If you’re lucky enough to have NFL Sunday Ticket (or live by a decent bar that has it) you can check out many of our beloved former Cats this Sunday. While some of these guys won’t see the field, here’s a profile of each player and their matchup today; we don’t want the Cats in Denver to get all the attention on opening week. And no, I didn’t forget about the Trevathan endzone fumble, but before that, wasn’t it nice hearing Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan’s names being praised? Of course it was.
Packers at 49ers
4:25 pm ET FOX
- Randall Cobb
In the Lexington and Louisville areas, FOX will be airing the Packers at 49ers game. So if you’re in the Commonwealth, unless you live in the Paducah area where FOX is airing the Cardinals at Rams matchup, Randall Cobb will be on your screen. Cobb returned to practice on Sunday, the 25th of August, and says his injured bicep will be ready to go in Week 1 against San Francisco. After playing only 2 snaps in the preseason, look for Cobb to be rested and ready to contribute in San Francisco.
If Cobb is close to 100% against the 49ers, he may be allowed to take some punt and kickoff returns. This would be very bad news for a 49ers special teams unit that infamously allowed a 108-yard kickoff return to open the second half of the Super Bowl. Despite several major moves to upgrade the unit in the draft and free agency, it still looked rather sloppy at times in the preseason–allowing a 104-yard touchdown return against the Chiefs in the second preseason game.
When speaking with reporters in May, Cobb wasn’t sure whether he would be a return man or not, due to the risk of injury, but being the class act he is, reassured reporters he would do whatever the team asked of him.
Cobb should be Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target this season. Cobb owns the middle of the field, playing 84% of possessions out of the slot. While Jordy Nelson and James Jones spread the field on the outside, Cobb can dominate inside routes, and build on the 8 touchdown catches from last season. I would suspect he will break into the 1,000 receiving yards club in 2013, especially with the loss of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in Green Bay.
“I think definitely with Donald retiring and Greg leaving, it’s definitely going to be a lot more weight on me, James and Jordy’s shoulders,” Cobb said. “But we’re taking on the challenge head-on. We’ve been really excited to get back and work. We’ve got some young guys, some drafted guys that’s coming in.”
“I really don’t think I’ve peaked yet. I’m 22 years old. I’ve got a lot of learning still to do. I have a long way to go and I just hope I continue to get better over the next years.”
You got this Golden Eyes.
- Tim Masthay
The “Ginger Wolverine” from Punter U has had a solid career with the Packers since being waived from the Colts. He’s won a Super Bowl as the starting punter and set Green Bay franchise records for gross and net punting averages for a season in 2011. He will be punting to the second-year player out of Oregon, LaMichael James, today.
In the above video you can see Masthay’s 27 yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal against the Bears. He has a perfect career passer rating of 158.3, though sadly it’s not a record with just one pass. I’m ready for another Masthay TD this season.
Patriots at Bills
1 pm ET
- Stevie Johnson
Stevie made some not-so-positive headlines this week when he started talking some smack prior to this Sunday’s Patriots-Bills matchup. He said, “I don’t think they got nobody that can stop me. For real,” to the Buffalo News. But the headline grabber wasn’t the commonplace jab from Johnson towards the Patriots’ secondary, but, rather, his attempt to compliment it afterwards. Stevie sang the praises of the long and athletic Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, then, when asked who else impressed him, replied, “I got a lot of respect for Chung. I know him personally.”
Patrick Chung is now a Philadelphia Eagle, while Devin McCourty is the starting free safety for the Patriots.
So maybe he hadn’t watched much game film yet? A bit embarrassing, but no big deal. Stevie’s taking it in stride.
— STVN (@StevieJohnson13) September 2, 2013
One of the most popular Kentucky players of the past decade, we all know how Stevie can “get loose” on the field, and his success in the NFL has made him a rather vocal member of an oft-ignored Bills franchise. Regarding this season Johnson said of Buffalo’s playoff chances this season, “Why not now? Why not us?”
This Sunday begins the Bills quest to do just that against a familiar AFC East foe that no longer has two of Brady’s favorite targets–Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez.
It’s Johnson’s sixth year in the league, and after his breakout season in 2010 where he finished with 82 receptions, 1073 yards and 10 touchdowns, the Bills signed him to a new 5-year contract worth $36.5 million. Clearly they’re investing in Johnson as a long-term #1 option, with a rookie in E.J. Manuel potentially being the quarterback of the future.
Stevie hasn’t had a lot of success against the Patriots; in his career eight games against them he’s totalled 382 yards and three touchdowns, with no 100-yard receiving games.
This is one to watch for any Kentucky fan, or fantasy owner, whose looking to see how Stevie responds to more media scrutiny.
The Patriots cornerback (an actual one,) Aqib Talib had this to say about Stevie, “We’re preparing,” said Talib. “He definitely demands a lot from a defense. He’s sharp in his routes. He’s really good on his releases.”
Vikings at Lions
1 pm ET
- Larry Warford
The third round draft pick for the Lions this year, and the highest drafted Wildcat, Warford had a solid preseason at right guard. He played 148 snaps, allowing only 1 sack, 0 hits on the quarterback, and 1 hurried throw. Warford graded out as the 14th best guard of the preseason (courtesy of ProFootballFocus, which you need a subscription for, so I did not link it).
Here’s what he had to say, “I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “I just want one of the spots. If it’s the right guard spot, that’s just a lucky coincidence for me. That’s what I played in college, and I’m pretty good at it. But if I can get any left guard, that would be great, too.”
A three-time 2nd team All-SEC player, and the first Wildcat offensive lineman drafted in 20 years, Warford is being projected by many experts as the not-so-surprising “surprise starter” at right guard for today’s Vikings game, over veterans Dylan Gandy and Leroy Harris.
Regarding potentially getting the starting job, (prior to the decision being confirmed today,) Larry kept it cool, “If I do, great. If I don’t, I’m just going to keep working,” Warford said of starting. “Obviously everyone’s goal is to win that starting job and hopefully if I stay on the track I’m on, I’ll eventually earn that spot.”
NFL college scout, Nick Meyer thinks Warford will do just fine as a rookie, hearing other scouts call him “a “big pusher” in the run game and a “stout anchor guy” in pass protection.” Meyer also said Warford is a smart and savvy guy who is learning from the veterans around him.
Warford is excited about having the growth and improvement he has made since being in Detroit, specifically to his balance:
“When I first got here, I was coming off the ball explosively — but that’s not always the greatest thing for me because I tend to get top-heavy,” he said. “I get off-balance, and all you have to do is pull on me and I’d fall to my knees. When I was in college, I used to get worried about, ‘Ugh, if I don’t get off the ball, I’m getting blown up.’ Here, it’s not all about just getting movement. Sometimes you just have to stalemate to keep your balance.”
“At Kentucky, I was like, ‘Man, these guys gave me a scholarship but I feel like I’m letting them down (by not starting),” he said. “But you can’t think of it that way. They have to work with you to get you to the level where you’re very polished, so they can feel comfortable putting you on the field. You don’t want to put an unfinished product out there.
“So it wasn’t as bad when I got here, because I understood that. I understood not starting wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I still obviously really want to start — that’s my goal — but like I said, I don’t want to be out there if I’m not the best choice.”
A big congratulations is in order for the rookie. The BBN is pulling for you today.
Falcons at Saints
1 pm ET
- Corey Peters
The third round draft pick in 2010 for Atlanta at defensive tackle, he is in his fourth year with the Falcons on a four-year contract. The Louisville native had a solid rookie season, starting for the Falcons in 15 of 16 games and finished with 33 tackles on the year. He followed that up in 2011 starting/playing in 15 games and recording 21 solo tackles, 26 total.
He was on reserve for the Falcons in the first six weeks of 2012, but in just eight game starts recorded 21 total tackles and a forced fumble, and a career-high six tackles against Detroit in week 16. The Falcons were fifth in the NFL last season in scoring defense and look to build on the AFC South Championship season with a playoff run. The Saints are in flux since their dramatic 2012 season and still shouldn’t be a great challenge for the Falcons defense–though you can never sleep on a Drew Brees-led team.
Peters has an extra special place in the hearts of Kentucky football fans for his dedication to serving the community while a Cat, which Peters attributes largely to Coach Rich Brooks. Corey was nominated for the 2009 Wuerffel Trophy while at Kentucky. In Atlanta, he’s done the same working with the Atlanta Fire Department, the Make-A-Wish foundation, a children’s cancer research group, among many others; this has been noticed by the fans in Atlanta as well this summer.
Seahawks at Panthers
1 pm ET
- Garry Williams
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers in 2009, and had his contract extended in 2011. After a solid sophomore season with Carolina in which he played in all 16 games and started the last 11 at right tackle, he contributed to an offense that rushed for over 100 yards in eight of its last nine games. After breaking his ankle in the 2011 preseason, Williams spent the season on IR, but came back in 2012 to play in 16 games and start in nine. Williams played both right guard and right tackle for an offense that produced 5,771 total net yards and 328 first downs, both second in the Carolina Panthers record book.
Although a competitive team in most of its games, the Cam Newton led Panthers were disappointed in their 7-9 record last season. Finishing on a 4-game hot streak, including a win over AFC South Champion Atlanta, Carolina could make some noise as a potential Wild Card team in the NFC, especially in a weakened NFC South.
Williams is the Panthers’ starter against the Seahawks today, and will be challenged by a Seattle team that finished fourth in average yards allowed and a league-low 245 points allowed, as well as being in the top 10 for rushing and passing yards allowed.
Cardinals at Rams
4:25 pm ET FOX (In Western KY)
- Alfonso Smith
Alfonso Smith signed a future contract with the Cardinals in 2011, and a few days ago I was honestly expecting him to be the third-option at running back for the Cardinals. But today, Smith was crowned the back-up against the Rams, which means there’s a very good chance of him getting playing time as he is backing up Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall is listed as questionable for Week 1 due to a knee injury, and although most expect him to play, the former Steeler has been banged up a lot in his career and is far from the player of seasons past.
Smith impressed coaches in training camp with his pass-protection and was anointed the back-up over another often injured player, Ryan Williams, as well as two rookies.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Smith performs against a Rams team that is on the rise in a very competitive NFC West. The Rams were a top-15 run defense in the second half of last season, and added top OLB prospect Alec Ogletree in the first round of the draft, along with punishing SS T.J. McDonald. In addition to their top-5 MLB James Laurinaitis, the Rams have Cortland Finnegan–a run-stopping cornerback with the most tackles among all defensive backs last season (over 100).
This should be a difficult first test for Alfonso Smith and the Cardinals, but it’s an excellent step for Smith towards potentially becoming a strong contributor on an NFL team.
- Ricky Lumpkin
Lumpkin has been on the Cardinals injured reserve since August 31st with a shoulder injury. He had just one tackle in one game for the Cardinals last season.
Chiefs at Jaguars
1 pm ET
- Winston Guy
Guy was picked up by the Jaguars on Saturday, August 31st on the waiver wire after being one of the final cuts from the Seattle Seahawks defense. The Lexington Catholic grad is in his second year in the league and as a backup at safety to Jonathan Cyprien and a potential contributor on special teams, Guy hopes to become a mainstay on the Jags roster (despite the fact it’s the Jags…). He’s the fourth Seahawks player Jacksonville has added off the waiver wire, not surprising as new Jaguars’ coach Gus Bradley is the former defensive coordinator in Seattle. Don’t expect Guy to get playing time on Sunday, but look for him potentially on special teams. I’m curious if he will be given the opportunity to contribute there given he’s only been on the team for a week.
Good luck to all the former Cats representing their pro teams in opening week. Hallelujah, football is back.