Thursday, October 27, 2016
Mario Alford

WVUPros in the NFL: Opening Training Camp notes and observations

Football fans rejoice! NFL Training Camps began this week, meaning football is just around the corner. Here’s what we saw and heard from the first few days.

Kevin White, Chicago Bears – White made his training camp debut on Thursday for the first time in his career. A shin injury kept him out all of what would have been his rookie season. He participated in spring practices and OTA’s, and is still working to get up to speed.

“Trying to put everything together — get the play, look at the defense, and go into it with a plan — that was a little rough,” White said.

One thing he’s learning to do is go 100% as soon as the ball is snapped. He admits that that wasn’t always the case at WVU.

“I try to (ease) into the route sometimes and play like a little tempo game,” White said. “He just told me to get up on them quick. He can obviously throw the ball, let the ball out, a little quicker and help put some pressure on the DBs.”

Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles – One thing that helped turn the shifty Smallwood into an NFL prospect during his college career was showing he could run between the tackles. He spent his first few seasons at WVU excelling in taking the ball to the outside. As an Eagle, he’ll have to show he can do both equally well despite a smaller build.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said this week. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

J.T. Thomas, New York Giants – The Giants placed Thomas on the PUP list to start training camp with a hamstring injury. The injury isn’t deemed to be too severe, and he is not expected to miss much time.

Shaq Petteway and Terrell Chestnut, San Diego Chargers – The two Mountaineer standouts from last season signed with San Diego as undrafted free-agents. They are in a similar situation to RB Dreamius Smith who found himself in San Diego to start training camp last year: looking to make an NFL roster.

“Our goal is to make the team,” Petteway said. “We have to do what we can do and control what we can control. We’ll move on from there.”

“I’m going to go out there and prove myself,” he said. “I want to make the decision harder for the coaching staff to cut me. I need to prove that I belong and make it easy for them to keep me. I may end up on the practice squad, but I can work my way up from there. I’m going to put my best foot forward and play hard.”

He knows the reality that many undrafted free-agents don’t ever play a down in the regular season and that training camp and preseason games are an open audition for other teams as well.

“Even though I’m currently with San Diego, I’m still auditioning for the other teams in the league in case something doesn’t work out,” he said. “I’m just blessed to be playing football again and I’m going to pray for the best result.”

Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders – After being cleared to practice with he ACL fully healed, the Raiders allowed Joseph to run in practices starting this past Sunday when rookies reported to camp. He ran well and looked good, per ESPN’s Adam Caplan. 

Geno Smith, New York Jets – At the last minute, the Jets re-signed last year’s starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith spent the entire offseason and the days leading up to training camp playing the role as the starter.

“I’m not disappointed,” he said after Thursday’s first training camp practice. “I’m kind of pissed off. But it’s not a detrimental thing. It’s not something where I’m pissed off at anyone, because we all want to be out there. We all know that one quarterback gets to go out there on Day 1. That just adds fuel to the fire, but not in a negative way.”

He went on to clarify his initial comment about being “pissed off” so as not to ruffle any feathers.

“I don’t want that to become like a headline or something like that, because it’s not what I’m trying to say. It’s more as a competitor, as a quarterback, knowing what I’m capable of, and really believing in myself, knowing the work that I put in over the offseason. You want to be out there. But you’ve just got to kind of play the cards that you’re dealt.”

With one year left on his contract and four quarterbacks under contract, the Jets might have a decision to make at the end of training camp in regards to Smith’s future with the team. They spent a second round pick on Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg this year and drafted Bryce Petty from Baylor last year.

Bruce Irvin, Oakland Raiders – With Irvin primed for a breakout season in his first season in Oakland, Irvin took to Twitter to point out that the team is not currently selling his jersey.

Daryl Worley, Carolina Panthers – The team placed Bene Benwikere on the PUP list to start training camp, giving Worley the chance to take even more reps at outside corner. In the team’s first practice, Worley came out as one of the two starters at corner.

Mario Alford, Cincinnati Bengals – Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons wasted no time in speaking of how big a camp this is for second-year receiver Mario Alford. The team is going to get the speedster reps at punt and kick returner and give him a shot to earn the job (Pacman Jones will still handle those roles at key moments).

“We need to see if Mario Alford is a legitimate contender or if he’s a pretender for that spot,” Simmons said. “He’s one that I think this camp is going to be huge for him. He needs to step up or we’ve got to go someplace else. It’s time for him.

“It’s kind of two-fold: One, can he handle it cleanly enough? Two, do I trust him to make the correct decisions?” Simmons said. “We really haven’t seen him do a whole lot. Three or four preseason games, that’s all he’s ever done. When we get to the season, I’m repping guys in practice who are going to play in games, so he’s not getting a whole lot of reps in the return game. It was a mixed bag in the preseason, honestly, a year ago. He made one play against Tampa on a punt return play. There were other plays I wish he would have done things better. He’s got to show he can handle those things. When he gets an opportunity to make plays, he has to make a play.”



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