After an offseason filled with uncertainty, the NFL season arrives Thursday, when the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans.
COVID-19 makes the season an odd one, though.
Arrowhead Stadium will allow fans to fill just 25% of the stadium’s capacity. Fans will wear face masks at all times, and they will be limited to certain areas of the stadium.
It’s expected to be an NFL season unlike any other, but the on-field product remains largely the same. The return of football also gives Virginia fans a chance to watch former Cavaliers compete at the professional level.
Heading into the 2020 NFL season, 13 former Wahoos landed on 53-man rosters.
Oday Aboushi, DET
Originally cut by the Lions, Aboushi was recently re-signed by the team. He’s on the team’s 53-man roster as a depth piece along the offensive line.
While he isn’t expected to start, Aboushi knows Detroit’s system after appearing in seven games for the Lions last year. He’s also played for current Detroit offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Seattle earlier in his career.
Andrew Brown, CIN
A fifth-round draft pick in 2018, Brown lands on the Bengals’ 53-man roster. The defensive lineman projects as a depth piece along Cincinnati’s front. He’s tallied 14 tackles in his NFL career, and he’s hoping to record his first sack in 2020.
Anthony Harris, MIN
Arguably the best former Wahoo currently in the NFL, Harris recorded a career-high six interceptions last season. The safety is a critical part of Minnesota’s defense.
He’s enjoyed his previous seasons in the league, and he’s aiming to build on a special 2019 season.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Harris said in a recent interview on Vikings.com. “[I’ve been] living in the moment, enjoying the time in the locker room with the guys, enjoying the moments on the field and continuing to take all the experiences and continuing to strive.”
Harris recorded three interceptions in 2018, giving him nine in the past two seasons. He also added 60 tackles last year and 46 in 2018. Minnesota figures to contend for the NFC North crown this fall, making Harris one of the former UVa players with a realistic shot at winning the Super Bowl this season.
Dontrelle Inman, WASH
Only five wide receivers made Washington’s 53-man roster. One of them was Inman.
Washington’s receivers are extremely young. Second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin is the team’s No. 1 option. With limited options at wide receiver, Inman figures to see the field consistently. Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins may lean on Inman and McLaurin frequently throughout the season as he waits for other young receivers to adjust to the NFL.
Micah Kiser, LAR
Kiser’s rookie season in 2018 saw him play in all 16 games, making four tackles. Last season, he suffered a torn pectoral during the preseason and missed the entire year. Healthy again, Kiser is expected to start at linebacker this season.
“Last year, even though I didn’t play, I feel like I got like ten thousand mental reps,” Kiser recently said in an interview.
The mental reps have Kiser feeling confident as a defender at the NFL level. With his health back, he’s looking to become a breakout star at the professional level.
His teammates are excited to have him back on the field this fall.
“Oh man, it’s dope,” linebacker Samson Ebukam recently said. “That’s the homie right there. He’s been very vocal, very talkative, like he always is. We just kind of needed that at the linebacker spot and he’s definitely brought a renewed energy.”
Rodney McLeod, PHI
Despite going undrafted in 2012, McLeod has been a stellar performer at the safety position. He’s expected to play an important role on a Philadelphia defense hoping for better secondary play this season. The Eagles allowed 27 passing touchdowns a season ago and only recorded 11 interceptions.
McLeod also wants to keep social justice initiatives at the forefront of the discussion this NFL season.
“In the incident of the George Floyd case and Breonna Taylor, there was a lot of traction, there were a lot of conversations had,” McLeod said in August. “I believe everyone was on board to move the needle. In the recent month or two, I feel like it’s become somewhat of an afterthought, I would say. There hasn’t been much push. And I think us as NFL players the challenge is now on these owners. We want them to speak out on a lot of these issues that exist for these players.”
Keep an eye out for McLeod’s on- and off-field contributions this fall.
Morgan Moses, WASH
Moses has started 16 games for Washington in five consecutive seasons. The veteran offensive lineman figures to be in the mix to start at right tackle throughout the 2020 season as well. He’ll hope to protect Haskins as the quarterback aims to prove he’s the franchise’s future at the position.
Joe Reed, LAC
A rookie, Reed figures to be an option at wide receiver, running back and kickoff returner. Keenan Allen is Los Angeles’ top receiving option and Mike Williams sits solidly as the No. 2 option when healthy, but behind them, touches are available.
Reed’s versatility makes him a quality candidate to see the field in his first NFL season. He’s also the top option at kick returner and a backup at punt returner.
LaRoy Reynolds, ATL
Reynolds provides depth at linebacker for the Falcons, and he’s a solid candidate to see playing time on special teams. He’s back in Atlanta after playing for the Falcons in 2016 and 2017. Reynolds spent time with the Bengals last season.
Matt Schaub, ATL
Schaub, an NFL veteran, enters the fall as Matt Ryan’s backup quarterback. He beat out former UVa quarterback Kurt Benkert for the backup position.
If all goes according to plan for Atlanta, Schaub won’t see the field this season.
Juan Thornhill, KC
As a rookie in 2019, Thornhill played a critical role in the regular season.
Unfortunately, Thornhill missed the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory after suffering a torn ACL in December.
He’s worked his way back from the injury, although it’s unclear just how much he’ll play early in the season.
On the bright side, Thornhill was a full participant in Monday’s practice.
Kansas City opens its season Thursday against the Texans.
Brent Urban, CHI
Chicago lists Urban as its second-string defensive tackle. He played nine games for the Bears last season, finishing with 16 tackles. Urban has also played for Baltimore and Tennessee since the 2015 season.
Olamide Zaccheaus, ATL
Playing behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Zaccheaus certainly isn’t the top option for the Falcons at wide receiver, but the third-year professional made the 53-man roster and provides depth at the wide receiver position. If injuries occur, Zaccheaus provides explosive ability from the wide receiver position.
In addition to Reed, linebacker Jordan Mack opted out of the season earlier this offseason. Quarterback Bryce Perkins landed on the Rams’ practice squad, and cornerback Bryce Hall is on the Jets’ roster under the active/NFI list as he recovers from a leg injury suffered in his final season at UVa.
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