NFL roster cuts make, break ex-Ducks' professional dreams

As the NFL wraps up another round of roster cuts, many former Ducks are getting news — both good and bad — about their future in the league.

Second round draft pick and Oregon’s all-time leading rusher LaMichael James has the best chance of all former Ducks to contribute in the NFL immediately. Although the San Francisco 49ers are loaded at running back with Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs and Rock Cartwright, head coach Jim Harbaugh had said repeatedly over the offseason James will make an impact in his first season. In the Niners final tune-up before the NFL season begins, James had five carries for 27 yards and two catches for 26 yards for the 49ers. But his return game suffered — he muffed two punts and bobbled a third.

Wideout Jeff Maehl and safety Eddie Pleasant were both cut by the Houston Texans before being adding to the practice roster Saturday. It was Maehl’s second time getting cut and re-signed by Houston, and the Paradise, Calif., native has had trouble breaking into the slot role behind wide receivers Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Bryant Johnson. Pleasant earned rave reviews from Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano, who gave him the nickname “The Missile.” At Oregon, Pleasant bounced around from running back to linebacker before starting at safety his senior season. With three interceptions and 61 tackles, he made first-team All-Pac-12 before going undrafted in May.

In a move that surprised many, Pleasant’s fellow defensive back Cliff Harris was waived by the Eagles near the last round of cuts. By his account, Harris had a productive camp, intercepting the ball during his first rep. “Why didn’t Harris make the cut here?” wrote’s Dave Spadaro. “Harris needs to add strength and he needs to refine his technique, and he still needs to learn to approach the game as a professional. Talent alone doesn’t get it done in this league. Every player has talent.” Harris roller-coaster career in Oregon came to an ignominious end after his dismissal from the team following repeated conduct violations.

Elsewhere, after being drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills, offensive lineman Mark Asper is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Bills brass heaped a lot of praise on the 26-year-old from Idaho, but his size alone wasn’t enough to steal the back-up center job from Eric Wood. To fit Asper on the roster, the Vikings cut offensive tackle Patrick Brown. The Bills didn’t have the opportunity to sign Asper to the practice squad because the Vikings scooped him up off waivers.

New to the Indianapolis Colts is fellow tackle Darrion Weems. A starter through most of last year, Weems spent camp with the New England Patriots before being a victim of the roster cut. Before the Patriots could tab him to the practice roster, the Colts got to him first.

Down south, linebacker Josh Kaddu, drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth round, was cut and signed to the practice roster like Pleasant and Maehl. Miami has a dearth of linebackers on the roster, led by Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake. Austin Spitler, Jason Trusnik, Kevin Burnett and Koa Misi are also on the roster. The same route was taken by wideout Lavasier Tuinei, signed to the Seattle Seahawks’ practice roster after being cut while the team trimmed down to the standard 53 players.

Maybe the biggest unknown is quarterback Darron Thomas. Last year’s signal caller sits somewhere in NFL purgatory off any NFL roster. After forgoing his senior season and going undrafted, Thomas has been out of the spotlight despite early stints with the Cardinals, Steelers and Browns. One of his preferred targets during last year’s run to the Rose Bowl, on the other hand, had a little more luck.

Paulson, the Ducks’ quiet tight end from last year, was the last Duck to get selected in the NFL Draft his past year and has spent the offseason bulking up his 6-foot-3 frame. Steelers Depot reported, however, that his blocking needs more work to get to the professional level.


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Matt Walks

Matt Walks