While the Big Sky Conference football season remains in limbo on the cusp of August, more than a dozen ex-Eastern Washington and Idaho standouts enter preseason NFL training camps around the country.
Two of these camps won’t be like the others.
The Los Angeles Rams and Los ANgeles Chargers will be featured on the popular HBO weekly docuseries “Hard Knocks” which airs Aug. 11 with likely cameos from some familiar area faces. Filming began this week.
The Rams’ roster includes former Eastern Washington receivers Cooper Kupp and Nsimba Webster and linebacker Samson Ebukam. Jeff Cotton, an undrafted rookie wide receiver from Idaho, is aiming to make the Chargers’ roster or practice squad. Here’s a look at the former Eagles and Vandals currently on 90-man rosters that will be trimmed down to 53 in late August:
Eastern WashingtonCooper Kupp WR, Los Angeles Rams: Kupp, the NFL’s 89th-best player according to the NFL Network, had a nice bounce-back year in 2019 following a season-ending knee injury the previous season. He caught 94 passes for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago and will again be a major factor in the Rams’ passing game. Kupp changed his jersey number to 10 – the same number he had during his record-breaking career at EWU – during the offseason.
Samson Ebukam, LB, Los Angeles Rams: Ebukam, the only ex-EWU Eagle to start in a Super Bowl, will again be one of the Rams’ primary edge-rushers entering his fourth NFL season. Ebukam has played in over 50 percent of the Rams’ defensive snaps the previous two seasons, had 48 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 2019.
Nsimba Webster, WR, Los Angeles Rams: Webster went from an undrafted rookie in 2019 to a member of the Rams’ 53-man roster. The 5-foot-9 speedster earned his keep for his versatility on special teams, returning seven punts and two kicks in 2019. Webster, who was once waived and re-signed by the Rams last season, looks to keep his job this summer.
Taiwan Jones, RB, Buffalo Bills: Jones enters his 10th NFL season in his return to Buffalo, where he was a special teams captain before his single season with the Houston Texans in 2019. Jones’ 34-yard reception in overtime put the Texans near the end zone to ultimately beat the Bills 22-19 in the playoffs in January.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Bourne came up big on a few occasions in the 49ers’ run to last season’s Super Bowl and may be an even bigger factor in 2020. Bourne, an undrafted rookie in 2017, has hauled in 88 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns in his three years with the run-heavy 49ers. He signed a one-year, $3,259,000 contact in the offseason.
Jake Rodgers, OL, Denver Broncos: It took Rodgers five seasons to appear on an active NFL regular-season roster, but he made it happen with the Broncos in 2019, once earning a game ball from his coach in the process. Rodgers, a Shadle Park graduate and 2015 seventh-round draft pick, bounced around several NFL practice squads before cracking the Broncos’ 53-man roster last season. The offensive tackle will be fighting for his job again this summer.
Mike Iupati, OL, Seattle Seahawks: The 11-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler joined the Seahawks in 2019, helping the organization reach the playoffs before being chosen as a Pro Bowl alternate. Iupati, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract this offseason, looks to resume his duties as a starting left guard.
Jesse Davis, OL, Miami Dolphins: The Asotin native has started 41 games at right and left tackle for the Dolphins, who had an offensive line that was widely believed the worst in the NFL last season. The Dolphins spent three early-round draft picks on offensive lineman to help the fix problem, but Davis, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract last year, will still be one of the team’s better lineman because of his versatility.
Kaden Elliss, LB, New Orleans Saints: Elliss was a seventh-round draft pick in 2019 and made his way on the Saints’ 53-man roster before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Elliss saw 48 snaps on special teams as a rookie and is looking to earn a similar role this season.
Benson Mayowa, DE, Seattle Seahawks: The eight-year NFL veteran signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Seattle in April to help boost a defensive line that was one of the worst in the league last year. Mayowa, who played for the Raiders last season, has 130 career tackles, 20 sacks, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Elijhaa Penny, RB, New York Giants: Penny, who totaled 15 carries for 39 yards for the Giants last season, signed a two-year, $2.2 million extension with the organizations this year. The fullback was primarily a practice squad player his three years in the league and will be used to clear holes for star running back Saquon Barkley.
Jeff Cotton, WR, San Diego Chargers: Cotton, an undrafted free-agent rookie, garnered pro attention at Idaho last season when the 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver recorded 88 catches, 1,141 yards and and seven touchdowns in All-American season. He’ll have his work cut out for him in making the 53-man roster as the Chargers used two draft picks on receivers.
Chris Edwards, DB, San Francisco 49ers: The former Vandals safety was a force in the Canadian Football League the past three seasons, appearing in 53 games with Edmonton and the BC Lions, totaling 112 tackles and four interceptions. He signed a futures contract with the 49ers this year and will be competing for a roster or practice squad spot in camp.
Brett Rypien, QB, Denver Broncos (Shadle Park): The Broncos currently have three quarterbacks at camp and the former Shadle Park and Boise State star is one of them. Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel are the presumed No. 1 and No. 2, and Rypien, who spent his rookie season last year on the Broncos’ practice squad, appears to be No. 3, hoping to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
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