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ND in the NFL: Final cut downs

Active rosters are set for the first NFL games of the 2016 season. Getting there is no simple task as teams must cut from 90 to 75 then 53. Several former Notre Dame players made active rosters while others landed on practice squads. Some are looking for work. Irish Illustrated runs it down.

After a four-game preseason, NFL teams are down to 53-man rosters.

There's no shortage of attrition across the league as clubs cut around 22 players in whittling down to the regular season roster. Unfortunately for many, that means either looking for a job or another destination, former Notre Dame players included.

Irish Illustrated takes a team-by-team look at where former Irish stars landed and those that have been relegated to the ranks now-free agents.

Arizona (2): WR Michael Floyd, TE Troy Niklas

Notes: Michael Floyd joins Larry Fitzgerald as the established veterans for Arizona, which went 1-3 during the preseason by winning its final game. Floyd made one catch for 10 yards in the third preseason game, although it’s not about proving anything at this point for one of Notre Dame’s best ever to play receiver. Troy Niklas started off with a bang, making two catches for 44 yards on three targets in the first exhibition game. Niklas remains part of a deep tight end rotation, however, with with Darren Fells and Jermaine Gresham. Arizona cut wide receiver Amir Carlisle on its way down to a 75-man roster. Safety Matthias Farley landed on the cut list as the Cardinals trimmed down to 53. Farley signed with Arizona as an undrafted free agent and made nine tackles, including one for loss, through two games. He managed just two more tackles over the final two games.

Baltimore (2): OT Ronnie Stanley, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

Notes: Stanley has quickly risen to the top of the depths chart after Baltimore made him a first round pick (sixth overall). He’s currently slotted as the starter at left tackle after a sterling preseason. Lewis-Moore got cut on the way down to 53 but Baltimore doubled back to sign him to the practice squad.

Buffalo (1): S Robert Blanton

Notes: Blanton solidified himself on the roster for Buffalo, where he’s in his first season after starting off with the Minnesota Vikings. He made eight tackles over the last two preseason games and is now on the depth chart as a backup safety.

Carolina (1): LS J.J. Jansen

Notes: There might not be a more secure former Notre Dame player in the league. Jansen is entering his eighth season as the long snapper for Carolina. He’s appeared in every game each of his first seven seasons and went to the Pro Bowl in 2013.

Cincinnati (1): TE Tyler Eifert

Notes: Eifert didn’t appear during the preseason while continuing to recover from an ankle injury suffered during the Pro Bowl. It’s been reported recently that Eifert is hoping to return by Week 4 after not being cleared to practice for the opener.

Cleveland (1): George Atkinson III

Notes: Playing for Oakland at the time, Atkinson had a breakout performance of sorts in the first preseason game with five carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on runs of 53 and 35 yards. Oakland waived Atkinson on its way down to 53. Cleveland claimed Atkinson off waivers, so he’s on the active roster.

Dallas (3): WR Chris Brown, OL Zack Martin, LB Jaylon Smith

Notes: Let’s start with the easy one: Martin has been entrenched as the starting right guard in Dallas since his rookie year and remains atop the depth chart. Jaylon Smith continues to rehab his knee after a horrific bowl game injury. There’s been some optimism he could play the season, but it’s more likely he misses the duration. Dallas placed Smith on the reserve/non-football injury list, meaning he’ll miss at least the first six weeks for sure. Brown, an undrafted free agent, made three catches for 19 yards on seven targets during the first preseason game. He didn't have a catch in the second. Brown then broke his foot during practice. Dallas waived him with an injury designation. But Brown cleared waivers unclaimed and Dallas put him on injured reserve. He’ll recover from his broken foot in the NFL equivalent of a redshirt season.

Detroit (3): RB Theo Riddick, WR Golden Tate, WR TJ Jones

Notes: Detroit has been one of the top employers of former Irish players in the league. Tate is an established veteran at this point and starting receiver. Theo Riddick has been the preferred third down back in Detroit for a couple seasons. Riddick is a reserve running back and third down specialist. He had three carries for 35 yards plus one catch for seven yards in the third preseason game. Detroit waived wide receiver TJ Jones then signed him to the practice squad. It cut cornerback Darrin Walls on the way to 53, which raised some eyebrows among observers after earlier positive performances.

Houston (2): WR Will Fuller, OL Nick Martin

Notes: Looking for breakout potential amongst the former Irish players? Fuller is a fair bet after he made eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the first three preseason games. Martin stood out early in camp, at one point being listed as the starting center, but suffered a high ankle sprain that required surgery. Houston put him on injured reserve, which ended his season.

Indianapolis (1): Matthias Farley

Notes: Farley spent the entire preseason in Arizona before being cut on the way down to 53. Indianapolis claimed the rookie safety off waivers and put him on the active roster.

Jacksonville (2): DL Sheldon Day, TE Ben Koyack

Notes: After some early optimism Day would climb up the depth chart, a lingering back injury kept it from happening. He returned to practice in late August but his production remained limited. Still, he’s comfortably on the roster and will have a chance to work his way into the rotation during the season. Koyack made one catch during the preseason, making the roster as one of four tight ends. He was on the Jaguars practice squad all of last season.

Kansas City (1): CB KeiVarae Russell

Notes: Kansas City drafted Russell with its third round selection back in the spring and has seen some early returns. Russell registered four tackles in the first preseason game and seven total for the preseason.

Minnesota (2): TE Kyle Rudolph, S Harrison Smith

Notes: Smith has blossomed into one of the very best safeties in the league last year while making his first Pro Bowl, meaning his preseason preparation is more about staying healthy than actual production. ESPN.com listed Smith at No. 41 overall in its top 100 players in the league. Rudolph finished with five receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown during the preseason. Minnesota cut center John Sullivan on the way down to 75. Sullivan missed all of 2015 with a back injury that required two surgeries.

New York Giants (2):  DE Romeo Okwara, LB Ishaq Williams

Notes: How about Okwara going from undrafted free agent to the 53-man roster? Okwara had 11 tackles, three sacks, including one of Tom Brady, and a forced fumble in four preseason games. He’ll be down the depth chart, but it was a breakout preseason. The Giants liked enough of what it saw from Ishaq Williams — 10 tackles in the first two preseason games — to sign him to their practice squad. They waived safety Bennett Jackson on the way to 75 and defensive tackle Louis Nix on the way to 53. Jackson, who might have started at free safety last season if not for tearing his ACL during the preseason, couldn’t overcome a string of injuries.

Pittsburgh (2): OT Ryan Harris, DE Stephon Tuitt

Notes: Tuitt has quietly established himself as a quality cog in the Pittsburgh defense and is slotted as a starter at defensive end. Harris is in his first season with the Steelers after winning a Super Bowl in Denver. He’s on the roster and listed as a backup left tackle.

San Diego (2): LB Manti Te’o, OL Chris Watt

Notes: Te’o is expected to start at an inside linebacker spot for San Diego after another solid preseason, which included three tackles in the third game. San Diego put Watt (knee) on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he’ll miss the first six weeks of the season at a minimum.

San Francisco (1): DL Ian Williams

Notes: Williams had a strong 2015 season with 65 tackles and one sack. San Francisco originally signed him to a five-year contract extension in light of that performance but an offseason ankle injury, which will cost him the entire 2016 season, reduced that deal to one year.

Seattle (1): RB C.J. Prosise

Notes: Prosise suffered a hamstring injury the first day of camp and didn’t see action until the third preseason game. He totaled 28 yards on eight carries while adding one reception for another four yards. Now we’ll see how he grows as the regular season gets going.

Tennessee (2): TE Anthony Fasano, CB Cody Riggs

Notes: Riggs spent all of last season in Tennessee as a reserve cornerback and special teams player. He’ll start in about the same spot, but being on the 53-man roster is always a positive. Fasano, meanwhile, is well established. He’ll be a second tight end to starter Delanie Walker.

Washington (1): S David Bruton

Notes: Bruton, a veteran safety, signed with Washington this offseason after winning a Super Bowl with Denver despite missing the end of last season with an injury. Right now Bruton is listed as a starter at strong safety.

Other recent free agents after final cuts (last team in parentheses): Safety Sergio Brown (Atlanta), Robert Hughes (Cleveland), Jarrett Grace (Chicago), Sam Young (Miami).


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