Iowa football: Breaking down Hawkeye rookies in NFL preseason Week 4
The NFL preseason has come and gone. Real football kicks off Thursday night.
Here’s a look at how Iowa’s rookies fared in the last week of the preseason, as well as updates on their final roster landing spots.
James Daniels, OL, Chicago Bears
Stats: Daniels started at left guard in Thursday’s 28-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He played every offensive snap.
Skinny: Until this weekend’s trade for Khalil Mack, Daniels’ weekly performances and 2018 role were maybe the most discussed topics from Chicago’s preseason. It seemed at times that Daniels might crack the starting lineup Week 1 at Green Bay, but it appears the Bears are going to roll with Eric Kush at left guard and Cody Whitehair at center to begin. Chicago coach Matt Nagy reminded everyone postgame that Daniels is still a rookie and has improvements to make in multiple areas. That being said, the former Hawkeye is still just 21 years old. He’s still a huge asset in the Bears’ long-term plans, and could foreseeably crack the starting rotation at some point this year.
Media coverage: The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain had an in-depth breakdown on Daniels’ showing against Buffalo. Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs includes his assessment on Daniels in his 10 final thoughts on the Bears’ preseason.
Josh Jackson, CB, Green Bay Packers
Stats: Jackson had one tackle in Thursday’s 33-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Skinny: Of all the Iowa rookies, Jackson definitely had the most dynamic preseason. He became an instant standout in Green Bay’s secondary, showcasing his playmaking skills and coverage ability from the jump. Pro Football Focus put Jackson on its all-preseason defensive team, while Pro Football Talk's Peter King picked the former Hawkeye to win defensive rookie of the year. Jackson should be an immediate contributor in the backend.
Media coverage: Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness tweeted out some preseason numbers on Jackson that are just staggering.
Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos
Stats: Jewell had a team-high seven tackles, including five solo, in Thursday’s 21-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Skinny: Jewell led Denver with 23 preseason tackles, one of just three Bronco defenders to finish with double-digit stops. Iowa fans won’t find that surprising at all after watching Jewell tear up Big Ten offenses for multiple seasons. Jewell was never in any danger of missing the 53-man cut, but this preseason cemented his status firmly inside Denver’s linebacking unit. He won’t be starting right off the bat, but don’t be shocked to see his role steadily increase as the year goes on.
Media coverage: Denver radio host Ryan Edwards offered his thoughts via Twitter on what Jewell’s 2018 season might look like.
Akrum Wadley, RB, Tennessee Titans
Stats: Wadley had four carries for 16 yards and two catches for one yard in Thursday’s 13-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He also had a 17-yard kick return.
Skinny: Wadley never regained form after a strong preseason opener, and the Titans eventually cut him Saturday. Dalyn Dawkins was also cut, meaning Tennessee decided to only keep three running backs (Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and David Fluellen). As the preseason wore on, it was clear Wadley’s only chance to make the Titans was if they chose to go with four. Tennessee kept Dawkins on its practice squad, so Wadley will be forced to find an NFL home somewhere else.
Ben Niemann, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Stats: Niemann had five tackles, including four solo, and a pass breakup in Thursday’s 33-21 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Skinny: While Jackson was the most dynamic Hawkeye rookie this preseason, Niemann certainly was the one who helped his cause the most. From his Week 2 pick-six to a constant stream of quality plays, Niemann made the Chiefs roster as an undrafted free agent. He’ll have to keep performing to garner substantial playing time, but Niemann’s rise is one every undrafted player dreams about. The reality is, only a few make it happen. Niemann did exactly that.
Media coverage: The Athletic’s Nate Taylor had a nice in-depth look at Niemann’s surge.
Ike Boettger, OL, Buffalo Bills
Stats: Ike Boettger started at right guard in Thursday’s 28-27 win over the Chicago Bears.
Skinny: Boettger was right on the roster bubble heading into Thursday’s finale. He came up a bit short — Buffalo cut him on Saturday — but he was soon claimed off waivers by Kansas City. The Chiefs obviously saw something in the former Iowa standout to add him to their active roster, and Boettger now joins a group of nine offensive linemen. That certainly beats the practice squad.
James Butler, RB, Oakland Raiders
Stats: Butler had nine carries for 18 yards in Thursday’s 30-19 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Skinny: Butler never really got going in the preseason. The Raiders cut him Saturday in a move that was expected. Butler finished the preseason with 26 rushing yards on 14 touches.
Nathan Bazata, DL, Tampa Bay Bucs
Stats: Bazata had three tackles, including one sack, and two quarterback hits in Thursday’s 25-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Skinny: A productive end to the preseason, but Tampa still cut Bazata in an expected move. He finished the preseason with four tackles.
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.