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Pro Frogs: TCU football players shine in first week of preseason action

Several Horned Frog alums took the field and made serious noise over the weekend.

Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The TCU football team was well represented during the first full weekend of preseason action, with several Horned Frogs taking the field for their respective NFL teams. There are currently 32 TCU football players in the NFL and many of them will have roster spots when the 2023 season officially begins in September. TCU’s representation was highlighted by the preseason game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams, who roster a combined seven former Horned Frogs including six players from the 2023 NFL Draft.

Saturday’s game between the Rams and Chargers must have felt like a fall camp session for first-round wide receiver Quentin Johnston and sixth-round cornerback Tre Tomlinson, who were frequently lined up against each other during the game. While Johnston made noise with a touchdown reception near the end of the first half, Tomlinson was showing his toughness early in the game, playing tight coverage and making a pair of plays against his former TCU teammate Johnston. Tomlinson played most of the evening and finished with two tackles and one pass defensed. Johnston recorded three catches for 10 yards.

Fourth-rounder Derius Davis joined in on the action as well, showcasing his talents on special teams with an 81-yard punt return touchdown for the Chargers. Davis added two catches for 21 yards in the game, which the Chargers won over the Rams 34-17. Seventh-rounder and Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan made his NFL debut as well, playing most of the second half as the Chargers’ third-string quarterback. Duggan rushed four times for 20 yards and completed 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards, but was sacked three times as the Rams’ defensive line created consistent pressure against the Chargers’ reserves.

Former Horned Frog running back and sixth-round draft selection Zach Evans rushed eight times for 34 yards, with a long of 9 yards, to lead all Rams running backs in the loss. Lastly, second-round offensive lineman Steve Avila took the field for the Rams and enjoyed a strong night. Avila appears primed to be the starting left guard for the Rams, who have him listed as a first-stringer on the team’s website. Veteran tackle and former TCU lineman Joe Noteboom did not play, but Noteboom figures to be in the mix for starting reps. A former third-rounder, Noteboom started at left tackle for the Rams during the 2022 season.

Outside of Los Angeles, several more TCU rookies and veteran players took the field for the start of preseason action. Free safety and former undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington made a game-changing play for the Baltimore Ravens, intercepting a pass in the endzone to prevent a 2-point conversion and preserve the team’s 20-19 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Washington, who totaled four tackles in the win, is one of several defensive backs fighting for a spot on Baltimore’s 53-man roster. Former TCU linebacker Travin Howard also created a highlight for the Buffalo Bills, making a decisive stop near the goal line during the team’s 23-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Howard, who had been with the Rams since 2019, will look to earn a 53-man roster spot with the Bulls for the 2023 campaign.

The Arizona Cardinals sent out two former Horned Frogs, including first-round defensive lineman L.J. Collier and undrafted free agent rookie running back Emari Demercado, during their preseason opener against the Denver Broncos. Collier had a solid pass breakup near the line of scrimmage, while Demercado scored the game-winning 2-point conversion on a goal-line plunge for the Cardinals, who edged the Broncos 18-17. Demercado took the rock six times for 21 yards in the game. Former TCU linebacker Garret Wallow recorded three tackles for the Houston Texans in their 20-9 win over the New England Patriots, while undrafted free agent rookie Taye Barber caught a 17-yard pass and added a 13-yard rush for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their 27-17 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Former Horned Frog draftees Jalen Reagor and Ross Blacklock suited up for the Minnesota Vikings during their 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday evening. Reagor, who was traded to the Vikings last season, led the offense with four catches for 55 yards. The former first-rounder will need a strong preseason to earn significant reps in a wide receiver room that features superstar Justin Jefferson and first-round rookie Jordan Addison. Blacklock, who was drafted in the second round by the Houston Texans in 2020, chipped in one tackle on defense and will seek to earn a 53-man roster spot on the defensive line.

The Vikings also trotted out two Horned Frog offensive lineman in undrafted free agent rookie Alan Ali and former undrafted free agent Austin Schlottmann. Both players will fight to earn 53-man roster spots for the 2023 season. Sixth-round rookie linebacker Dee Winters made his preseason debut for the San Francisco 49ers, finishing with three total tackles in a 34-7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, who did not play former second-rounder and Jim Thorpe Award-winning safety Tre’von Moehrig. Third-round rookie Kendre Miller took the field for the New Orleans Saints, but unfortunately departed the game after suffering a knee sprain. On a positive note, veteran linebacker Ty Summers notched three tackles and one QB hit for the Saints, who edged the Kansas City Chiefs 26-24. Former third-rounder Lucas Niang is looking to earn a starting role at right tackle for the Chiefs this coming season.

Other notable TCU players in the NFL include Matt Pryor (49ers), Joey Hunt (Seahawks), Dylan Horton (Texans), Jerry Hughes (Texans), Andy Dalton (Panthers), Innis Gaines (Packers), Halaapoulivaati Vaitai (Lions), Obinna Eze (Lions), Ben Banogu (Cowboys), KaVontae Turpin (Cowboys) and Aviante Collins (Bears).