Miami Hurricanes football has returned in glorious fashion. As we revel in the return of future NFL stars, SOTU brings you a preview of former ’Canes, better known as ProCanes, for the upcoming 2017–2018 NFL season.
The offseason is long and torturous for football fans and players. The decision to retire and exist in a permanent offseason is a difficult one for players to make. In the past year we’ve seen some of Miami’s most heralded football stars sign their names on retirement papers. WR Reggie Wayne, WR Andre Johnson, and DT Vince Wilfork have walked away from the game that has given them so much. It’s bittersweet to watch: although these guys will no longer be playing football, it appears that each one will be transitioning to a promising second act.
With the void left by these retirements, there is room for the younger generation of ProCanes to step up and continue the legacy of Hurricanes with illustrious NFL careers. Look no further than the 2017 NFL Draft, where nine players were selected, including the first-round pick of TE David Njoku by the Cleveland Browns. A majority of the 2017 class is poised to see significant playing time when the NFL season kicks off this Thursday with Kansas City visiting the reigning champion New England Patriots, a game we’ll preview later.
Before we go into the opening week preview, we want to discuss the cuts, waiver wire claims, and other transactions that happened after Thursday’s final preseason games. Unlike previous seasons, this year teams were able to keep a 90-man roster throughout training camp and the entire preseason. Previously, the 90-man roster had to be cut to 72 before the final cut to 53 players for the regular season. This change means means there were plenty of exit meetings over the past few days. Here is a list of the ProCanes who will be looking to play with a team elsewhere.
DT Calvin Heurtelou waived by Green Bay Packers
DB Tracy Howard released by Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Brad Kaaya released by Detroit Lions
WR Malcolm Lewis released by Miami Dolphins
LB Sean Spence released by Indianapolis Colts
OL (NFLPA President) Eric Winston released by Cincinnati Bengals
WR Phillip Dorsett traded to New England for QB Jacoby Brissett
Players that have been released will go through a waiver wire process on Sunday. Those that go unclaimed will be up for grabs as teams begin to fill out their practice roster starting on Sunday afternoon.
Opening Week Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots 8:30 PM EDT
Another season, another banner for Robert Kraft and the Patriots. After one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history, New England returns with perhaps the best team on paper that they’ve ever put together.
Allen Bailey is the lone ProCane in this matchup, who returns to NFL action and the Chiefs after missing most of the 2016–2017 season with a shoulder injury. Bailey seems to have regained his imposing form in the preseason, which is great news for a Chiefs defense that finally has a healthy Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson at linebacker. Bailey could pair with Chris Jones to create a devastating defensive interior in the AFC West. Look for Bailey to factor in the run game as he looks to create negative yards for Patriots running backs Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, and Dion Lewis.
The 2017 Rookie Class
Most Miami athletes are accustomed to the pressure to perform, although it’s. debatable whether there is more pressure playing in front of UM fans or on the big stage of the NFL. Regardless, the rookie seasons for most of the 2017 class will be intriguing to follow. We’ll look at each player’s scenario:.
QB Brad Kaaya
The man who occupied the starting quarterback position for the Hurricanes the past three seasons now represents the Detroit Lions, or he did until Saturday. After he was drafted by the Lions, some people believed that Kaaya could become the backup for starter Matthew Stafford. While Kaaya’s preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts went well, he has been unable to be consistent for much of the preseason. Kaaya was clearly running third behind QB Jake Rudock and likely wouldn’t see the field much if the Lions are serious about making a playoff push. After being released by the Lions on Saturday, assuming he clears waivers, he should wind up on Detroit’s practice squad.
TE David Njoku
Unlike Kaaya, Njoku was drafted to be the starting tight end for a young Cleveland Browns offense after the team released Gary Barnidge shortly after the draft. Njoku provides playmaking ability in the middle and down the field for a Browns offense that has recently lacked that type of threat. In the preseason, coach Hue Jackson made a conscious effort to put Njoku in a position to succeed by calling tunnel screens, go routes, and short-to-intermediate routes that Miami’s TD leader in 2016 is familiar with. The biggest concern with Njoku has more to do with who will be throwing him the ball. DeShone Kizer will be feeling his way through his first season in the NFL and have growing pains to contend with. If Kizer is the guy at QB, then there is no better friend for a new quarterback in the passing game than a tight end.
S Adrian Colbert
While defensive backs likely won’t win you fantasy games, they could help your team win in real life. The 49ers are in rebuild mode. While the front seven have some pillars on which to build, the secondary is a concern this season. Colbert has been a bright spot, providing solid coverage as a corner, and was recently moved back to his old position at safety, since starting safety Jimmie Ward remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Dreams do come true— Adrian Colbert (@AdrianColbert25) September 2, 2017
Colbert appears to be a fixture on a young defense, and he could earn a starting job sooner rather than later.
WR Stacy Coley
Coley, who had a somewhat quiet senior season at Miami, appears to be on track to have a better pro career than collegiate one. Coley has provided the speed and spark that the Vikings need in the passing game from players other than Cook or Diggs. With Michael Floyd suspended for the first four games of the regular season and 2015 pick WR Laquon Treadwell playing enigmatically, there could be space in the WR rotation for Coley early this season.
CB Corn Elder
There was plenty of promise when Corn Elder was drafted by the Carolina Panthers. He was likely to play an important role in a secondary that needs the help and establish himself in the lineup. However, Elder suffered a patella stress fracture that has sidelined him for most of training camp and the preseason. At the time of this post, it’s unknown if he’ll be ready for opening week.
In the preseason Jenkins was listed as a third-string strong safety. Due to the team’s emphasis on size in the secondary, Jenkins could have a role in nickel packages in place of Denzel Perryman, according to Bolts From The Blue.
G Danny Isidora
Isidora is currently working as a backup at guard but has received minimal reps with the first-team offense. While he’s been praised by head coach Mike Zimmer for his work in the preseason, Zimmer also noted that he does need to work on some things. As Isidora goes through his rookie season, he should only improve as he gains experience.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
Ask a Hurricanes fan about Muhammad, and they’ll tell you how talented the guy has been. So it’s no surprise that Muhammad has put together a solid preseason to earn a roster spot, using a quick get off to create numerous tackles for loss and pressure for the QB.
While Muhammad didn’t live up to his full potential at Miami, he appears to be a quick study now that he’s in the pros. He’ll be part of the DE rotation opposite Cameron Jordan.
FB Marquez Williams
The fullback position is still alive and well in the NFL. After being drafted by the Jaguars in the seventh round, Williams found himself in a battle with three-year veteran Tommy Bohanon for the starting fullback position. The winner of this battle will be the lead blocker for running backs Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory. Williams does bring his soft hands to the passing game, which he illustrated in the opening week of the preseason by hauling in a TD reception.
LB Jermaine Grace
Yesterday new broke that Jermaine Grace will be a member of the Atlanta Falcons’s 53-man roster.
Along with Muhammad, Jermaine Grace missed the entire 2016 season before declaring his intentions to the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Miramar High linebacker signed with the Atlanta Falcons soon as a free agent, with long odds to make the final 53-man roster. However, Miami’s leading tackler in 2015 balled out on the big stage, impressing Atlanta’s coaching staff. Grace is an excellent fit on a defense that is keen on closing speed to football.
P Justin Vogel
After going undrafted, Vogel was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Packers. He went on to win punting duties for the Cheeseheads, joining fellow ProCane Pat O’Donnell of the Chicago Bears as The U’s representatives in the NFC North.
S Jamal Carter
Signed as an undrafted free agent, Carter played lights out for the majority of the preseason. Due in part to the play of Carter, Denver released three-time pro bowl safety T.J. Ward yesterday. Justin Simmons will get the start at safety alongside Darian Stewart. Carter could carve out a role as a hybrid safety/linebacker, similar to how the Arizona Cardinals use Deone Bucannon as an undersized linebacker.
With the preseason behind us, it’s time to look forward to meaningful football being played not only on Saturdays but also on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. It’s been a great summer, my dear social life, but now it is time for us to part.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!