Two undrafted rookie free agents topped the list of outstanding HBCU NFL players in this week’s final preseason games.
Former Florida A&M standout safety Markquese Bell with the Dallas Cowboys and former Norfolk State pass rushing specialist De’Shaan Dixon with the Jacksonville Jaguars both emphatically made cases to be on their teams’ final 53-man roster with their play this week.
NFL teams will cut down from 80 to 53-man opening day rosters on Tuesday. The teams will then designate 16 players for their practice squads. The NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday, September 8 when the Super Bowl champion LA Rams host Buffalo.
HBCU NFL Report standouts
Bell picked off a pass from Seattle QB Drew Lock and had four solo tackles in the Cowboys’ final preseason game Friday vs. the Seahawks. Steven Bell of the Dallas Star-Telegram has more on how Bell solidified his chances of making the final roster.
Dixon was perhaps even more impressive leading the Jaguars with eight tackles, including an 11-yard sack of Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder and another tackle for a loss of three yards vs. the Falcons. Justin Lewis of the Florida Time-Union penned a story about Dixon’s efforts in camp.
Both have excellent chances to make their teams’ 53-man roster. Neither is likely to be cut.
HBCU NFL Report: More standouts
Two other rookies, both drafted this season, finished off their preseason with impressive showings.
Former Fayetteville State defensive back Joshua Williams, the first HBCU player drafted this season by Kansas City in the fourth round, led the Chiefs in their preseason finale vs. Green Bay with five total tackles. Williams has been impressive throughout the preseason.
Cobie Durant starred at South Carolina State and was taken by the Super Bowl champion LA Rams in the fourth round. He had a similar output. He started his second preseason game and posted three total tackles vs. Cincinnati.
HBCU NFL Report: Special teamers
Also, former South Carolina State and MEAC star, linebacker Joe Thomas, likely solidified his roster spot with the Chicago Bears as he posted two defensive tackles and two on special teams against Cleveland.
New York Giants punter Jamie Gillan out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff boomed five punts for an average of 55.6 yards per punt including a 67-yarder in his final preseason game vs. the New York Jets.
HBCU NFL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
For preseason games of August 25 – 28, 2022
– #41 MARKQUESE BELL, S, Dallas (1st season, FLORIDA A&M) – The free agent rookie started at safety for the Cowboys in 27-26 win over Seattle finishing with four solo tackles, one interception and one pass defended while playing 72 defensive snaps (97%) and 13 special teams’ snaps (39%). With his performance and pick, Bell appears to have solidified his spot on the 53-man roster as the Cowboys prepare to open at home vs. Tampa Bay on NBC’s Sunday Night Football on Sept. 11.
– #47 DE’SHAAN DIXON, DE, Jacksonville (1st season, NORFOLK STATE) – Led Jacksonville with eight total tackles, two solos and six assists, one sack for -11 yards and two tackles for loss in 28-12 loss to Atlanta. Dixon had 49 defensive snaps (75%) and four on special teams (16%).
– #66 JOSHUA MILES, OT, Arizona (4th season, MORGAN STATE) – Started at right tackle in 26-23 loss to Tennessee. Miles played all 71 offensive snaps (100%) and five special teams’ plays (15%). The Cardinals rushed for 86 yards and and passed for 285 yards and one TD.
– #45 JOE THOMAS, LB, Chicago (8th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Thomas had two solo tackles on defense and two special teams’ tackles in 21-20 win over Cleveland. He played nine snaps on defense (11%) and 16 on special teams (64%).
– #17 JAMIE GILLAN, P, New York Giants, (4th season, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF) – Punted five times for 278 yards (55.6-yard average) with a long punt of 67 yards in 31-27 loss to the New York Jets. Gillan was in on ten special team’s plays (33%).
OTHER TOP HBCU NFL PERFORMERS
– #71 TYTUS HOWARD, OG, Houston (4th season, ALABAMA STATE) – Former first round pick started at right tackle in 17-0 win over San Francisco getting in on 36 plays on offense (63%) and one special teams’ play (5%). The Texans rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown, passed for 94 yards and one TD and surrendered three sacks.
– #70 ALEX TAYLOR, OT, Cleveland (2nd season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – In Browns’ 21-20 loss to Chicago, Taylor played 51 snaps on offense (61%) and two on special teams (8%). Browns rushed for 78 yards and one TD and passed for 240 yards and one score.
– #78 TRENT SCOTT, OT, Pittsburgh (5th season, GRAMBLING STATE) – In 19-9 win over Detroit, Scott got in on 31 offensive plays (48%). The Steelers ran for 57 yards and passed for 250 yards and one TD.
– #73 LACHAVIOUS SIMMONS, OL, Chicago (3rd season, TENNESSEE STATE) – In 21-20 win over Cleveland, Simmons was in on 27 offensive snaps (47%) and one special teams’ snap (4%). The Bears rushed for 78 yards and passed for 267 yards and three TDs in the win.
More on offense
– #76 KION SMITH, OT, Miami (1st season, FAYETTEVILLE STATE) – Played 24 offensive snaps (38%) and five special teams’ snaps (17%) in 46-10 win over Philadelpha. The Dolphins rushed for 203 yards and one TD and passed for 298 yards and four TDs.
– #60 NICK LEVERETT, OL, Tampa Bay (2nd season, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL) – In 27-10 loss to Indianapolis, the Bucs rushed for 94 yards and passed for 184 yards. Leverett played on 18 offensive snaps (32%) and one special teams’ snap (3%). He hurt his shoulder and is awaiting test results.
– #69 JA’TYRE CARTER, OL, Chicago (1st season, SOUTHERN) – In 21-20 win over Cleveland, Carter was in on six offensive snaps (11%) and one special teams’ snap (4%). The Bears rushed for 78 yards and passed for 267 yards and three TDs in the win.
– #85 SHEMAR BRIDGES, WR, Baltimore (1st season, FORT VALLEY STATE) – The rookie caught one pass in two targets for eight yards in 17-15 win over Washington. Bridges was in on 15 offensive plays (39%) and 14 special teams’ plays (56%).
– #23 TRENTON CANNON, RB, Tennessee, (5th season, VIRGINIA STATE) – Did not register any stats in 26-23 win over Arizona. He was in on seven snaps (10%) and two (6%) on special teams.
– #12 KHADAREL HODGE, WR, Atlanta (5th season, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M) – Did not play vs. Jacksonville.
– # 72 TERRON ARMSTEAD, LT, New Orleans (9th season, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF) – Did not play vs. Philadelpha.
– #17 DAYLEN BALDWIN, WR, Cleveland (1st season, JACKSON STATE/MORGAN STATE) – Did not play vs. Chicago.
– #60 DAVID MOORE, OG, Cleveland (1st season, GRAMBLING STATE) – Did not play vs. Chicago.
– #23 JOSHUA WILLIAMS, CB, Kansas City (1st season, FAYETTEVILLE STATE) – In 17-10 win over Green Bay, Williams led the Chiefs with five total tackles, four solos with one pass defended and one special teams’ tackle. He played 39 (58%) defensive snaps and ten (43%) special teams’ snaps.
– #14 COBIE DURANT, CB, LA Rams (1st season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Started at cornerback for Rams in 16-7 loss to Cincinnati and had three total tackles, two solos and one assist on defense. Durant was in on 47 defensive plays (77%) and three on special teams (16%).
– #90 GROVER STEWART, DT, Indianapolis (6th season, ALBANY STATE) – Three total tackles, two solos and two tackles for loss in 27-10 win over Tampa Bay. Stewart was in on only 11 plays (19%) on defense and four (14%) on special teams.
– #37 MAC McCAIN, CB, Philadelpha (2nd season, NORTH CAROLINA A&T) – Started at cornerback for the Eagles in 46-10 loss to Miami. Posted two solo tackles while playing 54 defensive plays (84%) and 20 special teams’ plays (67%). The Eagles surrendered 297 passing yards and four TDs.
– #56 QUINTON BELL, OLB, Atlanta (2nd year, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M) – Bell had two tackles, a solo and an assist in 28-12 win over Jacksonville. Bell was in on 25 plays on defense (41%) and 11 plays on special teams (44%).
– #27 BOBBY PRICE, CB, Detroit (3rd season, NORFOLK STATE) – Had two solo tackles in 19-9 loss to Pittsburgh. Price played 15 defensive plays (23%) and 14 special teams’ snaps (56%).
More on Defense
– #59 JAMES HOUSTON, LB, Detroit (1st year, JACKSON STATE) – Had one special teams’ tackle in 19-9 loss to Pittsburgh. Houston got in on nine defensive plays (14%) and five special teams’ plays (20%).
– #92 DARRYL JOHNSON, DE, Carolina (4th season, NORTH CAROLINA A&T) – Did not have stats in Carolina’s 21-0 win over Buffalo. Johnson got in 20 defensive plays (36%) and five (29%) on special teams.
– #36 DANNY JOHNSON, CB, Washington (5th season, SOUTHERN) – Johnson started at cornerback in the Commanders’ 17-15 loss to Baltimore. Johnson was in on 18 defensive plays (47%) and one on special teams (4%).
– # 97 JAVON HARGRAVE, DT, Philadelphia (7th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Did not vs. Miami.
– #33 ANTONIO HAMILTON, CB, Arizona (7th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Did not play in 26-23 loss to Tennessee.
– #53 SHAQUILLE LEONARD, LB, Indianapolis (5th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Did not play vs. Tampa Bay.
– # 75 BRANDON PARKER, OT, Las Vegas (4th season, NORTH CAROLINA A&T) – Out with torn triceps. Placed on reserve/injured list.
– #16 CHESTER ROGERS, WR/KR, Houston (6th season, GRAMBLING STATE) – Was placed on the reserve/injured list following the Texans’ 24-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams last week.
HBCU NFL PLAYERS BY POSITION IN CAMPS
Before the Tuesday, August 30 cutdown from 80 to 53 players
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN 10 (2G, 8T)
DEFENSIVE BACKS 7 (6DB, 1S)
WIDE RECEIVERS 3 (3WR, OTE)
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN 4 (2DT, 2DE)
LINEBACKERS 4 (2OLB, 2ILB)
RUNNING BACKS 1