Iowa football: Breaking down Hawkeye rookies in NFL preseason Week 2
We’re halfway home.
Two of four NFL preseason weeks have been completed. Position battles and roster competition are starting to gain more clarity as the regular season is now just a few weeks away.
Here’s a look at how Iowa’s rookies fared in Week 2. If you missed the Week 1 breakdown, you can find that here. Check back next week for a Hawkeye recap of Week 3.
James Daniels, OL, Chicago Bears
Stats: Daniels continued to get extended work at center during Saturday’s 24-23 win over the Denver Broncos.
Skinny: The clamoring continues in Chicago for Daniels to be the Bears’ starting center come Week 1 in Green Bay. Cody Whitehair still has a hold on the starting job ... for now. But Daniels’ stock continues trending upward with every passing day. How the Bears handle their Week 3 preseason game — Saturday at Kansas City — will show a lot, as Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs points out in his postgame column. Week 3 is usually when teams shift from preseason tinkering to more of a game-week approach, and Daniels' role could become more defined as such.
Media coverage: Biggs’ column covers every aspect of the Daniels situation quite well. He outlines Whitehair’s struggles at center and points out that if Chicago is going to roll with Daniels at center this year, doing it now rather than later is most beneficial.
Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers
Stats: Jackson had a 22-yard pick-six, one tackle and one pass breakup in Thursday’s 51-34 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also had a 41-yard punt return.
Skinny: Jackson’s ascension continued in emphatic fashion, as the rookie cornerback was all over the field Thursday night. The pick-six obviously stood out, but Jackson was perfect on three passes thrown his way. He’s shown he can play multiple secondary positions early in the preseason and will seemingly have a big role in Green Bay’s defense this season. Many believed the Packers got a second-round steal in Jackson on draft night. He’s proving everyone right so far. He’ll next be in action Friday against the Oakland Raiders.
Media coverage:Pro Football Focus gave the former Iowa cornerback plenty of praise after Thursday’s showing. You can also watch Jackson’s postgame comments here, in which he said he “knew that play was coming” on his pick-six.
Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Jewell had three tackles in Saturday’s 24-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Skinny: Jewell had a couple minor changes this week — a new number and a new haircut — before taking the field Saturday. His first tackle came on the opening kickoff, and, as this Denver Post breakdown points out, Jewell was on Denver’s first-team kickoff, punt and kick return coverage. Special teams often provide rookies a chance to make an early impact, and Jewell seems to be taking advantage. That should bode well for the former Hawkeye standout, no matter how large or small his impact at linebacker is this season. Jewell is back in action Friday at Washington.
Media coverage: In addition to the Denver Post article, IDPGuys.com broke down Jewell’s potential value as a late-round fantasy sleeper in IDP (individual defensive player) leagues.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Tennessee Titans
Stats: Wadley had four carries for 13 yards and three catches for 29 yards in Saturday’s 30-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Skinny: After a strong performance in Week 1 — fumble aside — Wadley’s role seemingly decreased in Week 2. He was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver, punctuated by a nice 24-yard catch late in the fourth quarter. But Wadley’s four carries ranked third behind roster hopefuls Dalyn Dawkins (11) and David Fluellen (6). Depth battles are often fluid throughout the preseason, so this could just be a case of the Titans seeing what they have. But it’s safe to say Wadley took a step back after a decent opener. He’ll have a chance to bounce back Saturday at Pittsburgh.
Ben Niemann, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: Niemann had five tackles, including two solo, a pass breakup and a 26-yard pick-six in Friday’s 28-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Skinny: Here’s your Hawkeye winner from Week 2. Niemann’s Friday performance continues an impressive preseason for the undrafted linebacker. Pro Football Focus gave Niemann a 91.7 grade Friday, second highest among Kansas City defenders who played at least 10 snaps. That’s now two strong weeks in a row, and the chatter is growing that Niemann will claim one of the coveted 53 final roster spots. Still, there’s no margin for error when it comes to undrafted free agents, and the former Iowa linebacker will need to finish out the preseason strong. He’s next in action Saturday at Chicago.
Media coverage: The Kansas City Star talked to Niemann after Friday’s showing. Chiefs.com also mentioned him in their 10 Observations, and The Athletic had a nice film breakdown on his preseason success.
Ike Boettger, OL, Buffalo Bills
Stats: Like in Week 1, Boettger got some more action at right guard in Friday’s 19-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Skinny: Boettger didn’t get quite the buzz in Week 2 as he did after his preseason debut, but he still seems right in the mix for a roster shot along Buffalo’s offensive line. It’s a logjam up front, but Boettger could still be in line for a spot on the practice squad if he doesn’t crack the 53-man. He’ll still have to battle for everything this preseason, starting next Sunday against Cincinnati.
Media Coverage: This Bills breakdown from NYup.com came after Week 1, but it still outlines the bigger picture for Boettger to potentially make the opening-week roster.
James Butler, RB, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Butler dressed but didn’t play in Saturday’s 19-15 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Skinny: After getting three carries in Week 1, Butler was a no-show in the Oakland backfield Saturday night. Meanwhile, undrafted running back Chris Warren again stole the show with 110 yards and a touchdown. He also got all 18 of the backfield touches. That doesn’t bode well for Butler, whose days on the Raiders roster could be numbered.
Bo Bower, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Bower didn’t record any tackles in Saturday’s 24-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Skinny: Bower’s new haircut and dance moves made waves on social media this week. But it still seems he faces an uphill battle for a roster spot in Denver’s deep linebacker room. The former Iowa linebacker is next in action Friday at Washington.
Nathan Bazata, DL, Tampa Bay Bucs
Stats: Bazata had one solo tackle in Saturday’s 30-14 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Skinny: Bazata got on the board early in the fourth quarter, tackling Wadley after a four-yard gain. The former Iowa defensive lineman is likely still getting his bearings in Tampa. He’ll have another chance to make an impact Friday against Detroit.
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.