University of Florida

Here’s how Florida Gators rookies fared in their first NFL preseason

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell (1) made his case this preseason to be part of the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster.
Former Florida Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell (1) made his case this preseason to be part of the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster. AP

With the NFL preseason coming to an end Thursday, nine former Florida Gators football players made their first impressions on the league.

A fair amount of these rookies are locks to make rosters once cuts are finalized on Saturday. Others will be sweating it out over the next couple days.

Here’s a look at how each former UF player fared over the exhibition slate, organized alphabetically by team:

Mark Thompson, Baltimore Ravens

Thompson, an undrafted free agent who spent his final two college seasons at UF after starting at Dodge City Community College in Kansas, entered the preseason battling to be Baltimore’s No. 3 running back behind Alex Collins and Javorius Allen. In five games, he rushed for 146 yards on 31 carries (4.7 yards per attempt) and finished with his strongest performance of the preseason on Thursday against the Redskins (14 carries, 91 yards).

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If Antonio Callaway can avoid getting into off-field trouble, he has the chance to make an early impact for the Cleveland Browns. Adam Hunger AP

Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns

Callaway, a fourth-round pick whose on-field talent is possibly only matched by the off-field headaches he causes, is a lock to make the Browns’ roster and has a chance to open the season as a starting receiver opposite former Miami Dolphin Jarvis Landry. The speedy Callaway caught three passes — all in the opener against the New York Giants — for 87 yards, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Brandon Powell, Detroit Lions

Powell came onto the Detorit Lions’ roster as an undrafted free agent needing to prove himself. He made his case. Powell tied for the NFL lead this preseason with 16 catches (albeit for just 103 yards) as a receiver and made a booming statement in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by returning a fourth-quarter punt 80 yards for a touchdown.

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Taven Bryan (90), seen here in an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could have a role on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ potent defensive line this year. Jason Behnken AP

Taven Bryan and DeAndre Goolsby, Jacksonville Jaguars

Bryan, a first-round pick, is a lock. Goolsby, an undrafted free agent, likely won’t be as lucky. Bryan only played in the final two games, starting the finale against the Buccaneers on Thursday, and recorded two tackles and a pass deflection. He is expected to be part of Jacksonville’s defensive line rotation this year.

Goolsby caught one pass for 14 yards. It’s unlikely the tight end makes Jacksonville’s 53-man roster.

Duke Dawson, New England Patriots

Dawson, a second-round pick, only played in the preseason opener, recording two tackles against the Washington Redskins. He has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury but should be a lock to be on New England’s roster and battle for time at the slot corner.

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Oakland Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro (9) and punter Johnny Townsend had success together at Florida and hope to continue that success in Oakland. D. Ross Cameron AP

Eddy Pineiro and Johnny Townsend, Oakland Raiders

They were Florida’s one-two punch on special teams the past two years and broke school records. Now, Pineiro and Townsend are hoping to make their mark in the NFL.

Pineiro, an undrafted free agent and former soccer standout at Miami Sunset, made all three of his field-goal attempts in Oakland’s opener against Detroit — including one from 48 yards — but has been dealing with a groin injury since. It’s possible he opens the season on injured reserve and gets added to the roster midseason.

Townsend, Oakland’s sixth-round pick and the SEC’s all-time leader in punting average, averaged 42.4 yards per punt on 24 attempts with a long of 52. He pinned seven of those attempts inside the 20-yard line.

Marcell Harris, San Francisco 49ers

Harris, the 49ers’ sixth-round pick, did not play in the preseason while nursing a pair of injuries. The hard-hitting safety was still rehabbing from his Achilles injury that cost him his final year of playing time at UF. He also injured his hamstring early in training camp. If Harris makes the roster, his contributions will likely come on special teams during his rookie year.

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