NFL Cougar roundup

THE NFL PRESEASON is heating up, and several former Cougars are in the middle of the fire. A few of them figure to be starters by the time the regular season arrives, while others, like Andrew Furney and John Fullington, are fighting to stay on the roster behind other viable starters. It’s the halfway mark of the preseason, and the potential starters are receiving more playing time.

Deone Bucannon: The first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals continues to impress. Bucannon is listed at the top of the depth chart at strong safety, and he also topped the defensive statistics chart in the Cardinals’ game against the Minnesota Vikings. Bucannon led the team with five total tackles, three of which were solo. As of right now, it looks like the regular season opener will feature Bucannon in the defensive backfield, and the Cardinals hope to activate free safety Tyrann Mathieu from the active/PUP list soon so the two can play alongside each other.

John Fullington: Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, the offensive line this year looks strong and up to the task of defending quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked 51 times in 2012, and 21 times in a 2013 season limited by injury due to a sack as well. The bad news is that John Fullington is not considered a starter on that offensive line, and he will have to beat out the collection of J.C. Tretter, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, and David Bakhtiari in order to see significant playing time on Sundays this season.

Andrew Furney: The former Cougar kicker didn’t get a chance to show off his powerful leg like he did last week, but he was used for an extra point that he knocked through the uprights. Nick Folk is the only kicker listed on the depth chart still, so unless Furney is unexpectedly given more chances to kick field goals, the New York Jets could end up cutting him at the end of the preseason. First cut-downs are Monday, August 27, by 1:00pm PT, teams must cut their active roster to 75. Final cuts on Friday, August 31, by 6:00pm PT, teams reduce to 53.

Jeff Tuel: Unlike last week, this edition of Tuel Time didn’t feature any touchdowns but it also did not feature any interceptions. Tuel completed five-of-nine passes for 48 yards, but he experienced significant pressure from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, getting sacked four times in the game. Both E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis threw an interception each against the Steelers, and Manuel threw for 148 yards. Tuel is now listed as the backup quarterback on the depth chart, ahead of Lewis.

Travis Long: The Philadelphia Eagles continue to give Long playing time in their preseason games, but he still is not listed on the depth chart at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, or defensive line. In Week 2 of the preseason, Long recorded two solo tackles and four total. He also had a hit on the quarterback, showing he can put pressure on the passer.

Marquess Wilson: As expected, the Chicago Bears’ wide receiver did not play in the team’s Week 2 preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday. Wilson had surgery on Aug. 5 to repair his fractured clavicle that he suffered in practice on the previous day. No specific time has been given for Wilson’s return.

Jed Collins: Although Collins did not receive any touches and was not targeted by any of the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks, he remains the starting fullback. Neither Montell Owens nor Chad Abram, who are listed on the depth chart below Collins, put up any numbers in the second week of the preseason, so there doesn’t seem to be any sort of competition that can immediately bump Collins out of the starting role.

Husain Abdullah: The Kansas City Chiefs’ safety made a much bigger impact against the Carolina Panthers than he did in the first week of the preseason. Abdullah made three tackles, all of which were solo, and had one of four team sacks in the game. This performance should solidify his position even more atop the depth chart at the free safety position. He also is the most durable at this point, meaning that playing time is looking like a near certainty. Sanders Commings was challenging Abdullah for a starting spot at free safety, but he suffered a fractured ankle and fibula earlier in training camp that will keep him out for a long period of time. The man opposite of Abdullah in the backfield, strong safety Eric Berry, is currently sidelined with a heel injury.

Ropati Pitoitua: Jurrell Casey is still ahead of Pitoitua at the defensive end position for the Tennessee Titans. Neither of them did anything statistically in the team’s preseason Week 2 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, but both played in the majority of the Titans’ games last season. Pitoitua saw time in all 16 games, so it is perhaps likely that Casey and Pitoitua will rotate at the defensive end spot throughout the regular season. The Titans do plan on using a 3-4 defense more often now, as opposed to the 4-3 scheme that allowed for two defensive ends.

Brandon Gibson: As the only player listed at the No. 3 wide receiver position on the depth chart, Gibson has possibly the most job security on the Miami Dolphins roster. The team continues to utilize him as Gibson caught two passes for 28 receiving yards, and was targeted three times.

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