SMU’s NFL Roundup: Preseason Week 1

by CJ Olson

Photo courtesy of Andrew Mather/Kansas City Chiefs

Of the 20 former SMU Mustangs currently in the NFL, 16 saw the field in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.

Let’s take a quick look at how each of them performed:

Kelvin Beachum, Jr. – Arizona Cardinals, T

Beachum saw 16 snaps’ worth of action against the Dallas Cowboys.

He was the highest-rated Cardinals’ lineman. Where he shined was in the run game, earning a run blocking grade of 75.3.

Chris Banjo – Arizona Cardinals, S

Banjo saw the field for 30 snaps against Dallas.

He earned a 68.8 overall grade — an above average grade.

He accounted for two solo tackles, as well as an assisted tackle. One of these tackles was considered a run stop.

PFF defines a run stop as any tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense.

This should be seen as a solid outing for the veteran entering his ninth season.

Margus Hunt – Arizona Cardinals, DT

Hunt had a strong performance in the 37 snaps he saw.

His three quarterback hurries were the headline. He also added a tackle.

All in all, it was a very good start to the season for Hunt.

Ryan Becker – Atlanta Falcons, TE

Becker caught his lone target, an eight-yard reception, on the Falcons’ first offensive play against the Tennessee Titans.

In the third quarter, a 17-yard rush was called back due to Becker holding.

Ultimately, he received a 39.9 PFF overall grade, although he did earn a great 75.1 grade in pass blocking.

Considering Becker has not played a snap of football since the 2019 college season, there was probably some rust.

James Proche – Baltimore Ravens, WR

James Proche was targeted just twice against the New Orleans Saints and hauled in one pass for eight yards.

He also returned a couple of punts — one for 10 yards and one for four.

PFF awarded him with a below average offensive grade of 51.5 for the game.

Brandon Stephens – Baltimore Ravens, CB

Stephens led all of the Ravens in terms of tackles with seven vs. New Orleans.

He is also given credit for 0.5 sacks and a quarterback hit.

Stephens primarily spent his time in the slot — a spot he had yet to play in a game. With SMU, Stephens was almost primarily the field side corner.

He did allow three receptions for 71 yards over the four times his man was targeted. Of those 71 yards, 40 of them were after the catch.

Garrett Gilbert – Dallas Cowboys, QB

He was 7-for-16 against the Cardinals. And of the five players to throw a pass in the contest between Arizona and Dallas, Gilbert had the lowest passer rating of 59.4.

Despite this, PFF gave him a slightly above average pass rating of 68.5.

Evan Brown – Detroit Lions, C

PFF thinks that Brown had a great game against the Buffalo Bills.

In 36 snaps of action, he earned a pass block grade of 83.1, a run block grade of 65.8, and an overall grade of 70.

Considering the Lions have a young phenom at center in Frank Ragnow, it’s unlikely that Brown gets too much action as a center.

But, it’s possible that Brown could see the field at another spot along the offensive line if performance or injury dictate a need for change.

Either way, Brown likely made a great first impression with head coach Dan Campbell ahead of the second week of preseason.

Delontae Scott – Green Bay Packers, DE/OLB

Scott saw 41 snaps of action — one of the higher numbers for the former Mustangs in the first week of preseason.

With those snaps, he did not disappoint. The ESPN box score credits him with four tackles against the Houston Texans. PFF credits him with five.

More impressive than the five total tackles is PFF crediting four of those as stops. This means that PFF thinks 80% of his tackles were responsible for failed plays for the offense.

This was Scott’s first professional game after not seeing the field at all in 2020. It was definitely an impressive first game.

Kylen Granson – Indianapolis Colts, TE

Granson was targeted five times, catching two of those targets for 16 yards.

Something that head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard will likely notice is that four of his five targets against the Carolina Panthers were either on third down or for a first down.

In other words, Granson was either the target on an important down, or he was able to get enough yards to move the chains.

He primarily lined up in the slot and was targeted at a higher rate by Sam Ehlinger than by Jacob Eason.

This is a note that should be acknowledged in the event that starter Carson Wentz is not healthy by the time the Colts suit up to face the Titans in Week 1 of the regular season.

Shane Buechele – Kansas City Chiefs, QB

Who said preseason games aren’t exciting?

The traditional counting statistics are a bit nicer to Buechele than the eye test or PFF.

The traditional counting statistics? 8-for-11 for 76 yards, three carries for 13 rushing yards, and a team-high 91.5 passer rating.

More importantly, he led a 2-minute drill for the game-winning touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers.

Buechele did have a couple poor plays that come to mind.

For example, he overthrew a receiver down the sideline for what would’ve been a 30-plus yard gain.

There was also a sack or two where he probably could’ve thrown the ball away.

PFF gave him a 54.1 pass rating and 54.7 overall offense rating.

With all that said, he had a good first game, made big plays when they counted, and protected the ball. That’s all you can ask of a quarterback making his NFL debut.

Rodney Clemons – Kansas City Chiefs, S

Clemons is credited with two tackles and a pass defended against the 49ers.

The pass defended was a great, ‘heads-up’ play where he was able to drive his airborne man out of bounds to prevent a completion.

After Buechele’s last-minute touchdown, the 49ers and Josh Rosen were trying to mount a comeback. The pass that Clemons defended helped prevent a chunk play that would’ve helped the 49ers greatly.

Xavier Jones – Los Angeles Rams, RB

The Rams struggled to run the ball.

Not including quarterback Bryce Perkins’ scrambles, the Rams averaged 2.5 yards per carry against the nearby Los Angeles Chargers.

Jones was given seven carries and managed to get 21 yards. He also had two receptions for six yards.

With Cam Akers out for the foreseeable future, there are a lot of carries up for grabs.

The good news for Jones, is it looked like he was put in more diverse personnel sets. This versatility could help him see meaningful carries during the regular season.

Justin Lawler – Los Angeles Rams, OLB

Justin Lawler had the highest overall PFF grade of any former Mustang: 83.7.

In just 24 snaps vs. the Chargers, he had five tackles, three stops, two quarterback hits, two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss.

With Leonard Floyd questionable after practice on Monday, Lawler might have an opportunity to seize a starting role.

Zach Wood – New Orleans Saints, LS

Zach Wood had six snaps in the Saints’ game against the Ravens — four snapping punts and two in the field goal game.

PFF gave him a slightly below average grade of 58.5, but three of his professional seasons have seen PFF grades at 66 or higher.

This tells us that Wood might not have had his best long snapping game, but he will probably turn it around before the regular season starts.

Chris Naggar – New York Jets, K

Chris Naggar saw two opportunities to kick field goals against the New York Giants: a 30-yard attempt that he made and a 53-yard attempt that he hooked left.

Naggar has been in a battle with fellow rookie Matt Ammendola, and it appears that the Jets have decided to move forward with Ammendola. On Monday, Naggar was waived by the Jets.

Beat reporters close to the team had been reporting in the week leading up to the game that it appeared to be Ammendola’s job. Missing the 53-yarder as bad as Naggar did, as well as not getting a touchback in either of his kickoffs, were likely the final nails in the coffin.

But the good news for Naggar is that kicker is such a hot and cold position. There are always going to be teams looking for a new kicker, and Naggar has a strong leg.

List of those that did not play:

Cole Beasley – Buffalo Bills, WR

Emmanuel Sanders – Buffalo Bills, WR

Courtland Sutton – Denver Broncos, WR

Trey Quinn – Las Vegas Raiders, WR

SMU Players of the Week

Offense: Shane Buechele

Offensive Honorable Mention: Evan Brown

Defense: Justin Lawler

Defensive Honorable Mention: Brandon Stephens

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