The NFL preseason might seem meaningless to most fans, but to some players chosen late in the NFL Draft or who are on the fringes of roster, the exhibition games are some of the most important of their careers.
As the preseason gets underway, FanBuzz.com NFL Insider Matt Lombardo named his 10 rookies to watch this summer, with a pair of former Nittany Lions making the list.
Lombardo tabbed Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback, and second-round pick, Joey Porter Jr., and Green Bay Packers fifth-round quarterback Sean Clifford as two players to keep an eye on:
Joey Porter Jr
“Head-to-head reps between Steelers star wide receiver George Pickens and Porter Jr. have been an early highlight from Latrobe, with the former Penn State standout showing he’s capable of going up against some of the NFL’s more athletic receivers.
Porter’s 63.6 passer rating on targets allowed last season likely got him on the Steelers’ radar, but his ability to win one-on-one battles in press coverage solidified his status as a second-round pick.”
The Steelers chose Porter No. 32 overall, and he’s immediately ascended to the top of Pittsburgh’s depth chart, opposite veteran Patrick Peterson.
Pittsburgh is banking on Porter bodying up against the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Odell Beckham Jr., and Amari Cooper in man-press coverage this season.
During his final season in Happy Valley, Porter Jr. was rarely targeted, but still produced 27 tackles and broke up 11 passes while only being targeted 30 times all season.
The preseason represents Porter Jr.’s best chance to secure a starting job in the Steelers’ secondary.
“Sean Clifford getting selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth-round was one of the biggest surprises of the NFL Draft. However, with plenty of big game experience from his time at Penn State, including a blowout win over Utah in the Rose Bowl, Clifford has looked like he belongs, all throughout the Packers’ offseason program.
Green Bay will undoubtedly give plenty of snaps to Jordan Love, but Clifford will get his share of playing time throughout the preseason and has a legitimate chance of locking down the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback job if he plays well.”
Following an impressive spring and summer, the Packers are giving Clifford every opportunity to nail down the role as Jordan Love’s backup.
Clifford arrives in Green Bay having passed for 10,661 yards with 86 touchdowns to 31 interceptions across four-plus seasons as the Nittay Lions’ starting quarterback.
Multiple reports have suggested that Clifford has been continuously improving throughout the summer. The Packers’ preseason slate will be Clifford’s audition for Green Bay’s No. 2 quarterback job.