The NFL regular season will begin this week and several former Blue Devils are preparing to get their season’s underway. Duke had 2 players drafted in the first four rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft, marking the third straight year a Blue Devil has been drafted. Several others have found their way to a roster as undrafted free agents. Here’s a look at each former Duke player and their current situation heading into the 2015 NFL regular season:
Laken Tomlinson, OG. Detroit Lions. Tomlinson was a first round draft pick for the Lions this year and should contribute in his first NFL season. While currently listed as the backup at left guard , Tomlinson should get plenty of opportunities this season. Tomlinson played at right guard while at Duke, so while it may take some time to adjust to working on the opposite side, it won’t be long before his talent takes over.
Jamison Crowder, WR. Washington Redskins. After missing the first two weeks of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Crowder is finally healthy and ready to start the season. In preseason game 3, he finally saw his first NFL action. He finished the night with 4 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Crowder figures to get a look in the return game for Washington, both on punts and kickoffs, and should also get some opportunities as a slot receiver.
Juwan Thompson, RB. Denver Broncos. Thompson made the Broncos last year as an UFA. He impressed in training camp and in the preseason, and as injuries took their toll he became a key contributor as a member of the Denver backfield. His totals for 2014: 54 carries, 272 yards, 3 TDs. 4 catches 25 yards. Thompson was a near lock to make the team from the onset of training camp, a new feeling for him.
Kenny Anunike, DE. Denver Broncos. Anunike seemingly came out of nowhere and turned heads in training camp last season after being signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent. At the very least, Anunike had earned himself a spot on the Broncos practice squad before a season ending elbow injury in the final preseason game of 2014. To prevent another team from picking up the impressive DE, the Broncos elected to sign him and place him on IR. Anunike had a minor knee procedure this preseason, but showed enough to be signed to the active roster. He has yet to return to the practice field, but is listed as day-to-day and could be ready by opening day.
Vincent Rey, LB. Cincinnati Bengals. Rey is the longest tenured former Blue Devil in the NFL. He is entering his sixth season, all in Cincinnati. His role has increased each year with the Bengals. Last year he started 13 games tallying 66 tackles. He is projected to be the starting weakside LB again this season as Vontaze Burfict is on the PUP list.
Sean Renfree, QB. Atlanta Falcons. Renfree was drafted by the Falcons in 2013. He spent most of his rookie season injured. Last year he served as the third QB on the Falcons’ roster. Heading into the 2015 season he sits as the backup to Matt Ryan after beating out veterans TJ Yates and Rex Grossman in training camp. Renfree had a very efficient preseason going 26 for 36 for 237 yards and a touchdown in limited time over 3 games.
Cooper Helfet, TE. Seattle Seahawks. Helfet has spent the entirety of his short career in Seattle. He was a member of the practice squad during their Super Bowl winning season and spent all of 2014 on the active roster. In 2014 he played in 10 games, getting 2 starts. He totaled 12 catches for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. Their was some doubt he would be retained after the Seahawks signed Jimmy Graham this offseason, but Seattle elected to keep him. He has proven to be reliable in the offense and on special teams.
Ross Cockrell, CB. Pittsburgh Steelers. Cockrell spent just one season in Buffalo after being drafted by the Bills in the fourth round of last year’s draft. Cockrell suffered a leg injury at the beginning of training camp and never had time to catch up and show the new coaching staff what he could do. He wasn’t on the market for long, as the Steelers announced his signing with the revealing of their 53 man roster on Saturday.
Takoby Cofield, OT. Washington Redskins (Practice Squad). Cofield was signed as an UFA shortly after the 2015 NFL Draft. He was one of the more sought after undrafted rookies and ended up in Washington, netting the highest signing bonus of all UFAs. Cofield was released by Washington in the final round of roster cuts this past weekend, but was promptly signed to their practice squad. Cofield may be seen as a bit of a project for Washington at this point in time, but clearly they see some things in his ability that they like. He is eligible to sign with any NFL team as long as it is to their active roster.
Matt Daniels, S. Jacksonville Jaguars (Injured Reserve). Daniels is entering his fourth year as a pro. He spent the first half of his career with the Rams. He was signed by the Jaguars last season. After battling with injuries since his arrival in Jacksonville, he was released late last week with an injury designation. Since no team picked him up off waivers he will revert back to the Jaguars injured reserve.