With NFL training camps ready to get underway, four NIU alumni are hoping to make it through to the final 53-man roster in the NFL.
Jordan Lynch, Jimmie Ward, Ken Bishop and Joe Windsor head into some tough position battles this week.
Lynch faces the toughest roster of the four Huskie rookies. The former Heisman Trophy finalist is listed as a running back for the Bears, which immediately puts him in a tough battle. Lynch will be going up against Ka’Deem Carey, a fourth-round draft pick, Michael Ford, Shaun Draughn and fellow undrafted free agent Senorise Perry.
Carey and Ford are likely locks for the roster behind starter Matt Forte, and the Bears likely won’t carry four running backs. So, Lynch must make himself into a key special teams contributor, which could be an even bigger challenge for him.
Lynch has had plenty of opportunities to use his skills as a runner at NIU, but he’s never blocked or tackled in high-level football. He’ll desperately need to work on his blocking and tackling to make himself appealing as a special teams contributor. Special teams may be his only shot at making this roster.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ward, the San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick, has his roster spot likely sewn up.
Beyond his first-round pick status, Ward’s biggest advantage is his versatility. According to the 49ers’ website, www.49ers.com, he’s listed as a defensive back, which means he could be in the running for a few different positions despite safety being his natural position. If he does stick at safety, there’s a strong possibility he could see the field in Week 1 opposite Eric Reid.
His foot injury, which could have been a cause for concern, appears to be a thing of the past with Ward having been given the all-OK a few days ago. If the injury does nag him throughout camp, that may lower his chances of being a Week 1 starter, but it won’t hurt his roster spot much since he’s a lock to the make the team.
Bishop, the Dallas Cowboys’ seventh-round pick, will have to work to crack an overcrowded defensive line. Former Bear Henry Melton and Nick Hayden are the projected starters, but what works in Bishop’s favor is that Dallas likes to carry a large group of linemen. Last season, the Cowboys started the year with 10.
If Bishop wants to see the playing field, he’ll have to work on his pass rush. At NIU, he only recorded 3.5 sacks, but the plus side for him is that he’ll be alongside one of the stronger defensive lines in the NFL, which could bode well for his development. While his spot on the roster isn’t guaranteed, Bishop has an extremely strong chance of making the team.
Windsor will need to have a very strong training camp if he’s going to stick with Dallas. He faces an uphill battle; however, he could see a spot on the practice squad in his future if he shows enough promise in training camp. Formerly a defensive end with the Huskies, he’ll likely make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL.
Windsor may need some luck to stick with the Cowboys, but he won’t have to endure the toughest fight.