Ex-Pack Stars Battling for NFL Roster Spots

A year ago Andre Maddox was drafted in the fifth round by the New York Jets, and was expected to compete for the open free safety position along with fellow draft pick Kerry Rhodes.

A year ago Andre Maddox was drafted in the fifth round by the New York Jets, and was expected to compete for the open free safety position along with fellow draft pick Kerry Rhodes. However, the Jets' high expectations for him would never be realized last year, as early in training camp Maddox tore ligaments in his knee and saw his season dashed. With his NFL career failing to get off the ground, was in danger of not making the team at all.

Fortunately for Maddox, and the Jets, his knee has fully healed, and he was back in training camp this year. Playing well and injury-free, the hard-hitting former Wolfpack roverback has been quietly making an impression. JetsConfidential.com noted: "Another player in the safety competition, who shouldn't be ignored, is Andre Maddox, who had two pretty PD's [pass deflections], one on a pass to running back Derrick Blaylock, and the other to [receiver Laveurneus] Coles." In his first three preseason games, Maddox has rotated in with the second team, and tallied 2.5 tackles in the Jets' first preseason game, but failed to record any stats in the second two. However, Maddox just survived a cut of 11 players, and seems a lock to make the team.

Things are also looking bright for another former Wolfpacker playing for the Jets, Jerricho Cotchery. The positive press has flowed in steadily all camp for Cotchery. Randy Lange of the New Jersey Star Ledger said "the third-year man is having a strong camp with one eye-popping reception after another," and Cotchery appears to have overtaken incumbent Justin McCairens for the second starting receiver spot. The Asbury Park Press reported on Aug. 26 that Cotchery is now starting ahead of McCairens, who disappointed the Jets coaching staff by showing up to camp out of shape. Newsday described Cotchery as a receiver "who has transformed himself from a backup with potential to the likely starting wideout opposite Coles."

The former fourth-round draft pick has the edge in the competition for the starting job, but unlike last year, when head coach Herman Edwards gushed of Cotchery, "Watch number 89, he just keeps making plays," new head coach Eric Mangini has been a little more guarded with his praise. "For the most part, he's done well. He's a tough, physical guy who gives you a presence in the running game I really like."

With former NC State offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone on the Jets' staff as the wide receivers coach, Cotchery also has a valuable ally in his corner. "Obviously, that doesn't give me a heads-up on anyone out there," said Cotchery. "But it's good to have somebody who's familiar with the way you play, the way you approach the game."

Last year, Cotchery flashed his potential with a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown. So far this preseason, the third-year receiver has totaled six catches for 51 yards, including three for 15 yards against Washington, the first game in which he started. However, last weekend against the New York Giants, Cotchery failed to have a catch while teammate McCairens broke through with two receptions for 48 yards. Cotchery's hold on the starting position may not be a lock yet.

Another Wolfpacker may have earned himself a starting spot with his team as well. Pat Thomas, drafted in the sixth round two years ago by Jacksonville, had no trouble making the team last year, and now finds himself competing for a starting position. Thomas was named by the Jaguars as the leading candidate for the newly vacant outside linebacker slot, and is currently listed atop the depth chart. After a strong training camp, Thomas has earned praise from media and coaches. He shined on special teams last season, totaling 12 tackles, and USA Today named him as one of the Jaguars' players to watch in camp this season.

Thomas saw Nick Griesen start ahead of him in Saturday's matchup against Tampa Bay while he sat out with a sore hamstring, but bounced back last night to lead the Jags with five tackles.

More next week, as rookies Marcus Hudson and Stephen Tulloch make big impacts in San Francisco and Tennessee, and Dovonte Edwards continues to his surprising success in Minnesota.

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