Iowa football: Breaking down Hawkeye rookies in NFL preseason Week 3
Three down, one to go.
We’re 75 percent of the way through the NFL preseason (thankfully), and real football is just around the corner. For those on the roster-spot fence, there’s one more shot to leave an impression.
James Daniels, OL, Chicago Bears
Stats: Daniels got the start at center in Saturday’s 27-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He played all 62 offensive snaps, all seeing time at left guard.
Skinny: Daniels was technically selected seven picks into the second round last April, but the Bears have basically treated him like a first-round guy in the preseason so far. Saturday’s performance was far from perfect — evidence shown here and here — but Daniels, for the most part, took advantage of his first career start with Chicago sitting 31 guys. The chatter from Bears nation continues to be for Daniels to start Week 1 at center. Even if it doesn’t happen on opening day, Daniels will likely be in the starting lineup at some point in 2018. He’ll have one final tune-up Thursday against Buffalo.
Media coverage: The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain included Daniels’ performance in his takeaways from Saturday’s win. Windy City Gridiron, the Bears’ SBNation site, also broke down Chicago’s offensive line logistics.
Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers
Stats: Jackson had one tackle in Friday’s 13-6 loss to the Oakland Raiders. He also had a pick-six that was called back on a penalty.
Skinny: Like Daniels, Jackson slipped too early in the second round last April — but his preseason showing hasn’t reflected it. The former Iowa cornerback was Pro Football Focus’ highest graded Packer for the second straight week and one of the highest graded players in all of Week 3. He’s shown the playmaking abilities Green Bay hoped he would. Jackson appears to be in line for a nice rookie season. His final preseason game comes Thursday at Kansas City.
Media coverage: Two solid articles this week. First, The Athletic’s Ben Fennell did a nice film breakdown on Jackson and fellow rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander. The Wisconsin State Journal also dove into Jackson’s preseason, including comments from Kirk Ferentz.
Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Jewell had a team-high eight tackles, including four solo, in Friday’s 29-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
Skinny: Jewell’s Denver showing has mirrored exactly what he did at Iowa — make plays. Two impressive preseason stats from Pro Football Focus: Jewell’s run-stop percentage (16.7 percent) ranks fifth among all linebackers with at least 20 run defense snaps. And his run defense grade (85.5) ranks second among all rookie linebackers. Jewell may not begin the season with Denver’s starting linebacker group, but he certainly could wind up there as the season progresses. His final preseason game comes Thursday at Arizona.
Media coverage: This 9News preseason position group breakdown includes an interesting update on Jewell.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Tennessee Titans
Stats: After missing practice earlier in the week, Wadley didn’t make the trip for Saturday’s 16-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Skinny: Injuries, nicks and dings are certainly part of football, but they’re less than ideal when you’re trying to make a roster. As the saying goes, “You can’t make the club in a tub.” And that was Wadley’s situation last week. Thankfully for the former Iowa standout, none of Tennessee’s running backs were particularly impressive at Pittsburgh. It seems David Fluellen has the inside track at the Titans’ No. 3 back, but Tennessee could opt to keep a fourth. That’s where Wadley comes in, likely battling with Dalyn Dawkins. Wadley had a strong Week 1 but hasn’t shown much since. He could use a solid performance in Thursday’s preseason finale versus Minnesota.
Media coverage: Veteran Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky broke down here why Tennessee may decide to keep a fourth running back, which could be Wadley.
Ben Niemann, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: Niemann had two tackles, including one solo, in Saturday’s 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Skinny: Saturday’s performance didn’t have the flashy addition like his Week 2 pick-six, but Niemann continues to impress in the preseason. “He’s someone I can trust,” Chiefs’ assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub said last week. “He’s beyond his years. ... Nothing is going to hold him back.” That is important coming from Toub, considering Niemann is tied for the third most special teams snaps this preseason. Nothing is set in stone, but the vibe continues to hint that Niemann will make Kansas City’s final roster. His last preseason outing comes Thursday versus Green Bays.
Media coverage:ArrowheadAddict.com, Kansas City’s FanSided site, recently broke down Niemann’s chances at making the final roster.
Ike Boettger, OL, Buffalo Bills
Stats: Boettger continued to get work at right guard in Sunday’s 26-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Skinny: Boettger’s name hasn’t surfaced as much as it did early in the preseason, and it seems — as has always been the case — that he’ll be in a battle right down to the wire to make Buffalo’s roster. Here’s how close it is: BillsWire’s roster prediction from Aug. 18 had Boettger making the cut, and the outlet’s roster prediction from Monday had him on the outside looking in. The former Iowa lineman has one more chance to impress — Thursday at Chicago.
James Butler, RB, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Butler had two carries for six yards in Friday’s 13-6 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Skinny: Butler got back on the field after failing to see any action in Week 2. Still, undrafted running back Chris Warren out of Texas continues to lead the workload. It appears Butler will be on the outside looking in.
Bo Bower, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Bower didn’t have any tackles in Friday’s 29-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
Skinny: Bower was officially cut Sunday to make room for the newly acquired Pacman Jones. Even if Denver hadn’t signed Jones, it was a longshot for Bower to make the final 53.
Nathan Bazata, DT, Tampa Bay Bucs
Stats: Bazata dressed but didn’t record a tackle in Friday’s 33-30 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Skinny: Bazata had a crucial error Friday, picking up an illegal formation penalty on a Detroit field goal attempt that clanked off the upright. That gave the Lions a fourth-and-1, which they converted, and Detroit eventually scored a touchdown as part of its 20-point fourth quarter. Bazata was a roster longshot, but errors like that certainly don’t help matters.
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.