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Hawks in the NFL - Rookies Head to Training Camp

A look around the League at where Iowa’s NFL rookies stand with just under a month until final roster cuts.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

With the onset of August we’re finally getting close to the first football since the darkness of February. While the college season begins its season in earnest on August 27th, NFL teams have been busy with training camps ahead of the first preseason games next week. The preseason should provide plenty of opportunities for Iowa fans to watch former players take their best shots at obtaining a coveted final-53 roster spot.

Iowa had two players selected in the 2022 draft this past April and five taken post-draft as undrafted free agents. Each player has a unique path ahead of them and different challenges to making a final roster. Let’s take a look at how each is faring ahead of the first week of preseason week 1.

Tyler Linderbaum, C | Baltimore Ravens

The most unsurprising development in the draft for the Hawkeyes came when All-American Tyler Linderbaum was drafted in the first round, going to the Ravens at 25th overall. The Rimington Trophy winner was seen as the top center in the draft and has so far been impressing Ravens staff and teammates with his athleticism, tenacity, and drive to improve his game. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris praised his learning ability and growing leadership potential, a critical quality for a center, and teammate Michael Pierce called the rookie “fiesty” and drew comparisons to Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce.

With Baltimore losing center Bradley Bozeman to free agency, the path is clear for Linderbaum to take over starting duties.

Dane Belton, DB | New York Giants

Iowa’s original Cash defensive back was drafted in the fourth round at 114th overall to the New York Football Giants. If I had written this only a few days ago I’d have probably focused on his versatility in the Giants’ secondary, his getting starting reps in camp, or this delicious interception of Daniel Jones:

Unfortunately, this week Belton’s camp took a turn for the worse. On Monday, Belton suffered a broken collarbone and while Giants coach Brian Daboll said it will not require surgery, the rookie will still miss multiple important weeks of practice and preseason competition.

If Belton can get healthy soon, he should be in the mix for a backup role to starters Xavier McKinney and Julian Love.

NFL: JUL 27 Green Bay Packers Training Camp Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tyler Goodson, RB | Green Bay Packers

Tyler Goodson kept Iowa fans entertained in his three years at running back with his combination of shiftiness and speed. But that wasn’t enough for a team to use one of their draft picks on him and he landed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent.

That hasn’t stopped Goodson from showing off those same skills in the Packers camp. With 2021 seventh round pick Kylin Hill recovering from a torn ACL this summer, Goodson is in the thick of the battle to back up the duo of AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones along with fellow UDFA BJ Baylor out of Oregon State. While Baylor had more rushing yards in the 2021 campaign than Goodson (1,337 to 1,151, respectively), it’s the latter’s potential in the passing game that could set him apart. In a Packers offense that now lacks star Davante Adams that quality may be enough to put Goodson ahead in the roster battle. Expect to see a good(son) amount of action from Tyler this preseason.

Matt Hankins, CB | Atlanta Falcons

Another key member of Iowa’s ball-hawking secondary, Hankins landed with the Altlanta Falcons after the draft wrapped. However, so far he’s struggled to stand out in a crowded Falcons secondary except for the wrong reasons.

An already talented secondary and disappointing camp so far means Hankins will need to stand out for better reasons in preseason action.

Jack Koerner, S | New Orleans Saints

Koerner is another of former doughboy defensive back on another NFL defense with established talent. Unfortunately, less than a month after signing, the Saints waived Koerner and he has not yet found another landing spot.

Zach VanValkenburg, DE | Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have been very active in the defensive end market, searching for more ammunition behind Chandler Jones and Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby. ZVV was one of many defensive end pickups, this offseason and in an AFC loaded with uber-talented QB’s, quality pass rush will be in high demand. It will be interesting to see what Zach does in preseason action amidst a crowded field.

Caleb Shudak, K | Tennessee Titans

Shudak is in a one-on-one battle with Randy Bullock for the Titans’ starting spot, but a leg injury in June and placed on the PUP list. The good news is it seems like the Titans are being patient with his return, which would seem to indicate they want to really see what Caleb can do.