As the NFL season gets closer, pro clubs are finalizing their rosters. In many cases, it comes down to the performances of rookies in the preseason when general managers determine who to cut. Several rookies from the FCS are making strong cases for themselves. Here’s a few to note from the second week of the NFL preseason.
Pierre Strong Jr, RB - New England (South Dakota State)
New England’s fourth round pick Pierre Strong Jr. has been putting work in for the Patriots as both a running back and a return man this preseason. On Friday’s game against Carolina, Strong carried the ball seven times for 23 yards and he also returned two kicks for a total of 52 yards. Strong himself has yet to record a touchdown but his pair of 26-yard runbacks set New England up for two of their scoring drives. It may take some time but Strong should be able to work himself into the Patriots offense eventually and, as of right now, he should have a roster spot.
Lance McCutcheon, WR - LA Rams (Montana State)
It’s starting to seem like Rams wideout Lance McCutcheon may be more than just a feel-good story; the undrafted receiver might actually make the team. After last week’s breakout performance in his debut for LA, McCutcheon again showed out in Friday night’s contest against Houston. He led the Rams in receiving yards with 96 on five catches. He didn’t find the end zone this time but he did manage to haul in some pretty big passes including catches of 22 and 29 yards. He did fumble the ball once but given all his successes over the last two weeks that seems forgivable. If McCutcheon puts together one more solid performance he just might make the cut.
Cobie Durant, CB - LA Rams (South Carolina State)
Cobie Durant may have only registered two tackles in the Rams’ loss to the Texans last Friday but he certainly made his presence felt well beyond that. One of those two stops was a sack in which he stuffed Houston QB Davis Mills for a loss. Durant also forced a fumble and nearly nabbed an interception right before halftime. The fourth round pick continues to show coaches why he’s worthy of a roster spot and with one preseason game to go it’s hard to see him not on the team when the season begins in a few weeks.
Forrest Rhyne, LB - Indianapolis (Villanova)
Forrest Rhyne had a great game for the Colts on Saturday afternoon and put some pressure on the coaches to consider him for a the 53-man roster cuts. Against the Lions Rhyne logged nine tackles to lead the team. Six of those stops were on his own and one even came for a loss. Rhyne also knocked away a pass. The undrafted rookie will likely need another noteworthy game this week but he put himself on the right track last weekend.
Julius Chestnut, RB - Tennessee (Sacred Heart)
The Titans are known for running the football with Derrick Henry but on Saturday, Julius Chestnut made a case for why he belongs in the RB room also. Chestnut saw a lot of looks against Tampa Bay, toting the ball 10 times for 35 yards. He didn’t find the end zone but he did pop off a 12-yard run that gave the offense a first down. He also had a 26-yard scamper that was eventually called back for holding. Chestnut caught two passes out of the backfield for 10 yards as well.
Markquese Bell, S - Dallas (Florida A&M)
Markquese Bell went undrafted earlier this spring but ended up on the Cowboys secondary nonetheless and, on Saturday night, Bell was more than just another name on the field for Dallas’ defense. He finished second on the team in tackles with five against the Chargers and all five of those stops were solo. He was constantly in the right place at the right time. The hard-hitting safety has one game left to show his worth to the coaching staff but the fact that he saw the field as much as he did last weekend is certainly a good sign.
Raleigh Webb, WR - Baltimore (The Citadel)
Raleigh Webb had a relatively quiet Week 1 but on Sunday night against the Cardinals he came alive and helped the Ravens win yet another preseason game (22 in a row now). Webb was only targeted twice but he hauled in both of those passes and scored a beautiful 38-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. He finished second on the Ravens offense in receiving yards with 46. The undrafted wideout will have one more game to cement his spot on the final roster but if he’s able to do what he did last weekend then he’s got a chance.