Iowa football: Breaking down Hawkeye rookies in NFL preseason Week 1
Week 1 of the NFL preseason has come and gone. Here's a look at how Iowa's rookies performed in their professional debuts.
We'll do this every week throughout the preseason. Check back next week for a Hawkeye recap of Week 2.
James Daniels, OL, Chicago Bears
Stats: Daniels played 44 snaps at center, deep into the third quarter, in Thursday’s 30-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Skinny: Daniels had been playing left guard with the second-team offense and center with the third-stringers early in camp, but Hroniss Grasu’s absence pushed Daniels over to center with the second-team. Iowa fans know how well Daniels can thrive at center, and it seems the Bears are discovering that too. It’s not a wide-open competition yet — Bears coach Matt Nagy said this week that Cody Whiterhair is still the starting center — but more positive movement from Daniels could change Nagy’s tone down the road. The fait accompli likely here is that Daniels eventually moves into the starting center spot and Whitehair kicks out to guard. Chicago is next in action Saturday against the Denver Broncos.
Media coverage: In addition to the Chicago Tribune article, The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain had a nice in-depth breakdown of Daniels’ debut.
Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers
Stats: Jackson had two tackles, including one solo, in Thursday’s 31-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. With fellow rookie Jaire Alexander out with a groin injury and Kevin King also unavailable, Jackson started at corner.
Skinny: Reports out of Green Bay seem to be mostly positive on Jackson’s preseason debut. He shifted between right corner and nickel corner and held up when tested a couple times, particularly in the red zone. Jackson’s lone slip-up came on a third-down holding call that kept a drive alive. Interestingly enough, Jackson said afterward that the speed of the game was “a little slower than I anticipated.” That’s good to hear from someone making his pro debut. Jackson will next be in action Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Jewell tied for a team-high with five tackles, including three solo, in last Saturday’s 42-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He played 42 defensive snaps.
Skinny: The instincts and toughness that made Jewell a household name at Iowa are already shining through in Denver. He’s already caught the eye of defensive anchor Von Miller, who’s nicknamed Jewell “Red beard” and said the former Hawkeye is “going to play in the league for a long time.” His preseason debut wasn’t perfect, but it’s clear the Broncos’ fourth-round pick will have some sort of role in year one. He’ll next be in action Saturday against the Chicago Bears.
Media coverage: Troy Renck, a sportscaster at Denver’s ABC affiliate and longtime Denver media member, shared his thoughts on Jewell during the game via Twitter. PredominantlyOrange.com, the Broncos’ Fansided page, also broke down Jewell’s preseason debut here.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Tennessee Titans
Skinny: Wadley saw an extensive workload in his preseason debut. His nine carries led Tennessee — nearly half of the team’s overall rushing attempts — and his three targets in the passing game were tied for second. The former Iowa running back showed explosiveness on his long kickoff return as well. However, when you’re an undrafted guy simply trying to make an NFL roster, there’s no quicker way to get cut than coughing up the football.
Wadley is in battle with David Fluellen for the Titans’ No. 3 running back, behind Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. Week 1 was a good first step for Wadley, but no more turnovers is paramount. He’ll get his next shot Saturday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ben Niemann, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: Niemann had a team-high five tackles, including one solo and one TFL, in last Thursday’s 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans.
Skinny: Among all of Iowa’s rookies fighting for a job, Niemann was perhaps the most impressive. The undrafted free agent saw significant playing time in the second half and was a regular on special teams. His most impressive play of the night came on a fourth-and-1 stop, as Niemann stuffed Lavon Coleman near the goal line to prevent a game-clinching touchdown. Any undrafted guy faces an uphill climb to make the roster — and Niemann must continue to thrive for the rest of the preseason — but his debut was a step in the right direction. Kansas City is back in action Friday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Media coverage: The Kansas City Star had a solid breakdown on Niemann, including quotes from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone.
Ike Boettger, OL, Buffalo Bills
Stats: Boettger got extensive second-team work at right guard in last Thursday’s 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Skinny: Every team has at least one undrafted free agent who comes out of nowhere and emerges in camp, and Boettger’s may be the guy for Buffalo. Reports indicate Boettger spent much of last week working with the second-string offense, showcasing he’s fully healthy after last season’s Achilles injury. Still a long ways to go in camp, but Boettger seems to be trending the right way. The Bills are next in action Friday against the Cleveland Browns.
James Butler, RB, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Butler had three carries for two yards in last Friday’s 16-10 win over the Detroit Lions
Skinny: Butler signed with Oakland at the end of July while running back Jalen Richard missed some time with a calf strain. Behind mainstays Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, Butler is part of a crowded running back haul. Undrafted back Chris Warren stole the show Friday (13 carries for 86 yards), meaning Butler has some ground to make up quickly if he wants a shot at a roster spot. Oakland returns to action Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Bo Bower, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Bower didn’t record any tackles, but saw some special teams action in last Saturday’s 42-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Skinny: Bower signed with Denver in mid-June. He’s part of a crowded linebacker room, which added another piece this week as Denver signed former Tennessee standout A.J. Johnson. Bower must make an impact somewhere in the coming weeks to have a chance to stick around.
Nathan Bazata, DL, Tampa Bay Bucs
Stats: Bazata didn’t record any tackles, but did get some late action in last Thursday’s 26-24 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Skinny:Tampa Bay only signed Bazata one day before his pro debut, opting to add some defensive line depth with Vita Vea and William Gholston sidelined. It was a whirlwind of a week for the former Iowa defensive lineman, as this tweet indicates. Bazata is obviously a longshot to make the Tampa roster, but he at least has an opportunity.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.