Technically, this is the 4th week of the NFL preseason, according to the NFL. But I have yet to hear anybody else call the Hall of Fame single-game weekend a legitimate preseason weekend, so we'll stick to the convention of the right-thinking world and call it the 3rd weekend. Ok, with that little nitpicky craw out of the way, on to the Vols in their first-ever NFL experiences...
Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
This will begin to sound like a broken record, but Jerod appears to be having a very good preseason. Details are a little more scarce, because my normally reliable source of news on the Patriots (fellow SBNation site PatsPulpit) spent more time in the shock and awe of a miserable 3rd week of preseason than they spent evaluating individual players.
This is the week that the 1st-team units normally see the most playing time, and Jerod was one of the starting linebackers. There is absolutely no doubt he'll be one of the 53, and will at worst be a backup LB with significant playing time. It's quite likely that he'll be a starter this year, and maybe even in the first game. The highlight reels don't show much, but you can see the same things we got used to: quick play reads, hard effort on every play, solid tackling, and great teamsmanship. (The best look of him you'll find is at 1:22 in the NFL.com video. He's the middle linebacker on the short side of the field. Note how fast he figures out the play and pursues the eventual receiver, even though it's too far away for him to do anything.) Look for him to put the Vols on the map for this year's draft class.
Brad Cottam, Kansas City Chiefs
Helpful advice for the week (and probably the rest of the year): do not ask Chiefs fans how deep they think their team will go into the playoffs. In preseason week 3, you can hear the sound of one fanbase wilting. Indeed, the Chiefs fans will likely refer to this year as The Season Of Which We Do Not Speak (sound familiar?) - before the season even begins.
I had to mention all that, though, for this to make sense: Brad Cottam does not show up in any box score, and that's a good thing. He is firmly entrenched as the #2 TE behind Tony Gonzalez, and there's absolutely no shame in that. To be honest, it might be a good thing that he's not going to be subjected to the atrocities that the Chiefs will likely endure.
Erik Ainge, New York Jets
Ainge has perhaps the most difficult road of any Vol drafted last year. With F-vr- in New York, the Jets are obligated to start him or look really silly for the trade. Clemens has been serviceable in limited action in the past, and appears to be the solid backup. All that's left is to see if the Jets keep Ratliff as a third-string QB. That wouldn't be a bad move, since Favre's age increases the odds of him finally getting a significant injury. If they do keep Ratliff in the roster, then Ainge will likely be the QB for the practice squad. That would have him spending his time learning the base plays of the other teams so the Jets can pummel him in practice.
If Ratliff is booted, then Ainge will almost certainly be the practice squad guy. If Ainge gets booted, there are other teams in the league that might need a #3 QB, but that's about it for this year. However, at the rate they're going, the Chiefs might be able to use his "1-2-3-throw-it-away" technique that he perfected here at UT.
This isn't all bad for Ainge, as he would be able to show off his most significant asset - his ability to learn. He's a very malleable players, instruction-wise, andhe can prove that he listens well. If he can avoid mistake, expect to see him bumped up to #3 (and maybe even #2) once the F-vr- fiasco is over. In short, if Ainge is to go places in the NFL, he'll be waiting at least a year, probably more.
Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs
If you've ever been tempted to take Fantasy Football advice from a guy who's never played fantasy football, here it is: get Dustin Colquitt on your team if your team carries punters, that is; I don't know if anybody uses punters in FF, though, so there you go). He was one of the bright spots for the Chiefs last weekend, booming seven punts for a 48 yard average. He is clearly their punter, and he will clearly get a lot of reps. What's more, since the Chiefs are so utterly horrid on offense, he'll get lots of chances for really long punts and little risk of touchbacks. What's not to like?
Any Chiefs fans with a lot of disposable income and a strong sense of irony should buy Colquitt jerseys to wear around town and at the games. I would love to see his jersey become the top seller for the team; a true statement of their condition this year. The chant could be: "We're number 2! We're number 2!" Seriously, Chiefs fans, have some fun. It's not like that Croyle jersey is going to be attracting the ladies anytime soon.
On Tuesday, all NFL teams were required to cut their rosters from 80 to 75. None of the drafted Vols were cut, unsurprisingly. The next roster cut reduces the numbers from 75 to 53, and the deadline for this final cut is Saturday, the 30th.