College football is hurtling toward its return, with just a few days separating us from the first game of the 2016 season (Hawaii at Cal. What up, #Pac12AfterDark?) and a little more than a week until the Cincinnati Bearcats play their opener against Tennessee-Martin.
Where there is college football, professional football cannot be far behind. The NFL will begin its season on Sept. 8 with a Super Bowl rematch between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. With that in mind, its time we check in with former Bearcats who are now making a living on Sundays, beginning with the AFC East.
Kenbrell Thompkins, New York Jets
Entering his third professional season, Thompkins is once again playing for the New York Jets. He was drafted out of UC by the conference rival New England Patriots in 2013 and played parts of two seasons with them, but eventually moved on to Oakland before being signed to the Jets’ practice squad in October of last season. He was promoted to the active roster later that month. He only compiled 17 receptions and 165 yards in seven games for the Jets, but has 893 yards and four touchdowns on 70 receptions during his three-year career. He will likely be fighting for playing time this season, as he sits behind Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the depth chart, but he is one of the more experienced receivers on New York’s roster.
Isaiah Pead, Miami Dolphins
Pead entered the NFL a year before Thompkins, as he was taken in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the then St. Louis Rams. He played very sparingly during four seasons with the Rams (and briefly with the Steelers), serving a suspension in 2013 and missing all of 2014 due to an ACL tear. When he has been active, he has still struggled to get on the field, with only 19 carries across 27 games. He has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in that small sample size, but last season he had only three yards all season. He also has yet to score a touchdown as a professional. He may be in line for some more work this season. After signing with the Miami Dolphins, he has looked good in the preseason. He is currently listed behind Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster and Damien Williams on the depth chart, but with Ajai largely unproven and Foster a constant injury risk, Pead could pick up more work as the season goes on.
Blake Annen, Buffalo Bills
Annen has played for a host of teams already. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2014, then joined the practice squad of the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers before signing on as a practice squad member yet again with the Buffalo Bills last winter. He has played in five games, all in 2014 with the Bears, and has never recorded a reception.
Update: Annen was one of several cuts made to the roster by the Bills at the end of training camp.