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Nittany Lions In The NFL: Preseason Roundup

With the start of the NFL season less than a week away, Penn State alumni are making their mark on the gridiron. Some are fighting for their spots on a roster, while others are poised to make an immediate impact.

Here’s how some of those former Nittany Lions fared in the preseason as it came to a close last weekend.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Saquon Barkley started off the preseason with an electrifying 39-yard run against the Cleveland Browns, only increasing the already-astronomical hype surrounding him in the Big Apple.

He suffered a hamstring injury in practice following that game, which kept him out of action for the remainder of the preseason. Fortunately for Giants fans, the injury turned out to be nothing serious, and the decision not to play him was just precautionary.

Expect Barkley to be fully healthy going into the Giants’ season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

Largely considered the favorite to land the starting tight end job in Miami, Mike Gesicki cemented himself as just that for the Dolphins.

He faced minimal competition to get there, as Miami has a lot of faith in him to help this stagnant offense. Throughout the preseason, Gesicki made just one reception for ten yards in three starts. Despite that unspectacular stat line, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said the rookie is primed to take on a big role in his team’s offense.

Gesicki started the first three preseason games and was kept out of action in the fourth one, a common tactic coaches use to keep their starters rested for the regular season opener.

DaeSean Hamilton, Denver Broncos

Compared to Gesicki, DaeSean Hamilton faced a much tougher road to show he belonged.

Denver’s receiving core is full of great receivers, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders cementing themselves as the clear top dogs. Penn State’s all-time receptions leader will battle second round pick Courtland Sutton for the third spot on the Broncos’ depth chart. Hamilton gained 36 receiving yards on three receptions in four preseason games.

Hamilton’s effort throughout training camp and the preseason was enough, as he made the Broncos’ final 53-man roster and will wear No. 17 for the team this season.

Marcus Allen, Pittsburgh Steelers

Penn State’s locker room dance star overcame his own adversity to crack the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final roster. The fifth round pick had been bothered by an abdominal muscle strain that forced him to miss his team’s second preseason game against Green Bay.

Allen intercepted a pass to seal a Steeler victory over the Tennessee Titans during one of the three preseason games he did appear in. He impressed in his final preseason appearance, logging eight total tackles and forcing a fumble as Pittsburgh beat the Carolina Panthers.

Allen snagged one of the backup safety spots after a solid preseason. He’s currently listed as the Steelers’ fourth-team free safety, but should be able to contribute in a pinch.

Troy Apke, Washington Redskins

The fourth round Nittany Lion safety was another player who landed safely on an NFL roster as a backup. The Pittsburgh native will start the season behind DJ Swearinger, Sr. on the Redskins’ depth chart.

Although his main focus was certainly on making the Redskins’ roster, Apke did manage to exact some revenge on an old college foe.

He intercepted a pass thrown by none other than former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who had the game of his life when the Trojans beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl two seasons ago. Unfortunately for Apke, he can’t go back in time to make this play in the Rose Bowl, so doing it at the NFL level will have to suffice.

Brendan Mahon, Carolina Panthers

Brendan Mahon was the only Nittany Lion to sign as an undrafted free agent to crack a 53-man roster.

Mahon will start the season as the Carolina Panthers’ backup left guard after his strong performances impressed the organization’s coaching staff. The former Nittany Lion was even taking reps with Carolina’s first-team offense at times throughout training camp.

“[Brendan Mahon]’s an interesting young man,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said prior to the start of training camp. “He’s bright. He’s physical. He’s got a good set of tools. Of the young guys, he has stepped up so far. … Guys like [Mahon] can help you. He’s done a nice job so far.”

Christian Hackenberg, Cincinnati Bengals

Former Nittany Lion quarterback Christian Hackenberg was waived by the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the team’s final roster cuts on September 1.

Hackenberg has bounced around quite a bit this offseason. The New York Jets traded him to Oakland in late May, the Raiders waived him three weeks later, and the Eagles signed him during training camp

The writing was on the wall for Hackenberg, but he found work quickly with the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad.

Other Cuts

Defensive back Christian Campbell was the only Penn Stater selected in the 2018 NFL Draft not to crack his team’s 53-man roster. He made seven tackles for the Arizona Cardinals throughout the preseason.

Additionally, Big Ten champions Parker Cothren, Curtis Cothran, Saeed Blacknall, Grant Haley, Jason Cabinda, Tyler Davis, and Tyrell Chavis were all cut by their respective organizations. All of those players were signed as free agents shortly after the NFL Draft came to a close.

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About the Author

Austin Smith

Austin Smith is a junior broadcast journalism major. He grew up in New Jersey and is a writer for Onward State. He specializes in football, basketball, and the New York Knicks.

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