Proving They Belong: NEC Alumni Notes from NFL Preseason Week 1
The NFL Preseason is full of opportunity and a number of NEC alumni are looking to take full advantage.
Following one full week of NFL Preseason games, here’s what we’ve noticed thus far…
JULIAN STANFORD (Wagner), Buffalo Bills
The NFL veteran, who broke into the league as an UDFA with Jacksonville in 2012, has continued his special teams prowess in his second season with the Bills. The former all-NEC linebacker, who is a member of every Bills’ special teams unit, opened Thursday’s preseason game against the Colts on kickoff coverage. He also saw second-string reps at middle linebacker, backing up Tremaine Edmunds.
GREG SENAT (Wagner), Baltimore Ravens
The 2018 NFL Draft pick has rebounded from an injury that landed him on IR for his rookie season. Fighting for a reserve spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster, Senat has taken second-team reps at Left Tackle thus far during training camp. He played more snaps (58) than any other offensive player in the Ravens’ preseason opener against Jacksonville.
MARCELIS BRANCH (Robert Morris), Pittsburgh Steelers
The former all-NEC defensive back is back in the Steel City, attempting to crack a 53-man NFL roster. The Robert Morris product signed his initial NFL contract as an UDFA with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. He spent the 2017 campaign as a member of Atlanta’s practice squad before being released just prior to the start of the 2018 regular season. This past winter, he signed a reserve contract with Pittsburgh, which currently lists Branch third amongst four strong safeties on its preseason roster. He was credited with three solo tackles and a pass break-up during the Steelers’ 30-28 triumph over Tampa Bay on August 9.
JERMAINE PONDER (Saint Francis), Pittsburgh Steelers
It was a whirlwind of a week for the UDFA rookie from SFU. After spending the spring and the first portion of training camp with the Cleveland Browns, Ponder was released on August 3 to make room for DT Tracy Sprinkle on the 90-man roster. Three days later, Ponder returned to work after agreeing to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made his NFL preseason debut on defense during the second half Friday’s game against Tampa Bay.
JACOB DOLEGALA (Central Connecticut), Cincinnati Bengals
Despite receiving rave reviews for his work during spring activities and the early stages of training camp, Central Connecticut’s all-time leading passer is still waiting to take his first snap in a NFL preseason game. Dolegala was one of four Bengals’ quarterbacks in uniform for a Preseason Week 1 date with the Chiefs, but he did not see action. Fellow Bengals’ rookie Ryan Finley, a fourth-round draft pick competing for a roster spot, saw a significant amount of playing time and averaged a pedestrian 6.05 yards per attempt to go along with one TD and one INT.
TOM KENNEDY (Bryant), Detroit Lions
He earned all-NEC honors in two sports (football, lacrosse) and now he’s trying to earn his way into the NFL. The former Bryant receiver went undrafted this past April, but impressed the right people as a tryout invitee to Lions’ rookie minicamp. After signing in the spring, Kennedy’s athletic prowess has made for an intriguing storyline during training camp. With Detroit hosting New England in the preseason lid-lifter, Kennedy saw plenty of fourth-quarter action. He logged a 21-yard kickoff return early in the period and went on to produce a key play on the Lions’ lone scoring drive of the game. Converting a 3rd-and-13 from the Detroit 27-yard line, Kennedy beat his defender over the middle for a 29-yard reception. He was officially credited with one catch on two targets.
While Jake Carlock’s old team is moving up to the DI FCS ranks, Long Island University’s former star defender is making plenty of preseason noise for the New York Giants. Signed as an UDFA after two ultra-productive seasons as an LIU defensive back, Carlock enjoyed a memorable preseason debut. The safety/linebacker returned an interception 59 yards for a score in the Giants’ win over the Jets.
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