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Sun Devil Football in the NFL: Week One Update

Sep 16, 2020

D.J. Foster Promoted From Practice Squad | Jets Sign Kalen Ballage

With the first week of the 2020 NFL regular season in the books, it is time for a Sun Devil Football in the NFL update.
Arizona State currently has a total 13 players in the NFL. Thanks to D.J. Foster's promotion and Kalen Ballage's free-agent signing with the Jets, nine are on active 53-man rosters. An additional three players earned their way onto a practice squad and one more is currently on the injured-reserve list.
Four new Sun Devils entered the league this year, including two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk will go from starring on Saturdays in Tempe, to going head-to-head in the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals selected Benjamin with the 222nd pick in the seventh-round back in April, while the division rival San Francisco 49ers used the 25th overall pick on Aiyuk. 
The success in the NFL Draft and heavy presence of new Maroon & Gold blood in the league continues an exciting trend that has formed for Sun Devil Football under the direction of Herm Edwards.  The NFL experience that Edwards, Marvin LewisAntonio PierceKevin MawaeRobert RodriguezShawn Slocum, and Derek Hagan bring to the table is nearly unmatched by any other group nationally.

From contributors in the trenches, to playmakers on the outside, to standouts on special teams, Sun Devil Football players made an impact all over NFL fields in week one of the season. Here is a closer look at how they fared to start the 2020 campaign:


Lawrence Guy (2008-10) - New England Patriots 
Week One: Part of a dominant defensive effort, as New England cruised to a 21-11 victory over Miami. The Patriots held the Dolphins to just 87 yards rushing, as Guy made four total tackles (three solo) from his defensive line spot. 

Preseason Update: Former freshman All-American Lawrence Guy has made a name for himself at the NFL level, getting ready for his 11th season as a pro. He is currently the longest-tenured Sun Devil in the NFL and was recently named a captain of the 2020 Patriots. Guy has been a stalwart on the New England defense the past three seasons, starting all 16 regular-season contests in 2019 for the first time in his career. Guy is in the midst of his peak as an NFL player, turning in a career year in 2019. He totaled a career-high 61 tackles and made his first career interception as part of a defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense (275.9 yards per game) and scoring (14.1 points allowed per game). Prior to last season, Guy had started at defensive tackle in the last two Super Bowls, including in New England's Super Bowl LIII victory over the Rams. He was selected to the Patriots' 2010s All-Decade Team at defensive tackle. Originally drafted in the seventh round (233rd overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, Guy has enjoyed stints with the Colts, Chargers, and Ravens before signing with the Patriots. 
N'Keal Harry (2016-18) - New England Patriots
Week One: Tied for the most catches of any Patriot, hauling in a career-high five passes in his season debut. His 39 receiving yards also marked a career-best. He played 55 snaps in New England's 21-11 win over Miami, which was tied for the most of any Patriots skill player.

Preseason Update: Following a brilliant three-year career in Tempe, N'Keal Harry was selected with the 32nd overall pick by the New England Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, he appeared in eight games and made five starts. Patriots fans saw glimpses of Harry's skill set, as he finished with 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made it emphasis to get him the ball in any way possible, resulting in Harry running for 49 yards on five attempts. He earned the faith of the coaching staff, making the start at wide receiver in his first career playoff appearance. He caught two passes for 21 yards while carrying the ball once for 7 yards in the AFC Wild Card Playoff against Tennessee. Made his Patriots debut in a win at Philadelphia and lined up for his first career start in a win over Dallas. Harry's 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter against the Cowboys was the first of his career and made him the 75th different player to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady.

Matt Haack (2013-16) - Miami Dolphins
Week One: Enjoyed an incredible season opener, booming 3 punts for 152 yards. The 50.7 average was the fourth-highest total in the league, while his net average of 44.0 was seventh-best in the NFL. Only one return was attempted on Haack's punts, but zero yards were gained.

Preseason Update: After putting the finishing touches on one of the best collegiate careers by a Sun Devil punter, Matt Haack has found a home in the NFL. He enters his fourth season in the NFL, all with the Miami Dolphins after signing with the franchise as an undrafted free agent back in 2017. He has played and served as the starting punter in all 48 games of his career, with 239 career punts going for 10,684 yards (44.7 avg.). He caught national attention by completing a 1-yard TD pass against Philadelphia, with the play winning the 2019 NFL Bridgestone Clutch Performance of the Year. Back in November of 2018, he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Jets. Boasting a career average of 40.0, Haack is currently the franchise's all-time leader in net punting average. He set a Dolphins' franchise single-season record in 2018, landing 34 punts inside the 20. 

Zane Gonzalez (2013-16) - Arizona Cardinals
Week One: Hit a career-long 56-yard field goal to close the first half in the 24-20 victory over the 49ers. It was his seventh-career 50+-yard field goal and fifth since joining the Cardinals. Gonzalez was a perfect 3 for 3 on extra points, as he accounted for six points in the win.

Preseason Update: Former Lou Groza award winner Zane Gonzalez enters his fourth NFL season and third with the Arizona Cardinals. He is coming off his best season in the league, selected as a Pro Bowl alternate at kicker after ranking fourth in the NFL in both total points (127) and made FGs (31) in 2019. His 127 points tied for the third-highest single-season total in franchise history, and his 31 FGs made are third-most in team history. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (October, 2019). Gonzalez made 20 consecutive field goals between during a stretch of the 2019 season, which represents the second-longest streak in franchise history. 

D.J. Foster (2012-15) - Arizona Cardinals
Week One: Promoted from the practice squad before Sunday's game and proved to be a contributor to the Cardinals 24-20 victory over the 49ers. Foster served on special teams and was in on the play when Cardinals' safety Ezekiel Turner blocked a punt, which set the offense up for a touchdown on the ensuing drive. 

Preseason Update: Three-year NFL veteran D.J. Foster earned a spot on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He saw action on special teams in the first six games, registering a career-high four special teams tackles against the Falcons. Foster has played in 16 games during his NFL career, compiling 135 receiving yards and 43 rushing yards. Originally signed by New England as a rookie free agent, Foster spent one season with the Patriots before joining the Cardinals. 
Brandon Aiyuk (2018-19) - San Francisco 49ers
Week One: Inactive on gameday after being listed as questionable all week due to a hamstring injury. Looks like he could make his NFL debut this upcoming Sunday against the Jets, as he was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

Preseason Update: The San Francisco 49ers selected Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the 25th overall pick in the NFL Draft, the second consecutive year that Sun Devil Football produced a first-round wide receiver. During his last season in Tempe, Aiyuk was one of the top offensive weapons in the country.  Aiyuk became the 252nd Sun Devil to be selected in the professional draft. His 25th overall selection was the highest since Terrell Suggs went 10th overall in the 2003 Draft. He became the highest wide receiver selected since Aaron Cox went 20th overall in 1988. He produced 1,870 all-purpose yards in his final season as a Sun Devil, coming within 195 yards of Wilford White's long-standing school record of 2,065 set back in 1950.
Eno Benjamin (2017-19) - Arizona Cardinals

Week One: Inactive for the Cardinals win over the 49ers.

Preseason Update: The second Sun Devil selected in the 2020 NFL draft was Eno Benjamin, who became the Benjamin became the first Sun Devil player to be drafted by the Cardinals since Pat Tillman in 1998. He represents the 253rd Sun Devil to be taken in the NFL Draft in program history, the 30th-most of any program. Historically, Sun Devil running backs and fullbacks have combined for 43,414 rushing yards in NFL history with 327 touchdowns. A 2018 All-American after breaking ASU's single season rushing mark, Benjamin finished with 2,867 rushing yards in his career and finished seventh on the school's all-time rushing list despite playing the majority of his time in just two seasons. His 576 rushing attempts were the sixth-most in school history. He was fifth in the country in 2018 with his school record 1,642 rushing yards. 
Jamil Douglas (2010-14) - Tennessee Titans
Week One: A hand injury kept him out of Monday's 16-14 victory over Denver. Participated in Wednesday's practice and is on track to be ready for Sunday's game against Jacksonville. 

Preseason Update: Former Pac-12 All-Conference offensive lineman Jamil Douglas enters his fourth NFL season, making the Tennessee Titans 53-man roster. Last season, Douglas appeared in 15 games for the Titans, making four starts at right guard and one start at center. He saw action in all three playoff games during his first-career postseason run, helping the Titans reach the AFC Championship Game. Douglas and the offensive line paved the way for Derrick Henry to lead the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards in 2019. Originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round (114th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Douglas has also spent time with the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts during his career.
Kalen Ballage (2014-17) – New York Jets
Week One: After spending his first two NFL seasons in Miami, the former fourth-round draft pick (131stoverall) Kalen Ballage has found a new home in New York. The Jets signed the former Pac-12 All-Conference running back this week, boasting their backfield depth with a player who has 24 games of experience at the NFL level. Ballage has rushed for over 300 and recorded more than 100 receiving yards in his career.   

Renell Wren (2014-18) - Cincinnati Bengals 
Week One: Remains on the injured reserved list.

Preseason Update: A dominant final two seasons in Tempe resulted in Renell Wren being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in fourth round of 2019 NFL Draft (125th overall). He is getting ready to enter his second season in the NFL, but is currently on the injured reserve list because of a quad injury. Wren made the Bengals' initial 53-man roster in 2019 and went on to play in 11 games as a rookie. He made his way up the depth chart as the season went on, eventually making two starts. The defensive lineman was disruptive and made eight tackles, serving as a key part of the interior defensive line rotation. Wren made his NFL debut in the season opener at Seattle and collected his first career tackle at Pittsburgh. He would go on to earn first career start in the 11th game of the season, recording a tackle against Pittsburgh.
Due to anticipated obstacles issues that may arise from the unpresented circumstances, NFL teams are allowed to have 16 players on their practice squads. This year more than ever, the three Sun Devils could be called upon to suit up on gameday. Quinn BaileyCohl Cabral, and Tommy Hudson are not only auditioning for a spot on their respective team's active roster, but are available to be signed by all 31 other NFL teams in need of depth. 
Quinn Bailey (2014-18) - Denver Broncos
Quinn Bailey has landed on the Denver Broncos practice squad for the second season. In 2019, he made his NFL debut in the final week of the season against the Raiders. 
Cohl Cabral (2016-19) - Los Angeles Rams
Cohl Cabral signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie free agent in April and made their practice squad. He is coming off a collegiate career in which he filled multiple roles along the Sun Devil offensive line, starting 38 consecutive games to finish his career. The rookie is one of four Sun Devils from the 2019 team to make a NFL roster. 
Tommy Hudson (2015-19) - Tennessee Titans
Tommy Hudson signed with the Tennessee Titans as a rookie free agent in May and made their practice squad. His blocking ability has already caught the attention of scouts and coaches, allowing him to get a look at the NFL level. The rookie is one of four Sun Devils from the 2019 team to make a NFL roster.