Checking In With Terp Alum In NFL

TSR takes a look at how former Maryland football players are doing as they prepare for NFL season.

As the NFL preseason winds to a close, many former Terrapins are showing that they belong and deserve to have prominent roles in the league. If things continue as expected, you should be seeing former Terps from Baltimore all the way to Arizona.

Chief among those players is linebacker E.J. Henderson, who, after suffering a horrific knee injury late last year, has come back strong and looking like the impact player that the Vikings drafted in the third round in 2003. Henderson is on track to start for the Vikings in their season opener versus the Saints. Henderson’s recovery is truly astounding, as the injury looked to be career-threatening when he first suffered it.

E.J.’s brother, Erin, is also looking more and more likely to make the Vikings opening-day squad, as the fellow linebacker has put together an incredible preseason, including a preseason finale that featured nine tackles, a sack, and a two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Originally looked at as on the roster bubble, the younger Henderson has shown the Vikings that he can be an impact player in their up-and-coming defense.

Another former Terp who has proven his worth on the defensive side of the ball this preseason is Miami’s Randy Starks, who is still pegged as the starting nose tackle for Miami in the upcoming season, whether that be for better or for worse. While Starks has looked impressive in early action, critics are still afraid that Starks’s lack of bulk, which is necessary for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, will cause him to be a liability for the Miami defense.

One nose tackle who certainly will never be criticized for his lack of bulk is the Jets’ Kris Jenkins, who now seems to be fully recovered from a knee injury that caused him to miss most of last year. A behemoth in the middle of New York’s vaunted defense, Jenkins has shown a surprising quickness and mobility after losing 33 pounds over the offseason that should lead to a great 2010 campaign.

Another defender who is recovering from knee surgery is Dolphins fifth-round rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll, who continues to excel in coverage for the ‘Phins. Full of speed and agility, Carroll has shown a remarkable ability in the kick return game as well and should see significant playing time for the Dolphins in the coming season as both a cornerback and kick returner.

Shawne Merriman doesn’t seem to be having nearly the success early in the year as his other former Terps, though. Merriman finally signed his free agent tender after many months of holding out, but the former All-Pro linebacker won’t be available to play until at least the second game of the season because of an Achilles injury. It’s a tough break for Merriman, who has been bit by the injury big throughout the past few seasons and has yet to return to that Pro Bowl form that he showed in 2005 and 2006.

Other notes:

- Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who suffered an injury in the preseason, looks to be able to return to the field as soon as Week 2.

- Another former Terp on the Browns, fellow linebacker Eric Barton, may be cut by the team as soon as next week. The team is cutting down its roster, and with strong depth at middle linebacker, Barton in no way is guaranteed a spot.

-Rookie free-agent NT Travis Ivey was put on waivers by the Dolphins this week, but was quickly picked up by the Browns. With a somewhat inconsistent interior line, Ivey has a much better shot at making the Cleveland roster than he did with Miami.

-Safety Terrell Skinner has had quite the first few months in the NFL. The undrafted free-agent was signed by Minnesota, cut by the Vikings after a few months, looked at by the Eagles, and now has finally been signed by the Colts.

-While his spot isn’t guaranteed, undrafted Cowboys center Phil Costa has a terrific shot at making their roster as their backup. He has practice with the second team all preseason, and with another quality performance, his chances at making the team are quite good.

- Two former Terps on the Raiders seem to be going in opposite directions, as rookie offensive lineman Bruce Campbell has had some serious struggles in run-blocking, but is so highly-regarded by Oakland that he will almost certainly make the team. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, meanwhile, had a terrific final preseason game for the team, which included a very difficult 34-yard reception.

-While Broncos running back Lance Ball will almost certainly make the team after a great preseason, he is still fighting for the starting job with incumbent Knowshon Moreno. Moreno, the Broncos first-round pick a year ago, has just returned from an injury, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for Ball. The running back will still certainly receive a good share of the action in the backfield for Denver.

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