on the team’s practice squad.
Tight end Scott Orndoff was recently signed by the Detroit Lions but is expected to be among the team’s final cuts.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Nicholas Grigsby led the team with 10 total tackles against the Packers, including seven solo stops, to close out the preseason but is on the roster bubble. He spent 11 weeks on the Rams’ practice squad last year and appeared in six games. The second-year player should be a candidate for the practice team once again.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Ejuan Price started for the Rams in the team’s final preseason game yet failed to register a tackle. However, the rookie edge rusher has played well and is expected to make the team.
Looking good so far for Ejuan Price (Rankin, PA) to make the final 53 man roster for the Rams. https://t.co/yuoW3Hdiwv
— Matt Furjanic Jr. (@MattFurjanicJr) August 23, 2017
Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman TJ Clemmings might be on his way out if preseason snaps are any indication. The former fifth-round pick failed to play in the team’s second preseason game against Seattle and logged third-team snaps against San Francisco. He was previously listed second on the depth chart behind starting right guard Joe Berger.
Denver Broncos nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett started the team’s final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals and appears to be closing in on a roster spot. His teammate, linebacker Shakir Soto, recently received first-team snaps in practice and is a leading candidate for the practice squad.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Lafayette Pitts was named a captain for the team’s final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, but is more than likely to be cut according to the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero.
New…Miami Dolphins mock 53-man roster (1.0 or whatever):https://t.co/nyBwGSJM61
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) September 1, 2017
Pitts spent time both on the practice squad and 53-man roster last year. He recorded three tackles in eight games.
On a lighter note, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrated his 34th birthday Thursday. Despite limited snaps this preseason, the former Panther should rank among the league’s top pass catchers again in 2017. He recently hosted his ninth annual Fitz’s Supper Club, which benefits his First Down Fund, a program designed to support kids and families in crisis, as well as health-related organizations.
— azcentral (@azcentral) August 30, 2017