Alabama in the Pros

Crimson Tide Rookies Shine in NFL Preseason Debuts

(Photo Credits: Washington Redskins Official Twitter Page)

Last week’s Hall of Fame game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals marked the beginning of the 2017 football season. Well, the preseason, technically. Regardless, one of the biggest draws to the NFL’s multi-week preseason is the professional debuts of many highly-touted rookies.

Neither the Cowboys nor the Cardinals drafted a player from Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide prospects, but a handful of the teams that did took the field for the first time Thursday night. One notable exclusion was Baltimore Ravens’ new cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, who was considered ‘day-to-day’ after an injury earlier in the week.

While most of the former Alabama players proved their worth, one disappointed. Here is how the night went for each of the rookies (stats courtesy of ESPN.com):

Jonathan Allen (Redskins)

Allen looked the part of a physically dominating specimen throughout much of the ballgame, even if he was up against lesser competition. While he did not record many statistics, he did manage to nab a sack on quarterback, Ryan Mallet. The sack, like many he had back in Tuscaloosa, was a show of pure athleticism. At 286 pounds, he was able to chase down the much slimmer Mallet and pull him down by his legs outside of the pocket.

Ryan Anderson (Redskins)

Anderson, a second round pick by the same team as Allen, also had Redskins fans excited tonight. He compiled three impressive tackles, but disrupted another handful of plays like he did back in his days at Alabama. As seen in the play below, Anderson’s (#52) explosiveness was on tap once again as he was able to jump the snap, read the play, and set the edge before the running back even had the ball comfortably in his hands.

Eddie Jackson (Bears)

Lingering injuries caused the Safety to fall into the fourth round on Draft Night, but that does not mean he comes in without high expectations. As a former play maker for the top team in college football, Bears fans were excited to hear Jackson’s name called back in April, and are even more excited after tonight’s stint. As is usual in preseason, he didn’t put up big numbers – just one tackle and 13 yards on two punt returns – but his athleticism was on display throughout. For instance, on that one tackle, he supplied impressive run support on instincts and quickness alone.

Cam Robinson (Jaguars)

After the unexpected retirement of the Jacksonville Jaguar’s starting tackle, Branden Albert, Cam Robinson was tasked with anchoring the offensive line. He did just that on Thursday night, helping his Jaguars to a win over the New England Patriots. Robinson played a large part in the Jags’ 200-yard rushing attack, headed by LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Auburn’s Cory Grant. It may just be preseason, but a win against the Patriots could be a building block for the season to come.

Tim Williams (Ravens)

Of the handful of Tide rookies to see the field tonight, outside linebacker, Tim Williams, was the least impressive. Ravens’ fans on twitter, who expect him to become the elite pass-rusher he was at ‘Bama, took to social media to let their disgust with Williams’ play be known.

After one preseason game, it’s way too early to call him a bust. However, one concern that was pointed out is that he looked bigger than he did while at Alabama. He is reportedly up to around 260 pounds in Baltimore – 16 pounds higher than his combine weight of 244. Whether he was asked by the coaching staff to put on additional weight remains unclear, but his quickness appeared to take a major hit against the Redskins. Should he master his new weight class, or shed some of it prior to the season starting, Williams can be a difficult force to stop. Either way, he is clearly much larger than last year, as is evident in the photo below.

Richard Mullaney (Browns)

While not technically a rookie anymore, Mullaney failed to find a footing with a team in 2016 despite a plethora of training camp and work out invites. He has been given a shot with the Cleveland Browns this Fall, a team in desperate need of play makers. He took hold of that opportunity on Thursday when he led the team in receiving yards with 70 on two receptions, including the deep bomb shown above.

Should Mullaney have another good outing, he could find his way onto the 53-man roster.

Jake Weaver is a lead writer for TD Alabama Magazine and Bama Hoops Hype. You can contact him via phone at 205-612-5060, or on Twitter @JWeaver_TDALMag

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