With training camp in full swing I figure there was no better time to take a look around the league and see how some former Oregon State Beavers are performing.
For this particular piece we will look at some on the younger Beavers. There is no need to talk about players like Brandin Cooks, Derek Anderson, or Brandon Browner, as we all know how well those guys are doing. Instead we will look at some young bucks; players who are making noise, turning heads, and battling for a position on the depth chart. Let’s take a look.
Sean Mannion –
The second year quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams is a lock to be at least third on the depth chart, and depending on how Case Keenum and Jarod Goff perform, could realistically slide into the No.2 spot. Goff is the starter of the future for the Rams, so the real question is who is the true backup; Keenum or Mannion?
Mannion continues to improve, and has garnered some high praise from teammates early in camp.
Via Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times:
“Everything’s slower to him now,” said receiver Bradley Marquez, who caught two of Mannion’s six career completions. “He’s able to know the plays, so in the huddle, he commands that respect when he comes in there. He’s coming in with confidence, telling everybody what they’re gonna do.”
…“From last year to right now,” said punter Johnny Hekker, “he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he was.”
While it may not be this season, Mannion may end up being the Rams backup of the future. Mannion played in just one game for the Rams last season, going 6-7 for 31-yards. In four years at OSU, Mannion amassed 13,600 yards passing and 83 touchdowns.
Connor Hamlett -
Hamlett has yet to play a snap in the NFL since leaving OSU in 2014, but that could change this year. Hamlett has been a standout at Browns camp, and is the favorite to be named the backup to Pro Bowler Gary Barnidge.
Via Patrick Maks of ClevelandBrowns.com:
“He’s done great. That guy is tall,” head coach Hue Jackson said, laughing. “He’s got long arms. You can kind of throw it up there and he goes and gets it. He’s done a great job. I’ve been really pleased with him.
“One thing about him, the guy is really accountable. He’s always here. He’s always out here competing. I’m very, very impressed with the things he has done.”
Tight Ends coach Greg Seamon had the following to say with regard to the position battle at backup TE:
“Connor is a long, tall, spidery guy with excellent hands. He’s very smart,” Seamon said.
“We’ll see how it plays out. Right now, those jobs are available. What we’re attempting to do in practice is give everybody enough repetitions at all the various spots so that when we get to the games, they can go in and show what they can do.”
Hamlett played in 34 games at OSU, amassing 1,109 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
Isaac Seumalo –
The third round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles is playing catch up at Eagles Camp. Due to Oregon State’s quarter system, and ridiculous NCAA rules, Seumalo missed Philadelphia’s OTAs this spring. Now that he is with the team, he is a little behind the eight ball. However, with a world of potential in front of him, the hill should be easy to climb Seumalo. When healthy he showed Pac-12 foes why he was a top-round pick, and if not for those lingering injuries he may have been drafted even higher. But Seumalo is ready to battle.
Via Les Bowen of Philly.com:
"It's a tough drill. The NFL's no joke," Seumalo said. "You gotta bring it and be near-perfect every time you go, if you wanna win, and even then, it's hard. I just look for improvement."
Seumalo said he knows the only way to get better is to be "really objective and coachable."
…"I expect that out of myself, to compete, but most importantly, get better every day," Seumalo said. "I don't make the depth chart. The best five will play. If that's me, I'm excited. If not, I'm still excited."
Seumalo is currently listed as the back up to nine-year veteran Allen Barbre at Left Guard, and with the Eagles projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seumalo get some playing time this season.
Steven Nelson –
Nelson was a stud at Oregon State, grabbing eight interceptions and making 122 tackles in just two seasons in Corvallis. His ability to shut down some of the best receivers in the Pac-12 was a big reason the Chiefs picked him up in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Chiefs have a young, talented defensive backfield making snaps hard to come by for Nelson in 2015. However, he still managed to make an impact, playing in 12 games for KC.
Nelson really started to find his groove late in the season, and if that upward trend continues he will easily crack the lineup for the Chiefs.
Via of J Kissel of Chiefs.com:
Throughout offseason workouts this year, Nelson has been one of the standouts for the Chiefs defense, making plays all over the field on both the outside as well as inside at the nickel cornerback position.
“He really started picking up towards the end of last year,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid recently said of Nelson. “I thought he kind of took off the last quarter of the season. We were excited to see if he’d continue to grow at that inside position.”
…Nelson has spent a lot of time this offseason at that nickel position—a spot he hopes to earn and one that he hopes to show Reid and the other coaches he can handle.
“He has made some plays in the inside with the first group there,” Reid said of Nelson’s offseason playmaking thus far.
The nickel package is a great spot for Nelson to fall in. It fits his skill set well, and will continue to give him an opportunity to grow. The position for those young DBs in Kansas City will be a very interesting one to watch.
D.J. Alexander –
Not a lot of news coming out of Kansas City with regard to the linebacker, as the Chiefs have one of the strongest linebacker corps in the NFL. Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, and Tamba Hill make up a formidable first unit, while Dee Ford, Ramik Wilson, Frank Zombo, and Alexander anchor the second unit.
The Chiefs’ second unit is strong, stronger than what some teams trot out on their first team. For Alexander, cracking the starting lineup will be very hard to do. But there is a tremendous amount of potential with Alexander, and 12-year veteran Derrick Johnson sees it.
Via BJ Kissel of Chiefs.com:
After practice on Monday, Johnson gave a little breakdown of each of the young guys:
“Well, ‘Little DJ” (D.J Alexander) is probably our fastest linebacker,” Johnson explained. “I hate to say that because I've always been the fastest, but his speed to the ball is unbelievable. He's still young and he's still learning, but his potential is through the roof.
Not only has Johnson seen Alexander’s potential, Alexander has leaned on the veteran’s leadership as he continues to grow:
For Alexander, the leadership of not just Johnson and Mauga, but from all of the guys in that defensive room, is special.
“They're all like big brothers,” Alexander explained. “They want to see us do better and they're pushing us. They’re staying on us and challenging us and we look up to them because we want to be like they are.”
Alexander looks to be a large part of the Chiefs defense this coming season, and if he isn’t able to crack the starting lineup I would not be surprised to see teams contact KC trying to trade for the young linebacker.
Obum Gwacham –
The former wide receiver turned defensive end looks like he may have found a home with the New Orleans Saints. Gwacham was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2015, but was let go in September of that year. A day after being waived by Seattle, he was claimed by the Saints. Now in his second season with the Saints, Gwacham has found a sense of comfort as he enters his first training camp with the team.
Via Amos Morale III of NOLA.com:
"It's nice that I'm able to be here with this team during camp because I was with a different team last year," he said. "It's nice that I can grow with everyone and we can go through the struggles of camp days together."
Gwacham has been working at camp with Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson and pass rush specialist Brian Young to improve his technique. Specifically, he worked on his zero-step technique which he says involves initiating contact with the offensive lineman or tight end first.
"It allows you to push-pull him and it makes it much easier to control them," he said. "So that's one of the biggest things that I worked on and I've definitely seen it pay off."
Saints head coach Sean Payton said the key with Gwacham's development will be how he handles playing against the run.
"That'll be a challenge," he said. "That'll be a little more new."
Overall, Gwacham thinks training camp has gone well so far.
Gwacham had eight tackles and a forced fumble in nine games last season, and is currently listed as the backup defensive end behind Kasim Edebali. He is in a great spot in New Orleans, as they don’t need him to be a starter yet, and a year as a true No.2 will really help his development.
Terron Ward –
There hasn’t been a lot of noise with regards to Ward coming out of Falcons training camp. Ward his missed a few days of practice recently due a lingering ankle injury, but he still could be a factor for Atlanta this year. Ward was used sparingly last season, carrying the ball 29 times for 95-yards, but could see a little more action as he has the inside track to be the teams No.3 RB. If his touches in the offense don’t see an uptick, that doesn’t mean he won’t see more playing time. With the recent release of kick returner Devin Hester, the special teams spot is up for grabs. Ward returned kicks at OSU, and worked on kick returns during offseason workouts.
Whether at running back or on special teams, Ward should have a chance to help Falcons, if he can stay healthy that is.