The NFL season begins Thursday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing the Dallas Cowboys, officially kicking off another year with plenty of Syracuse Orange football alumni in the league. While some old faces were cut last week, a few more recent names made NFL rosters, so I thought it would be helpful to run down the depth chart standings of the Oranges on professional rosters as of Tuesday morning.
Starters at their respective positions
Chandler Jones & Justin Pugh - Arizona Cardinals, Riley Dixon - New York Giants, Zaire Franklin - Indianapolis Colts
After a rocky offseason, Jones returned to the Cardinals ready to resume his high end performance that saw him as a finalist for defensive player of the year two years ago. Jones will be playing opposite JJ Watt, in what should be a terrifying pass rush for Arizona. Opposite them in practice is Justin Pugh, who will remain the starting left guard on the offensive line. Moving east, Zaire Franklin won’t be starting on defense, but he will continue to be a special teams regular and presumably remain a team captain. Finally, former Heisman Snub Riley Dixon holds down punting duties for the blue New York/New Jersey team for a 4th consecutive season. He’ll be looking to rebound from career lows in average and NET average yards.
Competing for starting positions
Andre Cisco - Jacksonville Jaguars, Alton Robinson - Seattle Seahawks,
Cisco and Robinson enter two very different types of starting battles this season. Cisco was the highest rated rookie safety by PFF during the preseason, and head coach Urban Meyer admitted there was a battle between the former Orange and retuning starter Josh Jones. Who starts Week 1? No one is sure. But it won’t surprise anyone if it does end up being Cisco. Robinson is poised for a breakout season after having some key moments down the stretch last season for the ‘Hawks. The Seattle defensive line is aging and they need to find long term solutions for the position if they want to maximize their window with Russell Wilson. The hope is that Robinson pushes his way into the starting mix this season and is half of the long term solution.
Trill Williams - Miami Dolphins, Ifeatu Melifonwu - Detroit Lions
Trill and Iffy both enter crowded secondary rooms that leave playing time in doubt. However, their inclusion on the 53 man roster as rookies speaks to the value the coaching staff sees in them, which is incredibly promising long term. Melifonwu will be gunning for a corner position, while Trill has a chance to play in numerous secondary positions or even as a pass defense linebacker. It’s still unclear where Miami sees him fitting in best, but he’ll get the chance to figure that out with the rest of the roster instead of the practice squad.
Koda Martin - Arizona Cardinals, Chris Slayton - Atlanta Falcons, Trishton Jackson - Minnesota Vikings,
Martin and Slayton each return to their respective clubs who cut them last week via the practice squad. Both will be entering their second years with the respective teams. Jackson spent last season with the Rams before standing out in the preseason for them, but being cut last week. The Vikings pounced and signed him a couple days later.