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8 Days Until Kansas Football: NFL Jayhawks

Who you can look for on Sundays this fall?

Texas Tech v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

NFL training camps are now two or three weeks in, and Kansas City sports talk radio is already unbearable unless you’re a huge Chiefs fan. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the guys in the league.

Before we get started a few notable Jayhawks who are no longer in the league: Toben Opurum, Darrell Stuckey, Jacorey Shepherd, Steven Johnson.

Opurum hasn’t been on an NFL roster since failing a physical with the Broncos in 2016.

A special teams standout for years, Stuckey was cut by the Chargers in training camp of 2017 after sustaining a knee injury in the 2016 season finale.

Shepherd signed on with the Steelers for 2017 camp, but got cut on 9/2/17 and hasn’t been picked up by anyone else since then.

Steven Johnson signed with the Baltimore Ravens midway through the 2017 season, played in 10 games and recorded 5 tackles. He appears to still be a member of the Ravens per his page, but I can’t find any references to him in training camp for this season.

NFL Jayhawks

With the information from ESPN, in alphabetical order:

Dorance Armstrong, DE, Dallas Cowboys

Obviously, Armstrong is entering his rookie season in the NFL after skipping what would have been his senior year at KU in 2018. A fourth-round draft pick in 2018, he isn’t expected to start right away, but is making waves in his first NFL training camp and is expected to be a feature on the Cowboys defensive line for years to come.

Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos

With the offseason trade of Aqib Talib out of Mile High, Harris takes over the #1 CB job in Denver. Famously an undrafted free agent who has found stardom in the NFL, Harris is a three-time Pro Bowler, an All-Pro (2015), and a Super Bowl Champion. He says he’s more motivated than ever in 2018 after not receiving any “accolades” last year following Denver’s 5-11 campaign.

Ben Heeney, LB, Houston Texans

After playing in 15 games for the Oakland Raiders in 2015, Heeney has struggled with injury and now finds himself with the Texans trying to make a roster. He only played in five games for the Texans in 2017, mostly on special teams, before arthroscopic knee surgery put him on injured reserved in late November. Heeney was a fifth-round draft pick of the Raiders in 2015.

Ben Johnson, TE, LA Chargers

Johnson got to LA following the 2018 NFL Draft as an undrafted free agent. Interestingly, the Chargers are down two tight ends so far in training camp, both to torn ACLs. With Johnson also contributing on special teams, he appears to actually have a solid chance to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp.

Dexter McDonald, CB, Oakland Raiders

Now entering his fourth NFL season, McDonald was a seventh-round draft choice of the Raiders back in 2015. Last year McDonald saw the most playing time of his professional career, playing in 15 games, starting 6, and recording 43 tackles and one forced fumble. All reports say the starting corner positions in Oakland are wide open, and McDonald appears to be a favorite in the race.

Bradley McDougald, S, Seattle Seahawks

Another undrafted Jayhawk to play multiple years in the league, McDougald’s NFL career began in the 2013 season. He has bounced around a bit, from Kansas City to Tampa to Seattle, where he signed a three-year, $13.5M deal with $6.5M guaranteed.

McDougald played in all 16 games for the Seahawks in 2017, starting nine of them and recording 75 tackles. He is expected to start for the Seahawks in 2018. Reportedly, the only way he won’t start is if he gets injured.

Fish Smithson, S, Washington Redskins

Undrafted out of Kansas in 2017 (notice a pattern yet?), Smithson is set to begin his second year with Washington. He spent most of 2017 on the Redskins’ practice squad before being activated on 12/19/17. He saw limited action in weeks 16 and 17, recording one tackle against the Broncos in week 16.

So far in 2018 he has played in both preseason games, recording five tackles. However, Smithson is reportedly fourth on the depth chart at free safety, which means it will be an uphill climb to break camp with the team this year.

Aqib Talib, CB, LA Rams

A first-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, Talib is probably the most well-known Jayhawk in the league. He has been a five-time Pro Bowler, All-Pro in 2016, and a Super Bowl Champion in his 11-year career. Last season in Denver, Talib started 15 games, recording 31 tackles, one INT (that he returned 103 yards for a touchdown), and a forced fumble.