DE Frank Alexander (Carolina): Suspended the first four games after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Alexander, a 2012 fourth-round pick, has been a backup in the Panthers’ defensive-line rotation. Alexander has compiled 33 tackles in 28 games, including 3 1/2 sacks.
QB Sam Bradford (St. Louis): The former No. 1 overall pick’s career in the crosshairs after he suffered another torn ACL injury in preseason. Bradford has notched stats (11,065 yards, 58.6 percent completion rate, 59-to-38 touchdown-to-interception ratio), that indicate he could still develop into an NFL franchise quarterback if the Putnam North product can stay healthy.
WR Justin Brown (Pittsburgh): Darrius Heyward-Bey’s strong camp showing made it tough for Brown to make the 53-man roster, but he made it. On the Steelers’ practice squad last season, Brown at some point could get an opportunity to work his way onto the field.
WR Ryan Broyles (Detroit): For the second straight year the NCAA’s all-time leading receptions leader was forced to overcome a major injury, this time a ruptured Achilles tendon. A second-round pick in 2012, Broyles has been limited to 16 games, but the Norman product led the Lions in receiving in preseason, further proof he can contribute when healthy. Last year, he played in only 10 games but had 22 catches.
S Quinton Carter (Denver): Trying to rebound from two lost seasons because of a knee injury, Carter played well his rookie season but must prove he’s healthy to play a key role. Carter started 12 games his rookie season (2011) and compiled 49 tackles his first two seasons before the knee injury led to a lengthy rehabilitation.
OG Chris Chester (Washington): Entering his ninth season, the former second-round pick has started 95 games, including all 48 games the past three seasons. Chester returns to his right guard slot, one of the Hogs assigned to protect QB Robert Griffin III.
CB: Aaron Colvin (Jacksonville): Sidelined by a knee injury, the Owasso product was placed on the non-football injury list. Colvin is prohibited from practicing or playing the first six weeks and must be activated by Week 11 to play his rookie season.
TE Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati): In four seasons, the Ardmore product has compiled 218 receptions for 2,262 yards and 19 touchdowns. Playing in a two-tight end package last season, Gresham hauled in 46 passes for 458 yards and four TDs. But the Bengals keep adding quality tight ends — Tyler Eifert last year, Ryan Hewitt this season.
TE James Hanna (Dallas): A sixth-round pick two years ago, Hanna has solidified a roster spot as the Cowboys’ No. 3 tight end. In his first two seasons, Hanna has hauled in 20 catches and serves as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations.
CB Demontre Hurst (Chicago): The Bears are loaded with talented cornerbacks, but Hurst played well enough to make the 53-man roster after spending a year on the practice squad. Hurst could eventually work his way into Chicago’s nickel package.
S Tony Jefferson (Arizona): Proving he should have been drafted in the third or fourth round, Jefferson will be the Cardinals’ starting strong safety entering the season. As a rookie, Jefferson played in all 16 games, including two starts. He compiled 24 tackles.
OT Lane Johnson (Philadelphia): The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Johnson will miss the first four games for testing positive for a banned substance. Johnson started all 16 games his rookie season and was an All-Rookie selection, but he won’t be eligible to return until Oct. 5.
QB Landry Jones (Pittsburgh): OU’s all-time leading passer, a fourth-round pick in 2013, Jones started the Steelers’ preseason finale but failed to lead Pittsburgh on a scoring drive. Jones, though, held onto his tenuous roster spot as the No. 3 quarterback after completing 57-of-110 passes for 572 yards with two TDs and four interceptions the past two years in preseason games.
OG Davin Joseph (St. Louis): The Rams signed the veteran O-lineman, who appeared in 100 games, including 99 starts, the past seven years with Tampa Bay. The two-time Pro Bowler is embracing the fresh start in a team that’s trying to take the next step despite losing Sam Bradford.
LB Travis Lewis (Detroit): A reserve, Lewis has appeared in 25 games his first two seasons. Lewis primarily has been relegated to special teams duties, compiling only nine tackles.
OT Phil Loadholt (Minnesota): A second-round pick in 2009, the Vikings’ right tackle has started 78 games his first five seasons, missing only two games. Scouts graded him at a Pro-Bowl level last season but he wasn’t named to the squad. He still has three years left on a $25 million extension.
LB Curtis Lofton (New Orleans): Ranked in the top 10 among all NFL players for tackles the past five seasons, Lofton begins his seventh season, his third with the Saints. The Kingfisher product compiled 125 tackles last season and has 740 in his career.
DT Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay): The third overall pick in the 2010 draft, McCoy turned in a Pro Bowl season. Ranked as one of the top players in the NFL regardless of position, the Southeast High School product collected 50 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks, a breakthrough season that established McCoy an elite defensive tackle.
DT Stacy McGee (Oakland): Coming off a solid rookie season, the Muskogee product compiled 15 tackles in 15 games last season that included five starts. McGee will back up veteran Antonio Smith, who signed with Oakland, but the 2013 sixth-round pick is entrenched on the depth chart.
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