The NFL season kicks off Thursday night with a certain former Auburn quarterback taking center stage in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.
Cam Newton, along with former Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne, will take on the Denver Broncos on Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET on NBC) in the first game of the league’s 2016 campaign. The defending NFL MVP is eyeing a better result than the last time he stepped onto the field in a competitive game, when the Broncos claimed the world title over his Panthers.
Newton and Artis-Payne are two of 27 former Auburn Tigers on NFL rosters heading into Week 1 of the regular season. The Tigers have a stronghold in the state of Ohio as the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns each have three Auburn football alumni on their 53-man squads.
With the season kicking off tonight with Auburn’s two Cams in action, let’s take a look at the 26 active NFL players along with a few inactives and practice squad members who once suited up for the Tigers.
Cameron Artis-Payne (Carolina Panthers RB): Artis-Payne, who rushed for 183 yards in his rookie season last year, is listed as Carolina’s third-team running back behind Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker.
Peyton Barber (Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB): Barber surprisingly left Auburn early to enter the NFL Draft, and he didn’t get selected in the seven-round extravaganza. However, the Buccaneers picked him up on a free agent contract, moved him to the practice squad in the final round of cuts and then promoted him back to the active roster Thursday. He’ll face Atlanta on Sunday.
Daren Bates (Oakland Raiders LB): After three seasons with the Rams, Bates is in Oakland, where he’ll start the season as the No. 2 weak-side linebacker behind Malcolm Smith. The Raiders open with the Saints.
Angelo Blackson (Tennessee Titans DE): Blackson was a fourth-round pick last year by the Titans, and he’ll open his second season as the backup to DaQuan Jones at defensive end. Tennessee hosts Minnesota on Sunday.
Quan Bray (Indianapolis Colts WR): Bray was a midseason gem for the Colts, as he was called up to the active roster last October and became a starting return man. He’s in line to start at both kick return and punt returner against Detroit on Sunday, and he also is the backup to Donte Moncrief at wide receiver.
Sammie Coates (Pittsburgh Steelers WR): Coates only made one catch for 11 yards last season as a rookie, but he’ll have a bigger responsibility with the Steelers offense in 2016. Coates is listed as the backup to superstar wideout Antonio Brown, and he had a few big plays in the preseason. Pittsburgh opens the season in Washington on Monday night.
Shon Coleman (Cleveland Browns OT): The rookie offensive tackle, who Cleveland took in the third round in this year’s draft, is the backup to Austin Pasztor at right tackle. The Browns open the season away from home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Karlos Dansby (Cincinnati Bengals LB): The 34-year-old NFL journeyman linebacker and former second-team All-Pro will begin his time with the Bengals in a road game against the New York Jets. Dansby is slated to start at strong-side linebacker for the usually stingy Bengals defense.
Chris Davis (San Francisco 49ers CB): The “Kick Six” hero from 2013 is in San Francisco after the 49ers picked him up last November and moved him to the active roster. Davis is listed with Keith Reaser at backup cornerback behind Jimmie Ward.
King Dunlap (San Diego Chargers OT): The 6-foot-9 veteran will protect the blind side of Philip Rivers from Week 1 as the starting left tackle in San Diego. The Chargers, who face the Chiefs on Sunday, restructured Dunlap’s contract this offseason after he missed nine games in 2015 with injury.
Nick Fairley (New Orleans Saints DT): Fairley is coming off a strong preseason with his new team, as he signed a one-year deal with the Saints this past offseason. With prized draft selection Sheldon Rankins now on the injured reserve, Fairley should be in line to start for the Saints in their opener against the Raiders.
Dee Ford (Kansas City Chiefs LB): The pressure is on the third-year linebacker out of Auburn, as the Chiefs have elevated him to a starting outside linebacker role opposite Tamba Hali. Ford played in 14 games for Kansas City last season and started five of them, registering 23 tackles and four sacks. The Chiefs open with the Chargers on Sunday.
Corey Grant (Jacksonville Jaguars RB): Grant is listed as a starting kick returner on the Jaguars’ team website next to Nick Marshall, who was recently cut and placed on the practice squad. Jacksonville opens the season Sunday at home against Green Bay.
Josh Harris (Atlanta Falcons LS): Harris is entering his fifth year as a specialist for the Falcons, which opens the season against division rival Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Jonathan Jones (New England Patriots CB): Jones was a pleasant surprise for the Patriots this offseason. The rookie corner made the 53-man cut as an undrafted free agent. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Jones’ work on defense and special teams during the preseason. New England opens the year with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.
Brandon King (New England Patriots S): King will most likely be a special teams playmaker against for the Patriots in 2016. He’s listed as a third-string defensive back with Jones on the New England depth chart.
DaVonte Lambert (Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT): An undrafted rookie defensive tackle, Lambert made the cut for the Bucs this week. According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Lambert will be the No. 4 defensive tackle on the roster as Tampa Bay opens with Atlanta on Sunday.
Corey Lemonier (Cleveland Browns LB): Lemonier was cut by the team that drafted him in 2013, the San Francisco 49ers, earlier this month. The Browns picked him up and have him on the second string at outside linebacker behind rookie Emmanuel Ogbah.
Ricardo Louis (Cleveland Browns WR): Auburn’s top receiver last season, Louis was a fourth-round draft pick by the Browns. He is the backup to former Ohio State quarterback-turned-wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. on the Browns’ Week 1 depth chart.
Sen’derrick Marks (Jacksonville Jaguars DT): Marks is entering his fourth season with the Jaguars, and he’ll start it as the backup to blockbuster offseason signing Malik Jackson at defensive tackle. Marks only played in four games last season due to injury.
Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers QB): The defending NFL MVP, who was in Auburn last weekend for the Tigers’ opener against No. 2 Clemson, will look for revenge alongside Artis-Payne on Thursday night in a Super Bowl 50 rematch against the Denver Broncos.
Jerraud Powers (Baltimore Ravens CB): According to OurLads.com, the veteran Powers is the second-string cornerback behind Shareece Wright. Powers signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this offseason after spending the last three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Jay Prosch (Houston Texans FB): Prosch, the lead-blocking H-back from Auburn’s 2013 SEC championship season, started seven games in his first two seasons with the Texans. He’s in line to start from Week 1, as he’s the only fullback listed on the depth chart for Houston’s opener against Chicago.
Greg Robinson (Los Angeles Rams OT): Robinson is listed as the starting left tackle for the Rams in their first regular-season game back in Los Angeles — a Monday Night Football special against the in-state 49ers. Robinson has started 28 of his 32 NFL games since being selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 draft.
Pat Sims (Cincinnati Bengals DT): Sims is entering his second season in his second stint with the Bengals. The 30-year-old is listed as the backup nose tackle to Domata Peko for Week 1.
Robenson Therezie (Atlanta Falcons S): Therezie is listed as a backup to Ricardo Allen at safety for the Falcons. As an undrafted rookie last season, Therezie compiled 33 tackles, two pass deflections and a crucial Week 7 interception against the Titans.
C.J. Uzomah (Cincinnati Bengals TE): The Bengals have Uzomah as the backup to Ryan Hewitt at the second tight end position — yes, Cincinnati goes with two tight end spots on its depth chart — in the starting lineup. Uzomah caught 1 pass for 4 yards last season as a rookie.
Josh Bynes (Detroit Lions LB): After starting 11 games last season at linebacker for Detroit, Bynes will open the 2016 season on the injured reserve, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. As Meinke writes, players who start the season on the IR can be brought back onto the active roster starting in Week 8.
Avery Young (New Orleans Saints OT): Young went undrafted this year, but the Saints signed him to a free agent deal. He won’t start the season, though, as New Orleans placed him on the NFL’s reserve/non-football injury list for unknown reasons.
Did not report
Tre Mason (Los Angeles Rams RB): There haven’t been many updates in the offseason saga of Mason, the former Auburn running back who has reportedly been visited by the police five times in the last four months due to bizarre behavior and angry outbursts. Mason has not contacted the Rams since the end of last season, and the team placed him on its reserve/did not report list last month.
- Blake Countess (Los Angeles Rams S)
- Nick Marshall (Jacksonville Jaguars CB)
- Chad Slade (Houston Texas OG)
- Jermaine Whitehead (Green Bay Packers S)
- Gabe Wright (Cleveland Browns DT)