Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah had an unforgettable pro debut during his first NFL preseason game last season.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, Ansah intercepted New York Jets Mark Sanchez and returned the pick 14 yards for a touchdown.
Even while dealing with injuries, Ansah finished his rookie campaign with eight sacks and 32 tackles.
Could another former Cougar, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, make an indelible impression in his first NFL action this weekend?
Van Noy, a second-round pick by the Lions, will have the chance to when Detroit faces the Cleveland Browns, and the much-hyped rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, on Saturday. The game, set for a 5:30 p.m. MST start, will be broadcast nationally on NFL Network.
Earlier this week, the Browns announced Brian Hoyer will start against the Lions over Manziel. Van Noy is listed as the backup at outside linebacker on Detroit's most recent depth chart. Chances are, Van Noy and Manziel will be on the field at the same time for a portion of Saturday's game.
Van Noy is expected to be a versatile piece in the Lions' defense this season.
“He shows us the pass rushing when he’s got an opportunity to do it. He’s very smart, understands in terms of the run fits and getting in the pass coverage," Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told reporters on Tuesday. "Again, it’s just going to be live game reps and seeing how far we can bring him.”
Starters don't play much in Week 1 of the preseason, so it will give many of the 68 players with Utah ties on NFL active rosters, including 21 rookies, the chance to make their case to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here's a game-by-game look at the NFL preseason and which local ties to watch for this weekend (rookies are noted):
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Thursday, 5 p.m. MDT, no TV
On the Colts roster:
Stanley Havili, FB, Cottonwood High
On the Jets roster:
Tevita Finau, DT, Utah
Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah
Caleb Schlauderaff, G, Utah
Michael Smith, RB, Utah State
What to watch for: Reilly makes his professional debut after being selected in the seventh round by the Jets in this year's NFL draft. He has an uphill battle in the preseason as Reilly is currently fourth on the depth chart at outside linebacker. … Havili (shoulder) started fall camp on the physically unable to perform list and will not dress for the game, according to inkonindy.com.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m., TV: NFL Network
On the 49ers roster:
Chuck Jacobs, WR, Utah State
David Reed, WR, Utah
Will Tukuafu, FB, East High
On the Ravens roster:
Haloti Ngata, DT, Highland High
A.J. Pataiali’i, DT, Utah State, Snow College and Hunter High (rookie)
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU
Steve Smith, WR, Utah
What to watch for: Smith is making his debut as a Raven after 13 years with the Carolina Panthers. With new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, it will be interesting to see how Smith and Pitta, expected starters, factor into the offense. … Reed, in his first year with the 49ers, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "So far, I feel like camp is going pretty well. I feel like I’m doing everything in my power to make this team.”
Thursday, 5:30 p.m., no TV
On the Patriots roster:
Jordan Devey, OL, Snow College and American Fork High
Sealver Siliga, DT, Utah and Copper Hills High
L.T. Tuipulotu, DT, Utah (rookie)
Eathyn Manumaleuna, DT, BYU and Timpview High (rookie)
On the Redskins roster:
Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU (rookie)
Tevita Stevens, OL, Utah
What to watch for: Hoffman makes his NFL debut, and earlier this week he told redskins.com, "I bring a game-changing ability. I feel like I can change a game with one catch." He is three inches taller than any other wide receiver on Washington's roster. … According to ESPN, Siliga won't play in the game after injuring his left hand Tuesday. Devey, a second-year player who's third on the depth chart at left tackle, could see plenty of action on the line.
Thursday, 6 p.m., no TV
On the Bengals roster:
R.J. Stanford, DB, Utah
On the Chiefs roster:
Alex Smith, QB, Utah
Sean Smith, CB, Utah
Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU (rookie)
What to watch for: Sorensen, who signed with the Chiefs after going undrafted this year, has been impressing during fall camp. On Monday, he had two interceptions and a pass breakup in 7-on-7 drills. “He’s playing good football,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid, also a BYU alum, told kcchiefs.com about Sorensen. “He’s a good special teams player also, which is important in a backup safety role. He’s making progress as we go." … Stanford was picked up by the Bengals this season, and according to ESPN's Coley Harvey, he has been a pleasant surprise and will see plenty of game action. "The veteran has gotten his share of reps covering some of the team's best receivers, and he's handled his own," Harvey wrote. … Also of note, Smith and Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton will face off just days after Dalton signed a six-year deal worth $96 million (it could increase to $115 million), according to ESPN. There are ongoing negotiations for Smith, who is in the final year of his contract.
Thursday, 7 p.m., TV: NFL Network (tape delayed at 11 p.m. Thursday)
On the Seahawks roster:
Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State
Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
On the Broncos roster:
Cody Larsen, DL, Southern Utah and Jordan High
What to watch for: Turbin is entering his third NFL season and in the game matching last year’s Super Bowl teams, he could start. With Marshawn Lynch holding out the first week of camp, Turbin has received plenty of practice reps. "He’s a guy that’s just a workhorse, on and off the field he’s mentally strong," Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson told Sports Illustrated on July 27 about Turbin. "He’s always going to put his best foot forward, always run the ball into the end zone every time." … According to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wagner will not play; he's out with a hamstring injury.
Thursday, 8 p.m., TV: NFL Network
On the Cowboys roster:
On the Chargers roster:
Tenny Palepoi, DT, Utah, Snow College and Skyline High (rookie)
Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah
Eric Weddle, FS, Utah
Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
What to watch for: Sorensen had a solid preseason in 2013, throwing for 272 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 53 percent of his passes. Now with Charlie Whitehurst gone, he could be in better position to battle Kellen Clemens for the backup position behind Philip Rivers. “Brad’s made that next step, which is nice to see, coming off of the preseason he had last year and how hard he worked during the season with the scout team and everything,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy, a former Utah quarterback, told ESPN. “He had a good offseason program, and it’s paid off now.”
Friday, 5 p.m., no TV
On the Dolphins roster:
Sam Brenner, C, Utah
Will Davis, CB, Utah State
John Denney, LS, BYU
Tyler Larsen, OL, Utah State and Jordan High (rookie)
Koa Misi, LB, Utah
Derrick Shelby, DE, Utah
On the Falcons roster:
Tay Glover-Wright, CB, Utah State (rookie)
Paul Soliai, DT, Utah
What to watch for: Soliai faces his old team in his Falcons debut and is expected to start in Atlanta at defensive tackle. … Davis is listed as the backup to Cortland Finnegan at cornerback for Miami, and he's trying to move past a first pro season slowed by injuries. “It’s about going out there and trying to make plays. Trying to stand out,” Davis told NFL Spin Zone. “That’s why they brought me here. To make plays.”
Friday, 5:30 p.m., no TV
On the Bills roster:
Stevenson Sylvester, LB, Utah
On the Panthers roster:
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Snow College and Bingham High
What to watch for: Lotulelei had a solid rookie campaign and is the starter at defensive tackle for the Panthers. He should again be a force in the middle and Lotulelei told the Charlotte Observer he is working on his pass rushing: “It got better toward the end of the year but just continuing to clean up some of the technique stuff, hands and all that.” … Sylvester recently joined the Bills. He had one tackle in the Bills' loss to the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday.
Friday, 5:30 p.m., no TV
On the Buccaneers roster:
On the Jaguars roster:
Zane Beadles, G, Utah and Hillcrest High
D.J. Tialavea, TE, Utah State and West Jordan High (rookie)
What to watch for: Beadles joined the Jaguars this offseason after four seasons in Denver. He is the team's starter at left guard. … Tialavea faces up uphill battle at making the roster, as he is among three players listed fourth string at tight end on the depth chart.
Friday, 6 p.m., no TV
On the Eagles roster:
Joe Kruger, DE, Utah and Pleasant Grove High
Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
On the Bears roster:
Stephen Paea, DT, Snow College and Timpview High
What to watch for: In three pro seasons, Marsh has played sparingly and has 14 career tackles; he only played in four games last year, with Cincinnati and Philadelphia. But he has been impressive during training camp. “The more reps, the more time you can get on film making plays, it’s all about making plays,” he told CSN Philly Tuesday after making several plays at cornerback. “Days like that are great because the more they’re throwing at you, the more opportunities you have to make plays, so I welcome it. I love it.”
Friday, 6 p.m., TV: NFL Network (tape delayed at 10 p.m. Friday)
On the Raiders roster:
Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah and Skyline High
Bojay Filimoeatu, LB, Utah State and Granger High (rookie)
Keith McGill, CB, Utah (rookie)
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah and American Fork High (rookie)
Donald Penn, T, Utah State
Karl Williams, FB, Utah, Southern Utah and Layton High (rookie)
Spencer Hadley, ILB, BYU (rookie)
On the Vikings roster:
Matt Asiata, RB, Utah, Snow College and Hunter High
What to watch for: The Raiders have the most local ties on their roster with seven, and that includes five rookies after Hadley signed with the team Wednesday. McGill started training camp on the PUP list but returned to practice on July 28, according to justblogbaby.com, and the fourth-round pick is expected to compete for a place on the two-deep. … Asiata, as backup to Adrian Peterson, should see plenty of action against the Raiders. “Matt is a guy that’s extremely dependable, he’s a good blocker, he can do a number of things," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told CBS Minnesota.
Friday, 6 p.m., TV: NFL Network
On the Saints roster:
On the Rams roster:
Maurice Alexander, S, Utah State (rookie)
What to watch for: Alexander is listed as the backup at strong safety on the Rams' depth chart. The rookie has missed time, though, after having arthroscopic knee surgery. "I’ve been waiting to get back out here. I didn’t know if they were going to clear me or not," Alexander told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after being cleared for practice. "I believe all things happen for a reason and I definitely feel a lot better now."
Saturday, 5:30 p.m., TV: NFL Network
On the Browns roster:
Paul Kruger, LB, Utah and Timpanogos High
Paul McQuistan, OL, Weber State
On the Lions roster:
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State (rookie)
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU (rookie)
What to watch for: Ansah is still on the PUP list, but Van Noy and Lawson will make their debuts. Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters Tuesday he's not worried about Ansah: "He’s progressing well, he’s working, they keep ramping up his activity. He hasn’t had setbacks, so we feel good about where he is.” … Kruger enters his second year in Cleveland after recording 47 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2013. “If you can affect the quarterback in this league, you’re going to be a special guy,” Kruger told clevelandbrowns.com.
Saturday, 5:30 p.m., TV: NFL Network (tape delayed at 10 p.m. Saturday)
On the Steelers roster:
Hebron Fangupo, DT, BYU
Al Lapuaho, DT, Utah State, Snow College and Granger High
Brice McCain, CB, Utah
Vic So’oto, LB, BYU
On the Giants roster:
Dallas Reynolds, C, BYU and Timpview High
What to watch for: All five of these players could be on the bubble when it comes roster-cutting time, with McCain and Fangupo, both listed as backups for the Steelers, having the best shot to survive. Making plays in the preseason will be crucial for all of them.
Saturday, 6 p.m., no TV
On the Packers roster:
Jarrett Bush, CB, Utah State
Jake Doughty, LB, Utah State and Juan Diego High (rookie)
On the Titans roster:
What to watch for: Doughty makes his NFL debut, and he is third on the depth chart at inside linebacker. … Bush is an established contributor for the Packers, especially on special teams. The two former Aggies teamed up to cause an interception on Tuesday at practice, according to Fox Sports.
Saturday, 6:30 p.m., no TV
On the Texans roster:
Anthony Denham, TE, Utah (rookie)
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, Timpview High (rookie)
On the Cardinals roster:
Reggie Dunn, WR, Utah
What to watch for: Su’a-Filo was the first player with Utah ties selected in this year’s NFL draft, taken 33rd overall by the Texans. He is currently listed as the backup at left guard and could make his case for a starting position. "Whatever I’ve got to do to make the team I’m more than willing," Su'a-Filo told houstontexans.com. … Dunn, after joining the Cardinals in late July, is attempting to make an impact as a returner.