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Spartans in the NFL: Preseason Week 1 Reports

Many say that the preseason doesn’t matter. While this may be true in the standings, it is not for many of the players. August is a critical time of year for players such as the twenty-four Spartans trying to become mainstays on NFL rosters, so stay tuned to the column Spartans in the NFL through the preseason. Here is a summary of all the action this past week.

Rookie Redskin quarterback Kirk Cousins experienced some of the highs and lows of the NFL in his first professional game in Thursday’s 7-6 win over the Bills. The highs included a 17-yard completion and praise from head coach Mike Shanahan. The lows included dropped passes by his receivers and an interception. The former Michigan State standout completed only 9 of 22 passes for 74 yards, but played with confidence. As Shanahan said: “I thought Kirk did a great job, thought he came in and played well. [We] had a few drops in there [when] we had a chance to make big plays. [I] liked his poise and composure.” Cousins tweeted about the experience after the game: "1st NFL game in the books. Felt good. Jersey was about 3 sizes 2 big, guys sayin it looked like a Halloween costume. May be the new look tho."

Four MSU men played in an early preseason game between the Bears and the Broncos. The three Spartans on the Broncos’ roster won the contest, as Denver destroyed Chicago, 31-3. For the Broncos, Kevin Vickerson started at defensive tackle, Jeremy Ware had one tackle at cornerback, and wideout Mark Dell wound up with an 11-yard run after recovering his own fumble. For the Bears, Kellen Davis started at tight end and had one catch for five yards. Not long after the game, Jeremy Ware was cut from Denver’s roster.

Many rumors have been swirling around free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Last week, it was reported that Burress was willing to accept the league’s veteran minimum to play. Another story was broken that he owes over $59,000 of New York back taxes. Then ESPN reported that the Patriots were going to work out Burress. ESPN Boston reporter Mike Reiss explained New England’s move on his Camp Confidential, which was shown on SportsCenter: “Bill Belichick is always looking to add competition to the Patriots’ roster, and that probably best explains why the team hosted free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress on a work out Sunday. The Patriots already have a handful of established veterans at wide receiver: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, and Donte` Stallworth. That Belichick would consider another highlights his desire to up the competitiveness in training camp. Belichick wouldn’t announce that the team had worked out Burress, saying only that the club works out a lot of players and tries to stay on top of all available options…At this time, it seems like the Patriots are ready to roll on without Burress, but that could potentially change in the future.” Burress could make a solid signing for a team in need of a receiver depth. The veteran is golden in the red zone, where he was targeted 21 times (4th in the NFL), and caught seven touchdowns (tied for third in the NFL).

Middle linebacker Greg Jones recorded one tackle for the Giants in a close 32-31 loss to the Jaguars. The rest of the preseason is key for Jones, who may be fighting for a roster spot as a backup.

Center Kyle Cook and defensive tackle Domata Peko of the Bengals both started in the team’s first preseason game against the Jets. Peko recorded one assist in his appearance.

The Patriots’ Brian Hoyer was impressive in his first appearance of the preseason. The fourth year quarterback is auditioning for the primary backup spot behind Tom Brady and possibly a starting job on a team next year. Hoyer did not disappoint, as he completed 8 of 15 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He led the team down the field for New England’s lone score of the night, on a 14-play 97-yard drive.

Brandon Fields showed why the Dolphins rewarded him with a contract extension, as the punter did well in Miami’s 20-7 loss to the Buccaneers. Fields booted the ball four times for an average of 45 yards, with his longest punt being 59 yards. His teammate, B.J. Cunningham, reeled in three passes for fifteen yards while playing wide receiver.

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Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy had a quiet debut for the Packers in a 20-13 loss to the Chargers. Worthy played during the first drive and was on the field for 25 plays overall. Playing primarily in the nickel at right tackle, but also a significant amount in the 3-4 at right end, Worthy only recorded one tackle. San Diego running back Edwin Baker also had an uneventful game, as he had one carry for three yards.

The Jets were dealt a small blow when safety Eric Smith went down with an MCL sprain in his left knee during a 17-6 loss to the Bengals. Smith will be out for the rest of the preseason but should be ready for Week 1. A key piece of the secondary, Smith will see a lot of snaps to keep presumed starters LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell fresh. For the Bengals, both center Kyle Cook and defensive tackle Domata Peko started. Peko, a big part of the team’s stacked defensive line, recorded one assist.

Javon Ringer had an opportunity to play early in the second quarter of the Titans’ 27-17 loss to the Seahawks. Ringer had four rushes for 22 yards and one catch for 12 yards.

The three Spartans on the Colts’ roster had a good day, as the team annihilated the Rams, 38-3. Each player saw some action, with Drew Stanton arguably performing the best. The backup quarterback completed 8 of 11 passes for 83 yards, good for a 94.1 QB rating. Cornerback Chris Rucker also did well, as he picked off a pass in the fourth quarter, returning it for 33 yards. Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, who figures to be a significant part of the Colts defensive line, recovered a fumble in the second quarter. For the Rams, fullback Todd Anderson, who missed a day of practice last week, played but did not record any stats.

Rookies Trenton Robinson and Garrett Celek each made a small impact for the 49ers in a 17-6 loss to the Vikings. Robinson had a pass defensed while playing safety. At tight end, Celek caught a pass for 9 yards before fumbling the ball and recovering it himself.

The impressive rookie wideout Keshawn Martin started for the Texans in a 26-13 triumph over the Panthers. He had two catches for 24 yards and looks to build on a solid training camp so far. On the other side of the field, Ogemdi Nwagbuo saw action at defensive tackle for Carolina, recording two tackles and one pass defensed.

Ross Weaver saw a little bit of action for the Lions in a 19-17 loss to the Browns. The cornerback had one tackle, which came in the fourth quarter.

Offensive tackle D.J. Young got some reps for the Cardinals in a 27-17 loss to the Chiefs. Young committed an illegal use of the hands penalty (which was declined) in the fourth quarter.