We are one week away, Hawkeye fans. One week away from game previews, updated two-deeps, and that first walk to Kinnick. Until then, however, we’re left with the glimpses we continue to get from the fantastic photo and video crew at fall camp and the former Hawkeyes we see performing in the NFL.
Sure, it’s only the preseason and the games mean absolutely nothing, but it’s still football on TV and aside from your professional rooting interests and fantasy football hopes and dreams there’s the prospect of keeping up with former Iowa guys vying for roster spots in the league. There’s quite a few of them, which I think a lot of Iowa fans have come to take for granted, but it’s worth noting. There are currently 36 Hawkeyes on NFL rosters
Apparently Iowa State has been too busy actually helping farmers to actually send guys to the league instead of doing both.
As for those Hawkeyes cashing checks on the gridiron? They had an OK week in week 2 of the NFL preseason.
Things got started with Adrian Clayborn and his new team, the New England Patriots last Thursday. Clayborn got the strip sack leading to a defensive TD in the 2nd.
STRIP SACK ADRIAN CLAYBORN! SCOOP AND SCORE JA’WHAUN BENTLEYpic.twitter.com/ft4UkYQpCC— PatriotsNation™️ (@PatsNationTM) August 17, 2018
Clayborn is entering his 8th season in the NFL and coming off a career high 9.5 sacks last season with the Atlanta Falcons. That’s why the Pats are set to pay him $10M over the next two seasons. Secure the bag Predator, secure the bag.
Clayborn’s performance on Thursday night was just the appetizer for the two course meal of Hawkeye goodness that came the next two nights. First it was former All-American cornerback Josh Jackson making an impact for the Green Bay Packers.
This should look familiar to Iowa fans:
Josh Jackson a PFF college grading stud. Pick six here! pic.twitter.com/dWO11dUGSU— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 17, 2018
Jackson got plenty of run for the Packers in week 2, adding a 41-yard punt return in addition to the pick-6. The performance was rated as the best among Packer defenders according to Pro Football Focus and earned Jackson a spot on their defensive team of the week.
The Packers secondary has some bodies and Jackson is currently listed as a third-stringer, but the impressive play has continued every time he’s been on the field in game action and I think it’s safe to assume he’ll carve a role out for himself this season.
Josh Jackson wasn’t the only former Hawkeye who found himself headed for the endzone last week. Rookie linebacker Ben Niemann performed the encore on Saturday night with a pick-6 in the 4th quarter for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Niemann finds himself a bit further down the depth chart, currently listed as the fourth string right inside linebacker for the Chiefs. It’s great seeing him perform well when given the opportunity. Big plays like that (he ended the game with the second highest grade on the Chiefs D according to PFF) and the 4th down stuff against the Texans a week ago will go a long way to helping him find himself on the right side of the cut line in a few weeks.
Elsewhere, another Hawkeye tight end is making plays. Go figure.
Henry Krieger-Coble is currently listed as the 5th tight end for L.A. That’s a tough spot to be in, but tight ends make solid special teams players and an injury could land him on a roster.
Several other Hawkeyes had impressive performances in week 2, including Jaleel Johnson, who led the Vikings with 7 tackles and a forced fumble.
I would argue Jaleel Johnson and Eric Wilson are two of the most improved players on the #Vikings roster. Jaleel was dominant during stretches of today's game. He's refined his technique and uses his hands so well to shed. Here's a clip of some of his best plays: pic.twitter.com/xfwez296H6— Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL) August 18, 2018
Johnson is a lock to make the roster and with his reformed body, it sounds like he may play a key role along the defensive line in Minnesota.
While guys like Jackson and Niemann have made names for themselves with big plays in the preseason games, other former Hawkeyes are making names for themselves on the practice field.
In San Francisco, that’s the forgotten man, Greg Mabin, who played opposite Desmond King as a Hawkeye. Had he been the focal point of the secondary, he likely would have been more revered by Iowa fans. Now he seems poised to have a solid NFL career, making a name for himself with the 49ers.
Final #49ers training ingcamp practice of 2018 just ended. Standouts included:— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 16, 2018
* D.J. Reed
* Greg Mabin
* Fred Warner
Making plays like this are how you find your self on a list like the above. Good stuff Greg Mabin.
Other former Hawkeyes are finding new homes. Former running back Leshun Daniels Jr. is working back from a hand injury sustained late last season, when he played in four games for the Washington Redskins.
Now he joins a plethora of former Hawkeyes in Green Bay.
Packers have a new running back. Details here: pic.twitter.com/9sihpik9gz— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 18, 2018
That makes four Hawkeyes on the Packer roster, second behind only the five in New England for NFL rosters. Daniels has his work cut out for him with 3 entrenched backs already on the roster and a couple other borderline guys vying for a roster spot.
A couple of guys not vying for a roster spot are safety Micah Hyde of the Buffalo Bills and Christian Kirksey of the Cleveland Browns. The two met last week in the preseason and had the customary post-game pleasantries we’ve come to expect.
.@Kirko58 and @micah_hyde sending @TheIowaHawkeyes some love. #NFLHawks#HardKnocksNow: Training Camp with the Cleveland @Browns. New episodes air Tuesday nights at 10 ET on @HBO pic.twitter.com/yguPIyC8sy— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) August 18, 2018
For those of you who aren’t already watching Hard Knocks on HBO, it’s a strong recommend here. Forking over $15 for an add-on channel is a tough pill to swallow, but if you’re a football fan it really is worth it for a month. Especially when the Browns have a former Hawkeye as the face of their defense.
Kirksey featured prominently in the first episode that aired two weeks ago and certainly represented the Hawkeyes well. Here’s a look at one of his spotlights.
I do what I do because of my Dad and my family! I love the game of football because it changed my life forever and the people around me. I want to the change the world, and be a positive influence to everyone! Never be afraid to step out and take on unbelievable tasks! @NFLFilms pic.twitter.com/NOTj2lWaCi— Christian Kirksey (@Kirko58) August 11, 2018
Really good stuff and I think indicative of what we tend to think about Kirk Ferentz instilling in his guys. Hard Knocks is a no holds barred show where you can get some great and not so great material. Kirksey certainly seemed to be on the great end to me.
And if you’re really looking for every Iowa connection you can find, the Browns have a WR buried on the depth chart who should be familiar to Hawkeye fans. Derrick Willies is a blast from the past. He doesn’t have much of a role in the show or likely with the Browns, but he did get 3 targets last week and caught a TD pass from Baker Mayfield only to have it called back. He definitely has a roster spot on the “All What Could Have Been” team at Iowa.
And finally, not at all football related, but damn cool: I present to you, the 2018 Nun League Cy Young winner.
Happy Monday everyone. It’s the last week without college football at the end of it. Get out there and rock it like Sister Mary Jo.