The opening week of the NFL preseason is in the books and it felt so good to have football back on our TVs. For the next two weeks, however, it won’t necessarily be all fun and games for several young men around the league. Lifelong dreams will be realized or crushed based on what happens in these exhibition contests. For the under-the-radar guys hailing from the country’s smaller schools, these matchups couldn’t be more important. In what is essentially a three-week job interview, these FCS standouts made a good first impression.
Patrick O’Connell, LB - Seattle (Montana)
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has a knack for finding hidden gems that didn’t get drafted, especially on defense. He may have found another this season with linebacker Patrick O’Connell. The former Montana Grizzly stud put up a solid debut for Seattle on Thursday night against Minnesota, registering five tackles (four solo). O’Connell saw plenty of game action and finished fourth on the team in total stops. Landing a spot on the Seahawks defense won’t be easy but O’Connell got off on the right foot in his first NFL game.
Carlos Washington Jr, RB - Atlanta (Southeastern Louisiana)
The Falcons won on Friday night and running back Carlos Washington Jr. was a big part of Atlanta’s offense. The SLU product got 12 touches against the Dolphins and rushed for 27 yards. He also hauled in three passes for 19 yards through the air. Washington went undrafted in this year’s draft but it’s a good sign he got used a lot in the first game. He was in on most of the team’s plays in the second half and was trusted with the game’s final handoffs as the Falcons looked to put it on ice. With two weeks to go, Washington has put himself in a good position.
Andrei Iosivas, WR - Cincinnati (Princeton)
Drafted in the sixth round earlier this spring, the former Princeton wideout was expected to make a splash with the Bengals and, if Friday evening was any indication, Iosivas will do just that. Against the Packers he hauled in four passes for 50 yards, good enough to lead all Cincy receivers. His longest grab went for 24 yards. Iosivas was targeted 10 times in total and made what was nearly an incredible touchdown grab before replay ruled him out of boung. Nonetheless, after showcasing that speed and athleticism that was advertised before the draft, Iosivas’ name should already be making its rounds among Bengals fans. He’s off to a fantastic start in the Queen City and will likely get even more action in the coming weeks.
#Bengals rookie WR Andrei Iosivas is making plays!— SCOUTD (@scoutdnfl) August 12, 2023
The #Princeton product got drafted in the 6th round.. but we had a 3rd round grade on him
More on Andrei here: https://t.co/MyPEjzy7FZpic.twitter.com/AVbKjsccGg
Jaleel McLaughlin, RB - Denver (Youngstown State)
Denver may have lost their preseason opener on Friday night but if there was any bright spot for the Broncos it was running back Jaleel McLaughlin. The rookie out of Youngstown State got his chance in the second half against Arizona and made the most of it. He got four touches on the ground, running for 20 yards and taking one of those carries in for a late touchdown that put Denver in front with less than two minutes to play. He also caught a pass for 12 yards. Head coach Sean Payton may have something in McLaughlin and will likely give him some increased playing time next week because of his solid outing this last weekend.
Elijah Dotson, RB - LA Chargers (Northern Colorado)
If Elijah Dotson ends up on the Chargers 53-man roster by the start of the season you can likely point to the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game as the reason why. The former Northern Colorado running back tore it up in his first pro game to the tune of 92 yards and two long touchdowns that put the game on ice for the Chargers. Dotson broke free on scoring runs of 37 and 40 yards in the final frame against the Rams and probably propelled himself up the depth chart in doing so. He got six carries in total and made the most out of each one, averaging over 15 yards a pop. For a guy that went undrafted, it was just the type of performance Dotson needed to turn heads and turn heads he did.