There are 16 former Syracuse football players on NFL rosters. However, guys like Chandler Jones and Zaire Franklin have clear roles on their teams. But five SU alums are entering their rookie seasons, so training camp is an especially important time for them. How are they doing so far, and where do they stack up on their teams?
Sean Tucker – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sean Tucker has been through a lot this offseason. He discovered a heart condition that forced him to withdraw from most of the NFL combine and then went undrafted. However, Tucker has worked through that to get an opportunity with the Buccaneers, and there’s plenty of opportunity there.
The lead back for Tampa Bay will likely be last year’s secondary back, Rachaad White. With the starter Leonard Fournette still a free agent, it makes sense for White to step up. However, after that, it’s wide open. There’s fourth year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, journeyman Chase Edmonds, and former practice squad player Patrick Laird. None of those guys have a secured spot, so if Tucker plays well enough, he could rocket up on the depth chart.
Matthew Bergeron – Atlanta Falcons
Matthew Bergeron is already an example of the opportunities that can arrive in training camp. Less than a week into the practices, the Falcons starting left guard, Matt Hennessey went down with a lower body injury. That gave Bergeron, the 38th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, an opportunity to take starting reps.
Bergeron is entering the unknown. He’s a left tackle by trade, and has never played left guard before. Hennessey’s status is also cloudy – the Falcons’ coach indicated he won’t be out long, but didn’t give a time table. However, it seems as though Bergeron has a decent shot at competing for a starting spot in Week 1.
Andre Szmyt – Chicago Bears
Andre Szmyt, the former Lou Groza winner for best kicker in college football, is on the outside looking in to make the Bears roster this year. Although Szmyt had a great track record in college, he’s working against an experienced kicker in Cairo Santos.
The Chicago special teamer made over 90% of his field goals last year, which ranked 7th in the NFL. While he did miss a concerning five extra points, it seems as though his starting spot is safe. The Bears’ special teams coordinator has spoken highly of Santos, but that doesn’t mean Szmyt has nothing to play for. If he performs well in training camp and preseason games, there’s a chance another team likes what they see and offers him a spot.
Garrett Williams – Arizona Cardinals
It was known going into training camp that Garrett Williams was still working to rehab from a torn ACL he suffered last October. The Cardinals actions this past week confirm that the cornerback isn’t at 100% yet. Last week, he was added to the active/non-football injury list.
This isn’t a surprise, and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Williams has time to work through his injury, and when he returns, there will be plenty of opportunities for him. The Cardinals don’t have much depth in the secondary, so that certainly bodes well for the 2023 third round pick.
Mikel Jones – Los Angeles Chargers
Mikel Jones faces a tough situation with the Chargers. Entering training camp, the team has 17 linebackers on its roster. Four of them are 2023 undrafted free agents, including Jones. While the three-time All-ACC player clearly has talent, the road to a spot on the Los Angeles roster is a tough one.