NFL training camp concludes next week. How many Iowa rookies will make the 53-man rosters?
Football season is almost here. Colleges will kickoff this weekend with the NFL beginning early next month. Collegiate rosters are all but solidified but all 32 professional teams will have tough decisions to make in less than a week.
By Tuesday, NFL teams must cut their roster from 80 players to the league-mandated 53-man active roster and designate up to 16 players to the practice squad. This week is the final chance for players on the bubble to make an impression on their teams.
Iowa football has six rookies in training camps: Dane Belton (New York Giants), Tyler Goodson (Green Bay Packers), Matt Hankins (Atlanta Falcons), Tyler Linderbaum (Baltimore Ravens), Caleb Shudak (Tennessee Titans) and Zach VanValkenburg (Las Vegas Raiders). All six made it past Tuesday's cut day (85 players to 80) and are fighting for a roster spot in their own way.
Here's the latest on each Iowa rookie and their outlook going into the final week of NFL training camp:
Tyler Linderbaum is back at practice
After a 19-day absence, Tyler Linderbaum returned to Ravens practice Tuesday. The first-round pick suffered a foot injury (not related to his previous Lisfranc injury) and has missed both of Baltimore's preseason games.
Linderbaum officially returned to the field Friday, participating in individual workouts while the team played their second preseason game in Arizona. On Tuesday his workload increased, but his status for the Ravens' final preseason game Saturday is unknown.
The good news is that barring a setback, Linderbaum should be ready for the Ravens regular season opener on Sept. 11. He's maintained the No. 1 center position even while injured and was snapping to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during Tuesday's practice.
Tyler Goodson has real chance to make the Packers roster
Undrafted running back Tyler Goodson has been one of the breakout players from Packers' training camp. He appeared as the third running back on Green Bay's first unofficial depth chart two weeks ago and started in the team's preseason opener.
Goodson followed up his first start with another solid performance last weekend against the New Orleans Saints. He led Green Bay's running backs with 42 total rushing yards on 10 carries. He also had one reception for 10 yards. One drive was particularly impressive where he accounted for 50 total yards which led to a touchdown.
“He’s done a nice job, a guy that can stick his foot in the ground,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said following the team's 20-10 win. “He’s got a burst. I think that was evident tonight. He made some nice runs and then also one thing you see from him quite frequently in practice is he’s a guy that’s got good hands. A lot of it with our third running back is going to come down to how they do on special teams. That is an area where the third back has to be able to contribute. That’s really where the battle lies with all these guys right now.”
Tuesday brought significant news to the No. 3 running back position. Kylin Hill, the favorite for the job, was placed on the reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list; meaning he will miss at least the first four games of the regular season. Hill has missed all of training camp recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season which opened the door for Goodson.
Goodson is still battling other backs, and the battle will continue through next week. But signs point to a 53-man roster spot or at worst, a practice squad designation.
Matt Hankins, Zach VanValkenburg are on the bubble
Two more undrafted players who are battling for roster spots are defensive back Matt Hankins and defensive end Zach VanValkenburg. Both appeared as third string/reserve options on their teams' respective first depth charts a few weeks ago but saw an increase in snaps last weekend.
Hankins played significant snaps in the Falcons' loss to the Jets on Monday night, recording two tackles. VanValkenburg recorded one tackle in 26 snaps in the Raiders' win last Saturday.
Both players are unlikely to make 53-man rosters but are on watch for practice squad designations.
Injury updates on Dane Belton, Caleb Shudak
Kicker Caleb Shudak has missed all of Titans' training camp with an undisclosed injury but remains on the roster as the No. 2 kicker. On Tuesday, he was placed on the team's reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he'll miss at least the first four games of the regular season.
Defensive back Dane Belton continues to work back from a broken collarbone he suffered early in training camp. He's penciled in as the Giants' No. 2 free safety when he does return, which could be the regular season opener, but his status is undecided.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.