Whether they are trying to find a spot in the league or are seasoned veterans, the Oregon Ducks have a plethora of talented players that have made it to the NFL. With NFL rosters now cut down to 53, the picture becomes more clear for how each player will be able to make their impact felt. Players’ status with teams will be ranked as Good, Moderate, or Unstable.
The next edition of this article will cover defensive Oregon alum and where they stand.
Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans
Mariota’s status for this upcoming season is a bit tricky. At times, he has shown strong passing skills and the ability to lead the Titans to victory. Take his 2017 Wild Card playoff victory versus the Kansas City Chiefs, when he accounted for 3 TDs and led them to the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008. His ability to use his legs combined with his arm make him an obvious dual-threat at QB. However, injuries have plagued Mariota, and his 24/23 TD-Int ratio over the last two seasons leaves much to be desired. With Ryan Tannehill as the new QB2, Mariota is in a critical year where he must remind of us of what we know he is capable of. For these reasons, Mariota’s status on the Titans is moderate for the time being.
De’Anthony Thomas – Kansas City Chiefs
Thomas will actually have to serve a one-game suspension to start off the 2019-20 season, but when he does become active Week 2, look for his impact to be on special teams. This has been his niche since coming into the NFL in 2014, as he does not often see offensive snaps. Despite that, Thomas can line up almost anywhere on the field and is very dynamic with the ball in his hand. After fracturing his leg twice, he looks to stay healthy this season and contribute to an already stacked Chiefs offense. His status is unstable as there are many mouths to feed (Chiefs also recently signed LeSean McCoy) and he is lower on the depth chart.
Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos
While Royce ended up losing the starting job to Phillip Lindsay last season, he will be doing just fine this season. Drafted in the third round last year, the Broncos have a decent stake in Freeman and his size and speed fit well into an NFL offense. While there will be a competition for carries this season with Lindsay, Devontae Booker, and newly-acquired Theo Riddick, Freeman will have a significant chance to win back the majority of the carries. At the very least, he is a good redzone back for the Broncos.
Tony Brooks-James – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TBJ went undrafted in this past year’s draft, however, that did not stop him from signing as an undrafted free agent to the Atlanta Falcons and making a splash in the preseason. In the final preseason game versus the Jaguars, TBJ rushed for 137 yards and 2 TDs. While he was cut by the Falcons, the Buccaneers took note of his performance and gave him a spot on their practice squad. TBJ has an uphill battle ahead of him, but considering Tampa Bay currently does not have the strongest group of running backs, TBJ could get a shot at the 53-man roster this season. He also adds special teams experience, stemming back to his kick return days at Oregon.
Kenjon Barner – Atlanta Falcons
Barner made the 53-man roster for the Atlanta Falcons, marking the fourth different NFL team he will have played for. Barner’s primary value comes from his special teams work, specifically his impact as a return man. In 4 games with the Carolina Panthers last season, he had 9 kickoff returns averaging 24.4 yards with a long of 37 yards. While the Falcons RB depth chart is crowded (Barner is listed as the RB5), his veteran presence and special teams ability should keep him around.
Byron Marshall – Buffalo Bills
Marshall lost his spot on the Washington Redskins after final cuts this last week but was added to the Buffalo Bills practice squad. He snagged the last spot on the practice squad, making his status for the upcoming season far from secure. Originally signed to the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad after he went undrafted in 2016, he spent the last two seasons with the Redskins. He appeared in 10 games over that span, totaling 12 carries for 41 yards and 10 receptions for 66 yards. He faces a steep but not insurmountable hill to make the 53-man team.
Dillon Mitchell – Minnesota Vikings
After going to the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round of the 2019 draft, Mitchell was among one of several players brought in to compete for the WR3 job. Unfortunately, head coach Mike Zimmer called out Mitchell during training camp for his lack of progression. Eventually, Mitchell found himself victim to the rosters being trimmed and was cut. Despite being cut, he found a place on the Vikings’ practice squad. Hopefully, Mitchell will take his time on the practice squad to increase familiarity with the Vikings system and get valuable reps. For now, however, his status remains very unstable until he can get back to being on a 53-man roster.
Pharaoh Brown – Cleveland Browns
After going undrafted in 2017 and landing on the Browns practice squad, he was cut, went to the Oakland Raiders, was cut again, and then ended up back on the Browns in 2018. After a shoulder injury put him on the IR and ended his season last year, Brown is now assumedly healthy and ready to make an impact after making the 53-man roster. While he will not be starting, opportunities will surely come his way on a Browns offense that is, on paper, one of the best offenses in the league. Brown will look to capitalize on the playing time that he does see and additionally be ready to step up if starting TE David Njoku gets hurt.
Johnny Mundt – Los Angeles Rams
Johnny Mundt went undrafted in 2017 and like many of the names I have already mentioned, signed to the practice squad. After getting promoted to the active roster, Mundt appeared in twelve regular-season games as well as three postseason games. Mundt is also on a futures contract, which is a way for the Rams to prevent him from going to another team while also deferring the money to the following season. While his role may not be big currently, his spot on the Rams seems to be relatively stable for the time being.
Tyrell Crosby – Detroit Lions
Crosby is listed as the backup LT to Taylor Decker, Decker being the Lions’ 2016 first-round pick who has started every game he has appeared in. While Decker is likely not going anywhere, Crosby will still be able to fill in for other spots on the O-line and be a very capable backup to Decker. In his rookie season last year, Crosby appeared in 10 games, getting the start in two of those games. Crosby will likely have to be open to moving around on the O-line to see more playing time. Crosby will seek to start more games this year than the two he started last year.
Kyle Long – Chicago Bears
Entering his seventh season, Long very well may have the most solidified status of any of the players on this list. The only thing holding him back is health, as his last three seasons have been cut short due to injury. The three-time pro bowler will help protect Mitchell Trubisky this year and try to return to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2015. One other note worth mentioning was a fight he was involved in recently at practice, leading to his forced exit. This should have minimal impact if any at the beginning of the regular season, but he is a veteran who needs to be a leader for this Bears team. If Long can stay healthy, he can help the Bears be dangerous come playoff time.
Cameron Hunt – Free Agent
Unfortunately for Hunt, he was a victim to the Oakland Raiders cutting players to make the 53-man roster requirement. Hunt was waived/injured, so there is a decent chance that he just needs to get healthy and could catch on with another team. He also has been on the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers.