Its said that one of the hardest jobs to keep is a roster spot in the NFL, but these players have managed to hang on rosters for years. The real question, though, is can they keep one during the 2010 season?
Former Terrapin and current Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has become well-known around the NFL for his well-known Lights Out Dance and his ability to pressure the quarterback, has had quite the NFL career so far, with 39 ? sacks over his first three years in the league. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro had been holding out in hopes of a new contract for virtually all of training camp, but ultimately signed San Diegos tender offer on Friday. He looks to improve on an injury-riddled 2009 season in which he only recorded four sacks.
Current New York Jets and former All-Pro nose tackle Kris Jenkins, another former Terp, is also trying to make his way back from an ailment, this one a knee injury that ended his 2009 season. Taking on a new position as defensive end in the Jets defense, Jenkins looked fully recovered in the Jets first preseason game, where he recorded a tackle in limited playing time.
As a divisional rival who is also attempting a position switch on the defensive line, Dolphins nose tackle Randy Starks seems to be succeeding as well. Starks, who came into the league as a defensive end, was challenged by coach Tony Sparano to switch positions to nose tackle this year in order to replace the departed Jason Ferguson. Starks has answered that call and has shown off quickness and rushing ability in training camp that isnt normally associated with the nose tackle position.
Another defender, former Terrapin and current Ravens cornerback Dominique Foxworth, came in to the season expecting to be one of the starters in Baltimores pressure-filled defense. Unfortunately, the defensive back tore his ACL in a non-contact drill in training camp and will miss all of the 2010 season. The injury is unfortunate, as Foxworth came off a career year in 2009 with 4 interceptions, but the former Terp will certainly attempt to come back in 2011 better than ever.
Former Terrapin Jared Gaither has also been in Ravens camp throughout the summer. The offensive lineman has been Baltimores left tackle for the past two years, but with the emergence of Michael Oher last year, Gaither switched over to right tackle during training camp. He performed admirably in his new role, but unfortunately injured his back only a few days ago and will be out for the next six to eight weeks.
Staying in the AFC North, the duo of former Maryland and current Cleveland Browns inner linebackers Eric Barton and DQwell Jackson had eerily similar 2009 seasons, as both injured themselves in the middle of the season which put them out of action until 2010. Jackson and Barton had been practicing with Clevelands first team defense, and Barton still is, but Jackson unfortunately was hit with another injury, this time in his pectoral muscle, leaving him out for six to eight weeks.
Other Former Terps in Camp
-Second-year wide receiver Isaiah Williams is looking to catch on with the Steelers, but seems to be on the outside looking in, as he didnt receive any action in the Steelers first preseason game.
-Dan Gronkowski appears to be the starting tight end at Lions camp, but that probably wont last. Once injured tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Casey FitzSimmons return to the roster, Gronkowski will probably drop back down the depth chart.
-Quarterback Shaun Hill had a terrific first preseason game, completing eight of ten passes for 77 yards, but with Matt Stafford entrenched as the Lions starter, dont expect to see Hill on the field in the regular season.
-The Vikings seem to have a knack for finding productive former Terrapins, as they have four of them in camp this year. The most prominent of these players is former Butkus Award winning linebacker E.J. Henderson, who is trying to come back from a broken femur that he suffered in the 12th game of the 2010 season. While he has yet to play in any preseason games, his brother Erin, another former Terp, is taking right over for him. Erin had six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in Minnesotas first game. Jeff Dugan is also being his reliable self as a blocking tight end for the Vikings, and free safety Madieu Williams is doing a serviceable job as Minnesotas starting free safety.
-2nd year guard Jaimie Thomas is fighting for a job with the Colts, but hurt his chances on Sunday, when got hurt in Indianapoliss first preseason game.
-Jaguars punter Adam Podlesh has been stellar throughout the preseason, and if injury doesnt strike, he should easily be able to keep his job this year. A couple other Jags players arent having the same kind of success, though, as guard Andrew Crummey was just waived by the team (but has been picked up by the Panthers), and defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre is fighting hard for a spot on the roster.
-Buccaneers defensive tackle Dre Moore is fighting for his life to keep his spot on a team that drafted three defensive tackles in the 2010 draft. Hes doing everything in his power to get a roster spot, though, and has even received praise from coach Raheem Morris, who said He's looked as good as I've seen him look in his (three) years here. He's lighter and he's playing with better pad level and a better base. He's buying into everything we're saying and he's not going to go away easy.''
-Tight end Joey Haynos is continuing to show off his soft hands and solid blocking for the Dolphins, and his solid play has locked up a roster spot for the third-year player.
-Moise Fokou, a 2009 pick who surprisingly played in every game for the Eagles last year, may have lost his starting linebacker job in camp to Akeem Jordan. Fokou will still see some serious playing time this year as both a linebacker and situation defensive end, though.
-Kevin Barnes has the won the fourth cornerback job for the Redskins. This is exciting news, as Barness spot on the roster was anything but guaranteed coming into the year.
-Fourth-year tackle Stephon Heyer has been taking snaps with the first team in place of injured starter Jammal Brown, but with Brown coming back soon, expect Heyer to be playing primarily off the bench from now on. Edwin Williams, a fellow former Terp and member of the Redskins offensive line, is having a bit more of an up-and-down spring, but still seems in line to keep a roster spot with Washington.
-Running back Lance Ball has gone from practice squad player to starting running back in the span of only a few short months, and seriously impressed in his first preseason game by gaining 27 yards on only six carries.
- Highly touted coming into 2009, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey struggled mightily with the Raiders with only nine receptions in all of 2009. Heyward-Bey came into this years camp far more prepared, and looks to have improved mightily both mentally and physically over last season.