NFL Buffs Ready To Show Their Stuff In 2020
BOULDER--The National Football League begins its unusual 2020 season Thursday night, and as the first weekend of the season unfolds, several Colorado Buffaloes will be part of the action.
A total of 19 players are on NFL rosters to start the 2020 season, 13 of which are on their team's active 53-player rosters. Four more are on practice squads and two have opted out of the season due to COVID-related reasons.
Spanning the spectrum from rookies Arlington Hambright, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Davion Taylor to veteran Mason Crosby, starting his 14th season with the Green Bay Packers, there's plenty to be excited about for Buff fans on Sundays this fall (and some Thursdays and Mondays, too).
Hambright (seventh round, Chicago Bears), Shenault (second round, Jacksonville Jaguars) and Taylor (third round, Philadelphia Eagles) all made the final cuts for their respective teams. Hambright is listed third at left guard on the Bears depth chart, while Shenault, who missed some of the Jags training camp with a hamstring issue, is listed as ready to go and second on the depth chart at one receiver spot. Taylor is also second on the depth chart for the Eagles at the Will linebacker spot.
All three will make their NFL debuts in the early window Sunday when the Jaguars host Indianapolis, the Bears head to Detroit and the Eagles travel to Washington. And speaking of Washington and its Football Team, two more rookies are on the practice squad there as both Steven Montez and Tony Brown were picked back up for the club. Other practice squad players currently are Devin Ross with New England and Delrick Abrams with Atlanta.
The Falcons are also home to Isaiah Oliver, who enters his third season with the club and is listed as a starting cornerback on the team's first depth chart. Oliver was drafted in 2018, but three of his 2016 defensive backfield teammates are all entering their fourth season in the league. Chidobe Awuzie is entering a contract season and the Cowboys could use him more at safety as the season progresses. He's currently listed second at cornerback on the team's first depth chart. Tedric Thompson moved on from Seattle and landed in Kansas City in the offseason and he's listed as the backup to Tyrann Mathieu on the team's first depth chart of the season. Ahkello Witherspoon is listed as a co-starter at the right cornerback position on the 49ers season-opening depth chart.
Two of those four will open the season in prime time and all four are in different time slots in Week 1, with Thompson seeing action Thursday night when the Chiefs host Houston (6:20 p.m., NBC) and Awuzie and the Cowboys host the L.A. Chargers on Sunday night (also 6:20 p.m. on NBC). Oliver and the Falcons open up against Seattle in Sunday's early window and Witherspoon and the 49ers host Arizona in Sunday's late window.
The fifth defensive back in the NFL for the Buffs is Jimmy Smith, getting ready to enter his 10th NFL season as he looks to add to his career totals of 14 interceptions and 70 pass breakups. Smith and the Ravens host Cleveland in Sunday's early slate of games. Smith was a first-round draft pick in 2011, the same season that Nate Solder was also a first-round pick. Solder has opted out of the 2020 season, citing his son's battle with cancer and his own battle with cancer during the pandemic as his primary concern. Josh Tupou also opted out of the season for the Bengals.
Per NFL rules, players who opt-out will not get credit for a year of service but their contracts will essentially hold for a year. If both Solder and Tupou report for 2021 camp and fulfill all team obligations, they will not be in breach of their contracts.
Throughout Solder's career, he has been one of the highest-paid tackles protecting future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Eli Manning. The other player who fits that description is David Bakhtiari, who will begin his seventh season in Green Bay protecting Aaron Rodgers. Bakhtiari is coming off his second Pro Bowl appearance and he has been named to an All-Pro team for each of the last four seasons.
Bakhtiari is joined in Green Bay by Crosby and Kabion Ento, who made the 53-player roster after making the team on the practice squad in 2019. The converted wide receiver is the Buffs sixth active player in the defensive backfield. Those three Packers will travel to Minnesota and play in the early window on Sunday.
Two players will have to wait until Monday to make their season debuts, when Tennessee comes to Colorado to play the Denver Broncos. Daniel Munyer, a journeyman entering his sixth NFL season playing for his fourth squad, made the Titans final roster after joining the team's practice squad midway through the 2019 season. He's listed as the backup at left guard to open the season. Munyer will travel back to the Centennial State and play the Broncos and running back Phillip Lindsay in the late Monday night game (8:20 p.m., ESPN).
Lindsay made headlines in 2018, making the Pro Bowl as an undrafted rookie, and he had his second consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2019. He's listed as a co-starter at tailback alongside the newly acquired Melvin Gordon for the Broncos.
Perhaps it was said best by L.A. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn on HBO's Hard Knocks, "This will be a year like no other. There very well may be more transactions this year than any in NFL history."
That could bode well for a bunch of other former Buffs, including Paul Richardson, Ken Crawley and Juwann Winfree, who were all in the NFL last season and part of the final cuts last week. All three, including other former Buffs, could push the CU In the NFL number over 20 for the first time in several seasons.