Mountaineers in the NFL: Rookie preseason update

Sports

West Virginia’s draft class this past spring was one of the most talked-about since 2012. With six Mountaineers getting their names called and several more receiving opportunities as free agents, lots of guys will be kicking their professional careers off this season.

Since two weeks of the preseason are almost totally behind us, let’s take a look at how the most recent class of Mountaineer alumni are faring in “The League.”

Will Grier, Carolina Panthers

With Cam Newton in the backfield, the starting quarterback job in Carolina is all but locked up. For Grier, his most viable option will likely be as the Panthers’ backup — but in the NFL, not even that job is free. Coach Ron Rivera is currently pitting Grier against Kyle Allen — an undrafted free agent from a year ago — in what seems to be a tight battle for the second spot.

Rivera does seem to be giving Grier the edge on the field, however. In their first two preseason games, Grier has made 35 pass attempts — 15 more attempts than Allen — of which, he’s completed 19 for 152 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he has also been picked off twice, the most recent of which was taken for a touchdown.

David Sills V, Buffalo Bills

Many Mountaineer fans were surprised to see all seven rounds of the NFL Draft go by without hearing David Sills’s name get called. Luckily for the wideout, that didn’t mean teams lacked interest. In fact, he was reportedly one of the most coveted undrafted receivers coming out of the Draft, which is why Buffalo put on a “full-court press” to get the former Mountaineer on their team — with owner Terry Pegula even giving him a call.

Unlike his fellow rookies that were drafted, Sills is far from guaranteed a roster spot come September. In the Bills’ official depth chart, he was one of the top nine receivers on the roster. This is far from set in stone, and was originally released before their first preseason game — which saw him drop his only target, a wide-open pass on 3rd down.

Sills would be targeted again in their next game, but he would also be unable to reel that one in.

Gary Jennings Jr., Seattle Seahawks

The only Mountaineer receiver to be drafted this year, Jennings has reportedly been given a lot of work during training camp from coach Pete Carroll. It also doesn’t hurt that a good number of his passes in practice are coming from the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history.

With two targets and no catches, Jennings hasn’t had any body of production during games in the preseason. But he has made waves by his work in training camp, using his athleticism to make plays and get himself a better spot on the depth chart. As the Seahawks haven’t yet released an official depth chart, though, it is difficult to tell where he truly stands on the roster.

In the mean time, check out this clip of him tearing down the sideline for a big gain in camp.

David Long Jr., Tennessee Titans

While he currently sits at the bottom of the team’s unofficial depth chart, Long is making sure his name is known to the coaches and fans in Tennessee. Even though he logged a single tackle in the Titans’ preseason opener against the Eagles, the linebacker led his team in tackles with 8 in their second contest against the Patriots.

From what he has shown, though, Long is currently passing the most important metric with flying colors — the eye test. While still very raw, fans and pundits are praising Long’s speed on the field, as well as his toughness and willingness to lay down the wood.

As a near-lock to make the roster, Long seems to be pushing his way up Tennessee’s depth chart every week as the preseason moves on.

Trevon Wesco, New York Jets

Wesco broke out last season in Morgantown, bursting himself onto the draft boards of several NFL teams — eventually earning himself a home with the Jets. The Martinsburg native has gotten some playing time so far this preseason mostly in blocking and short-yardage situations.

One of the biggest question marks for New York this season, coincidentally, is that of the tight end position. While Chris Herndon had a productive rookie season in that spot last year, he will be sitting out the first four games this season with a suspension. It is highly unlikely that Wesco will start in his place, but the lack of depth may allow him to fill in if the Jets choose to cycle through the depth chart.

Yodny Cajuste, New England Patriots

Despite being one of the highest-rated O-linemen in this year’s draft, Yodny Cajuste underwent surgery and fell to the Patriots in the 4th round. As the Patriots have placed him on the NFI (non-football injury) list, he still hasn’t been cleared to participate in football activities. He can be taken off the list at any time, but if he still on the list come week 1, he can’t be activated until week 6.

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