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Bears in the Pros and NFL Week One Open Thread

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How many former Bears are active for the opening week of the NFL season? What is the outlook for their individual campaigns? Check out the latest news on our Bears in the Pros.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, there's no shortage of representation on NFL rosters for the Golden Bears this season. 26 former Cal players are on active rosters for the opening week of the season and two more are on NFL practice squads. Plus, Ron Rivera, a former Cal player, is still the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

This group represents a wide range of skill levels from franchise quarterback or running back to long snapper or special teams coverage ace.

Here is a roundup of our Bears in the pros:

Lorenzo Alexander: LB/ST, Oakland Raiders

Alexander, an undrafted free agent in 2005, spent the majority of his career making a name for himself as a special teams ace for the Washington Redskins. He then played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, where he served as a team captain.

Here's an article from the Oakland Raiders official website about the Oakland native's homecoming:

Raiders Bring Lorenzo Alexander Home - Raiders.com

He was a team captain with the Cardinals and is highly regarded as a team leader and a special teams standout, recording 94 special teams stops throughout his career.  He should add depth to the Raiders linebacking corps and veteran leadership to the special teams units.

Alexander also provides another solid, veteran presence in the Raiders locker room, as he was named the Washington Redskins’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee twice (2010-11), and was also named the recipient of the team’s Media Good Guy Award in 2010 and 2011 as well.

Keenan Allen: WR, San Diego Chargers

The 2013 third-round pick is looking to rebound after a disappointing sophomore season in the NFL. It was not a bad season by any means, but he set the bar high for himself after a great rookie campaign.

Here is an article about Allen taking advantage of social media to give Chargers fans an inside look into a Chargers preseason game:

Keenan Allen takes Chargers fans behind the scenes - The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Chargers have played two exhibition games. DirecTV customers in San Diego saw neither from their living room, as an ongoing impasse between the cable provider and CBS 8 has forced games not to be shown locally. Meanwhile, Allen found a way to make exhibition games more accessible.

Allen used the app Periscope to shoot live pre-game video from his cell phone.

That included the team breakfast at the hotel, the chartered bus ride to the stadium, the walk from the bus to the locker room, and the walk from the locker room to the field. A number of players and coaches made cameos, many of them unsuspectingly. Antonio Gates, 35, seemed confused when Allen told him in the locker room that his cell-phone video was streaming live on the Internet.

After Allen suited up for the game, he taped his walk to the field and placed his phone against the padded goal post to stream video of himself stretching and catching passes during warm-ups.

Tyson Alualu: DE/DT, Jacksonville Jaguars

Alualu is used to playing defensive end for the Jaguars, but will have to step inside and play defensive tackle while Sen'Derrick Marks recovers from a torn ACL suffered in December. It appears he has the confidence of his head coach and teammates based on this article from The Florida Times-Union:

Jaguars have plan to make do without defensive leader Sen'Derrick Marks - Jacksonville.com

"Tyson has the trust of everybody around him," Bradley said. "That’s something that we don’t take lightly."

"Tyson is going to be the guy," Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "He’s played three technique before and played at a high level. We have a core group of guys that can hold down that spot."

C.J. Anderson: HB, Denver Broncos

Anderson has gone from undrafted in 2013 to one of the highest drafted running backs in fantasy football. How has he done it? He picked the brain of Peyton Manning, which is something not everyone who plays with Manning has taken full advantage of:

Why has C.J. Anderson succeeded? It's as much about his mind as his moves - DenverBroncos.com

Few have taken greater advantage of that resource than running back C.J. Anderson. Manning would remind his fellow Broncos to ask him questions "all the time," and Anderson accepted the open invitation.

"I got the opportunity to play here, and I'm playing with probably the greatest to ever know everything before it's coming," Anderson said. "I'd be an idiot not to pick his brain.

"I always go up to him and ask him a question when I can, just to make sure we're on the same page. At the end of the day, he's the commander, and if you can get on the same page as him, the ball will come your way more -- which is always good," Anderson continued, a smile crossing his face, "and good things always come out of it."

Bryan Anger: P, Jacksonville Jaguars

It is difficult to find articles referencing Anger about anything other than the fact that the Jaguars selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Yes, Anger was selected ahead of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but he has been a good punter. If the objective of the NFL draft is to find players that stick on your roster and contribute then the Jaguars achieved that with Anger. He gets a bit too much flack for something he had no control over.

DeAndre Coleman: DT, Miami Dolphins

Coleman is yet another undrafted (2014) Golden Bear to stick with a team in the NFL. Coleman is on Miami's practice squad.

Chris Conte: FS, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Conte left the Chicago Bears this offseason and is reunited in Tampa with his former head coach Lovie Smith. Conte is currently listed as the second string free safety on the Bucs depth chart.

Justin Forsett: HB, Baltimore Ravens

The seventh round pick from 2008 bounced around with four different teams before landing in Baltimore last season en-route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. A big reason Forsett ended up with Baltimore is now in Denver, and that's Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak and Forsett will go head-to-head this weekend as their squads open the season.

Gary Kubiak's gone, but his imprint is still on Ravens - The Baltimore Sun

In 2014, he oversaw an offensive resurgence that produced a Pro Bowl running back — Justin Forsett — out of a ground game that a year earlier managed the fewest yards-per-carry in the NFL. His West Coast system also helped Flacco reach career highs in yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27).

Forsett played for Kubiak in Houston in 2012, and acknowledged that he wouldn't have landed in Baltimore two springs ago were it not for him. But the game wasn't circled on his or any other Ravens' calendar for any other reason than it was the first meaningful game since January.

Chris Harper: WR, New England Patriots

Harper, a 2015 undrafted free agent, made his way onto the Patriots roster and is understandably extremely excited about it.

Rookie Chris Harper happy to catch on with Patriots - Boston Herald

"It’s been a great experience, man," the undrafted rookie free agent out of California said. "It’s always been a dream. I’ve always loved the Patriots. I have pictures from when I was younger, like 8 or 9 (years old), of me in my (Tom) Brady jersey and going to the games. My stepmom is a huge fan. Huge fan."

DeSean Jackson: WR, Washington Redskins

Jackson, a second round pick from 2008, has never lacked for confidence. Earlier this offseason he said the Redskins would surprise a lot of people by winning the NFC East. He recently backtracked during an interview with GQ:

DeSean Jackson now seems less confident in Redskins' 2015 outlook - CBS Sports

Well, Jackson was asked recently by GQ if the Redskins will contend in 2015 and he had a slightly different answer. After a long pause, Jackson said: "Uh ... how 'bout I say, uh ... Let me see what I can answer to that question ..."

Again, what was he supposed to say?

Jackson -- like everybody else -- knows that Redskins are a trainwreck, and the reality is that anything north of three wins should be considered a moral victory.

Marvin Jones: WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Jones is expected to be a big piece for the Bengals offense this season. Why? The Bengals official website sheds some light on his impact on quarterback Andy Dalton.

Post card from Marvelous Marv - Bengals.com

How badly did Dalton miss Jones? In 2013 profootballfocus.com rated Jones the fifth best receiver in the NFL in quarterback rating for his targets and the percentage of deep balls caught.
Getting the 6-2, 200-pound Jones back is like adding one of those ascending free agents. At 24, Jones is headed into his free-agent season and while there is always concern about a thoroughbred receiver coming off two surgeries, so far so good.

Cameron Jordan: DE, New Orleans Saints

Jordan has been an excellent defensive end for the Saints. He is one of the most relied upon players on a defense which was historically bad last season. With that being said, Jordan has been on the wrong side of the headlines with the regular season fast approaching.

Saints Cameron Jordan investigated for nightclub incident - WWLTV.com

According to sources, the report was made by a man and his girlfriend alleging that Jordan swatted the woman on her buttocks and then had a minor scuffle with her boyfriend.

Head coach Sean Payton was asked about it Wednesday, but could offer little information. "We are gathering the information. We are aware of it, and I'm anxious to find out more," he said during a phone press conference with the media. "But at this time, I don't know all the details."

Sources say Jordan has been cooperative with police about the entire incident. No arrest warrant or charges have been filed.

Mychal Kendricks: ILB, Philadelphia Eagles

Kendricks endured an offseason filled with rumors that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly put him on the trading block. Those rumors ended when Kendricks signed a new contract with Philadelphia. Here's what one of his teammates had to say about Kendricks:

DeMeco Ryans: Mychal Kendricks can be NFL's best - NFL.com

"He still has a ways to go, he can still get much better. He knows that," Ryans said, via CSN Philly. "The sky is the limit for Mychal, but I think before it's said and done, he could be the best inside linebacker in this league."

L.P. Ladouceur: LS, Dallas Cowboys

Ladouceur has been untouchable as the long snapper for the Dallas Cowboys since he signed with the team in 2005. Ladouceur is near perfect as a snapper and finally received the long overdue recognition he has deserved when he was named to the Pro Bowl last season.

Marshawn Lynch: HB, Seattle Seahawks

Lynch is known for helping the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons, but recently he assisted in a former teammate landing in Seattle.

How Marshawn Lynch helped the Seahawks land Fred Jackson - ESPN

Soon after Fred Jackson was told that the Buffalo Bills were releasing him, he got on the phone with a close friend and former teammate: Marshawn Lynch.

"I said, 'I just got released, I wouldn’t mind if you put a bug in the coach's or the GM’s ear and let them know that if I can, I’d like to come out there and play," Jackson explained. "And he did that for me. It was one of the things, as soon as I hit the waiver wire, I got that phone call, and I think he has a lot to do with me being here."

"Marshawn did get the word out to us that he really trusted him and knew he was a terrific team member," Carroll said. "Nothing but really positive stuff to say."

Alex Mack: C, Cleveland Browns

Mack has had an immense impact on the Browns since they spent a first round pick on him in 2009. Last season was no different as the Browns rushing attack experienced a dramatic drop off after Mack's injury.

Browns offense better prepared to withstand adversity - ClevelandBrowns.com

Like how ancient time periods in history are divided by B.C. and A.D., the Browns 2014 season had a similar benchmark: "Before Alex Mack’s leg injury" and "After Alex Mack’s leg injury."

Before Mack broke his leg against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October, the Browns were averaging 26.8 points per game while boasting one of the NFL’s premier rushing attacks at 4.5 yards per clip.

After Mack broke his leg, the Browns averaged 15 points per game and a dismal 3.3 yards per carry. Cleveland’s offense mostly sputtered in November and December.

As Mack watched from his couch at home, it became obvious to him what opposing teams were doing. Defenses were forcing Cleveland’s hand by loading up the box with eight defenders, stifling all the running lanes. If the Browns were going to beat an opponent, they’d have to do so through the air.

Chris McCain: LB, Miami Dolphins

Yet another undrafted Golden Bear (2014), McCain had a controversial ending to his career at Cal, but has surprisingly stuck around with the Miami Dolphins. He was expected to make a big push for a starting spot on their defense, but McCain fell short as he is currently listed as a backup to former Utah Ute Koa Misi.

Brandon Mebane: DT, Seattle Seahawks

The big fella has been an integral part of the Seahawks recent success as the longest tenured player on the current roster. Here's a piece from The Seattle Times on his importance to the team after they released Tony McDaniel during the offseason:

Seahawks' decision shows faith in Brandon Mebane, and the team's superstar strategy - The Seattle Times

It was telling that Carroll volunteered praise of Mebane during an answer on what the team will do now at the interior spots with McDaniel now gone, noting Mebane’s conditioning and recovery from his injury.

"By the way, in case you guys missed it, (Brandon) Mebane was great," Carroll said. "Gosh he’s come out flying. I think Brandon is probably in the best shape of his life so he’s ready to play nose tackle and (Ahtyba) Rubin will play three-technique for the most part. But both those guys could flip. There will be times when we might want to match up and we’ll do different things. We’ll uncover the versatility as we go through camp and the early season."

Mike Mohamed: LB, Houston Texans

A sixth round pick in 2011, Mohamed has carved out a decent career for himself. He's with the Texans for a third consecutive season, but will sit out a portion of the season due to a recently acquired injury.

Mike Mohamed to miss time with injury - HoustonTexans.com

Mike Mohamed will miss time due to an injury, according to head coach Bill O’Brien. The inside linebacker, a full go in practice on Wednesday, did not participate on Thursday. He was listed on the official injury report with a calf injury.

"I don’t know exactly what it is, but he’s going to miss some time," O’Brien said Thursday. "I feel bad for the guy personally. I have a lot of respect for Mike. Mike works very hard, been through a lot, great family guy, a really good pro but he’s probably going to miss some time here."

Ron Rivera: HC, Carolina Panthers

Rivera is seeking a third consecutive NFC South division championship as head coach of the Panthers.

Aaron Rodgers: QB, Green Bay Packers

The reigning MVP enters the season without his leading receiver from last season, Jordy Nelson. The injury has not lowered expectations in Green Bay, though, as many experts see the Packers as the favorite to win the NFC.

Here's a story on how Rodgers keeps his interception totals so low:

Aaron Rodgers has 3 rules for every pass that have made him a master at avoiding interceptions - Business Insider

While each play is unique, Rodgers told King that the Packers drill in three basic rules before making a throw. It's enlightening to see how much thinking must go into every play in the mere seconds Rodgers has the ball in his hands after the snap.

Rodgers described the three rules as "senses," saying:

"One: No premeditated decisions.

"Two: Don’t make a blind throw. And that was a blind throw, meaning I didn’t look inside to see where the next coverage element was—that will get you sometimes. It got me against Conte.

"Three: Don’t throw it late down the middle."

"A lot of times, we get outside the pocket and we say, you need to O-I-O, which means you look outside, then you look inside and then you come back outside," Rodgers explained. "You check to make sure no one is falling off on the guy you want to throw to, but also double check to see if there is anybody inside who is a better option to throw to."

When he failed to do so, saying he only looked outside, it led to an interception.

Richard Rodgers: TE, Green Bay Packers

Here's a story courtesy of ESPN about Rodgers' recent jersey number change:

What's in a number? For Richard Rodgers (and James Jones), not much - ESPN Wisconsin

Richard Rodgers didn’t ask for anything, but he may get a free haircut, free dinner or some free shoes down the road from new teammate James Jones.

The Green Bay Packers second-year tight end willingly gave up his No. 89 jersey to Jones, who played seven years with the Packers (2007 through 2013) wearing No. 89 and officially returned to the team on a one-year deal Monday.

"I just gave it up," Rodgers replied when asked what the asking price was for the number. "I don’t really have an attachment to No. 89. It’s not a big deal."

"Whatever Rich needs, he’s got from me. He’s a good dude," Jones said. "Me and him, we’re kind of like family because we’ve got the same agent (Frank Bauer). I talked to [Rodgers] yesterday, he said he didn’t have any ties to the number. ‘Go ahead and take it, buddy.’ I appreciate him. Anytime he wants to go to dinner, or he needs a pair of shoes or something, need to pay for his haircut, anytime, I’m here to help him."

Sounds like a good deal for just giving up a jersey number.

Jeremy Ross: WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens

Ross lost out the competition for the fifth wide receiver spot on the Detroit Lions, but he found a new home on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. It appears as though Ross has a decent chance to end up on the 53-man roster at some point during the season as the Ravens' return specialist.

Mitchell Schwartz: OT, Cleveland Browns

Schwartz is set to start at right tackle for the Browns.

Brian Schwenke: C, Tennessee Titans

A fourth round selection in 2011, Schwenke has had some bad luck as it pertains to injuries thus far. An ankle injury cut short his rookie season and a torn MCL halted his progress last season.

Schwenke spoke with Tennessee's official website about his optimism entering this season.

Brian Schwenke Doesn't Want to Miss a Down in 2015 - TitansOnline.com

"It is something where I am literally going to do everything I can possibly do to play every single game this season and don’t miss a down,’’ he said. "I guess a part of that is keeping my fingers crossed. You kind of hope for the best and prepare the best you can, and that’s what I did the past six weeks (before camp), to try and prepare the best you can and have your body in the best possible shape."

Schwenke, who began wearing braces on both knees this offseason to prevent injuries, said he’s healthy at the start of camp.

"I feel good, feel ready to roll,’’ he said.

Craig Stevens: TE, Tennessee Titans

Stevens is not going to show up as a tight end on anyone's fantasy football team, but he has developed an integral trait required for most tight ends seeking to stick around in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans have depth of talent at tight end - isportsweb.com

Having played seven years for the Titans, Craig Stevens has the longest current tenure of any offensive player on the team’s roster. Although he offers little offensive production – his best year was 23 receptions for 275 years in 2012 – Stevens is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and he will be essential to the Titans’ running success this upcoming season.

Nick Sundberg: LS, Washington Redskins

Apparently the NFC East knows where to find long snappers. Sundberg has been a steady long snapper for the Redskins since joining the team in 2010. Sundberg was undrafted out of Cal in 2009. Sundberg and some of the other Redskins specialists contributed a great experience to a local Redskins fan with a learning disability.

Darrick Receives Special Experience At FedEx Field - Redskins.com

Darrick Lewis, age 10, has been playing football for half his life. So really, it’s only natural that the sport, and his favorite team, the Redskins, would help him in the classroom, too.

Lewis, who lives in Leesburg, Va., with his mom, Christina, and his brother, Darius, is entering fifth grade and has used football – its terminologies, its numbers, its players -- to help him overcome some early learning disabilities

Last school year, Sundberg bought a charity prize pack that had an all access pass to the fourth and final preseason game, including two tickets. Lewis was chosen as the recipient and Sundberg surprised him in class at Hamilton Elementary School with the news.

That initial shock all culminated Thursday when Darrick reconnected with Sundberg on the sideline and then raced out onto the field to catch some passes and punts from punter Tress Way.

Shane Vereen: HB, New York Giants

Vereen departed the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots this offseason to join the New York Giants. He is expected to be a big part of Big Blue's offense despite a less than stellar preseason.

Shane Vereen is the New York Giants most important offensive player - Rant Sports

A lot of the time, Manning will be forced to look away from down the field before routes develop in order to dump it off quickly to Vereen. In the Super Bowl this past season, Vereen caught 11 passes for 64 yards as the Patriots were able to beat the Seattle Seahawks‘ pass rush underneath. To most Giants fans, he will remind them of Tiki Barber with his dynamic pass-catching skills out of the backfield. Ahmad Bradshaw showed flashes, but the Giants haven’t had a game-breaking pass-catching running back since the days of Tiki. With the Patriots, Vereen has over 400 yards receiving each of the last two seasons while catching 99 balls in that time frame.

Steve Williams: CB, San Diego Chargers

A fifth round pick in 2013, Williams has yet to make a big impact with the Chargers, but that looks set to change this season.

Steve Williams Vies for Bigger Role - Chargers.com

What Steve Williams lacked in playing time last year is more than made up for in confidence.

Ironically enough, the manner in which he grew over the course of 2014 and performed down the stretch buoys him heading into 2015.

"I feel really good," he said. "I feel like I’ve grown, and this might be a big year for me.  I know what I am doing out there all the time now. So now my confidence level is on 10 because I am confident in my game and my work ethic. But having that year under me, and going into my third year, it feels good that I’ve been around.  These guys all support me and that is all I can ask."

They say you need confidence to succeed at corner, and Williams has that heading into this season.  He waited patiently last year for a chance to show what he can do on a bigger scale, and pounced on the opportunity after Shareece Wright suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers.

Inserted into the game with the Bolts down 21, Williams helped limit the 49ers the rest of the way as the Chargers matched their biggest comeback in franchise history.  In fact, the corner led the secondary with two passes broken up as San Francisco mustered just seven points in the second half.

Keep up with how the Bears are performing this season with new Bears in the Pros posts each week.

Feel free to discuss tonight's game and the games from the weekend on this post.

Go Bears!