The beginning of the NFL Preseason is upon us as every single team has played at least one preseason game. This means there are a ton of former USFL players that saw legit snaps this weekend. As the time of writing this there are 32 USFL players that will be playing in Preseason week 2, with more certainly on the way. This list will detail 3 players that I think are closer to making a team, and another 3 that hurt their chances this weekend.
This list will not include players that were cut or placed on IR so that excludes RB Stevie Scott, P Colby Wadman, CB Mark Gilbert, TE La’Michael Pettway, and WR Trey Quinn but it includes players from 2022. Let’s get started.
WR Austin Watkins, Cleveland Browns
TOUCHDOWN AUSTIN WATKINS! The former #USFL Champion with the @USFLStallions made two big catches on this drive, with the second being a touchdown strike.
Austin Watkins was not a player I had on my radar for getting any NFL opportunity. In the USFL, Watkins got off to a hot start with a 60-yard bomb TD from J’Mar Smith, but he would end up being mostly a healthy scratch for most of the season. He still did enough to get on the Browns 90-man roster and had a touchdown in the Hall of Fame Game last week but this week cemented his place in the conversation for the WR6 position for Cleveland. He tripled his snaps and routes ran and did a lot with those catching 6 balls for 71 yards on 8 targets. Every opportunity he’s gotten, he’s ran with and 2 more game like this and he could be making a 53-man roster.
EDGE Levi Bell, Seattle Seahawks
WATCH: Seahawks DE Jordan Ferguson sacks QB Jaren Hall, followed up by a sack from DE Levi Bell.
Both Ferguson and Bell played in the #USFL this past season, impressing with the Michigan Panthers and Memphis Showboats.
Levi Bell is an interesting prospect that was an undersized interior D-lineman in college but in the USFL was a 4-3 DE but he signed with the Seahawks to make the transition to 3-4 OLB despite being listed as 6-1 275 lbs. You’d think there would be an adjustment period, but you’d be wrong. Bell was flying all over the place getting 2 hurries, 2 hits, and a sack on 21 rush snaps. He also was effective on kickoff duty as he was able to make a tackle despite his size. I’m not sure there’s a pathway for Bell to make the roster but he is positioning himself to be at minimum an intriguing practice squad option.
Our first 2022 player on the list, Maurice Alexander spent most of last season on the practice squad and signed a futures deal this offseason. With the extension of Kalif Raymond, there is some worry that they might not have room for 2 returners on the 53-man roster, but Alexander has forced the issue with the play of the weekend from a USFL player with a 95-yard punt return touchdown. Although he didn’t do much on offense, he has made it clear that if the Lions don’t want to keep him as a returner, someone else will happily do that.
HM: EDGE Carlo Kemp LAC, T Alex Akingbulu WAS, and CB Josh Butler DAL
Top 5 Highest Chargers PFF defensive grades vs. Rams:
1. EDGE Chris Rumph II 93.2 2. CB Cam Brown 88.3 3. EDGE Carlo Kemp 87.4 4. EDGE Ty Shelby 86.7 5. LB Nick Niemann 85.9
Probably the most disappointing performance of a USFL player this weekend, I had Alex McGough as my top opportunity to make a 53-man roster just a week ago, but things have changed. I don’t want to overreact to much, but the Packers clearly wanted to give 5th round rookie Sean Clifford every opportunity to impress as he out snapped McGough 47 to 7. In those 7 snaps, McGough did himself no favors as he was strip sacked on his one drop back. Hopefully they give McGough some more playing time to impress, or he could be on his way out.
Jace Sternberger was another player that I had high hopes for but didn’t do much to help himself this week. He had only one catch on 14 routes ran but fumbled away the ball right away. What didn’t help matters was that he did score well in his run blocking either with a 49.7 PFF score in that category. His main competition didn’t fair well either, but the clock is ticking on Sternberger, and he needs 1 or 2 great games to make the squad.
S Micah Abernathy, Atlanta Falcons
Micah Abernathy was one of the happiest surprises of last preseason when he was on the Packers but after being a part of the Falcons since mid-last season, he didn’t have the same success in this preseason. Abernathy scored poorly in every category and finished with a rough 43.1 total PFF grade. This contrasts with his competition in 7th round pick Demarcoo Hellams and former St. Louis Lukas Denis who had solid nights with slightly positive grades. He is still the front runner, but his competition is gaining on him one week in.
Hellams probably just has to beat out Micah Abernathy to make the roster, and I really like his chances
De'Marvion Overshown with a great third-down stop to force a punt but KaVontae Turpin gives it right back on the punt return, losing a fumble. Mike McCarthy hinted Turpin wouldn't get any returns in the preseason but …