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Bruin Bites: UCLA Football's Kendricks and Owa Set to Make Their Marks in the NFL

With football just around the corner, we take a look at how our newest Bruins in the NFL are doing.

Bruins taking over Minnesota
Bruins taking over Minnesota
Tweet by @UCLAFootball

While we wait for the Bruins to begin training camp in San Bernardino on August 10th, it seems like a good time to take a look at what is happening with some Bruins in the NFL. This season it looks like two of our newest graduates, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Eric Kendricksmay get significant playing time this upcoming season.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="">#EmbraceTheGrind</a> <a href="">#Settle4Elite</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; owamagbe odighizuwa (@LPJ_Odighizuwa) <a href="">July 6, 2015</a></blockquote>

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247 Sports writes that Owamagbe Odighizuwa can be one of the Giant rookies that can contribute right away. According to Ian McCue:

Odighizuwa is a tremendous athlete who had six sacks, second-most on the team, and 11.5 tackles for a loss during his final collegiate season.More experienced players like Damontre MooreGeorge Selvie and Robert Ayers will challenge the newcomer for playing time. It's up to him to prove he's more than just a tremendous athlete. This was a developmental pick at the time of the draft, but much has changed over the last two and a half months.

Newsday sees Owa as one of the under-the-radar NFL rookies to watch in 2015:

Owa is a strong, relentless run defender who can convert speed to power when getting after the quarterback. With JPP's status uncertain, Owa could make an immediate impact along the Giants' front four.

Owa has been showing his great ability in camp, and it was hoped that New York could bring him along slowly. However, an injury has opened the door for Owa.  According to General Manager Jerry Reese:

He's a big, powerful guy. An amazing body. We're hoping to hit on this guy as a pass-rusher.

Owa was slowed by a knee injury in mini-camp, but is "expected to be fully healed" for the opening of camp on July 31st and he seems to be really happy with his situation:

Any time you are in a 4-3 system and your linemen are asked to attack up field and wreak havoc it is always exciting. I feel like my skill set is definitely fitting for that type of defense, so I am excited about it. I think it is going to be great for me.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">@EricKendricks54</a> best Father&#39;s Day gift!!!! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; john couch (@vikescoachjohn) <a href="">June 20, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Not so under the radar is Eric Kendricks who is being prepped to play a big role for the Minnesota Vikings next to his buddy Anthony Barr. According to ESPN's Ben Goessling:

By the end of the Vikings' organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, the UCLA product was taking first-team snaps at middle linebacker and getting plenty of work in the Vikings' nickel package, where he could eventually play with former college roommate Anthony Barr. Even veteran linebacker Chad Greenway, who's stayed on the field in passing situations most of his career, acknowledged earlier this month "the writing's on the wall" with regard to how soon Kendricks will play.

Coach Zimmer says that EK is "further ahead of most rookies" and they are really excited about his pass coverage ability. From Defensive Coordinator George Edwards:

I think you take a guy who usually gets to the ball the way he does -- he's always been a ball hawk, even in college -- it's kind of carried over. I mean, he gets his hands on the ball a lot and gets in a good football position and understands how to get good angles.

And we all know how smart Eric is. Again from DC Edwards:

He just realizes what he's got to do coverage-wise, matchup-wise. All those things, the technique and fundamentals, he's got a lot of reps [from college], so it's a lot of carry over for him, as opposed to a young guy coming in who hasn't had those reps.

Robert Reidell of the Bismarck Tribune said he wouldn't be surprised to see EK become the 2015 defensive rookie of the year and is surpassing all expectations (except ours):

Kendricks is very instinctive, positionally intelligent and an outstanding fundamental tackler. These skills combined with a strong work ethic has him already outperforming initial expectations, according to his new head coach.

I think with Barr and Eric working together, opposing quarterbacks are going to be quaking in their boots.  You can listen to Zimmer talk about the linebackers and see some clips of Anthony and Eric at the Vikings website.

Eric is also pretty darn good with the bat as he crushes the competition at a Twins game. Check it out. I wish I could have embedded it, but I couldn't - so you'll just have to click on the link.

Joining Barr and Kendricks on the Vikings are Kevin McDermott, who will be trying to become Jeff Locke's long snapper once again, and tackle Mike Harris. It may be time to buy a Vikings Jersey!  Sorry gbruin.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#Packers</a> rookies hit the field for the first time today.&#10;&#10;Photo gallery: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Green Bay Packers (@packers) <a href="">May 8, 2015</a></blockquote>

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While Eric and Owa work to see a lot of playing time, Brett Hundley will be developing his game, getting time to learn as Aaron Rodgers continues to run the Packers. Rodgers has a five year contract, so Brett is working to earn a spot on the roster as either the number two or three QB on the team. The Packers currently have four QBs on their roster, Rodgers, Hundley, Matt Blanchard, and last year's number three Scott Tolzein, and many believe they will keep three QBs on the final roster. According to Acme Packing Co., Green Bay is very unlikely to cut Brett:

He possesses impressive physical tools, however, and is the best athlete at the position to come through Green Bay in a long time. It's likely that Alex Van Pelt and Mike McCarthy will want to overhaul his throwing mechanics over the next year while Hundley learns the playbook.

For now, Hundley is working hard to immerse himself in the Packers' offense, a difficult task to be sure for a rookie quarterback. Given the draft assets used to select him, it would be a surprise to see him left off the final roster, and he will look to show an improved command of the offense in training camp which begins July 30th.

So will the Packers develop Brett into a solid backup QB or will they work to prepare him to be a starter and trade him to another team? Just in case it is the latter and Brett doesn't remain with Green Bay, you just may want to pick up a jersey while the Packers are making them. While you are at it, grab his virtual rookie trading card (what, no gum?), and if you are in the neighborhood, Brett will be signing autographs on July 26th at the Wisconsin Harley-Davidson Green & Gold Tailgate Party.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#Bears</a> DB Anthony Jefferson will wear number 46 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NFL Uniform Numbers (@Uni_Numbers) <a href="">May 10, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Anthony Jefferson has signed a three year contract with the Chicago Bears and will be one of seven competing to make the roster as a safety.  From Matt Eurich at the Bleacher Report Anthony is seen to have a good upside:

He played both cornerback and safety in college, but he is viewed as a box safety in the NFL.

He plays a bit heavy-footed at times, but he is smooth in his hips and makes nice breaks on the ball. He is a long shot to make the roster because he is still very raw, but he is an ideal candidate for the practice squad."

After mini-camp, Anthony was listed as the 3rd strong safety on the depth chart.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="">@carronJphillips</a> writes about Malcolm Bunche picking up the pace at OTAs. <a href="">#Eagles</a> <a href="">#delHS</a> <a href=""></a> via <a href="">@delawareonline</a></p>&mdash; Martin Frank (@Mfranknfl) <a href="">June 12, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Malcolm Bunche is currently on the Eagles roster and is working to stay with the team or show enough to have another team pick him up. Dave Weinberg, from The Press of Atlantic City, thinks Malcolm will be the one of the guys that "comes out of the woodwork this year". Weinberg expects Bunche to make the team as a backup and to get work on special teams.

If you are in the area, you might want to check out the open practices for the Giants, Vikings, PackersEagles, and/or da Bears. The above links will take you to the schedules for each team. The official website has a list of Bruins in the NFL, but double check things because it is not quite up to date, but it is still really useful.

Have a great day, and as always ...

Go Bruins!

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