Oregon Ducks in the NFL (Defense Eddition)

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.

Defensive Line

DeForest Buckner – San Francisco 49ers

Status: Good

Buckner enters his fourth season as one of the best players on San Francisco’s defense. After having a career-high 12 sacks last season and being named to his first Pro Bowl, the expectations are very high for Buckner, with some even picking him as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Buckner’s fifth-year option was also picked up by the 49ers, meaning he will stay a 49er for next season as well. With all signs pointing up, look for Buckner to have a monster year for the 49ers and be one of the anchors of that defense. Another great season this year could lead to a potential contract extension before his fifth year is up.

Arik Armstead – San Francisco 49ers

Status: Good

Armstead will line up alongside fellow Oregon alum DeForest Buckner this year, hoping to stay healthy after his last two seasons were cut short due to injury. Armstead sits above fellow PAC-12 alum Solomon Thomas on the depth chart and his starting spot should remain as long as he is healthy. The Oregon duo of Armstead and Buckner are a big part of one of the best defensive lines in the NFL this year. The 49ers now have Dee Ford who is coming off a career year with Kansas City Chiefs in which he had 51 tackles and 13 sacks. They also drafted Nick Bosa with the number two overall pick this year who has tremendous upside and could make a big splash in his rookie season. While there is competition on the defensive line, Armstead’s role is safe barring another injury. Look for Armstead and Buckner to both have great seasons.

Henry Mondeaux – Pittsburgh Steelers

Status: Unstable

Mondeaux was a victim of final cuts and has landed on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad. He has bounced around from the Saints and Chiefs and ultimately was able to find a home in Pittsburgh. While the Steelers defensive line is pretty solidified for the foreseeable future, it is obviously a great sign that Mondeaux was brought back to the practice squad. A few injuries will need to occur if Mondeaux is going to see game action soon on an active roster.

Jalen Jelks – Free Agent

Status: Unemployed

While Jelks did not survive the Dallas Cowboys’ cuts to 53, it is not all bad for him. After having a strong preseason which included a sack, many saw Jelks as a tough cut on a Cowboys team that just does not have any room for him right now. He impressed many and now has the chance to be signed to the Dallas’ practice squad. If they choose not to retain him, Jelks will likely catch on with another team.

Linebackers

Justin Hollins – Denver Broncos

Status: Moderate

Thanks to a strong preseason performance, Hollins made the Broncos roster and is currently listed as the backup strongside linebacker to Bradley Chubb. A fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, Hollins had 16 tackles, 1 sack, and two pass deflections this preseason which earned him a spot. One factor that keeps Hollins’ status from being better is the competition for playing time. Bradley Chubb is coming off a phenomenal rookie season and Von Miller, is, well, Von Miller. While he may not get a lot of playing time this season, learning from these guys should only help Hollins.

Kiko Alonso – New Orleans Saints

Status: Good

Alonso was just traded from the Miami Dolphins to the New Orleans Saints, marking a new chapter in his career. He will help bolster a Saints team that has Super Bowl aspirations and while likely not starting, will see significant playing time. He is beginning to reach the point in his career where he is still a very productive linebacker but not as much of an every-down linebacker as he once was. The Saints should be a great fit for him as they are a team that will be competitive and winning, all while still giving him playing time. There will be very little drop-off in skill if he needs to fill in because of injury.

Joe Walker – Arizona Cardinals

Status: Moderate

Walker will be a backup for Arizona this year, primarily backing up Haason Reddick at inside linebacker. Walker, who joined the Cardinals in 2018 after being nabbed from the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad, hasn’t seen significant playing time since 2017. After sustaining two season-ending injuries throughout his NFL career, Walker looks to remain healthy this season to try and re-gain more playing time. For now, Walker will be a solid backup for the Cardinals with a chance to prove his worth at some point this season.

Defensive Backs and Safeties

Ugochukwu Amadi – Seattle Seahawks

Status: Moderate

Ugochukwu Amadi, or “Ugo” for short, was the first Duck chosen in the 2019 draft, being selected in the 4th round. He instantly made his presence felt in the preseason, including this special teams play that was perfectly executed. He also made plays on the other side of specials teams, fielding five punts and four kickoffs, with a long of 34 yards. This, along with 10 tackles and one pass deflection, was a strong enough performance to earn a spot on the Seahawks. He is now positioned to be the third-string safety as well as the backup punt and kick returner. A lot can change in the NFL, but Amadi is in a good position to develop his skillset while still having a chance to make an impact on special teams. If he keeps making plays like he did in the preseason, then he will do just fine.

Patrick Chung – New England Patriots

Status: Good

Chung begins his 10th NFL season as a cornerstone of the Patriots defense. Chung had a very solid 2018 season and the three-time Super Bowl champion brings veteran leadership to an already very experienced Patriots team. Chung sits atop the depth chart above fellow safeties Duron Harmon and Terrence Brooks. While age is starting to come into play for Chung, he has not shown any signs of slowing down and will likely be a key piece yet again for the Patriots. The only thing that could hurt Chung’s status right now would be a cocaine charge that he pleaded not guilty for, with a court appearance scheduled for November 8th.

Troy Hill – Los Angeles Rams

Status: Good

Hill will be backing up veteran Aqib Talib this season for the Los Angeles Rams. Hill saw significant action last season, playing in all 16 regular-season games, with seven of those being starts. He had two interceptions, five pass deflections, and 34 combined tackles. Hill will likely see significant action again this season and has proven himself to be a very solid cornerback in the NFL.

Terrance Mitchell – Cleveland Browns

Status: Good

Terrance Mitchell will be a starting cornerback this year for the Browns. After only playing in eight games last year (starting seven), Brown will look to put together a full season in his sixth year in the league. The Browns have more hype around them than they have had in a VERY long time, so expectations are high for all Browns players, including Mitchell. While much of the hype is around the high-flying offense that the Browns have, solid defense could make their team even better. Mitchell is entering his prime and is poised to have a nice year for the Browns.

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Author: Josh Bowman

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