Former UTEP Football Players That Saw Action in NFL Preseason Games
As part of the first official week in NFL Preseason action, there were several former UTEP football players active over the weekend across the league.
There are currently four Miner alums that are expected to make an impact for their respective teams this year—RB Aaron Jones (Packers), DE Roy Robertson-Harris (Jaguars), RG Will Hernandez (Giants) and CB Nik Needham (Dolphins). Two others are vying for roster spots in WR Kai Locksley (Dolphins) and TE Eric Tomlinson (Ravens).
Let's start in the state of Florida, where a trio of Miners live. Over the offseason, Robertson-Harris signed a three-year $23.4 million deal with the Jaguars following four productive seasons with the Bears. He is expected to be an immediate impact on this newly tooled Jaguars team and he could also contend for a starting defensive end role. He finished with one tackle in the team's 23-13 loss to Cleveland over the weekend.
In Miami, there are two former UTEP players that could make the squad when it's all said and done. Cornerback Nik Needham is entering his third season in the NFL and he turned heads in his preseason debut. He finished with three tackles and two pass deflections in the Dolphins' 20-13 loss to Chicago. Former Miners quarterback Kai Locksley has converted to wide receiver for Miami as he tries to make an NFL roster. He had one target in the loss.
In New York, former Miner guard Hernandez is experiencing a position change from his usual left guard position. Instead, he was switched to the right guard spot and, per Giants reporters, lost weight over the offseason to try and reshape his style. Hernandez looked a lot better in his preseason debut (12-7 loss to the Jets). The former Miner is in the final year of his rookie contract and he missed significant time last year due to a positive COVID-19 test. Shane Lemieux took his starting job at the left guard position as a result of Hernandez missing time last year. This will be a pivotal season for the guard.
Both Jones and Tomlinson were inactive over the weekend for their respective teams in their preseason opener. It is unclear if Jones will take reps in the preseason slate for the Packers or if their offense will operate with backup tailbacks to allow for rest until the season opener.