As the NFL season kicks off this weekend, many former USC football players look to contribute to their respective teams. There are currently 23 former Trojans on 53-man rosters across 17 franchises (the full list can be seen here). Here are the top 10 Trojans to look out for this NFL season.
10. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts
As the No. 34 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Pittman adds to an improved Colts offense that also picked up fellow rookie running back Jonathan Taylor and veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. After racking up over 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns during his four years at USC, Pittman will start the season fourth in the wide receiver depth chart for Indianapolis.
9. Devon Kennard, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Along with exciting rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Kennard headed to Arizona this offseason, where both look to improve a mediocre Cardinals defense. Kennard has 23.5 career sacks in six NFL seasons, including seven sacks in each of his last two seasons in Detroit.
8. Austin Jackson, OT, Miami Dolphins
Jackson, who was the No. 18 overall pick in this year’s draft, will be part of an exciting young offense in Miami. The Dolphins drafted the offensive tackle to partner with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick from Alabama, throughout the next decade. Jackson, who is only 21, made the All-Pac-12 First Team last year as a junior before declaring early for the draft.
7. Everson Griffen, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Griffen signed with the Cowboys in August and will likely be a major part of one of the most talented rosters in the NFL this season. The veteran edge rusher is coming into his 11th season, having spent the last decade in Minnesota, where he tallied up 74.5 sacks and four Pro Bowls.
6. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys
One of the top offensive tackles in the NFL, Smith heads into year 10 with an incredibly talented Dallas team. Since being drafted ninth overall in 2011, Smith has been a two-time All-Pro for the Cowboys to go along with seven consecutive Pro Bowls since 2013, not to mention recently being named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
5. Jurrell Casey, DL, Denver Broncos
Even after five straight Pro Bowls and 51 career sacks, the Titans traded Casey to Denver in April. Look out for the 10th-year veteran defensive end on Monday Night Football during Week 1, in which he will face his former team for the first time.
4. Ronald Jones II, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jones has perhaps the most intriguing situation of any former Trojan this season, as he comes into his third year as possibly the top running back on a Bucs team that added quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason. However, Tampa Bay also recently signed running back Leonard Fournette, who looks to take some carries away from Jones, who has struggled at times in his first two NFL seasons.
3. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
After somewhat minimal contributions during his four years in Buffalo, Woods has exploded with the Rams over the past three seasons. The wideout led his team in targets in 2018 and 2019, and has compiled 232 receptions, 3,134 yards and 13 touchdowns in Los Angeles.
2. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets
Darnold begins his third NFL season under pressure to improve a Jets offense that has been average at best since he was drafted third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. The young quarterback must correct a mediocre 36-28 touchdown-to-interception ratio that has left him with an 11-15 record during his two seasons in New York.
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster will be glad to see quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back under center this season, as his receiving production dropped greatly without him last year. It remains to be seen whether he can return to where he was in 2018, when he caught 111 passes and seven touchdowns on his way to a Pro Bowl.