It’s officially the first weekend of full NFL preseason football! As teams begin joint practices, most starters will either be held out in this week’s games, or will play limited snaps.
This weekend’s matchups will be a good evaluation tool to see which players will make the first round of depth chart cuts (to 85 players) that take place on August 16th.
As players finally get to play full game speed, let’s take a look at a few underdogs who have been unexpectedly shining through camp; and who may surprise us all to make the final roster.s
Dallas Cowboys: WR Simi Fehoko
Ever since the Cowboys traded Amari Cooper, their receiver room has been in shambles. With the injury to James Washington, and Michael Gallup still rehabbing his ACL tear, the Cowboys may pick up a free agent before the start of the season. With that, the Cowboys are waiting for the emergence of a depth chart player and Fehoko has showed flashes in camp.
Cowboys WR Simi Fehoko continues his strong camp with touchdown. He’s taken a developmental leap in second year. pic.twitter.com/OrADph6E38
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 8, 2022
Fehoko is a 6-foot-4, second-year speedy receiver who some fans have compared to Miles Austin. Last year, the Cowboys drafted him in the 5th round, 179th overall from Stanford, where he averaged 15.5 per reception and ended his 2020 season with three touchdowns.
Whether or not the Cowboys find a free agent to add to this receiving corps, this week they play the Denver Broncos, and they will have a chance to find out if Fehoko can work his way up the depth chart.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Skyy Moore
Skyy Moore is the least surprising player on the list. He has been turning heads for the last few weeks now with his quick releases and impressive route breaks.
Skyy Moore counter run pic.twitter.com/4lFZlMqZFe
— KC Sports Network (@KCSportsNetwork) August 8, 2022
Every NFL team is looking for their slasher, and the Chiefs may have found it with Moore, as Mark Schofield explains in his latest piece breaking down Moore’s role within the Chiefs offense.
We are all anticipating this week’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, as we may see him take a few snaps lined from the backfield and also out wide. We are excited to see his development as he continues to make strides in Andy Reid’s offense.
New England Patriots: CB Marcus Jones
The New England Patriots recently had J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore in their defensive backs room, but now have new names in Terrance Mitchell, Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones. They are still looking for some young cornerbacks to emerge that can come in and keep up with the receivers in the division.
Both Jones’ draft selections have been turning heads but for the second straight day we’re seeing nickel corner Marcus Jones with the first team defense.
It’s the second straight day we’re seeing #Patriots rookie CB Marcus Jones in the slot with the first-team defense.
Third-round pick out of Houston earned a 92.0 defensive @PFF grade in his last two college seasons. Also a standout returner and part-time WR at Houston.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 9, 2022
When in college, Jones was named to the 2021 ESPN All-American First Team as a kick returner and was a 2021 CBS Sports First-Team All-American as an all-purpose player. Early on in camp he was limited due to injury but ever since he’s been full participant, he’s kept toe-to-toe with the quickest receivers on the roster. (Such as Tyquan Thornton, who is an honorable mention on this list.)
This week’s preseason game will be a glimpse of Jones’ ability and if he can impress Bill Belichick enough to climb the depth chart.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR/PR Britain Covey
Undrafted rookie Britain Covey has been first up during special team punt return drills this week. This 5-foot-8, 173-pound wide receiver and return specialist from Utah has the speed that has impressed head coach Nick Sirianni.
Britain Covey’s footwork 🔥🔥
He is going to make the Eagles roster. pic.twitter.com/POCyVfoVDc
— Brenden Deeg (@BrendenDeegNFP) August 4, 2022
“He’s really quick and he catches the ball well. He’s got (a) great feel of what to do out there, and he’s smart. He knows all the positions. He’s had a good camp,” Siranni said.
Right now, Covey is listed third in the slot receiver position and also in punt returns, but after this week’s preseason game versus the New York Jets, it will give us a better idea of where he may fall on the depth chart. If he can step up and continue to impress the coaches in full-speed, he may be one of the surprises and make the final 53-man roster.
Chicago Bears: LB DeMarquis Gates
There have been 40 USFL players that have been signed to NFL rosters, and DeMarquis Gates is one of them. This linebacker was one of the most dominant defenders in his league, taking home Defensive Player of the Week twice last season.
As mentioned by Matt Lombardo from Heavy.com, Gates spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Washington but never played in an NFL game.
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) February 22, 2020
Gates has been in almost every single professional league in the United States dating back to 2019, which includes the USFL, CFL, XFL, and AAF. In that career, Gates has 177 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, and a pair of interceptions.
If there was an underdog to cheer for this preseason, Gates is the guy! After the recent trade request from Roquan Smith, the Bears’ linebacker corps has an opening in their roster for the next man up. These next few preseason games will determine whether or not he has what it takes this time to finally earn his spot on the historically dominant Bears defense.
Cleveland Browns: S D’Anthony Bell
D’Anthony Bell, also known as ‘The Hit Man,’ is an undrafted free agent who played safety for the West Florida Argos. He showed 4.47 speed at his pro day.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) August 9, 2022
Ahead of Bell are two other strong safeties, Ronnie Harrison Jr and Grant Delpit, so Bell has a lot of work to do. But he’s been a player who has shined throughout camp. This week he has a chance to prove himself against an unproven Jacksonville Jaguars receiver room, giving him a good chance to show off his versatility as he can play in the box, strong, free safety and even as a linebacker when asked.
Green Bay Packers: WR Romeo Doubs
Aside from Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins, Romeo Doubs has been one of the most impressive receivers in the Green Bay Packers training camp; making at least one ‘wow’ play per day. As Doug Farrar mentions in his recent article about Doubs, he is a speedy ‘route chef’ and can also take it to house with receiver screens.
Another “wow” play from Romeo Doubs during 1-on-1s against CB Kiondre Thomas pic.twitter.com/Q4IF614ON3
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) August 6, 2022
“I will say, between 88 and 87, there’s been a lot of positive things that make you feel good about the depth we could have in that (WR) room.” says Aaron Rodgers.
Here is what Cobb had to say about Doubs, “The biggest piece is just his ability with the 50-50 ball. When it’s thrown up and it’s between him and the DB to make a play. That’s one thing you can’t coach. You can’t really teach that. You either have it or you don’t, and he has it. That’s special.”
This fourth rounder is undoubtedly the No. 1 player to watch from the Packers, as they open up the preseason against the San Francisco 49ers, which is taking place Friday night. If he can continue to show off his skills in full speed, he may be the missing piece that the Packers need moving forward.