Every NFL Team’s Surprise Player So Far This Preseason
NFL Preseason Surprises from All 32 Teams
The NFL is full of surprises. Whether it is a reclamation story or someone who had no business making an NFL roster but ended up being an integral part of the team, football seems to continue to keep our jaws on the ground. It is a large reason why ESPN can talk about it year round. Football is very instant. A player goes to college and then immediately goes to the pros. There are no minor leagues; you either make it or you don't.
The main stories in preseason are the players returning from injury and the players who don't usually get a shot to play making the most of it. During the season, there are roughly 704 starters between the 32 teams. During the preseason, there could be as many as 2,880 players see the field. You get to find new favorites and you can wait until cut day to see if they are going to make the team.
The surprises are abundant this preseason, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it is a journeyman offensive lineman moving into the lineup or a converted quarterback trying to fuel an offense, these stories continue to make headlines when they might not during the regular season. We go over every single team's surprise of the preseason. These guys show the crazy world of the NFL is unpredictable.
To follow are the 32 players who have surprised us the most on each NFL team, whether it is a starter showing he can still make an impact or the 90th guy somehow making the team in the end.
Buffalo Bills- Marcus Easley
Marcus Easley has been on the Buffalo Bills since he was drafted in the fourth round of 2010. It seems that his roster spot was finally in danger with an influx of rookie receivers to the Bills, but Easley has responded in a big way. He has led the team in receiving both games they have played so far, with 46 yards against the Vikings and 94 against the Colts. The Bills have impressed people who didn't even think of Buffalo as a team that could surprise. Easley is the most surprising on the team. He went from a sure cut to a can't cut.
New England Patriots- LeGarrette Blount
LeGarrette Blount came onto the New England Patriots through a trade with the Buccaneers. They sent Olympic runner Jeff Demps, who may be sticking with track and field, for the former Oregon Duck. Blount's decision making has been questionable over the years. He has had up and down years with the Bucs. He ran for over 1,000 yards in 2010 while he only ran for only 151 last season. He showed he still had the ability this preseason. His performance against the Eagles showed he still had speed and a bruising running style. He may have taken Brandon Bolden's place on the roster.
New York Jets- Jeff Cumberland
Jeff Cumberland is a tight end for the New York Jets. It seems surprising in itself that any offensive player on the Jets would be surprising, except for Mark Sanchez surprising us with how much worse he keeps getting. Cumberland showed the Jets brass that they made the right decision to not give Dustin Keller big money. He scored two touchdowns this preseason, both more than 20 yards a piece. He is looking to have a breakout year in new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's offense. He has taken a step above incoming tight end Kellen Winslow, so expect him to be a target with such a small amount of weaponry in the Jets offense.
Miami Dolphins- Will Davis
Will Davis has been a ball hawk in training camp and in preseason. Although he had a rough game against the Texans, he has shown to be worthy of a chance to take over for the recently released Richard Marshall. He had a stretch in which he had five interceptions in three days of practice. With the Miami Dolphins craving more turnovers, Davis could find himself in the mix for the other starting cornerback position.
Oakland Raiders- Brice Butler
Brice Butler has come out of nowhere to put himself in the race for the number one receiver on the team. He seems to make every quarterback he is playing with look good, which is a big deal when you play for the Oakland Raiders. He made a miraculous touchdown catch against the Cowboys. He is Terrell Prior's favorite target in practice and has gone from no name to must see in two weeks. He has a long shot to knock out Rod Streater and Denarius Moore from the number one receiver position, but the seventh rounder is a player to watch.
San Diego Chargers- Brad Sorensen
Through his first two games, Brad Sorensen has completed 15 of his 24 passes with four of those incompletions being dropped. He has been astounding this preseason, even outplaying Philip Rivers. The seventh round rookie is running past Charlie Whitehurst for the main backup job to Rivers. He is the only QB on the roster to have touchdown passes in both games, and he did it without throwing an interception. He has been near perfect in his first two games, and he is looking like a steal for the San Diego Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs- Chase Daniel
Chase Daniel is known for being completely nailed by 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox this preseason. Daniel was in New Orleans for the past three years, and Drew Brees credits him with pushing him every single day. He is ultra competitive and will most likely do the same for Alex Smith. He is 12-for-16 so far this preseason, and it looks like he has taken over the backup job from Ricky Stanzi. Daniel will end up being a very good signing for the Kansas City Chiefs, just based on what he can do for the starting quarterback without even being the starter.
Denver Broncos- Shaun Phillips
The Denver Broncos have said that they aren't worried how their team will play with the loss of Von Miller. The resurgence of Shaun Phillips must be helping them feel that way. Now while Phillips will not replace Miller, he is a good stopgap. He corralled 9.5 sacks last season and will look to do more of the same this season. He started off the preseason by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the first game against the 49ers. That was the only touchdown scored all day. At an age when you would expect Phillips to decline, he has shown he can still get better.
Cleveland Browns- Brandon Weeden
Andrew Luck, RGIII, and Russell Wilson changed the way we look at rookie quarterbacks. They all took their teams to the playoffs in their rookie seasons. Brandon Weeden was also a rookie quarterback and his season was not as bad as it looked. Weeden has looked beyond impressive this preseason. He ran away with the Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition and is looking to bring the team back. He has thrown three touchdowns and no interceptions in two games. He also passed for over 100 yards in both games. This may sound crazy, but Brandon Weeden may not end up as the worst of the five QBs drafted last season. It all begins this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers- Al Woods
Al Woods was named the player of the game in their loss against the Giants. In that game, he recorded nine tackles and a sack. He was a force to be reckoned with. His performance showed why the questions about the backup nose tackle are all but over. Woods showed he can dominate backup players, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against starters. Steve McLendon has the nose tackle spot covered, but if he goes down the Pittsburgh Steelers are in good hands.
Cincinnati Bengals- Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson and John Skelton have been competing for the backup job to Andy Dalton. Johnson seemed to be behind the eight ball since Skelton was a starter last season. Johnson showed flashes of how good he could be with the Buccaneers, and if anything happens to Dalton this preseason showed he could do it again. He has yet to throw an interception in 25 attempts. Skelton has not had a good preseason while Johnson has blown people away.
Baltimore Ravens- Marlon Brown
Marlon Brown is trying to make the Baltimore Ravens roster after coming in as an undrafted free agent. He signed a three year deal, which is somewhat of a rarity for someone they didn't even use a draft pick on. He is coming off a knee injury and if he can stay healthy he has a lot of upside. He was supposed to be very good for the Georgia Bulldogs, but injuries and under performances took over his college career. He is now finally showing his potential. He caught a pass in massive traffic for a touchdown from Joe Flacco in the Ravens' game against the Panthers. That shows his progress. He will make it on this team and he will contribute.
Houston Texans- Lestar Jean
Lestar Jean's offseason work with Case Keenum has really started to pay off for both. Jean was probably going to be on the chopping block if he didn't have a good preseason, and he responded to that pressure. He is currently leading the Houston Texans in preseason receiving. He has scored two touchdowns and over 100 yards in his first two games. He can really emerge this year as a viable number three receiver in this offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars- Denard Robinson
Denard Robinson isn't necessarily having the best preseason, but it is surprising to see how he is being used. He would have played much better if he had a better offensive line, and he showed that when he made a few defenders miss in order to avoid losing yards. His stats don't look great, but the eye test says more than the stat page. If they use him correctly, he will be very successful on the football field. At least he will always look better than those new Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys.
Tennessee Titans- Chris Johnson
It has been a while since Chris Johnson has been known as CJ2K. He has been inconsistent for the past three years. So far this offseason he showed he is still up for the home run hit when he bolted to a 58-yard touchdown run against the Redskins. He may be able to have a resurgence with the addition of Shonn Greene. Johnson was at his best when he could be a thunder and lightning combination with LenDale White. That kind of production will return in 2013 for the Tennessee Titans, and the team could not be happier with the timing.
Indianapolis Colts- Emmett Cleary
Emmett Cleary has been extremely solid on the offensive line for the Indianapolis Colts. Since he was moved from tackle to guard, he has excelled. He is with the second team and has yet to allow a pass pressure in the 40 pass attempts this preseason. He has been a steal for the Colts so far and is on the right track to make the team as a backup. He will end up causing the Colts management to make a hard decision, but I believe that he will end up wearing the blue and white all season.
Dallas Cowboys- Chris Jones
This preseason has been really bad for the Dallas Cowboys. So bad that their biggest surprise player is their punter. Chris Jones has been very good this preseason. After coming off a partially torn ACL last season, Jones looks better than ever. He had four punts for an average of 40.8 yards and one inside the 20 yard line against the Cardinals, then three for an average of 42 yards with two inside the 20 yard line against the Raiders, and then three for an average of 45 yards with two inside the 20 against the Dolphins. With all these punts he has yet to punt one into the end zone. He has been sensational for Dallas.
Washington Redskins- Leonard Hankerson
Leonard Hankerson might have had the best catch of the entire season in the second game of the preseason. He caught an insane pass that he had no business being anywhere near and made a leaping one-handed grab for a touchdown against the Steelers. Hankerson is trying to gain the starting wide receiver spot opposite of Pierre Garcon. He has been consistent this preseason whether it is with the first team or the second team while fighting Josh Morgan for the other starting spot. He has seemed to momentarily fix his pass dropping problem, and if he can he should end the preseason as the other guy catching passes from Robert Griffin III.
Philadelphia Eagles- Bennie Logan
There were some reservations about the size of Bennie Logan when it comes to playing him in the 3-4 defense. You usually want a guy such as Vince Wilfork who is a big boy but can still out run the offensive lineman that are trying to keep him from their quarterback. Logan weighs in at 309 pounds, but he has still shown that he can play the nose tackle position for the Philadelphia Eagles. They are in their first year in the defense and need someone to anchor their line. Logan is more than capable and has shown that this preseason.
New York Giants- Damontre Moore
Third round draft pick Damontre Moore really showed what he could do in the New York Giants' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He jumped higher than you would think a 250-pound man could when he blocked a punt in his debut game. His impressive play has Giants fans very excited. With the loss of Osi Umenyiora and the declining play of Justin Tuck, Moore has the chance to have a breakout season. Expect him to become "Damonster" as he is called by his teammates.
Arizona Cardinals- Tyrann Mathieu
The ever controversial former LSU Tiger comes into the league with a ton of microscopes on him. He has excelled even with the extra pressure on him. You already know how "Honey Badger" ended his college career. You know about the drugs and the off the field incidents that caused a first round pick to fall all the way to the third round for the Arizona Cardinals. He has people claiming that Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson could end up becoming the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. His preseason play came out to eleven tackles and a QB sack. Those are the kind of plays you would love from your second corner.
Seattle Seahawks- Jermaine Kearse
Jermaine Kearse will make the loss of Leon Washington from the Seattle Seahawks' return game seem like an afterthought. He ran back a 107-yard kickoff return for touchdown against the Broncos. On top of his return for touchdown, he also had two more touchdown receptions. He has excelled maybe more than any other player in the NFL this preseason. He is used to making big plays in college, and he is vying to be able to do it in the pros. Pete Carroll is definitely paying attention to Kearse's play and will make him a part of this offense with the loss of Percy Harvin until at least Week 11.
St. Louis Rams- Ray Ray Anderson
Ray Ray Anderson has been lauded by coaches ever since training camp started. He showed there was a reason for that in his preseason games. Armstrong will be in line to take over for the suspended Jo-Lonn Dunbar at linebacker. In the preseason, he seemed like he has been in the quarterback's face on every single play. He is another player whose stock dropped because of off the field issues in college, but he seems to be a very good pick up for the St. Louis Rams.
San Francisco 49ers- Chad Hall
Chad Hall doesn't look like an NFL player. He is small in stature but not in play. The best way to describe his play is how Colin Kaepernick put it, "he gets open". Even if you are 5-foot-8 , if you're open you can catch the ball. Hall has been good this preseason and showed he knew how to get in between the defensive fronts. He is going to be an asset when it comes to the injuries that the 49ers have experienced at receiver.
Green Bay Packers- Johnny Jolly
Johnny Jolly is something the NFL hopes it can get from a lot of players these days - a reclamation story. Jolly spent the past three years going through drug problems, jail time and other off the field situations. Now he is playing like none of that ever happened. In his game against the Rams, he had two tipped passes that led to interceptions, one by him and another by Jarrett Bush. He is playing like he did when he first came into the league. If this kind of play can continue, BJ Raji will have a legit defensive tackle to play with again.
Minnesota Vikings- Bobby Felder
Bobby Felder has done everything a player possibly can for the Minnesota Vikings. He is competing for the punt returner position, he is a gunner on the punt team who showed very good skills in downing punts, and he is standing out in a secondary that is run by the young players. He had one bad play against the Texans where he miss timed a jump that led to a touchdown, but he made up for it by breaking up two passes in the end zone later that game. Felder averaged over 20 yards per punt return against the Bills. He has all but locked down a chance to get off the practice squad this season.
Detroit Lions- David Akers
David Akers seems to play at his best when everyone has given up on him. When he came to San Francisco after leaving Philadelphia, everyone thought it was one last hurrah. He went on to break the points record that season and also hit a record tying 63-yard field goal with the Niners. He ended up having an awful season last year and it once again seemed like his career was over. He was given a flyer by the Detroit Lions and has given them their best case scenario by taking over the starting kicker job. He held off the big leg of Havard Rugland and will get a season to prove that 2012 was due to injuries and not due to age.
Chicago Bears- Zach Minter
Zach Minter is one of only a few defensive tackles that are on the Chicago Bears roster. He is currently taking advantage of that. He recovered a fumble against the Panthers and was a disruptive force at his position. Expect him to continue his ascension atop the depth chart as he is motivated for being overlooked in the draft, despite being named All Big-Sky player two seasons in a row at Montana State.
Carolina Panthers- Ted Ginn Jr
Ted Ginn Jr was kept on the sidelines for punts in the first two preseason games. The Carolina Panthers coaching staff did not want to risk Ginn for an injury in a meaningless game. He got to return punts against the Ravens, and I am sure they liked that they saw. He brought a punt back 74 yards to the house in his first game returning punts in a Panthers uniform. His touchdown sparked the Panthers defense to go on to score three more touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. This is what Ginn is going to bring to this team as a real game changer.
New Orleans Saints- Glenn Foster
Three sacks, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble in your first two professional games is pretty darn good. That is what Glenn Foster has done for the New Orleans Saints. In a defense that desperately needs help, they could use a diamond in the rough like Foster. If they can continue with the production they're getting and the new defense that Rob Ryan is installing, this Saints defense will be much better than they were last season. Not that that is saying much, but Foster is looking to be an integral part of said defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Kevin Ogletree
We all remember Kevin Ogletree for his great performance opening night against the Giants. After that, he did very little to verify being the most added player in week one fantasy football. He has been very impressive in his time with the Buccaneers. Ogletree showed the playmaking ability to take over the number three receiver position behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. He scored a touchdown against the Patriots and hauled in five catches for 65 yards against the Ravens. Ogletree is going to continue to get better, and as long as the targets continue to go his way he will get the stats.
Atlanta Falcons- Paul Worrilow
Paul Worrilow has thoroughly impressed when it comes to this preseason with the Atlanta Falcons. Through two games, he has all but secured a roster spot for himself. He has gone from a bubble player to possibly the first linebacker in when the starters need a rest. The former Delaware product continues to progress in his skills. He is a good blend of coverage and rushing skills. He is the perfect kind of player to come off the bench as he seems like he is decent at all aspects of the game.