The biggest thing I need to work on is balancing my time as a linebacker and pass rusher. I'm trying to do a lot. And that's okay. I'm used to that. But I'm just trying to get caught up to the pace of the NFL. —Kyle Van Noy
Expectations are building for former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy to make an impact in his first year in the NFL.
Gregg Rosenthal of nfl.com's Around The League listed the rookie as the starter for Detroit at strongside linebacker in his projected starting lineups for all 32 teams.
"Second-round pick Kyle Van Noy has prized versatility," Rosenthal wrote. "He will be asked to perform a variety of roles from strongside linebacker, where he should take a starting job from Ashlee Palmer."
Palmer is a five-year NFL veteran who started 10 games for the Lions last season while recording 33 tackles and a pass deflection.
The learning process has already begun for Van Noy, as he's going through organized team activities this week with Detroit after rookie mini-camp last weekend.
"The first week of OTA practices went really well. I learned a lot and also found that I need to work on a lot," Van Noy wrote in his latest blog for the Lions' website. "So it went both ways — there were good things and bad things. But I think it was mostly good because I'm going to learn a lot."
Van Noy is one of just two Detroit draft picks, including first-rounder tight end Eric Ebron, who are still unsigned. The Lions signed Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson, a fourth-round pick, on May 16 to a deal worth $2.5 million over four years, according to Kyle Meinke of mlive.com. Lawson also will receive a $300,583 signing bonus, Meinke said.
"The biggest thing I need to work on is balancing my time as a linebacker and pass rusher," Van Noy said. "I'm trying to do a lot. And that's okay. I'm used to that. But I'm just trying to get caught up to the pace of the NFL."
Here's a look at some of the situations for other NFL rookies with Utah ties:
• Former BYU safety Daniel Sorensen hit the field for the first time with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday as the team opened up rookie mini-camp.
The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is trying to make the team as a free agent after signing with the team on May 12. Ben Nielsen of Arrowhead Addict said there are three things going in Sorensen's favor to make the Chiefs' 53-man roster: his ability to play well on special teams, a "clear roster path" and his quickness.
According to Nielsen, there are already eight secondary players on Kansas City's roster — including three safeties and former Utah cornerback Sean Smith — who are locks for making the opening-day roster, and Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton could carry anywhere from 10-11 secondary players. That leaves the possibility for Sorensen, who ran the fastest 3-cone drill time at this year's NFL combine, to grab an open position, especially if he can excel on special teams like he did at BYU.
"He has traits that can be useful to the Chiefs in a reserve role," Nielsen said of Sorensen. "Getting to the ball quickly and then making a play is something that sounds so simple but it is something the Chiefs didn’t have much of in their secondary.
"Should Sorensen prove his abilities on defense are passable and he dominates on special teams, one would have to think he has a great shot at making the team."
• Utah State head coach Matt Wells told Kevin Wheeler on ESPN 101 Radio in St. Louis that former Aggie Maurice Alexander is a "tremendous worker," and he could be a big asset for the St. Louis Rams with his pass-rushing skills.
"I'm going to tell you what, he's got an ability to pressure the quarterback," Wells said of Alexander, who was drafted by St. Louis in the fourth round. "The kid can blitz. He knows how to rush from a safety type spot, and that's some of the outside ’backer skills coming back into play for him. And he's got really good closing speed at the end that helps when you're rushing the quarterback like that."
Alexander played outside linebacker his junior year at Utah State in 2011, then moved to safety last season.
"I like grinding," Alexander said in a team video profile about him. "I grinded my way from high school to junior college to sitting a year out, and I always just keep the grind in my head. I just keep working, I keep working. And I know one day it'll happen."
• The Oakland Raiders have a league-high four rookies with Utah ties on their roster currently. Utah State linebacker Bojay Filimoeatui signed a free agent deal Monday, joining three former Utes — cornerback Keith McGill, tight end Jake Murphy and fullback Karl Williams — on the Oakland squad.
McGill was a fourth-round draft pick by the Raiders, while Williams and Murphy signed free-agent contracts after going undrafted.
“Keith is one of those guys that he has size, he has length, he has speed,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen told team writer Rebecca Corman following the Raiders' rookie mini-camp. “(He) is a little raw. There are some things that we have to work with him from a fundamental and a technique standpoint. But he has the skill set that will allow him, if he continues to work and do the things that we ask him to do, to be a good player.”
• Former Utah defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly became the first of the New York Jets' draftees to sign with the team when he inked a four-year rookie deal on May 14. The Star-Ledger estimated the seventh-round pick's deal was for $2,276,848, with a signing bonus of $56,848.
"From my understanding, when drafting comes, there are two things that kind of scare teams off on guys that are rated higher, an injury history and age, and I happen to have a little bit of both," Reilly told reporters on a conference call, according to team writer Randy Lange. "I’m happy to be a Jet, like I said. It is what it is and I’m here now, seventh round. I’m happy to be drafted and I’m happy to be able to play for a great organization."
• Timpview High alum Xavier Su'a-Filo is already making an impression with his new team, the Houston Texans, who selected the offensive lineman in the second round of this year's NFL draft.
“I don’t know much about him (but), I actually texted back and forth with him after we drafted him, just kind of a welcome to Houston,” Texans center Chris Myers told the Houston Chronicle. “I think he’s going to be a great addition to our line, wherever he ends up playing.”
Mike Kerns, a writer for the blog site House of Houston, said Sua-Filo seems to be a "certain Day One starter."2 comments on this story
Su'a-Filo also has a family connection to the Houston area: that's where his father served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"My dad served his mission in Houston and he spent time in Vidor," Su'a-Filo told ESPN. "There are a lot of members of our church from Vidor and I got to meet him and his family."
• Former BYU tight end Kaneakua Friel tweeted that he was headed to San Francisco's rookie mini-camp this weekend. According to the 49ers, he is one of four tight ends at the rookie camp, including three who are there on a tryout basis. Friel was at the Dallas Cowboys' rookie mini-camp for a tryout the week before.
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