Players with ties to the state of Utah will once again be well-represented on NFL rosters when the 2013 season begins this week. Approximately 40 local players landed on 53-man rosters, with others being named to practice squads.
Many of those appearing on rosters are well-established players. Guys like Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens), Brett Keisel (Pittsburgh Steelers), Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers) and Eric Weddle (San Diego Chargers) have all played in Pro Bowls and are expected to again star for their respective teams.
The state also has some prominent rookies who will be looking to make an instant impact, along with others looking to build on the impact they made last season. Some, like former Utah quarterback Alex Smith and Utah linebacker Paul Kruger, will be looking to make an instant impact with new teams.
Here’s a look at some prominent local players who are looking to make an impact this season.
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Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
The former Ute great finally established himself as a starting quarterback in San Francisco until being demoted in favor of Colin Kaepernick late last season. He’s expected to start for the Chiefs and should have a chance to shine playing under new coach Andy Reid and Reid's exciting brand of offense.
Defensive back, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith, a former Ute standout, signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Chiefs after a successful five-year stint with the Miami Dolphins. Smith had a successful preseason and is expected to start at cornerback this season.
Defensive end, Detroit Lions
A lot is expected of Ansah after being selected fifth overall by the Lions in the NFL draft. The former Cougar immediately served notice as a playmaker with an interception returned for a touchdown in his very first preseason game.
Ansah sustained a head injury late in the preseason and did not participate in the Lions' final preseason game. Should he get healthy, Ansah should see plenty of time at defensive end, where he’ll be expected to make an immediate impact this season.
Defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers
Lotulelei was the No. 14 overall pick by the Panthers in last April's draft, and he has not disappointed leading up to his rookie season. Lotulelei’s best preseason effort perhaps came against the Baltimore Ravens, where he recorded four tackles, three of them for losses, while playing at defensive tackle.
The former Ute great is expected to start at one of the two interior defensive line positions for the Panthers this season.
Linebacker, Cleveland Browns
The former Ute defensive end scored an enormous five-year, $40 million contract in the offseason after starring for the Baltimore Ravens during their Super Bowl run. Kruger has established himself as a great pass rusher at outside linebacker and will be asked to be one of the primary playmakers for the Browns. It’s a role he’s proved capable of through four seasons with the Ravens.
Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
It’s hard to imagine Wagner having a better rookie campaign than the one he enjoyed. He simply grabbed the starting middle linebacker spot and led his team in tackles with 140. It’s not as if he’s playing for a weak defense either. The Seahawk defense is considered by many to be the NFL’s best entering 2013 and Wagner will again lead the charge.
Linebacker, Miami Dolphins
Misi, a second-round pick in 2010, had his best statistical season (65 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles) last year, his first in a 4-3 scheme. The former Ute will look to build upon that this season in what is expected to be a stout Dolphin defense.
Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
Sorensen was a late draft pick in 2013 and is battling for backup quarterback duties with Charlie Whitehurst. The Southern Utah product battled neck and neck with Whitehurst in the preseason and has a good shot to secure backup duties, according to reports out of San Diego.
Cornerback, Miami Dolphins
Davis was a third-round pick by the Dolphins and will try and make a name for himself as a rookie this season. Davis is listed as a backup corner entering Week 1.
Defensive tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
The former BYU lineman bounced around as a rookie last season, but was able to secure a roster spot with the Steelers. Fangupo beat out fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu for a roster spot, and should have a good chance to shine in the Steelers' 3-4 system, which is similar to BYU's.