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ProCanes Preseason Finale: Cutdown Day Preview

Who’s safe, who’s in jeopardy and who will be a hot commodity during one the NFL’s busiest weekends of the year

New England Patriots v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes took the field for their first contest in a celebration of college football’s 150th season. The outcome was not what the Hurricanes had hoped for this offseason, but one game does not a season make. As the Canes move on from last Saturday, some former Hurricanes prepare for their final audition in preseason competition. Many of those ProCanes are battling for one of 53 coveted spots on an NFL roster.

It’s already been an eventful preseason in terms of ProCanes content. We’ve had a player traded, a UM legend enshrined in Canton and many players make their return to the field after suffering major injuries in 2018. Today, the decisions on who will make the 53-man roster is the main focus of today’s article. Preseason performances are great, but I can’t think of anyone who is remembered for what they’ve done in an exhibition contest.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who are considered on “the bubble” — the edge between making the final roster and being cut/waived. They are names that you’ve heard in the 2018 NFL Draft and some that you may not even realize are still in the league.

With no further ado, here are ProCane final roster contenders.

Note* All 32 NFL clubs have until 4pm EDT on August 31st to trim their respective rosters down to 53 players. On September 1st (1pm EDT), teams can begin filling out their practice rosters.

DT Gerald Willis III (or ‘G’)Baltimore Ravens

Jacksonville at Baltimore Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images

There was no bigger surprise from the 2019 NFL Draft than Gerald Willis going undrafted. The 2018 team MVP of the Hurricanes was passed over for seven rounds. Looking to prove his detractors wrong, Willis signed with the Ravens as a priority free agent.

Although Baltimore has an excellent tradition of keeping undrafted rookies on their roster, there’s no guarantee that Willis will continue that trend. According to the Baltimore Sun, G has not impressed enough to warrant a roster spot. That said, the Ravens will have a difficult time stashing Willis on their practice roster. Especially, since the other 31 teams will have the opportunity to put in a claim for the DT.

Complicating matters, Willis has missed practice time with a calf injury. Willis returned to practice on Tuesday.

With a game left in the preseason, we’re in a wait-and-see mode.

TE Clive WalfordMiami Dolphins

Clive Walford was waived this week after agreeing to an injury settlement with the Dolphins. It was reported that the TE was wearing a walking boot on his right leg before being cut. However, the injury is believed to be short-term and shouldn’t prevent him from signing with a new team in the near future.

RB Mark WaltonMiami Dolphins

With his criminal charges now resolved, Mark Walton can turn his focus back to the football field. After being a non-factor for the Cincinnati Bengals, Walton has rehabilitated his image since signing with the Dolphins. The former Hurricane is projected to be the team’s third running back, but that could change if rumors about RB Kenyan Drake being part of a trade package to land DE Jadeveon Clowney from Houston have any merit.

WR Allen HurnsMiami Dolphins

Jacksonville Jaguars v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

After getting cut by Cowboys earlier this offseason, Allen Hurns returned to Miami to join the Dolphins. It appeared to be an ideal match for both player and team. However, Hurns has been unable to make a big splash since signing with his hometown team. Rookie phenom WR Preston Williams appears to have won a job, leaving Hurns, Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler jockeying for a roster spot.

DL Olsen PierreNew York Giants

Following his former defensive coordinator from his time with the Arizona Cardinals to New York with the Giants, Olsen Pierre has a leg up winning a job. In his two seasons with the Cardinals, Pierre accounted for 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. As a Giant, he’s pushing to be a depth piece. He was dealing with an undisclosed injury, that forced him to miss NYG’s second preseason contest. However, he did return for the New York’s third preseason game against the Bengals. According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, second-year DL RJ McIntosh would be the odd man out in his final roster projection

LB Jermaine GraceAtlanta Falcons

It’s hard to argue against Jermaine Grace having the best preseason of any ProCane player, veteran or otherwise. The interception against the Dolphins in week one of the preseason was incredible. He followed that performance with an ability to showcase his sideline-to-sideline speed in week two. If Grace doesn’t make the Falcons’ final 53, then the system is broken. Regardless, the Miramar HS alum has done enough to be rostered on a team.

LB Jamal CarterDenver Broncos

As highlighted in a News and Notes column a couple of weeks back, Carter has been moved to inside linebacker. Fairly deep at the safety position, Carter was the odd man out. Illustrating his versatility and willingness to adopt a new position, the ProCane is making the most of the situation.

Will it help him make the roster?

I wouldn’t expect Carter to make the two-deep at linebacker. Instead, he would serve as a special teamer/depth piece as he continues to pick up the nuances of playing the LB position. Head coach Vic Fangio understands that the former safety won’t have a firm grasp of what he’s doing. It’s too bad the NFL doesn’t do well with apprenticeships.

If the Broncos have the patience — and a roster spot — Carter could turn into an ideal hybrid weapon that has become prevalent in college football.

Every ProCane on the New England Patriots (*not named Phillip Dorsett)

The reigning champions of the NFL have undergone some minor reconstruction. The biggest change comes in the retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski. Early projections favor the idea that the offense will run through the Patriots’ platoon of wide receivers. Braxton Berrios is competing to make sure he’s a part of that group.

After missing his entire rookie season, the former Hurricane wideout is attempting to make up for lost time. An ideal fit at slot receiver, Berrios’ ability to return punts only help to make his case to stay on the roster.

Originally, I was going to include Phillip Dorsett in this conversation. Especially after the NFL reinstated WR Josh Gordon from his indefinite suspension. However, given his knowledge of the New England’s offense and chemistry with Brady, Dorsett does have an advantage over most of his competition. The Patriots are likely to keep N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman on the roster. So someone could get pushed out further down — or completely off — the depth chart. Which could be tough sledding for Braxton Berrios.

In their latest roster projection, forecast Phillip Dorsett as the only ProCane to make the roster.

As for OT Tyree St. Louis, G Tyler Gauthier, DL Ufomba Kamalu and DE Trent Harris, each one is walking uphill in an effort to make the final roster.

DT Tito OdenigboMinnesota Vikings

Making a team is hard. For rookie DT Tito Odenigbo, he’s not only fighting unfamiliar competition for a roster spot, but one familiar face in particular. Older brother Ifeadi Odenigbo is also trying to make the Vikings’ roster at the defensive tackle position. Based on reports from camp, Tito will be the odd man out when the Vikings transition to regal season preparation.

There’s always a chance that he could secure a spot on the practice roster.

CB Jhavonte DeanPittsburgh Steelers

Dean was always complimented as one of the fastest members of the Hurricanes in 2018. Now in the NFL, that speed alone won’t be enough to earn a spot on the team.

The cornerback was waived by the Cleveland Browns last week. However, Dean will remain in the AFC North after being claimed on Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Pro Football Talk, the Steelers will have nine cornerbacks on their 90-man roster ahead of cutdown day this weekend.

RB Trayone ‘Choc’ GrayCleveland Browns

Cleveland RB Trayone Gray received his first preseason action last week. The output was not what Gray wanted, rushing for -1 yards on four carries. An athletic specimen at 6’1”, 233 pounds, the former Hurricane is playing catch up to impress the Browns’ decisionmakers after missing time with an injury to begin camp. It’s going to take impressive performances in practice and their remaining preseason game for Gray to have a chance to make the final roster.