December 5, 2021

Spartans in the NFL: Who made initial 53-man rosters and who didn’t –

Twenty-four former Michigan State players spent at least one day with an NFL team during training camp this fall.

How many made it through the gauntlet onto a 53-man roster ahead of the league’s openers next week?

From the NFL mainstays like Kirk Cousins and William Gholston to the rookies and the specialists, here’s everyone who made an NFL opening day roster as of Tuesday, August 31, and who didn’t (with the possibility for more movement in the coming days):


Brian Allen, Los Angeles Rams

After missing all of last season with an injury, Allen is back healthy for his third season with the Rams, where reports out of camp indicate he has been pushing for the starting center job, one that he held for part of 2019.

Jack Conklin, OT, Cleveland Browns

Conklin is coming off an All-Pro season with the Browns in his first season since being traded from the Titans. He’s now played five seasons in the NFL after being a first-round pick in 2016.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Cousins is starting his 10th NFL season and fourth as the starter for the Vikings. After leading his team to the playoffs in 2019, Cousins took a step back in completion percentage and interceptions last year but also set a career-high with 35 touchdowns.

Andrew Dowell, LB, New Orleans Saints

Dowell spent last season on the Saints practice squad and impressed enough to earn a spot on the team’s initial 53-man roster, giving him the chance to make his NFL debut early this season. He spent his first professional season with the Cowboys.

William Gholston, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gholston is back for his ninth season with the Buccaneers after winning a Super Bowl. He started 12 games last year, his most in a season since 2012, and tied his career-high with three sacks.

Justin Layne, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Layne has played primarily on special teams in his first two seasons since he was a third-round draft pick in 2019. He begins his third season in Pittsburgh in 2020.

Malik McDowell, DT, Cleveland Browns

McDowell is nearly five years removed since his last organized football game, due to an ATV accident before his first training camp and multiple subsequent arrests. But he returned to professional football this year with the Browns and made the team out of training camp.

Taybor Pepper, LS, San Francisco 49ers

Pepper is set for his second season with the 49ers and fourth NFL season overall.

Josiah Scott, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

After playing in six games as a rookie for the Jaguars, Scott was traded to the Eagles in May. He made it through training camp and is now set to start his second NFL season with his second team.

Trae Waynes, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Waynes missed the entire 2020 season with a torn pectoral muscle, and now he’ll likely start the season on the injured list again after suffering a hamstring injury in training camp.

Khari Willis, S, Indianapolis Colts

The former fourth-round pick has become a staple in the Colts’ secondary, starting 14 games last year while recording 85 tackles and a pair of interceptions. He played more than 80 percent of the Colts’ defensive snaps last year.


Joe Bachie, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

Bachie spent most of last season on the Eagles practice squad before getting a late callup and playing in four games. He was claimed off of waivers in May by the Bengals and made it to final cuts but didn’t earn a spot on the initial 53-man roster.

Shilique Calhoun, DE, San Francisco 49ers

Calhoun was released by the 49ers in mid-August after a nine-day stint with the team. He’s spent five years in the NFL, three with the Raiders and two with the Patriots.

Shakur Brown, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown was a surprise omission in the draft earlier this year and thought by some to be a candidate to overperform as a free agent. But he wasn’t able to make the Steelers out of camp and will likely hope for a spot on their practice squad.

Brian Hoyer, QB, New England Patriots

Hoyer was technically waived on Tuesday, but ESPN reported that he is expected to be re-signed in the coming days. The Patriots made one of the most surprising moves of cut day on Tuesday and let go of Cam Newton, and with Jarrett Stidham injured have only one healthy quarterback on the roster in Mac Jones.

Naquan Jones, DT, Tennessee Titans

Jones signed with the Titans after going undrafted in the spring. He had strong moments during training camp but ultimately was a victim to the final round of cuts on Tuesday.

Brian Lewerke, QB, New York Giants

Lewerke was signed midway through camp by the Giants and played in a preseason game before being waived on the final day of cuts. Lewerke spent time with the Patriots during the last offseason and has also played in The Spring League.

Mike Panasiuk, DL, Carolina Panthers

Panasiuk was waived due to injury on August 17. He spent his rookie season on Carolina’s practice squad.

Matt Seybert, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Seybert had two different stints with the Chargers this offseason. The second one lasted just four days, before he was cut on Aug. 17 when the Chargers got down to 80 players.

Matt Sokol, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Sokol made his NFL debut with two games last year for the Chargers but didn’t survive the final round of cuts this year.

Cody White, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

White spent his rookie season in 2020 on the Steelers practice squad. He made it until the final round of cuts this year and will now likely look to earn another spot on the team’s practice squad.

Kenny Willekes, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Willekes’ rookie season was over before it started when he suffered a season-ending leg injury in training camp. He returned healthy this season but was among the team’s final cuts on Tuesday.

Raequan Williams, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

Williams was moved up from the practice squad to play six games near the end of last year with the Eagles but wasn’t able to make the Eagles’ opening-game roster.


Darqueze Dennard, CB, Arizona Cardinals

After spending his first six years with the Bengals, Dennard is now with his third team in three years after signing with the Cardinals as a free agent in June. His season ended last year due to a quadriceps injury, after he had made six starts in eight games, and he was placed on IR near the end of training camp.

Joel Heath, DT, Detroit Lions

Heath opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, then signed with the Lions as a free agent. But a torn ACL suffered in OTAs will keep him off the field for a second consecutive season in 2021.