The NFL season is finally here, which means all these stats and figures that the former Vols have been accumulating actually mean something. During the draft, three teams were wise enough to pick Vols to be a part of their team: Mayo to the Patriots; Cottam to the Chiefs; and Ainge to the Jets. All three naturally survived the preseason cuts and are now officially on the active rosters of NFL teams. But now that the regular season has started, I'll keep a broader eye on Vols in the NFL and bring you updates on any former Vols that catch my attention, not just the three rookies.
First Blood: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
While all the media outlets are focusing on this minor little side story of a knee injury to some guy named "Brady", the real story of the Patriots is the first official game of Jerod Mayo. Mayo had a solid game against the Chiefs, racking up 6 tackles, which was second only to Rodney Harrison on the team. Not much is given in the way of details, and I did not personally see this game, but Mayo seems to have taken to the Patriots system quickly and promises to be a long-term player for them. Not bad for a #10 overall pick that everybody else in the nation thought was a reach.
Up, Up and Away: Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City Chiefs
In the same game, Colquitt had a great day for a punter. He had 6 punts, none of which were blocked, for a 39.5-yard average and 3 punts inside the 20. His punting was impressive enough to elicit quite a bold prediction from one commenter on Arrowhead Pride. Of course, take it with a grain of salt when some Chiefs fans regard their punter as the team MVP.
Ever the Bride's Maid, ...: Brad Cottam, Kansas City Chiefs
In the 'blessing and a curse' category, Cottam is stuck behind Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez will probably be a fantastic mentor for Cottam, as T.G. is known for his teamsmanship, but that also means that Cottam won't be seeing much action for a while. He did not register a completion during the game this weekend, but with his size, speed and hands, he should be around for a long, long time.
In Line at Wal-Mart on the Day After Payday: Erik Ainge, New York Jets
Ainge's story will likely remain unchanged for the rest of the season: he's the 4th quarterback on a roster highlighted by the trade for some really old guy. If the Jets don't play the old guy, they'd have to admit that the trade wasn't wise. So expect Ainge to be healthy for a long, long time. But this is probably a good thing. He'll learn a lot without getting killed and he still gets to draw the sweet paycheck that, even at the minimum, is far more than I'll ever make in a year.
We certainly can't forget some of the biggest and meanest of the many big mean uglies to pass through UT. For those who were in the coverage areas, you had a chance to see both Henderson and Haynesworth in action. If I were MSM, I'd say that they faced off, but they never did because they're both defense, and opposing defenses ... well, I know you know. Henderson racked up 8 tackles on the day (5 solo) to tie for the team lead. It's always a good thing to have a D-Tackle as one of your tackling leaders on the day, even if the team lost. Haynesworth only notched 3 tackles, but that included 2 sack on the day - a big part of the reason the Titans were triumphant. Both players seem to be in fine form to start the season, so expect good things from them.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't rationally argue that the Cowboys are on the short list for projected Super Bowl contenders. Their defense is solid and the offense is getting downright scary. And on that monstrous offense resides on of the best tight ends in the league in Jason Witten. His mere 6 catches for 96 yards led the team in total yardage and was tied for total number of catches. His long was 22 yards and his average was 16, indicating that he tended to worth at least 10 yards on almost every catch. Witten's one of the best advertisements for UT in the NFL right now; if Cottam picks up like that when Gonzalez leaves, UT will start to be known as Tight End U - something that Brandon Warren would love to continue.